In this Psalm the writer Asaph is struggling with his faith as he observes the success of the wicked and his own struggles. He writes,
“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.” – Psalm 73:2-5
Asaph finds himself envious of the wicked and their prosperity and apparent lack of difficultly. At first, he doesn’t understand why this would be the case and even questions why he has tried to follow the Lord faithfully.
“Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.” – Psalm 73:13-17
While Asaph was trying to understand the point of all of this, he was “troubled deeply”, that is, until he “entered the sanctuary of God”. Once he was in the sanctuary, once he had come into the presence of God, then things began to become more clear to him. He understood that, though the wicked may seem to be doing well now, it leads nowhere in the end.
Once Asaph realizes he was wrong in his envy of the wicked and their fleeting happiness, he repents before the Lord saying,
“When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.” – Psalm 73:21-22
He admits that his understanding was clouded and shortsighted. However, even in admitting how wrong he was, he also realizes something beautiful.
“Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory. – Psalm 73:23-24
Asaph recognizes that even when he is not thinking straight, the Lord is with him. Even when he becomes envious and ignores the longterm truth, the Lord is still with him, leading him and guiding him. Asaph declares that the Lord will lead and guid him throughout life and in the end “take [him] into glory.”
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever. – Psalm 73:25-26
By the end of the Psalm, Asaph has come back around to the place of truth. He realizes that those things he was envious of the wicked for don’t hold a candle to a relationship with the Lord, “earth has nothing I desire besides you.” His hope is in the Lord and he looks forward to being with the Lord in heaven. Asaph knows that in his humanity he will falter and fail, but the Lord will sustain him and give him strength and he has an eternal hope.
This is the attitude that we as believers should take each day. If we find ourselves envious of worldly goods and pleasures or regretting the trials we face, we must take those thoughts and feelings to God. We must allow the presence of the Lord in prayer and in the Word get our mind back on track and to show us the eternal truth. We repent before the Lord and thank Him for being with us, sustaining us, and leading us back to our right place. We then put our trust in Him for the strength we need to make it through today and the bright hope we have for the future.
“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shade of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever with be.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hat provided–
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guid;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.