Psalm 73 (english)

Psalm 73

The psalmist considers the prosperity of the ungodly and experiences his own misery, and doubtful thoughts arise in his soul as to the profit of godliness. This embraces the first half of the psalm. The turning point comes, when he enters Gods presence to contemplate his exhausting questions before Him in the sanctuary.

The first verse gives the conclusion that is eventually reached after entering the presence of God and seeing all from Gods perspective.

Verse 2-12 he recalls all the benefits of the ungodly, but he only sees the positive side of the life of the ungodly, for we all know that misery is the common share of all mankind to some extend.

Verse 4 is especially interesting because we are apt to assume that the ungodly have some sort of anxiety when confronted with the approaching end. But while this may be the case with some, there is a comfort with others that seems to be a blindness as to their state and destiny that may well be a judical dealing of God with them for rejecting Him all their life long.

Verse 13-14 Thoughts and doubts arise in his heart and trouble him to the point that he concludes: in vain have I cleansed my heart and there is no profit in living piously. The troubles of the psalmist are more than he can cope with in his own reasoning in view of the prosperity of the wicked. Have you ever been there? I have been there and the thought of giving up everything relating to God can become really tempting and ensnaring.

Verse 15 But while considering the prosperity of the wicked and the misery of himself, he realizes that, even though tempting to the natural mind, he never could really go this path and be happy in it. The new life and the renewed conscience tells him, it would be unfaithfulness, an offence towards – interestingly enough – the "children of your generation", that is to the fellow believer. Why? Because not only he would ruin his spiritual life, but it would turn off others too and ruin them.

Verse 16 Thus, there were three problems before his mind. First of all, the prosperity of the wicked which seem to falsify the promises of God to the faithful and His governmental ways. Next, the luring thoughts of being better off by throwing away a godly life. Finally, the realisation of having a conscience and a spiritual consciousness that forbids such a thing.

Of course he fails in trying to bring this contradictory questions into a straight line. We all do! But the important thing is, he sees the utter weariness and futility of trying to solve this matter by his own capacity, he realises the impossibility of a human mind to get these issues solved.

What can be done here?

Verse 17 we see the psalmist doing the only right and possible thing to get along with the matter and to find peace about it and to get an answer in some degree. Yet it is an answer that is – please, my soul, understand this – connected with the future and the end of the respective ways of a believer and an unbeliever. The light of the future destiny of the wicked helps the psalmist to accept the unanswered, contradictory questions of the presence.

In the presence of God, he on the one hand understands the end of the wicked (v. 18-20.27) and then secondly, he at once realizes his own animal-like stupidity and wretchedness in trying to solve the matter in reasoning without God and with solely an earthly perspective and - consequently! - giving thus way to bitterness and envy. But thirdly and eventually, he contemplates anew his own blessings connected with being a believer and with walking faithfully with God (v. 23-28).

This part then becomes a huge comfort for all believers who are troubled with similar questions. Let us always remember: we cannot solve such questions! But, we can enter Gods presence and find the very same three "answers" as the psalmist and get the comfort that is connected with making the spiritual experience of the psalmist ourselves.

Verse 23-24. The blessings: In verse 22 he concludes that in ignorantly trying to solve the riddle with his own intelligence he behaved like an animal before God. Yet, he still can say "I was with you". Psalm 139 tells us that a believer can try to go away from God as far as he can imagine and still God will be there. God will never let us go away. He firmly holds his own in his hand, may they err or wander or whatever else. This is a great comfort for the believer, downcast by his own failure and weakness.

This fact is confirmed in verse 23. Only this time he has come back into close communion with God, so that now he does reflect his state and standing seen from Gods perspective. How blessed is it to consider that which God has given us and, even more, what He is for us!

"Nevertheless I am continually with you". This statement is really a key, not so much for a full understanding of Gods ways – how actually could this ever be – but for the peace and comfort of our heart. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, nothing can rip us out of His strong and loving hand. Three blessings are given which embrace our whole live:

1. "you have holden me by my right hand": There was a day when we turned from our sin to God and He got a hold of our hand. This speaks of full security of salvation. Paul put it that way: nevertheless, I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day 2. Tim 2,12. This presence and security with God is more developed for example in Psalm 23.

2. "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel": Here we can think of Psalm 32 where the subject of guidance by God and its practical conditions are enlarged on. Also we learn in Romans 8, that a believer is a person guided by the Holy Spirit. Do we desire Gods counsel and guidance?

3. "and afterward receive me to glory" he turns to the end of the road and again we are reminded of Psalm 23 where he says "and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever." Before the Lord went to the cross He comforted the disciples with the prospect of coming back to receive them into the house of his father, the eternal abode of God the father and the Son.

Verse 25-26 the person who blesses

Vers 25 he now turns to the earth again and asks himself this important question: who have I in heaven. That is in other words: who is it that controls everything in the universe and also my life, who is my God. Now instead of giving a specific answer he takes it for granted and jumps to a really amazing and challenging statement: "there is none upon earth I desire besides you"! This great righteous and loving God in whose hand he is firmly put, becomes his one and all. In the same sense Paul said: "But surely I count also all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, on account of whom I have suffered the loss of all, and count them to be filth, that I may gain Christ; and that I may be found in him, not having my righteousness, which would be on the principle of law, but that which is by faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God through faith". This is actually the one very state and standing that gives the soul peace and firmness for the pathway of faith in the presence of the irritating experiences described in the first part of this psalm. For eventually the righteous will live by faith. Faith and confidence in the living God is the principle that sustains the man of faith. This is what the psalmist sets before us in slightly different words in Psalm 23: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over".

Vers 26 then is conclusion or experience on this path. The heart is firmly grounded in God the eternal rock and even though trials and tribulations are deeply felt we stand firm because God is our rock and fills our heart.

Verse 27-28 Summary as to the fate of the ungodly and the portion of the godly. This last leads to the conclusion of the first verse of this amazing psalm!

Verse 27-28 are conclusive. The lot of the wicked is given and the part of the believer shown. And as horrible the end of the unbeliever is, so blessed is the blessing of the believer in his path with God on this earth. He has the access to God at all times and it is a "good" place of help and blessing. Then the Lord is before us as our confidence and he will never cheat on us Rom 5,1-5, 8,32-39.

This results in a believer that loves to talk about that wonderful God.

May we run the path of Asaph if questions like his arise in our hearts and reach practically the blessed place in the presence of our God and Father.

Urs Hänseler 1/2023