Selected Psalms – Psalm 73 (part 1)

Surely God is good to Israel (to us), to those who are pure in heart. 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. – Psalm 73:1,2

We will divide this Psalm over two weeks. Most significantly it will be two halves of a whole. Here is a Psalm that ‘Speaks for us’; also one that we may relate to and ‘Experience’.

Have you ever been in such a place where your thinking has led you to envy the non-Christian and ‘Self-talked’ into even questioning the worthwhileness of continuing to follow Christ? Then again, It can be O so subtle, the temptation of drifting and softening to become a little more ‘mainstream’ with the rest of the world? Psalm 73 is an auto-biographical account of one who has been in such a position. “…my feet had almost slipped.” The reason: “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Then onwards his story progresses to verse 12 where he says to himself, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands of innocence.” Then, in verse 13, in a depressed and downcast mood, he says, “All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.”

The picture drawn thus far is pointed and a stark reminder that such a life position is possible and perhaps a feature of more of us than we might think, for such inner feelings may well remain hidden within the individual. Such inner conflict may have subtle beginnings then fester and grow and place the Christian towards a doubting mindset. So the Apostle Paul can say in a multiple array of contexts, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” – Colossians 3:2; and the Evil One is also the Tempting One. How our minds work and draw conclusions of what is perceived by the eyes especially in times of stress and so leave us with ‘Pictures’ distorted. This is something on what the Psalmist is giving as his experience; what it was for a time: “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills…” (Vs 4-5).

This is what is meant by the Psalmist ‘Speaking for us’. He would not have been the first nor the last to think this way. Sadly, there are those who come under the Tempter’s snare and walk away from Christ; as Paul laments in 2 Tim 4:10 “For Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me.” (cf 1 John 2:15-17) But then again, such inner conflict exposes our self to our ‘Secret Self’ and what living in the World, side by side with everyone else is in reality. As Christians we possess two sets of eyes. One that we view as one normally does and the other are the ‘Eyes of Faith’ that are provided in the knowledge of God and helped through the Spirit of God.

Jesus speaks of a ‘Spiritual Blindness’ that contrasts with, ‘spiritual Sight’. You may view the conversation Jesus has with some Pharisees in John 9:39-41 –“What? Are we blind too? Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

Looking at the perceived ‘Success’ and wellbeing of others who lay no claim of Christ, may well lead one also onto their pathway- “Why keep my heart pure and my hands clean?” This of course would be to the detriment in knowing God as Lord of all and of his unfailing provision. From God’s view on the World in which we all live together there exists an illusion believing there exists a ‘goodness’ apart from God.

Thus the Psalmist is telling us his journey, a journey worthy of being in the Scriptures so that we may share in it. We have just reached the climax of his wrestling- what his earthly eyes identified and his ‘Self-talk’ reinforced. Was he now left alone in his struggle? The quick answer is, he was not! in the same way God does not leave us alone to work it all out. Could we also say that such struggles may also lead to a strengthening of our faith as we wrestle with the ways of this world and the ways of Christ as Saviour and Lord and come to firmer conclusions through experiences?

We may take comfort from the Scriptures when reminded of the conflict within the world and Paul again exhorting us and encouraging us onward, “…Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devils schemes…” (Eph 6:10).

Next week we conclude the Psalmist’s journey: from conflict to resolve! How might this lead you into Prayer today?

(Written by Kevin Carlson)

HYMN: Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling, O sinner come home! by Kelly Clarkson & Trisha Yearwood –