Psalms 73:1-28 - Homilies By S. Conway
Asaph's trial and deliverance.
Asaph was greatly tempted, as this psalm plainly shows. It does not matter whether he speaks of himself or, as is likely, of some other servant of God. Consider—
I. HIS TEMPTATION .
1 . It was a very terrible one. (See Psalms 73:2 , "My feet were almost gone," etc.) How honest the Bible is! It tells the whole truth about men, and good men, too. It shows them tempted, and all but overcome.
2 . It arose from his seeing " the prosperity of the wicked. " A sight, to Old Testament saints, very hard to bear. For they had not our knowledge of the life eternal. Psalms 73:24 is no disproof of this statement. For had it meant, as we so commonly take it to mean, the being received to the future "glory" of God's redeemed in heaven, how was it that so large a portion of the Jews in our Lord's time did not believe in any future life at all, and that our Lord had to turn to the (to us) apparently irrelevant declaration, "I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac," etc; when, if the common interpretation be right, there was this and other plain Scriptures like it to appeal to? Hence, and for yet other reasons, we hold that the Old Testament saints had not the knowledge of the future life and the recompenses that should be accorded them. Therefore to them the sight of what seemed to be injustice—such as the prosperity of the wicked and the adversity of the good—was especially painful; for they knew of no remedy.
3 . And it wrought him much harm. He became envious and bitter, Psalms 73:4-14 are one long protest and complaint against God; and sullen—"as a beast before thee;" and miserable—"it was too painful for me." And it all but overthrew him ( Psalms 73:2 ). Such was Asaph's trial.
II. OURS IS THE SAME TODAY . We see just what Asaph did; and we are tempted to say, as many do say, "The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom, nor, indeed, wisdom at all;" and so they will have nothing to do with it. But our excuse is far less than that of Asaph, since clearer light and fuller knowledge are ours. Nevertheless, the facts of life do lead to unbelief, if we look only at them. Men feel that right ought to prevail. When we were children, we were told that it would. But very often, so far as we can see, it does not. We look at nature, and it appears utterly immoral, because cruel, relentless, unforgiving, murderous to the weak, favouring only the strong. We read history, and bow often it records only the triumph of the wicked and the abasement of the good! Society, also, is ordered on anything but a morally righteous basis. And do we not everywhere see the innocent suffering for the guilty, involved in their sin, and bearing their doom? It is not merely the suffering, though so great, that gives rise to unbelief in God, but the seeming injustice of its allotment. And hence, today, the drear cynicism and unbelief of the Book of Ecclesiastes tells the thought of not a few. But note—
III. SOME SURE SAFEGUARDS AGAINST THIS TEMPTATION . See how Asaph found deliverance, and came at length to the conclusion which he avows in the opening verse of this psalm.
1 . He held his tongue —did not talk about his doubts, but kept them to himself, so far as men were concerned (verse 15).
2 . He laid them all before God. (Verse 17.) He "went into the sanctuary." He prayed, but did not argue. And the result was that he came to see facts in their true light; that the ungodly man's wealth meant but so many "slippery places." Death for him was "destructions" and its certain prospect caused him to be "utterly consumed with terrors;" and even at his best he was "despised" of the Lord (verses 19, 20). Thus Asaph's envy was turned into pity, as well it might be.
3 . He realized the love of God. He gained this by honest confession of the sin of which God had convicted him (verses 21, 22). Also by calling to mind the love which God had shown him (verse 23); the care exercised over him; and the sure prospect of blessedness set before him. Thus there came a great rush of love in his heart toward God (verse 25); and the settled persuasion both of the misery of being far from God (verse 27), and of the blessedness of drawing near to him (verse 28). Thus the mist and darkness cleared away, as, on the mount of communion with God, they ever will.—S.C.
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