Gaining Proper Perspective: Grab a bible and read Psalm 73.
The writer has been observing the lives of the arrogant and wicked. He sees their prosperity, their lack of pain and suffering. He sees their pride, their mocking, and total disregard for God and he is envious. In verse 3 he says, “For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” In verse 21 he says, “my heart was embittered.” As he looked at this reality he drew the preliminary conclusion that we see in verses 13 and 14. “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; for I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning.” Why work to stay pure and innocent when the result has been pain and suffering? Why not give up and give in to the world and partake in the prosperity of the wicked?
But that was just his preliminary conclusion. As we continue reading we see how the writer’s thought process continues. First, he is careful not to voice his doubts and frustrations, especially to those less mature in their walk with God. Verse 15, “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.” Second, verse 16 says, “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight.” The writer doesn’t just act on his initial observations and feelings, his envy, but he stops to ponder the situation. Finally, he gains clarity when he enters the sanctuary of God. Verse 17, “Until I came into the sanctuary of God; I perceived their end.” In safety and the presence of God he looks past his immediate circumstances and the circumstances of the wicked, and he realizes the true reality.
Verses 18 through 20, the reality is that the result of a life of wickedness and arrogance and total disregard for God will be destruction and terror. I love the imagery in verse 20, “Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form.” The life of the prosperous wicked is no more than a dream that will end as a nightmare. In His time, when God is aroused, He will deal with those who have rebelled against Him.
“When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was a beast before You” (verse 21-22). To be envious of the prosperity of the wicked is shortsighted and ignorant so our writer takes hold of God’s hand and allows God’s counsel to guide him. The conclusion, with all things considered, is one of the most beautiful passages in all of scripture. “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.” All the things of this life, the money, the power, the pleasures, the entertainment, the hobbies, the stuff…it is all passing away. What is my “good”? Where is my strength? Where do I take refuge? If the Lord God, the King and Creator, is my portion then I have everything!
Now here is the most important perspective from this entire Psalm. The writer doesn’t just decide he SHOULDN’T be envious of the wicked, he decides that there is NOTHING of which to be envious! In Philippians 3:7-8, Paul puts it like this “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Paul doesn’t just say, “I gave up a lot of stuff for Christ.” Paul says, “I gave up a lot of stuff for Christ and it was all rubbish…junk…garbage.” Too often I have pursued my walk with Christ giving up the things of this world with a feeling of resignation. “Well I’m a Christian, I can’t do that anymore.” “Well I’m a Christian, those things shouldn’t be important anymore.” In reality, those “things” have no value, those “things” are all garbage and the value of knowing Christ outweighs everything this world could possibly offer. My walk is not one of suppressed longing for the world but one of victory in Christ, overcoming the world, and being at home with my Father. We should let go of the false dreams and promises of the world and take hold of that which is LIFE indeed!
The nearness of God is my good.