The Word Made Fresh
(Book 3: Psalms 73-89)
(A psalm of Asaph.)
1We can be certain that God is a friend
to those who do right and are pure in heart.
2But I had almost stumbled.
My feet had nearly slipped.
3I was jealous of arrogant people.
I eyed the wealth of crooked people.
4Even when they die, they die peacefully,
and they are healthy and strong.
5They don’t have troubles as others do.
They aren’t bothered by things that plague the rest of us.
6They wear pride as a necklace
and violence is their clothing.
7Their eyes bulge from their fat faces
and their hearts swell with silliness.
8They speak with malevolence and contempt
and haughtily threaten to oppress others.
9They scoff at heaven with contempt
and their words are spoken in judgment of the whole world.
10But people tend to look at them with jealousy
and see nothing wrong with them.
11They say, “How can God know everything?
Does the Most High have such knowledge?”
12Such are the wicked. They are always at ease,
and every day their wealth increases.
13For nothing I have kept my thoughts unsullied
and innocently wiped my hands,
14because I have suffered all day long,
and every morning troubles plague me.
15If I were to continue to speak like this
I would be false in the eyes of all your children.
16But when I tried to understand it all
it wearied me, for it was a difficult task.
17But then I entered God’s temple
and saw how they would come to an end.
18You have certainly placed them on a slippery slope
and they will ultimately be ruined.
19They will be swept away in a moment,
swept away and utterly terrified.
20They are no more than a dream,
and when awakened LORD, they are but phantoms.
21When I became bitter
and my heart was hardened,
22I was stupid, completely ignorant,
and like a dumb animal knew nothing of you.
23But now I know that I am always with you.
Your right hand steadies me.
24I am guided by your counsel,
and when my end comes you will welcome me into your glory.
25Whom do I have in heaven except you?
There is nothing on this earth that I want more than I want you.
26My body may collapse and my heart stop beating,
But God is my rock in whom my heart rests forever.
27Those who turn away from you will perish,
and you will do away with those who are unfaithful to you.
28As for me, I know that it is good to be near God,
and so, I have made the LORD God my shelter.
I will tell the story of all you have done.
Superscription: the third collection of psalms within the book of Psalms begins with this offering from Asaph. Eleven of the 17 psalms in this collection are ascribed to Asaph. Altogether 12 psalms bear his name: Psalm 50 is the other one. Asaph was a priest during the time of King David and is mentioned often as being a musician in the temple – see, for example, 1 Chronicles 16:7. His name is associated with more of the psalms than anyone else except David.
1-3: The psalm begins with a confession. The psalmist confesses his envy of the wicked.
4-9: Why should anyone envy the wicked? Well, for one thing they are healthy and good-looking. They seem to be able to avoid the problems with which most people are beset. That is why they are so arrogant. I am reminded of an interview I saw on television of a pornographic movie star who had gotten the attention of the news media because of her association with a politician. She said she had grown up in a Christian home, but now she is a “liberated woman.” Such is the arrogance of those the psalmist is describing.
10-14: It is strange, is it not, how the public clamors after the rich and famous without regard to the way they live or how they might have come about their wealth and fame? The psalmist confesses that he has become somewhat envious of how easy life seems for them while he and other good people suffer.
15-20: In the temple, however, he comes to his senses. He sees how tenuous their lives really are, how superficial and valueless.
21-26: There is no wealth greater than a relationship with God.
27-28: The truth is that the abundant life consists not in riches or fame, but in claiming God as our only refuge.
Jealousy is an attitude with no value. The psalmist has learned there is nothing to gain by it– a lesson we can benefit from. The most important relationship we can have is our relationship with God. God is beside us every day, and we can carry on a running conversation with our maker hour by hour.