Out of today’s reading, Psalm 73 presented the most interest to me. This psalm opens Book III of the Psalter. It is by Asaph, as are many of the psalms in Book III. Asaph was one of the Levites appointed by King David to be in charge of music in Jerusalem. After Asaph’s death, an Asaph school of music continued to compose psalms in his name.
Psalm 73 marks the halfway point through the psalter, halfway between the simple faith of Psalm 1 and the praise of Psalm 150. In between, the psalmists have to deal with the hard knocks of real life.
Asaph begins this psalm by, essentially, asking a question. If God is so good, then why do the wicked prosper? Another question follows: what point is there in pursuing righteousness if the righteous suffer and the wicked get all the breaks?
Sorting out an answer to these difficult questions seemed a wearisome task to Asaph until he entered into the house of the Lord. Then Asaph perceived that his problem was that he was not seeing the entire story. He was simply looking at things the way they stand in this life. If we look at the whole story from God’s perspective then we will know that there is a judgment coming for the wicked and a reward for the righteous. The most eloquent words in the psalm are these, which border upon a Christian profession of faith….
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.
My flesh and my heart my fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Another way of looking at Asaph’s problem is to say that he has taken his eyes off of God and put his focus in the wrong place: on other people. That is the essence of envy; it always involves a comparison.
This reminds me of the quote: “Humility is the belief that you are incomparable.” This may seem startling, or even wrong, at first, but it is true. When our self-esteem is too high or too low, putting ourselves above others or below others, we are still comparing. To be humble is to give up making comparisons. To be humble is to take our eyes off ourselves and off others and get our focus back on God. Children, up to a certain age, are humble because they do not make comparisons between themselves and others. They simple enjoy themselves as the unique creatures God has made them to be. It is only when we enter school that we start comparing ourselves to other people, and so the rat race begins.
The alternative to the rat race is to seek God….
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
To tell of all your works.
C. S. Lewis says this about seeking God….
If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die? (Mere Christianity)