Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Psalm 73

1 Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.
2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.
5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.
6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.
7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.
8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.
9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.
10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.
11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?
12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.
14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.
16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.
19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.
20 As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.
21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.
22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

Key Verse:
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

Key Observation:
Consider the end of the wicked.

Memory Verse:
26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.


Sometimes even in relatively rich US I see the prosperity of the wicked. I am not sure that we escape the judgment of God here and the Scripture does remind us, “When the Son of man returns, will he find faith on the earth?”. Look at our people in the US; are they not busy chasing their possessions, and living “the dream”? I admit to feeling a bit guilty because I, in my older age, am being richly provided for. I pray that God will open my eyes to those in need about me that I may prove faithful to His blessings.

Back when I was going to college—cramming my four years into eight—it was a very different story. I kind of categorized students into three spheres. The first sphere was those who had no financial worries; their parents were well off enough to provide for their school needs. I was jealous of those thus provided for, for though my parents did help where they could (and it is deeply appreciated even today), college was left to my responsibility.

The second sphere was what I called the middle class. They had to work somewhat, but were also helped by parents so that the financial burdens were not too great. They knew both prosperity and need, and, from my observations, most students probably fit into this category. The third sphere was for a special few—it is those few who had little means of support, but who very much depended on God for His provision, and their testimony of His provision was often beautiful to my ears.

Where was I in these spheres? Oh, I forgot to mention, there seemed to be a very small portion of students who were really blessed—they depended on God for day to day sustenance, and had no idea where the next meal was coming from, let alone next year’s tuition. The fourth sphere was privileged to go through “God’s School of Hard Knocks” in addition to going to college. It was by far the hardest sphere to be in; it was also the most privileged, for it was the one that God seemed to reserve special blessing for.

It was there that I received much of my faith building that now endures forty years later. I do not have the space to write of the times when we, my wife and I, saw God’s hand of provision in dramatic and often miraculous ways. In my older life, blessed of God, I am able to look back at those years and to understand what God was doing in my life by putting me through testings. Now I know those testings built my faith—but then I did not know that.

This is a personal favorite psalm of mine. I came to know it when I was going through those times. I watched people around me, some of whom were utterly depraved and wicked, prosper in their way. I had the God of the universe at my back, in my heart, and dwelling in me richly, but still when it came to dinner time, I can remember bowing my head and thanking God when our cupboards were bare. I remember thinking about why I had it so hard, and others who did not even acknowledge their God had it so easy. It was in such a time that I discovered the psalm of Asaph, Psalm 73.

Back in those days I was discovering my Bible, finding revelation after revelation, and growing rapidly into the Christian life. In the seventies, the church leaders were constantly exhorting us to be like the New Testament Christians, something I very much desired. But after coming to an understanding of the Scriptures, I found out that many of the Christians of NT times were just as messed up as the Christians of our time. All were susceptible to errors of false doctrines, and that now works to my credit, for the church leaders found that they had to address the genuine gospel again and again to straighten the believers out. Now I can read those letters and strive to avoid the heresies which plagued their lives.

Think about it for a moment. Do you want to be like the Corinthians? Some of them were leading very sinful lives and Paul had to rebuke them himself. Do you want to live like the Galatians who tried to mix law and grace? Or the Thessalonians? They were teaching that Christ was already come, and that they entered the millennium already. Our church today still suffers some from this heresy. All of these were early Christians and yet suffered from not living lives that they ought to have. Hey, in that sense, they are just like me, struggling against sin to live by faith and walk in the Spirit of righteousness.

Do not say the former times are better than this says the Scripture. I am not sure at all that we can say the NT time was better, except that the Spirit Himself moved in a mighty fashion to proclaim the Lord. I am reading Reclaiming Christianity, by A. W. Tozer, a man I highly esteem, and I find myself in agreement with him here:
“We are on our haunches now, fighting a rearguard action before the Neo-Orthodoxy and Liberals and the World Council of Churches and the new idea of a monolithic church with Poppa at the top. . . The great God Almighty has spoken, and when He has spoken, let the world be silent and listen, for God has said it and God will fulfill all His warnings and of His invitations.”
Look at all the Christians involved in heresy in that statement! We have a great problem, exactly because we are no better than the NT Christians. We need revival, a thirst among men for digging in the Word for the truths of God. Just like the NT Christians we need continually to go back to the Bible.

There is a movement among the youth today to herald the Reformation as The Golden Age of Christianity, but any serious student of history is forced to the conclusion that divisions were sharp in that era, the divisions were as many as in our own era, and the Reformations answers to division, burning one at the stake, did nothing to stop the ideas. No, the great measure of the Reformation was in handing believers back their own Bibles, written in their own tongues. Men and women who gave or risked their lives for us to have the written word of God are saints indeed! All I am saying is that wickedness has prospered in every age, from the time of Christ until today, and it will prosper, says the Scripture, until Christ comes to reign on earth. That is our blessed hope!

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes, that's the book for me
I stand alone on the Word of God
The B-I-B-L-E

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