I believe that every Christian has at least once in their life asked the question "why are the wicked prosperous?" Psalm 73 gives us this exact question this time asked by the psalm writer, Asaph. Asaph begins by acknowledging that God is good to the "pure in heart," but admits that he "was envious of the arrogant" as he "saw the prosperity of the wicked" Psalm 73:1-3. Asaph, in Psalm 73:4-12, tells of how the wicked display their wickedness yet still seem to prosper, display satisfaction and seem content. In Psalm 73:13-16, he writes of how he has sought to walk in righteousness, even in vain at times for the sake of those who looked up to him yet when he ponders the prosperity of the wicked, "it was troublesome in my sight."
In verse 17 we see that glorious word "Until" signifying that he came to the realization of some truth about this troublesome pondering. Several things of interest can be noted in his realization.
- This realization occurred when Asaph "came into the sanctuary of God" Psalm 73:17. What a great encouragement for us to remember that when we don't understand something we should seek the presence of God. Let us not allow our doubts to keep us from Him. As we will see Asaph's questions were answered beginning in God's presence. I believe that this also shows the importance of our attendance with God's people on the Lord's Day. God meets with His people as they worship Him.
- Asaph realized that the wicked really never get away with anything. Psalm 73:18-20 tells us that "Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!" They will become as the fading images in dreams when God is aroused. This realization should remove any envy of the wicked.
- Asaph then repents of his envy admitting his ignorance and senselessness (Psalm 73:21-22). He writes this:
Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory. 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.
Psalm 73:23-26Asaph begins to see what he has instead of what he doesn't. God is continually with him. Like a loving Father, God takes him by the hand and guides him with counsel. After that God will receive him into glory. He realizes that God is what he truly desires and God is what he has. God is his portion and strength forever! What a change in attitude! What an exercise in faith.
- Finally, Asaph concludes with these words in Psalm 73:28, "But as for me, the nearness of God is my good . . ." He has moved from envying what he thought was the good of the wicked to knowing that the nearness of God is his ultimate and true good. The first answer to the the first question of the Westminster Catechism includes "enjoy Him forever." John Piper reminds us that "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." God is our good. There is no better. There is no best. Let us remember this the next time we are tempted with the soul destroying and poison covered good to which the world calls us.