PSALM 73 TALK: TRUSTING IN GOD’S LONG TERM PERSPECTIVE OF LIFE

PSALM 73 TALK: TRUSTING IN GOD’S LONG TERM PERSPECTIVE OF LIFE

 (The first Psalm written in book 3 of Psalms is a Psalm that explores the problem of the wicked and the ungodly people seemingly being blessed in their lives while sometimes faithful Godly people seem to not do so well and even suffer)

 THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 INTRODUCTION TO BOOK 3 OF PSALMS

 We come then to the first Psalm in what is called book 3 of Psalms. This book only has one Psalm written by David, Psalm 86 and the other 16 Psalm are written by other people, eleven attributed to Asaph, four to the Son’s of Korah (one of these, Psalm 88 is a son of Korah named Heman the Ezrahite) and one Psalm 89 to a man named Ethan the Ezrahite.

This third collection of Psalms is (except for Psalm 86 written by David) a collection of Levite singers Psalms so we can assume these Psalms were in some way or another songs for worship. This does not mean that they were not written during some kind of trial or difficulty of the actual writer. In fact I think all of them were inspired one way or another by the writers experiences and were then developed or adapted for public worship and collected into the book of Psalms in this third book some time after the death of King Solomon and before the Babylonian exile.

Interestingly we have this reference in 2 Chronicles 29: 30, written during the time of King Hezekiah around the years of his reign from 715BC – 686BC which is at least 250 years after the death of King Solomon,

 “King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped”.

This means that in some form or another books 1, 2 and 3 that contain the Psalms of David and Asaph were known in the time of King Hezekiah. These books of Psalms are also hinted at in the Post Exile time of Nehemiah somewhere between 445BC and 433BC as we read these words in Nehemiah 12: 46,

“For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God”.

So I now call book 3 of Psalms, “The Psalms of Asaph and others” and the closest statement to an underlining theme of this book comes from a man named Gary J. Hall who puts his idea of the theme of the book as,

“These Psalms remind us that God alone is holy and that we should remember our place before him when we come into God’s presence (ie. Temple) we should have reverential fear”.

INTRODUCTION TO ASAPH

As Asaph wrote the first 11 Psalms in this third book of Psalms I thought it would be helpful to give you a general background to this man Asaph. I will attempt to answer the question:

Who was this man called Asaph?

I am indebted to a paper about Asaph called, “Who was Asaph?” written by Richard Thompson in 2005. Richard has put together a comprehensive answer to this question and I will give you the main points from his paper as my answer to this question.

Richard Thompson makes this important point about understanding who Asaph was with this statement in his paper,

“It is important to reconstruct Asaph’s life because, without understanding his life and times, it is impossible to fully comprehend the faith amidst adversity that Aasaph’s Psalms reflect”.

Richard Thompson then gives us five key facts about who Asaph which I would like to summarize with five points as a simple heading and a verse from scripture to support them.

  1. Asaph was David’s music director

1 Chronicles 16: 4 – 7,

He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel: Asaph was the chief, and next to him in rank were Zechariah, then Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel. They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God.

That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner:

  1. Asaph was a young Levite priest who helped David bring the Ark of the covenant into Jerusalem.

1 Chronicles 15: 17 – 25,

“So the Levites appointed Heman son of Joel; from his relatives, Asaph son of Berekiah; and from their relatives the Merarites, Ethan son of Kushaiah; 18 and with them their relatives next in rank: Zechariah, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel the gatekeepers.

19 The musicians Heman, Asaph and Ethan were to sound the bronze cymbals; 20 Zechariah, Jaaziel,[c] Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah and Benaiah were to play the lyres according to alamoth,

 21 and Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom, Jeiel and Azaziah were to play the harps, directing according to sheminith.[e] 22 Kenaniah the head Levite was in charge of the singing; that was his responsibility because he was skillful at it.

23 Berekiah and Elkanah were to be doorkeepers for the ark. 24 Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah and Eliezer the priests were to blow trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-Edom and Jehiah were also to be doorkeepers for the ark.

25 So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of units of a thousand went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-Edom, with rejoicing”.

  1. Asaph served for all of David’s reign and no doubt set to music many of David’s Psalms.

 1 Chronicles 16: 7,

“That day David first committed to Asaph and his associates this Psalm of thanks to the Lord”.

  1. After Solomon’s dedication of the Temple, Asaph saw Israel’s “goldern age” turn into something quite apart from what he expected.

At the end of David’s life he prepared for Solomon’s building of the Temple and for the arrangements for worship in the Temple and so in 1 Chronicles 25: 1 – 2 we read these words,

“David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. Here is the list of the men who performed this service:

From the sons of Asaph:

Zakkur, Joseph, Nethaniah and Asarelah. The sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king’s supervision”.

So by the end of David’s rule Asaph would have been around 60 and so he served as a director of music in the Temple during the reign of Solomon assisted by his son’s and the son’s of Heman and Jeduthun.

  1. After Solomons death Asaph if he was alive and a very old man would have seen David’s kingdom torn in two.

This is one part of the story of Asaph we cannot find direct scriptural proof for two of his Psalms 74 and 79 seem to be written in the context of the divided kingdom and seems to be a prophecy of the destruction of the Temple by a foreign nation.

Thompson makes this final statement about Aaaph and the background to his Psalms,

If there ever a man who had an excuse for being disillusioned, Asaph was that man. David, his hero, who had been used mightily by God in his earlier years, deceived the people, and himself, about what God had told him about Solomon. David had indicated that Solomon was the Messiah! Then Solomon, who God spoke to twice, and had greatly blessed, turned from the wisdom and grace of God to the worship of idols and a philosophy more suited to Nietzsche than the son of David”.

 INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 73

 So we finally come to Psalm 73, Asaph’s first Psalm in the third book of Psalms and this Psalm seems to read like a piece of Wisdom literature like we find in the book of proverbs which became popular to write during the reign of Solomon.

The Psalm attempts to answer the age- old question of why do the wicked or unbelievers prosper when the Godly or believers in God seem to suffer?

Asaph could have written this during the reign of David as David dealt with ruthless Godless enemies all of is reign and he even warns against the problem of seeing the wicked prosperous and having problems with this in Psalm 37: 1,

“Do not fret because evil men or be envious of those who do wrong”.

 He goes on to give the same advice of how to deal with this that Asaph comes up with in the second half of his Psalm 73, when David writes in the next verse, Psalm 37: 2,

“For like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away”.

 Then Asaph would have had problems with this problem of the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the Godly in his later life in the time of Solomon when Solomon turned away from trusting in the one true God of the bible and worshipping other Gods, mainly through the negative influence of his many foreign wives.

So we do not know for sure when Aaaph wrote this Psalm but he certainly had plenty of opportunity to experience the problem the Psalm raises throughout his long life.

Interestingly we will see in the middle verse of this Psalm, verse 17 that it will be while he was involved in some kind of worship activity that he is inspired to see the answer to this great problem.

I call the answer to this problem, “Trusting in God’s long view of Life” but I cannot claim ownership to the term “The Long View” as I got it from the writings of Derek Kidner who uses it twice in his commentary of Psalms 1 – 72. He first uses it as a heading for Psalm 37: 27 – 40 and then as a heading for Psalm 55: 22 – 23, David’s says these words in Psalm 55: 23b,

“Bloodthirsty and deceitful men will live not live out half their days”.

 Kidner writes,

David is simply pointing to the cut-throat’s precarious career, though he does not forget that this is of God’s appointment, whose world this is. At other moments he can see still further but what counts is that God has the whole matter in hand, and that David’s choice has been made”.

 David closes Psalm 55 with his choice,

“But as for me, I trust in you”.

 The problem I see that Asaph had in the first half of his Psalm 73 was he was becoming a victim of letting current or shot term perspective of life cloud his understanding of God’s dealings with him. What he discovers is that by having God’s long -term perspective of life he can see that God is more than faithful to those who trust in him. He also sees what will be the fate of those who do not trust in him.

I have seen or at least heard of Christians giving up their faith in God when they have let current difficult circumstances control them rather than putting their faith in God’s long term plans for their lives. Whether it be Asaph’s problem of seeing the wicked or unbelievers seemingly prosper while Godly believers seem to be doing it tough or it is just the pressure of going through difficult times of suffering when we feel we have been faithful to God then the answer is to lift our eyes by faith to try see God’s long perspective of life.

I hope that you will join me in a journey through Psalm 73 looking at the dangers of only having the short perspective of life and what that can lead to and then see what God’s long term perspective of life is and how that can sustain and help us through life’s problems and difficulties.

For this Psalm I have broken it up into five sections with the theme of the short- term view of life and God’s long term view of life in mind.

  1. (1 – 3) THE DANGER OF THE SHORT TERM PERSPECTIVE OF LIFE
  1. (4 – 12) UNDERSTANDING LIFE FROM A SHORT TERM PERSPECTIVE
  1. (13 – 16) PROBLEMS CAUSED TO THE BELIEVER WHEN THEY HAVE

                           A SHORT TERM PERSPECTIVE OF LIFE

  1. (17 – 22) UNDERSTANDING GOD’S LONG TERM PERSPECTIVE OF LIFE
  1. (23 – 28) LIVING OUR LIVES WITH GOD’S LONG TERM PERSPECTIVE

                         OF LIFE CONSTANTLY IN FOCUS

 

  1. (1 – 3) THE DANGER OF THE SHORT PERSPECTIVE VIEW OF LIFE

 We live in a day of what I call, “Instant gratification” where people want things or things to happen now and when being asked to wait for something or forgo something is considered a non- option in life. People want expensive cars or houses now and get themselves into unbelievable debt seeking to do so. Others see the prosperity of others and through envy and jealousy make foolish decisions that end up costing them dearly in the future.

I call this living our lives with a short-term perspective and I’m afraid Christians are not exempt from this problem. Asaph suffered serious doubts in his faith when he saw wicked or non -believing people succeeding while he seemed to be suffering and having difficulty. His Psalm 73 is an honest confession of his doubts and thoughts and the first two verses spell out the dangers of having a short -term perspective of life.

I have broken this first section into 2 parts:

  1. God’s eternal promise to his people (vs. 1)
  2. The dangers of failing to see God’s long term perspective of life  (vs’s 2 – 3)
  1. God’s eternal promise to his people (vs. 1)

 Asaph starts his Psalm with what I see is a remarkable promise of God’s goodness to his people,

“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart”

 The God of the bible is sometimes called a great God of covenantal love. He made a people or a nation built on the righteous faith of Abraham, two key passages here are Genesis 12: 1 – 3,

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

 And Genesis 15: 6 – 7,

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

Then God makes this calling of a Nation out of Love clearer in the time of Moses when he through Moses he leads his people Israel out of slavery in Egypt and eventually into the Promised Land. On the way he gives Moses a detailed covenant agreement expressed simply in Exodus 19: 3 – 6,

“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

 Therefore God promises in this covenantal agreement to bless the nation of Israel or as Asaph put it be “good to Israel” but note Israel’s condition for God’s blessing is obedience and this is why Asaph adds,

“To those who are pure in heart”.

 David in Psalm 24: 4 spells out what is meant here by a clean heart,

“He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol”.

 Israel’s continuing problem seen even in the later reign of King Solomon was to turn away from obeying and worshipping only the God of the bible but instead to turn to other God’s which of course are merely idol’s.

How this verse relates to Christian believers is simply, we are the new Israel of God as Paul teaches in Galatians 6: 16,

“Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God”.

 As God’s special chosen people, God blesses the church and therefore we can say,

“Surely God is good to Israel”

 Or God is good to us but we too must show our love and commitment to this love of God in obedience to him and seek to live a life with a,

“Pure in heart”

  1. The dangers of failing to see God’s long term perspective of life

(vs’s 2 – 3)

From the base line of God’s eternal promise of his blessing of his people who seek to serve him alone Asaph speaks of how he felt pressured by his recent experience of life to doubt this eternal promise of God’s blessing for the pure in heart. He writes in verse 3,

“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold”.

 Something has happened to this man of God who served God faithfully in temple worship music leadership. Something that made him almost loose his faith in the God of the bible. He uses the analogy of the path, which is an image of seeking to follow God and his word in our lives,

The path image features in the book of proverbs, like Proverbs 12: 28,

“In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality”.

 Asaph felt like he was almost knocked off this path, “lost my foothold” or at least he felt he was slipping off it. Sometimes we too might feel that the Christian way or life is getting to hard or even the current circumstances of our lives are causing us to feel like we are slipping off the path of life.

Jesus made it clear we are to walk his path or road in John 14: 6,

“I am the way (or path) and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

But he makes its clear that his path or way is not always easy as he teaches in Matthew 7: 13 – 14,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

But what was the recent life experience that caused Asaph to almost loose his way in his faith in God?

Verse 3 makes that clear,

“For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked”.

Asaph started to realise that Godless wicked people around him where doing better than him. He felt or was tempted to feel that following God and being true to God did not make any difference to how our lives are blessed or not blessed.

This raises the central issue of this Psalm and as we will see even more clearly in the answer to Asaph dilemma later in the Psalm what Asaph is falling victim to is viewing life from a short-term perspective. If our faith in God is based on just our current circumstances of life then we are in for a very rocky ride. This is because sometimes it will seem that we are being greatly blessed by God and because of that our faith and commitment in him will be strong. However if we are going through a difficult time in our life when God’s blessings seem to be small of even non existent then our faith and commitment will be very weak and in great danger.

This will be made even more a problem if we look at others who seem to be blessed by God and fall to the sin of covertness then our faith and commitment in God is in even greater danger. I really like the attitude or way of looking at life that Paul seemed to have had and is presented clearly in Philippians 4: 12 – 13,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”.

Paul is not looking at the short- term perspective of life as he is saying that even in times of need he has learned to be content. He is not governed or controlled by his current circumstances of life but he is looking beyond his current circumstances to something far greater and stronger namely Christ and what he promises to do for us in this life and the next.

The New Testament does not beat around the bush (an Australian expression) about suffering or experiencing difficulties in life. All the great New Testament writers, Peter, James and Paul speak of trail or difficulty being a normal and productive part of the Christian experience and Peter even says not to be surprised when trial or difficulty comes upon us as he writes in 1 Peter 4: 12 – 13,

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in so much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed”.

In chapter 1 of this letter of Peter he spells out the value and purpose of trial and difficulty for the Christian, 1Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

So the danger of viewing life from a short term perspective is that we can be overwhelmed by some kind of negative experience and be in danger of slipping off the path of life as Asaph put it.

Asaph felt he was suffering difficulty and God was seemingly blessing the wicked non- believers around him. Unfortunately he was viewing life from a short- term perspective.

  1. (4 – 12) UNDERSTANDING LIFE FROM A SHORT TERM PERSPECTIVE

 The classic expression that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 15: 32 he borrowed from Isaiah 22: 13 that expresses living ones life from a short term perspective is,

“Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”

 This is the perspective of most people’s lives without acknowledging God or as Jesus put it walking down the broad road of life that leads to destruction. This is the way the wicked Godless people were living around Asaph and now in this next section Asaph spells out how these wicked Godless people were seemingly being blessed and what their attitude to life and others was like.

I have broken this section into two parts:

  1. How people live and seem to be blessed when they have a short term

perspective of life (4 – 9)

  1. How other people are effected by those who live their lives from a short

term perspective (10 – 12)

 

  1. How people live and seem to be blessed when they have a short term

perspective of life (4 – 9)

 Asaph now gives us substance to his temptation by spelling out both how he thought the wicked Godless people around him were blessed in their lives and then how they actually lived their lives with this short- term perspective in mind.

We will then look at the two issues Asaph raises in this first part of this second section of this Psalm:

  1. How they seemed to be blessed (4 – 5)
  2. How they lived their lives (6 – 9)
  1. How they seemed to be blessed (4 – 5)

 If we view life from the narrow short term perspective great distortions can arise as we see from verse 4 and 5,

“They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; are not plagued by human ills”.

 Maybe Asaph was actually suffering some kind of debilitating illness at the time of his temptation and as he suffered he looked around him at the Godless unbelievers enjoying good health and a seemingly happy life. One of the temptations when we are sick is to look at others around us who are healthy and question God about his love and concern for us.

A few years ago when I was on a oversees bible teaching mission trip I roomed with a older man who boasted in the Lord of his good health as though that was proof of his faith and commitment to God. However I got very sick during the trip and the thoughts I had was that in some way I was inferior in my faith to this man.

The truth was that six months later after our mission trip this man realised he had cancer and within a few months of finding out that he passed from this life to the next. My thought during the mission trip was I would not dare tempt God with pride in my good health but rather seek to acknowledge God like Paul in all circumstances and trust in Christ to help me deal with all situations.

Asaph was taking a look at the Godless people around him from a short -term perspective and at the time of his temptations he saw Godless unbelievers experiencing good health and supposed freedom from common burdens of life. I feel many non -believers today try to present to the world around them that living without any thought for God is a preferable option and their healthy vibrant bodies and good life is proof of that.

However I have lived long enough to see how healthy and seemingly successful people of my younger days have now fallen victim to illness or the problems of life as they have grown older like me. My wife and I have particularly noticed of late how many famous Godless people of our era have recently succumbed to terrible sickness in there 60’s. We are both in that age group now and wonder what awaits us but I am keen to seek to live with the attitude of Paul which we have seen already in Philippians 4: 12 – 13,

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”.

The only other alternative is to live your life with the attitude Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 15: 32,

“Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”

  1. How they lived their lives (6 – 9)

Asaph however looked beyond the apparent good health and success of the ungodly around him and pin- pinpoints the actual way these short- term perspective people lived their lives. He speaks of seven sins like the 7 deadly sins sometimes spoken of in the New Testament but a different set of sins here:

  1. Pride (vs.6a)
  2. Violence (6b)
  3. Iniquity (7a)
  4. Conceit (7b)
  5. Speak Malice (8a)
  6. Arrogance (8b)
  7. Self Idolatry (9)
  1. Pride (vs. 6a)

 Verse 6a picks up the first sin of these people and typifies many people who live their lives with a short- term perspective that does not include God and that is full of pride.

“Therefore pride is their necklace”.

 Pride is a natural outcome of people living with a short -term perspective that does not include God. They place themselves on the throne of their lives and they have no real concern for anybody other than themselves.

Proverbs 16: 18 reads,

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”.

 The idea of pride being a necklace is that these Godless people walk around openly displaying their pride in themselves like a women showing off an expensive piece of jewellery around her neck. They are not people with pride hidden by a veneer of humility but are openly full of themselves.

I seem to meet more and more people like this in my life and sometimes one can feel very inferior when a person like this crosses our path in life. I just keep the words of the proverbs 16: 8 in mind when I feel threatened by this kind of person which has been broken down to:

“Pride goes before a fall”

 Sometimes you witness or hear of a proud person falling on their face in life and it can be a very sobering thought as these people are living their lives like so many simply without thought for God and others.

  1. Violence (6b)

The next part of the verse goes further than the image of the necklace and speaks of the image of the clothes of these Godless people,

“They clothe themselves with violence”

 The hot social topic of my country at this current time is domestic violence but I never hear anyone say or indicate that this very real problem is a result of living a sinful Godless life. Interestingly violence following pride is no coincidence as proud people or people living for themselves often leads these people to acting in a violent manner when they cannot get their own way.

A short term perspective on life can cause some people to not only feel proud but can lead to striking out at those who stand in their way of achieving their own selfish ends in life. It is said that more than %90 of murders are committed by people the victim knew and in a lot of cases it is their husband, father, mother, brother, sister, uncle aunty that killed them in some form of selfish pride driven rage.

The Christian Gospel message has the ultimate answer to this problem as Paul pointed out on a number of occasions like Ephesians 2: 1 -5,

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved”.

  1. Iniquity (7a)

Asaph now nails down what the heart of the unbeliever problem and therefore the problem we all have in our hearts accept as Christians we have been saved from our hearts and lives problem and given God’s Holy Spirit to fight against that problem.

Verse 7a reads,

“From their callous hearts comes iniquity”

 David confesses to God his sins of adultery and murder and calls them “My Iniquity” in Psalm 51 verse 2.

 So what then is iniquity?

I will quote the answer I gave to this question in my Psalm 51 Psalm talk,

“The best answer I have found to this question is from a web blog page called Gotquestion.org by Michael Houdmenn who gives this answer,

“The Hebrew word used most often for “iniquity” means “guilt worthy of punishment.” Iniquity is sin at its worst. Iniquity is premeditated, continuing, and escalating. When we flirt with sin, we fall for the lie that we can control it.

But like a cute baby monkey can grow to be a wild, out-of-control primate, sin that seems small and harmless at first can take control before we know it”.

 Paul taught in the book of Romans that sin or iniquity is the problem we all have which is the root cause of our broken relationship with God. Paul says this about our fallen sinful state before God in Romans 1: 18 – 25,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and they’re foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen”.

 Certainly we only differ from one another in the degree of sin we have committed and the people Asaph observed when he was having his doubts about his faith in God were big sinners as he describes them having, “Callous hearts”.

 Finally notice Asaph pin- points the source of this sin or iniquity, Jesus spoke of this important truth in Matthew 15: 19,

For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

 These godless people Asaph was observing and speaking about here had a short -term selfish willful and sinful perspective of life because in their hearts they were in rebellion to God.

  1. Conceit (7b)

Asaph adds to their iniquity these words,

“The evil conceit of their minds know no limits”.

 Dictionary.com defines deceit this way,

“An excessively favourable opinion of one’s own ability and importance”

 These ungodly people are really full of themselves and Asaph describes their conceit having no limits. I once went on a bus tour for a month through Europe and our chief guide and tour director was so conceited he would never admit he was wrong and when any of those on the tour told him he had got any historical facts wrong he would simply answer “I am never wrong and you need to go away and discover that you are wrong not me”. His conceit and bigheaded attitude literally took my breath away and I must admit I shied away from debating him over false information he gave about Christianity. I did however get to speak to other members of the tour group about what I believed to be the truth about the issues our tour director raised about Christianity and had some wonderful opportunities of sharing the faith. I must confess I have never been on another bus tour since then and probably never will.

I have met the occasional church leader who give the impression they to are a bit conceited which some other Christian friends of mine have said this is not conceit but decisive strong leadership but I’m afraid I take Paul’s words in Romans 12: 3 seriously when Paul says,

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you”.

  1. Speak Malice (8a)

 Asaph then describes in verse 8 the kind of speech or talk he hears coming from the mouths of these ungodly people and in verse 8a he says,

“They scoff, and speak with malice”.

 Other translations use the word evil instead of malice but I like malice when I consider it’s meaning in dictionary.com,

“A desire to inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another, either because of a hostile impulse or out of deep-seated meanness”.

We all have been victims at some time or another to someone using malice words either directly to us or behind our backs. Most of the conflicts I witnessed over my many years at work originated from either direct or misunderstood words.

When I have witnessed people really getting heated in a verbal conflict then words of Malice really get a run. Someone once told me that you can write something down on a piece of paper about someone and then destroy it by tearing it up but when you speak words to another person they can never be erased and they can fester in a persons mind and cause them to do terrible things in reaction to them.

James 1: 26 simply says,

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless”.

Finally 1 Peter 3: 10 – 11 says,

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it”.

  1. Arrogance (8b)

 Then Asaph goes on to say this about these godless people in verse 8b,

“In their arrogance they threaten oppression”.

 Spurgeon says this about this part of verse 8,

“They choose oppression as their subject, and they not only defend it, but advocate it, glory in it, and would fain to make it the general rule among all nations”.

 They do this in a spirit of arrogance, which is not surprising because in verse 6 they have pride and in verse 7 they are described as being conceited. I have had to work with people just like this in the past and let me tell you these people can make your work life very miserable. I remember one boss I had some years ago who was so arrogant and oppressive she drove many good workers out of the company but when upper management complained of her poor dealing with staff she always had proof that she was never in the wrong but the problem was the staff member who left.

Why did upper management of that company persist with her?

The reason seems to be she actually for a while got results and made money for the company but eventually that all changed and she was moved on but by that time I too had left that company. It would seem that that company for a time only had a short- term perspective of that manager’s performance.

I refer to Paul’s word about this in Romans 12: 3 again, when he says,

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you”.

  1. Self Idolatry (9)

 Finally we come to the final deadly sin Asaph describes of the ungodly people he seems to be surrounded by and says this in verse 9,

“Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth”.

 So arrogant are these wicked people, so full of themselves are they that they speak as though they are God himself. I call this problem self-idolatry in other words they worship themselves. Today this is ever so true many believe that human knowledge is so advanced that God no long is both there or even needed. This is another way of the mouths or words of man claiming Heaven or the role of God himself.

The second half of the verse speaks of their tongues or words spreading throughout the world and this is what is happening today. Anti – God words or ideas has spread throughout the world and so many say today you must believe there is no God for man’s knowledge is so great so we have no need for God and you must believe that because everyone believes that now. They mean everyone because so many believe it but remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7: 13 – 14,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

All through history Christian’s who follow Christ and believe his word to be true have been a minority and this is because all people are by nature in rebellion to God and they are on the throne of their hearts not God.

These people often hit out against true believers and I think Asaph felt this opposition in his day and because these anti- God people seemed so strong and powerful Asaph really felt intimidated by them as we can sense today when we feel the force of ant-God propaganda.

People who ignore even looking into the reality of God are only looking at life from a short -term perspective. The old saying is “there are only two certainties in life death and taxes”, we all have to pay taxes and we are all going to die. The problem is we are willing to get advice on tax minimization but people are usually not willing to look into the reality of our certain deaths in the future.

The topic of death is swept under the carpet and seems to be a taboo subject and even when someone dies we usually use sanitized language like, “He has passed on” or “Has left us” but the truth is only God and Jesus has the answer to death as Jesus boldly claims in John 11: 25 – 26

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

  1. How other people are effected by those who live their lives from a short

term perspective (10 – 12)

As I have just pointed out the anti-God movement is far greater and worldly powerful than that of true believers. Those of us who have faith in the word of the God of the bible are in the minority of main- stream thought and life. This seems to be the same for Asaph even in ancient Israel. Asaph makes this clear in the next three verses.

Let’s look at each verse and try and understand what he is saying to us.

Verse 10,

“Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance”.

 As Jesus said in Matthew 7: 13,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it

 The Godless people in this world are many and they have a very big following. Those who champion atheism like John Dawkins have many followers and draw great crowds when they speak about why there is no God and why people who believe in such so called ancient myths are foolish people.

Asaph’s image is of “drinking up waters in abundance”, Leopold suggests is the image of thirsty people gulping down water in endless amounts at a desert oasis.

These people cannot get enough of the anti – God propaganda the Godless anti- God spokesmen dish up to them. Even in some churches we have so called Christian leaders and preachers who deny the authority of the bible and in doing so water down the reality of God it contains.

Paul warned Timothy that men like this would one day arise in the Church in 2 Timothy 4: 3- 5,

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”.

We have seen a disturbing large group of people in many churches today who sadly fulfill Paul’s prophecy and we might ask why is this so?

The reason is simple these people have fallen into the trap of having a short -term perspective of life and God. They want to live life without any constraints now and they do not want or do not care about what facing God in the future means for them. The easiest way of achieving this is to be like Paul tells Timothy these people are like in 2 Timothy 3: 5, they will be people who,

“Have a form of godliness but denying its power”.

This verse finishes with Paul’s simple words of advice on how to deal with them,

“Have nothing to do with such people”.

Verse 11,

“They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?’

Interestingly sometimes I think these leading Atheist’s talk more about God than many believers do but their talk is a constant attempt to bring down God or at least the idea of God. Asaph noted here in verse 11 this put down God chatter. He pinpoints two ridiculous questions they often ask.

Lets have a look at these two ridicules questions:

  1. How can God know?

Leopold writes,

“They reflect from time to time on the fact that He (God) has not interfered with their successful career, they express this sentiment in words as these”.

In other words because they have been getting away with willful sin because God seems silent about it they question even if God knows about it. However if they knew or recognised God’s word to Israel so far they would know that the God of the bible is an all-knowing or omniscient God as it clearly says in Deuteronomy 31: 21,

“And when many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.”

The New Testament makes God’s intimate knowledge of everything even clearer like Matthew 10: 29 – 30,

 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered”.

God certainly knows but that does not mean he fails to act. You see the people who ask this question suffer from the problem of only having a short -term perspective of God’s dealing with the world and men.

Why then does God not act immediately every time a person sins?

Peter has a brilliant answer to this question in 2 Peter 3: 9,

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.

  1. Does the Most High have knowledge?

The second question in this verse is similar to the first but indicates they not only believe God does not know about their sinful ways because it seems he has failed to act upon their willful disobedience so they question whether God has much knowledge about anything.

Spurgeon’s reaction to this is that these wicked Godless people are either insane or mad and again proves these people have turned their backs on the God of the bible.

One of the reasons why these people ask such ridiculous questions about God is that they are viewing life from a selfish short- term perspective. Psalm 2, which I often quoted in my Psalm talks for book one and two of Psalms speaks of God’s short term reaction to man’s rebellion to God.

Verse’s two and three of Psalm 2 speak of this rebellion,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather against the Lord and against his anointed one. ‘Let us break their chains’, they say ‘and throw off their fetters”.

Verse 4 tells us God’s short term or immediate reaction to this rebellion,

“The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them”.

God laughs not like laughing at a joke that is told but rather he laughs at the ridiculous nature of this rebellion. Puny finite man throws his fist up at the God who made heaven and earth and in Psalm 73: 11 questions God to whether he has any knowledge at all. This is a joke, surely because it is such a ridiculous question to ask the God of the bible. Job makes the obvious clear when he says in Job 21: 22,

“Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since he judges even the highest”.

Psalm 2 verse 5 speaks of God’s long term reaction to those who rebel against him,

“Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath”

He goes on in verse 6 to reveal his long- term solution and reaction to this rebellion of man,

“I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill”.

This king is like David, an anointed king of God but greater than David as he says in verse 7,

“I will proclaim the decree of the Lord; He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father”.

This of course is speaking of Jesus, God’s son become flesh who would provide a way back for rebellious people by dying for their sins on the cross. As Paul clearly states in Colossians 1: 16 – 20,

“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.

Verse 12,

Asaph offers up a summary of these wicked people in verse 12 and says,

“This is what the wicked are like- always carefree, they increase in wealth”.

Asaph in this verse is looking at the ungodly wicked people around him from a short -term perspective. It might seem for a time Godless people are blessed or are humanly speaking doing well. They will seem happy or carefree and rich but this view of the wicked will soon change when Asaph looks at God’s long- term perspective in the fourth section of the Psalm.

  1. (13 – 16) PROBLEMS CAUSED TO THE BELIEVER WHEN THEY HAVE

                           A SHORT TERM PERSPECTIVE OF LIFE

 Asaph continues in this third section of the Psalm with problems caused by having a short- term perspective of life. It is not unto the middle of the Psalm, verse 17, that Asaph changes his perspective of God’s view of this life..

I see two parts again in this third section:

  1. The problems people with short term perspective of life cause true believers (vs’s 13 – 14)
  1. The problems true believers have in there thinking when they view

          life from a short term perspective (15 – 16)

 

  1. The problems people with short term perspective of cause true believers (vs’s 13 – 14)

 Asaph now turns from his wicked Godless enemies to his own thoughts and feelings and in this first part he speaks of his own inner conflict caused by people around him having a short- term perspective of life.

Verse 13, simply says,

“Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence”

 Asaph is speaking here of how he feels when he views people succeeding in life who are wicked and Godless and are living life from a short term perspective. Unfortunately he is viewing this problem from a short- term perspective himself because he sees his own pursuit of holly living as something he has done in vain.

The image of washing ones hands is one of innocence which we famously remember in the New Testament when Pilot seeks to wash his hands of the stain of convicting Jesus a innocent man yet found guilty by Pilot’s decree in Matthew 27: 24 and says this a he employs the symbol of washing one’s hands,

“I am innocent of this man’s blood’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility”.

 This image of innocence and purity probably originated Exodus 30: 17 – 21 where Aaron and his sons had to wash both their hands and feet before entering the sanctuary of God in the Tabernacle.

Asaph a Levite probably actually literally washed his hands in his role in the leading of Temple worship yet he is starting to doubt its value if wicked Godless people are seemingly blessed by God and some Godly people actually suffer instead.

Verse 14, simply says,

 “All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning”.

 So the people with a short- term perspective of God and life are seemingly blessed by God yet Godly faithful people like Asaph are punished. This verse captures in a nutshell Asaph problem that almost led him having a complete breakdown of his faith in the God of the bible.

Asaph problem as we will see in a minute or two was he was still viewing life from his own short-term perspective. He was simply looking around at these ungodly people around him who were flourishing while he seemed to be suffering from God’s punishment.

The problem Asaph is having is similar to that of Job who suffered greatly but not because of his sinfulness on the contrary he was loyal to God and yet still suffered. We will learn the answer to this problem in the next section of the Psalm.

  1. The problems true believers have in there thinking when they view

          life from a short term perspective (15 – 16)

 Asaph completes his fuzzy thinking about God and his ways owing to the short- term perspective of life he and his enemies were living by. For him as a believer this short-term thinking had devastating effects. First of all on his witness to other believer’s verse 15 and then upon his own internal feelings and thinking verse 16.

First of all lets look at his witness to other believers in verse 15, which says,

“If I had said, ‘I will speak thus’ I would have betrayed your children”.

 Asaph is saying here that if he had expressed the doubts about the justice of God and the effect it was having on his life then those younger than him would or could have been negatively affected. In all societies of all ages older people one way or another have a powerful effect on younger people for good or ill. Especially in the church many young people look to the older members for advice and guidance.

Paul spoke about this on a number of occasions. Paul’s principle of the witness of the mature believer of Christ influencing others seems to be made clear in his words to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1: 11:1,

“Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ”.

 Our example is our witness and Aaaph realised that if he started openly talking about his doubts about God younger more impressible people could be betrayed or led astray. So he chose to stay quiet or hold his tongue which is good advice for us when we might be going through dark times of difficulty that cause’s our faith to be tested.

Then in verse 16 he speaks of how the short- term perspective thinking had on his own internal thoughts and feelings, he writes,

“When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me”.

 He is literally saying the seeming unjust treatment of the Godless wicked who were seemingly prospering compared to God’s treatment of faithful believers like him who were suffering caused him great internal pain or consternation.

I can relate to this right now as I have just heard of a good Christian friend who has been ministering for God for many years in a difficult place just being electrocuted while fixing a bed lamp in his home. He is now in hospital fighting for his life. The thought has crossed my mind, Why Lord?

Why has this happened to him?

These thoughts and feelings are as Asaph puts it “Oppressive” or “Deeply Troubling” as other translations put it.

However I know I must simply lift my thoughts and prayers to God and trust in him just as I pray my friend is doing right now as he lies in hospital seeking to recover. Thinking through too much why God does or at least allows certain things to happen to us has its own problems and dangers. In the next verse we will see what God revealed to Aaaph when he was having this type of troublesome thoughts and feelings.

  1. (17 – 22) UNDERSTANDING GOD’S LONG TERM PERSPECTIVE OF LIFE

Almost in the middle of this Psalm comes a great change when in verse 17 we have God’s answer to Asaph problem. I have broken this fourth section into two parts:

  1. Where we find God’s long term perspective of him and life (vs. 17)
  1. What God’s long term perspective of life and God actually is (18 – 22)

 

  1. Where we find God’s long term perspective of him and life (vs. 17)

 Verse 17 marks the big turn around in thinking by Asaph. He declares in this verse where his thinking about God and the wicked people around him appearing to go well changed. He writes,

“Till I entered the sanctuary of God, then I understood their final destiny”.

 The key to understanding this verse is what is Asaph talking about when he says,“the sanctuary”?

 Asaph could not mean the inner sanctuary because Bible study tools points out that this was a place only the priests could enter as this quotes makes it clear,

“Refers to the worship “sanctuary” (e.g., Exod 25:8 ), where the Israelites offered their various kinds of offerings and sacrifices to the Lord under the supervision of the priesthood”.

 Asaph was not a priest only a Levite, who had special duties as door- keepers and helpers of the Tabernacle and in Solomon’s time on Temple. Asaph had special musical responsibilities and was probably the choir master,

So Asaph must mean the wider use of the term Sanctuary which is the Tabernacle and if he is writing in the time of King Solomon the Temple.

So Asaph would have entered the Tabernacle in David’s time and Temple on Solomon’s time many times over many years of faithful worship leading.

So why did he on this occasion received a special insight from God when he entered the Tabernacle or Temple?

One commentator suggested he might have seen one of the wicked godless men drop dead during a worship service Asaph was leading in the Tabernacle or Temple. However this is unlikely as the way he explains this insight from God is the words, “I understood” which does not fit the dramatic scene of a person dropping dead during a worship service.

My thought is what the Tabernacle or Temple actually represents. I read a very informative article by Ernest L. Martin who explains his understanding of what the Tabernacle and later Temple represented using insights also gleaned from the book of Hebrews, he writes,

“In the Book of Hebrews we are told that the tabernacle, and all its services, were “patterns of things in the heavens” (Hebrews 9:23). The physical objects associated with the earthly sanctuary were “figures of the true” (Hebrews 9:24) — the “shadow of heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5). Each physical item had its spiritual counterpart in heaven. So, as long as there was a tabernacle or temple on earth, there was a material reflection of God’s heavenly palace for mankind to see. 2 The temple represented God’s home on earth. Of course, God does not literally dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 17:24), and though the temple at Jerusalem was a true image of the heavenly, in Hebrews it is made abundantly clear that the earthly sanctuary of God is “not the very image of the [heavenly] things” (Hebrews 10:1). It was only figures of the true” (Hebrews 9:24)

 This is a very helpful and comprehensive answer to the question of what was the significance of the Tabernacle or Temple?

If Asaph knew and believed this then maybe one day the thought hit him that if he is in God’s dwelling place on earth which represents God’s dwelling place in heaven then what does this tell him about the problem thoughts he is having about the seeming blessing of the ungodly?

He writes at the end of verse 17, “I understood their final destiny” and of course the final destiny of the ungodly wicked person is not heaven.

  1. What God’s long term perspective of life and God actually is (18 – 22)

Now thinking of where the final destination is of the ungodly he moves from thinking of God and life with a short -term perspective to a long -term perspective. The next five verses spell out what it means to look at life from God’s long- term perspective.

Asaph sets this long-term perspective out in three basic concepts:

  1. The ground or life foundation of the ungodly is unstable (18 – 19)
  2. Life is like a dream image (20)
  3. Short term thinking alone is senseless (21 – 22)
  1. The ground or life foundation of the ungodly is unstable (18 – 19)

 The first image Asaph employs to describe his new found long- term perspective of God and life is that of slippery ground which represents the foundation on which the ungodly are building their lives, he writes in verse 18,

“Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them to ruin”.

 These ungodly wicked men might seem to have made it in life they might even seem to be secure and blessed but what is their long term prospects in life? Where will they end up when they die?

I like Jesus parable of the rich fool in Luke 12: 16 – 21 and I will just let Jesus tell you this parable and its application by simply quoting it in full here,

“16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

 Someone once said to me one day, “What is the use of being the riches man in the cemetery” ?

Or another saying is “You cannot take your money with you when you die”

From a short -term perspective the rich successful ungodly and wicked person might seem to be blessed by God but from God’s long- term perspective he is building his life on slippery ground because as Asaph says, in death they are,

Cast down to ruin”.

When an ungodly person or an unbelieving person suddenly and unexpectedly dies it is a devastating tragedy and worse where will they go when they face God in judgment?

However when a believing person dies suddenly and unexpectedly it is sad for those he or she left and maybe we might feel they still had more to contribute to life here on earth but they have gone from this life to be with God forever in heaven.

This is the sort of thoughts we will see Asaph now has with God’s long -term perspective of life in view.

He speaks of the unstable ground or foundation the ungodly wicked people are building their lives on in the next verse, verse 19,

“How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors”.

 This verse reminds me of another parable of Jesus in Matthew 7: 24 – 27,

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Note the wise man is the man who builds his house or as the image is here, life on the words of Jesus. Aaaoh saw people building their lives on something other than the God of the bible and even their wealth and success in life could not save them from the terrors of death without God in their lives.

This is the long- term perspective of God and life we all need to have if we are to be not put off by seeming worldly success of unbelieving ungodly people we meet in this life.

  1. Life is like a dream image (20)

Asaph then employs the image of a dream in verse 20, he writes,

“as a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies”.

 Allan Harman explains,

“Quite frequently the sudden intervention of God in judgment is described in the Psalms as if God awakens from sleep”.

 Harman then gives three examples of this, Psalm 35: 23, Psalm 44: 23 and Psalm 59 4.

I found on the net a sermon by a man named Zeno Groce who called God’s coming judgment day, “God’s alarm clock” which is a neat way to say we will all wake up one day suddenly and surely to the final Day of Judgment. Groce uses Romans 13: 11 as the text for his interesting and challenging sermon. Verse 11 reads like this,

“And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed”.

I would like to add to my understanding of this concept verse 12 as well,

 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”.

You see that verse 12 is Paul telling us to live with God’s long-term perspective of life in view influencing how we live each day.

The lives of the ungodly wicked people live now Asaph says will be but a fantasy when they face God in judgment. All that wealth, power and seeming success in this life in the long -term view is nothing it is like a dream or a fantasy.

       3, Short term thinking alone is senseless (21 – 22)

 Asaph returns now to assess his thinking when he only had a shot-term perspective of life and he describes it this way in verses 21 – 22,

“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute before you”.

 Asaph is saying now he sees his previous doubting thoughts as senseless.

Other translations use the word ignorant instead of senseless, so Aaaph was ignorant when he viewed life with a short- term perspective and says he was like a dumb animal, which is really saying something. I like how God’s final great revelation of himself to poor old Job is responded to by Job’s words in Job 42: 1 – 6,

Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes”.

 Job not only suffered the loss of family and possessions, he not only suffered great sickness and physical pain for he suffered more from the incorrect advice of his friends who advised him with great theological truth but it was theological truth that did not correctly relate to Job. Job’s friends were ignorant of the true reason for Job’s suffering so their advice was like that of the advice a dumb animal would give.

We need to be very careful when we give advice and to friends and family who might be going through a difficult time of suffering. My Psalm talk on Psalm 6 looks at the important question of what the bible teaches on why we might suffer as believers. I set down four biblical reasons why we might suffer. I will give you here the four reasons with just one verse to back each one up. For a more detailed rundown of these four biblical reasons for why a believer might suffer please refer to my Psalm 6 Talk.

The four biblical reasons why a person might suffer are:

Reason 1. Suffering might come as a test of our faith – 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7

Reason 2. Suffering might come to bring glory to God – John 9: 2 – 3

Reason 3. Suffering might come from living in a fallen world – Romans 8: 19 – 21

Reason 4. Suffering might be God’s way of disciplining us – Hebrews 12: 4 – 11

If we view life and God’s workings from a short -term perspective we could easily get the long- term reason why we might be suffering wrong and that will make our advice, as Asaph put it senseless and no better than the advice or understanding a brute beast might have.iJob’J

  1. (23 – 28) LIVING OUR LIVES WITH GOD’S LONG TERM PERSPECTIVE

                   OF LIFE CONSTANTLY IN FOCUS

 Asaph brings this first Psalm of book 3 of Psalms to a close with some wonderful application teaching of his newfound long-term perspective of the workings of God.

I have broken this final section into two parts:

  1. The advantages of living life with God’s long term perspective in view

(23 – 26)

  1. Conclusion – Life lived from a short term perspective / and a long term

perspective (27 – 28)

 

  1. The advantages of living life with God’s long term perspective in

             view (23 – 26)

 Asaph now applies the new insight he has just shared which I have been calling viewing life from God’s long –term perspective. I have found four great things Asaph now understands he has in God. They are:

  1. God’s constant presence and help (vs. 23)
  2. God’s short and long term guidance (vs. 24)
  3. God’s all embracing provisions (vs. 25)
  4. God’s everlasting strength (vs. 26)

 I would now like to look a little closer at each of the great four things Asaph believed he had in God and apply them to what the New Testament has to say about them and finally apply what we have learnt from that to our daily lives.

  1. God’s constant presence and help (vs. 23)

 The first great thing Asaph believed he had in God after understanding how to view life from God’s long -term perspective is God’s constant presence in his life, he writes in verse 23,

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand”.

 Allan Harmon says this about the meaning of being held up by God’s right hand,

“To be held by the right hand is a vivid way of expressing the help that God constantly gives his children”.

 Asaph now realizes that before he gained an understanding of God’s long- term perspective of life he thought God had abandoned or at least over looked him in favor of the prospering ungodly wicked people around him, as he implied in verses 2 and 4,

“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked”.

 Now with God’s long- term perspective in mind he realizes that even in difficult hard to understand times God is,

“Always with him”

 And in fact God is their upholding him by his right hand.

Jesus promises to be with us always, as he declares in Matthew 28: 30b

“And surely I am with you always to the end of the age”.

 So far a being constantly upheld or helped by God’s right hand the New Testament has much to say but I will only refer to one great verse, Romans 8: 34,

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us”.

 With a short term perspective of God’s dealing in our lives we might act like Asaph in the earlier part of his Psalm 73 and doubt God’s help and blessing in our lives. We might let the transient seemingly bad experience of life doubt God’s presence and help in our lives. However with s long term perspective of what God is doing we can claim the promises of his word and know and appreciate even in the most difficult experiences of life that Jesus is with us always upholding us by his right hand.

  1. God’s short and long term guidance (vs. 24)

Asaph continues to spell out the great things he now knows he has in God owing to his new long- term perspective of life. In verse 24 he speaks about God’s short term and long- term guidance, he writes,

“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory”.

 In verses 2 and 3 Asaph used the analogy of a path to speak of his doubts about God’s leading almost causing him to slip of the path of life but now with God’s long- term perspective of life in view he believes God even in this life, the short –term will always guide him. He now has the same confidence of God’s guidance in this life as the writer of Proverbs 3: 5 – 6,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”.

In the New Testament God’s guidance for those who trust in him is also assured, like John 10: 3- 4,

“3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice”.

In God’s long- term perspective he sees this,

“And afterward you will take me into glory”.

 Some bible scholars doubt the validity of Old Testament believers having a sure understanding of life after death but I do not believe this and have found in my Psalm talks study so far many references to a sure hope of eternal life with God after death in the Old Testament like David’s words in Psalm 23: 6,

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.

 Of course as Christians or followers of Christ we have an even surer hope or view of eternal life with God in heaven, like John 14: 1 – 3,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”.

And Romans 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 We can and must look beyond our immediate short -term view of life that sometimes tries to tell us that this life is all there is to see God’s great long term perspective and promise of life that in Jesus Christ is the gift of eternal life with God in heaven.

  1. God’s all embracing provisions (vs. 25)

The third great thing Asaph now sees he has in God owing to seeing his long-term perspective of life is God’s all embracing provisions expressed by Asaph this way in verse 25,

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you”.

 Spurgeon explains and applies this verse so well I have fully quoted what he says on this verse,

“Thus then Asaph turns away from the glitter which fascinated him to the true gold which was his real treasure. He felt that his God was better to him than all the wealth, health, honor, and peace, which he had so much envied in the worlding; yes He was not only better than all on earth, but also more excellent than all in heaven. He bade all things else go, that he might be filled with his God. And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. No longer should his wishes ramble, no other object should tempt them to stray; henceforth, the Ever living One should be his all in all”.

 God’s provisions for us in Christ is equally great as Paul so aptly declares in Philippians 4: 19,

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”.

 This meeting of all our needs is in this life and the life to come. Jesus promises to give to those who come to him life and that in all it abundance both now and in the future (John 10; 10).

So whether we apply this to the day-to-day short-term perspective or the long- term eternal perspective God has provided all that we need and more. Asaph put it this way,

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you”.

  1. God’s everlasting strength (vs. 26)

In the short term we might look fragile and very frail but in God’s long term perspective God makes the difference and provides us with strength as Asaph puts it so well in verse 26,

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”.

 What a change has come over this man from how he was talking like in verses 2 and 3 and how he is talking now. In verse 2 and 3 his faith was slipping and sliding all over the place but now he is confident and assured that even though, humanly speaking, he is very weak. with God and his long-term perspective in view he has God’s strength as his lot or portion forever.

We too can have this same confidence in God as Paul had in Philippians 1: 6,

“ Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.

Also this confidence flows into how we pray and approach God in prayer as Hebrews 4: 16 says,

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

It is through prayer that we can access the strength God has for us in Christ. As we face the problems and difficulties of day -to -day life we can look to God who promises us his everlasting help and strength in both the short -term perspective of life and the long-term.

As Jesus promises and encourages us with his own words in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

  1. Conclusion – Life lived from a short-term perspective / and a long term perspective (27 – 28)

 The final two verses are a fitting conclusion to this amazing Psalm. Verse 27 sets out the fate of those who live life without God and from a short -term perspective and verse 28 sets out the fate of those who live for God and his long -term perspective.

Lets look at each of these and make some final New Testament applications.

  1. The fate of those who live life without God and from a short term perspective (vs. 27)

 Asaph has moved along way from his slipping sliding doubts in God in verses 2 and 3 with these words in verse 27,

“Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.”

 Initially Aaaph was caught up in very short-term perspective of life and God with the envy of the successful wicked Godless people who he thought God was blessing in contrast to those who sought to follow God being punished. However Asaph broke out of this fog of doubt and false perspective of God and his ways when one day in Tabernacle or Temple worship he realised God’s long- term perspective of life.

He realised that in the end no matter how successful a wicked Godless person is they are in God heading for ruin (verse17). This new and inspired perspective changed everything and now he confidently declares that to turn away from God and be unfaithful to him will lead only to destruction.

Jesus had much to say about this in his presentation of the Gospel and in the famous Gospel message passage in John 3 we read in 16 we have the offer of the Gospel,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

But then in the next five verses we read of what will happen to those who reject this Gospel message or offer of eternal life, verses 17 – 21,

“17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.

  1. The fate of those who live for God and his long -term perspective (vs. 28)

 The Psalm finishes on a positive note and it is expressed in a very personal way as a lot of the message of this Psalm has been expressed.

Asaph having gained a great new insight into God and his long- term perspective of life and now he expresses his concluding thoughts of what that means to him, he writes,

“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds”.

 His final words of this Psalm speak of three things he now wants to do:

  1. Be near to God
  2. His Sovereign Lord be his refuge
  3. His willingness to tell others of God’s deeds
  1. Be near God

 Asaph feels powerless to change the hearts and minds of the wicked and ungodly people around him but he simply states “as for me’. We cannot think or believe for other people all we can do is pray and present the Gospel message to them the results of that lies in the hands of God.

And what does he want to now do?

Well first of all he wants to be near God. Spurgeon writes,

“The greater our nearness to God, the less we are affected by the attractions and distractions of earth”.

 James simply says in James 4: 8,

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

When we feel the pressure and difficulties of this world we need to not pull away from God as some sadly do but we need to come or draw near to God. The writer to the Hebrews has a encouraging and challenging word to those who seem to be falling away from God in Hebrews 10: 19 – 25,

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.\”.

  1. His Sovereign Lord be his refuge

At the beginning of the Psalm Asaph commenced with praise for the God of Israel and how he is good to his people, who he also describes as,

“Those who are pure in heart”

 Now he returns to the theme of the Lord of Israel who he calls the “Sovereign Lord” and says that he has,

“Made the Sovereign Lord his refuge”.

 I had a good look at the term Asaph use here of “Sovereign Lord” and the best explanation I found was from a man named Chip Ingram he writes,

If you were to look up the word “sovereign” in the dictionary, you would find words and phrases like “superior,” “greatest,” “supreme in power and authority,” “ruler,” and “independent of all others” in its definition. But the way I like to explain God’s sovereignty best is simply to say, “God is in control.”

 I like that quote particularly the last phrase, “God is in control.” And that is the sense that I think Asaph wants to convey here. Asaph now looks at life from God’s long-term perspective and that means God is in control in the future and the present. It might seem that in the short term things are not under God’s control but we must have the same long- term perspective Paul obviously had when he writes in Romans 8: 28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

 This “Sovereign God’” or God who is in control can be relied upon so as Asaph says, we can take refuge in him. The idea of refuge has been a major theme in the Psalms of David particularly in book two of Psalm.

A refuge is a place of safety a place we can go to for protection and help and that is what Jesus offers us in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

When the world around us seems to be out of control and even hostile to our faith and safety we can turn to Jesus in prayer and he will help us through these trials and difficulties.

  1. His willingness to tell others of God’s deeds

The last phrase of the Psalm is,

“I will tell of all your deeds”.

Which sounds a lot like the kind of thing David would say particularly towards the end of one of his Psalms like the last two verses of Psalm 57: 9,

“I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples”.

Asaph has received a bit of inspired insight about trusting in God’s long – term perspective of life and how that helped him cope with problems and difficulties even in the short term. He is so inspired that he cannot keep it to himself but must tell others.

This is how God wants us to respond to his great inspired message of salvation we call the Good News or the Gospel. Paul said as much at the start of his great letter to the Romans, Romans 1: 16,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile”.

Asaph was so inspired by his new understanding of viewing life from God’s long-term perspective that he put his resolve tell others of God’s deeds that he wrote this Psalm and now for hundreds of years men and women like us can know God’s revelation on how to view this life and live it by faith focused not on current problems and difficulties of life but on God’s long -term perspective which stretches all the way into heaven for us and judgment for those who continue to reject him.

I close as usual with a poem and a prayer.

GOD’S SANCTUARY ABOVE

(Based on Psalm 73)

 Surely God is good to us

If we seek to go his way.

But sometimes I think I doubt

When God’s blessings seem far away.

When people who do not know the Lord

Live life seemingly trouble free

And I seem to struggle Oh Lord

What can the answer be?

 

Chorus 1.:

 

And then I see the sanctuary

God’s sanctuary above.

And there I learn my destiny

I’ll live forever through Jesus love.

 

Many people seem to live their lives

As if God is not even there.

They are full of pride and Godlessness

And for others they simply don’t care.

But why does God not deal with them

Especially when they turn on me

Does God have a plan for them?

Oh God how can they see?

 

Chorus 2.:

 

Help them see the sanctuary

God’s sanctuary above.

And there they would learn their destiny

That they could live forever through Jesus love.

 

Surely life’s way is slippery

For those who turn away.

One day they’re face the Lord above

And in Judgment they’re be swept away.

Life will seem like a dream to them

When the judgment day does come

All their deeds will be revealed

Only in Jesus can their sins be none

 

Chorus 2:

 

Help them see the sanctuary

God’s sanctuary above.

And there they would learn their destiny

That they could live forever through Jesus love.

 

 

Yes you Oh Lord are with me

Your right hand upholds me true.

You always guide and counsel me

And one day I will be with you.

My flesh and my heart may fail

But you Lord make me strong

So let me be near you Lord

And forever will I sing your song.

 

Chorus 1.

 

Yes I see the sanctuary

God’s sanctuary above.

And there I learn my destiny

I’ll live forever through Jesus love.

 By: Jim Wenman

 PRAYER:

 Father in heaven help us who seek to follow your Son to see our great destiny that through faith him we are headed for your eternal sanctuary called heaven. When doubts, seeming injustice and difficulties come upon us help us to keep the vision of your great eternal sanctuary in our minds and hearts knowing that in the long run this where we are headed for. Help us to realise that those who oppose you, if they do not turn in repentance and faith to you in this life are headed for your judgment before your throne in your Sanctuary above. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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