fighting the temptation of depending on yourself.
Psalm 73: A Psalm of Asaph.
1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. 2 But as for me, I came so close to the edge of the cliff! My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. 3 For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
4 They seem to live such a painless life; their bodies are so healthy and strong. 5 They aren’t troubled like other people or plagued with problems like everyone else. 6 They wear pride like a jeweled necklace, and their clothing is woven of cruelty. 7 These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! 8 They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. 9 They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth. 10 And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words. 11 “Does God realize what is going on?” they ask. “Is the Most High even aware of what is happening?” 12 Look at these arrogant people— enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply. 13 Was it for nothing that I kept my heart pure and kept myself from doing wrong? 14 All I get is trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.
15 If I had really spoken this way, I would have been a traitor to your people. 16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! 17 Then one day I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I thought about the destiny of the wicked.
18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction. 19 In an instant they are destroyed, swept away by terrors. 20 Their present life is only a dream that is gone when they awake. When you arise, O Lord, you will make them vanish from this life. 21 Then I realized how bitter I had become, how pained I had been by all I had seen. 22 I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. 24 You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. 26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
27 But those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. 28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.
(New Living Translation)
I’d like to believe that Asaph was like any one of us. He had real struggles too (in this case, being tempted to harbour righteous envy against wicked men) but more importantly he dared to be real before God. I think that is remarkable for a man of his calibre.
Day in, day out, I wrestle with efforted authenticity before God. I rest in the knowledge that God already heard what’s in my heart and therefore I am lazy to articulate it. Oh, you’d be surprised to count the number of inaudible, invisible and illusional conversations that I think I had with Him. After all, why say it when He already knows it?
Asaph for me does it so well. He laid down his guiding principles at the start and proceeded to come clean with God. He neither left out details nor hid his true disgust. Sometimes, I think God can’t handle it when I get too honest… It got me thinking – if I tell God bad things about people, am I not gossiping, albeit with God?
The resolve arrived in v15 – that key word “If”. He faced real temptations but he emerged better for it. And instead of complaining and leaving it there, he actually sought insight from the Lord. So many times I have failed to rely on the counsel of the Spirit and depended instead on my own wisdom in interpreting the matter.
Tonight, Asaph takes on the role of my divine mentor and it is from his experiences that I will learn. What a sobering reminder v27-28 is! The condition underneath and the conversation upward are what truly matter – these must be my primary concerns when I fight the temptation of depending on myself.
I shall chew on Psalm 73 for the next week.
Lord, help me to see Your power in my weakness. And help me to remember that I don’t need to act invincible in Your presence.