Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 42
What I Read Today: Psalms 73-78.
What Stood Out About What I Read Today: Psalm 73: 12-17, ” Take a good look! This is what the wicked are like, those who always have it so easy and get richer and richer. I concluded, “Surely in vain I have kept my motives purevand maintained a pure lifestyle. I suffer all day long, and am punished every morning.” If I had publicized these thoughts, I would have betrayed your loyal followers. When I tried to make sense of this, it was troubling to me. Then I entered the precincts of God’s temple, and understood the destiny of the wicked.”
Random Thoughts About What I Read:
My father died when I was young and there were times when that caused me to wince at my lot in life. You know, those times when there was a father-son tournament of any kind and, while I had a couple of uncles who were happy to drop everything and fill in, well, it wasn’t the same. Those moments when the collge football team we both loved had a great moment and no one in my house cared much. Learning to drive and having my mother have to do all that stuff. The lost games of H-O-R-S-E or “Around the World” or One-on-One in the driveway. Letting him meet my girlfriend.
The big moments, too…opening the letter of acceptance to the university we both loved. Graduating from high school. Graduating from college. Introducing him to the girl I was gonna marry. Him never meeting my in-laws at the dinner you have to introduce each other’s parents. The empty space next to my mom at my wedding. He never held his granddaughters, and manalive I would pay any price to have seen that.
So, sure. It’s easy to have a pity-party when you focus on all the stuff YOU didn’t get to enjoy, and when you’re a teenager, since you’re the star of the world’s play, well, you don’t view how that event affected anyone else.
Like, say, my grandmother. Because one day when one of those uncles who filled in on the father/son stuff had to tell her that he was sick with a disease that could kill him if it progressed significantly…well, it hit me for the first time when I was told that her words to him were very passionate. Something along the lines of, “Jimmy, you’re damn well going to fight this with everything you’ve got because I CANNOT bury another son. I just can’t! And you better not make me do it!”
I never thought about how my dad’s death affected her. Never once. Until that moment. And my views of what a great lady she was changed profoundly to even more admiration at precisely that moment.
Another day I was having one of those teenage “star of your own show” moments. I think it had something to do with a combo package of unexpected expensive car repairs and things going wrong with a girl I liked and some plans falling through with my friends. I’m pretty sure the sum of the damage was that I was going to have to stay home on a weekend night because of no plans and no wheels. I said to no one in particular, “My life is just NOT FAIR!”
Mom overheard that and read me the riot act in the way only a Southern mom can about how kids are starving and I’m whining about a vehicle that is going to be ready the next day at the expense of a bank account that had more than enough money in it to cover repairs and friends that made other plans because they thought I was going out with a girl who I wasn’t going to wind up spending any time with. That was just for starters.
It ended with something along the lines of, “You think YOUR life is unfair? Son, I was a widow at age 36 with two kids to feed and nobody to help and I had to go back to school to get a Master’s Degree while I was working in my job! The way I had it all drawn up was that I’d have about 10 more years of being a homemaker with your dad strolling in the door every night and going back to work so we could save enough money so we could retire to Destin where your dad could finally own one of those damn charter boats so he could fish all day and then he’d come back to the condo we bought every night and we’d watch sunsets on the beach every day until we died. That’s how my life was supposed to turn out! You might want to just grab a book and get happy about Friday night here at the house.”
I knew all that already. I knew what my dad wanted to do with his life and all that. I knew he loved her and planned on spending his retirement with her. I knew a charter boat was involved. But hearing my mom so plainly state it that her life was entirely flipped upside-down so clearly and passionately was a first.
And that’s the way it is, usually. We get all wrapped up in our perspective and views and situations and events that we wind up so self-focused that we can’t see things the way they really are.
Which is really the lesson of Psalm 73.
Take a look at Asaph’s observations…starting with the reaffirmation of God’s goodness in verse 1 to those who follow Him.
We get a contrast word, “but,” in verse 2. His ALMOST stumbled (he didn’t). He almost slipped (he didn’t). And this slipping and sliding was caused by his inner desires of the people that boasted about their lives. The wealth of the wicked. Their carefree lifestyle. They’re land-of-plenty existence. They never get caught. they look like they have no troubles. They have tokens that highlight their wealth and leave behind a trail those they exploited.
Their eyes sparkle because of their wealth. They have all sorts of evil plans. They threaten and profit from those who have no voice or defense. They have a platform to speak from and others listen. They put themselves higher than God and seem to run the earth.
Others come after them. Others prosper because of them. They act without God and even question what possible information he might have to share with the earth. He wraps up with telling us the wicked will keep on prospering and it seems like a waste of time to follow God. In fact, it even seems in some ways that God is punishing Asaph for following Him.
But he couldn’t say anything (verse 15) because it would dishearten the masses and hurt the cause. He thought about it. He looked at the world around him and couldn’t figure out why things were the way they are.
Life is SO UNFAIR!!! It was trouble in his sight (verse 16).
A word that lets us know his perspective is going to change in verse 17.
Until I came into the sanctuary of God.
Wow. Until he looked at those things from the perspective of eternity. That changes EVERYTHING!
They’re doomed, really. And the house of cards will come crashing down. They’ll wake up from their dream and hate themselves.
And this caused Asaph to evaluate his life. He’d become bitter and deeply hurt because of what his improper perspective did to him. He was irrational and foolish…even like a beast. Thankfully, by verse 23 his fellowship is restored with God and He looks to the future. And then, oh, man we get one of the truly beautiful expressions of faith in Scripture:
“Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from Thee will perish. Thou hast destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee.”
Then verse 28 bookends with verse 1: It is good to be near God. God is Asaph’s refuge and he wants to share this reality with others.
God is good in verse 1, to those that follow Him. He’s Good to those near to Him in verse 28.
Things go badly when we focus on ourselves and life here on earth…
Because life is UNFAIR.
But when you view it from the perspective of eternity…
…The Lord is good to those who follow and stay near to Him.
(Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalms 79-84)