Psalms 73

Steve Viars September 11, 1993 Psalms 73:

Psalm 73:

- now you can tell, just from the reading of this Psalm, that
   the writer is struggling with the thoughts, "it's not
   fair."
- let's think for a moment or two how that phrase might creep
   into our lives:

   - INPUT - where (from whom) are we most likely to hear the
              phrase "it's not fair." (from children)

   - but isn't this true--that same phrase can run through
      your heart or mine.
       - Asaph, the writer, is struggling with why people who
          don't believe in God seem to have it easy(why they
          prosper), and believers have it so hard.
           - in his mind, that ought to be reversed.
           - as a result, he has become an envious person.

- Agree/Disagree - envy is a "ripe temptation" for believers
     in the 90's.  (absolutely)
- INPUT - what are some things a believer might be tempted to
    be envious of, even of a person who's not a believer?

- the point we want to make here is that envy is something we
   all can wrestle with.  That was true in Bible days,
   because there are other Psalms that address this same
   issue, of why the wicked prosper:
     - 37 - written by David
     - 49 - anonymous

- INPUT - Why are "envy" and "growing in Christ" incompatible
   (or how will sinning in this way prevent us from growing?)


- let's see what this Psalm has for us concerning handling
   this area of sinfulness:
- you've heard me already mention the name Asaph, the writer
   of this Psalm.


   - his life is a very interesting study in and of itself,
     and if you'd like to do more study I can suggest some
     things to read.
   - for our purposes this morning, we need to know that:

    1) One of the three chief musicians appointed by David to
        preside over the choral facet of Israel's worship (I
        Chron. 16:5)
    2) Chosen to lead the music when David brought the ark of
        the covenant to Jerusalem (I Chron. 15:16-19).
    3) His sons were given the leadership of the 24 courses
        of musicians in Solomon's temple (I Chron. 25:11-31).
    4) His name went "down in sacred music history" in that
        the "sons of Asaph" were a "musical guild" that is
        mentioned at many times in Israel's later history.

- in short, Asaph was the "Pastor Lopez" of ancient Israel.
- because he was a godly man, he wrote Psalms that were
   included in the nation's worship, and subsequently, in
   the word of God.

- we're going to skip over verse one at this point.
- often in the Psalms, the first verse is actually a summary
    of all that he's learned – that’s surely true here.
- after verse one, Asaph begins this Psalm by clearly stating
    the problem.

I. The Problem

   - he tells us how the problem affected him in verse 2, and
      then what the problem was in verse 3.

    A. What it did - v. 2

        - INPUT - what effect did this problem have on him
            according to verse 2?
            (feet almost gone, steps had slipped)

            - he's using a double figure of speech
               - the first one pictures a person's who bowed
                 down under the weight of his own thinking
               - the second one has to do with his feet
                  straying from the path.
               - point is - he's in trouble -- he's got
                  significant questions and he's looking for
                  answers.

    B. What it was - v. 3

        - Asaph doesn't beat around the bush when it comes to
           what the problem was.
        - INPUT - how does he describe it in verse 3?
           (I was envious of the foolish/wicked when I saw
             their prosperity)

- now I think we need to pause here a moment and talk about
   the whole matter of "questions concerning the way the Lord
   does things."

   - there are definitely two ditches we have to avoid on
      this subject.  Let's see if we can articulate them
      together:
- ditch #1 - "Person who suppresses questions about the Lord"

   - this is the person who has legitimate questions about
      his/her faith but has concluded "good people never ask
      those questions to anyone at anytime.  Just be quiet
      and believe"
   - this would be very similar to the child in a school
      classroom who has a question about math but, because of
      of fear, pride, etc., does not ask it.  As a result,
      they don't understand math as well as they could and
      they are hindered when it comes to higher level math.
   - if we are "suppress all questions" kind of people, we
      won't be led to get into the word to find answers, and
      our faith won't be stretched or nurtured.

- ditch #2 - "Person who asks questions about the Lord
    arrogantly."
   - INPUT - characteristics of this approach?

       1) has set him/herself up as a judge over God (cf.
           Romans 1)
       2) has forgotten that’s God's ways are not our ways
           (cf. Isa. 55:8-9)
       3) does not come with a learners attitude.  There's a
           big difference between, "Lord, you shouldn't ...."
           and "Lord, I don't understand why you...--how is
           my thinking wrong/incomplete and where can i go in
           your Word to learn about that more fully?"
       4) Asks questions at the wrong time or in from of the
            wrong people - cf. v. 15)

  - point is - just because Asaph asked these questions, and
     just because they are recorded in the Bible--doesn't
     make them right.
     - in fact, he admits later to the foolishness of some of
         his thinking.

- so, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with having
   questions about the Lord, but the way a person goes about
   getting those questions answered can surely be wrong.

- we don't want to be "question suppressors" like the child
   in math class -- but nor do we want to be "arrogant
   questioners" who have set ourselves up as the judges of
   the God of heaven.

- now I'd like us to move through these next verses as
   rapidly as possible.
- Asaph gives us some of the causes of envy in verses 4-5.

II. Causes of Envy

    A. Prosperity of the wicked - v. 4-5

        INPUT - what are some ways Asaph describes their
          prosperity?

          v. 4a - no pains in death
             4b - physical needs met abundantly
             5 - seemingly free from troubles of life


    - now, what we're seeing here can give us very important
       insight into the sin of envy.

    - as you look at what Asaph is saying here, what words or
       phrases come to your mind to describe what he's
       thinking (off-base, skewed, out-of-balance///it's true
       that there's not a direct cause/effect between
       righteousness/ease of life or wickedness/trouble of
       life---BUT-THE WAY HE SEES THE SITUATION IS SIMPLY NOT
       TRUE EITHER.
        - it's not true that every unbelievers has an easy
           death, etc.

- here's what we need to learn about the sin of envy.
   - It is very BLIND, and very SELECTIVE.

   - Asaph has undoubtedly observed SOME (in reality, perhaps
      only a few) wicked people who don't seem to be getting
      all the bad he thinks they deserve in life--and he has
      concluded that all unbelievers have lives of ease.
   - thats simply not true.

   - But that’s exactly how envy works.
     - for example - the person who is envious of someone's
       current income.
         - but they don't factor in:
           - all the sacrifice that person made to get to
             that place.
           - all the education and//or experience to get to
             that place.
           - they're not envious of all those former years of
             studying late into the night, working like a dog
             to stay ahead of the next tuition bill//working
             long hours to build the business
           - the things it takes to keep things going now
              (and we could go on and on)

       - see, you'll never find a person who envies "the whole
          package"
          - envy is selective, and blind--it makes us think
              things that are untrue
                - in other words, we're lying to ourselves
                   when we're envious.

- now, we're going to move through these next verses rapidly
   as well:

B. The pride of the wicked - 6-12

    - what are some examples you see from these verses that
      talk about the wicked’s pride (things that infuriate
      Asaph-"how could you let them get away with this,
      Lord?"

    6a - wears pride around neck
    6b - violence flaunted as a garment
    7a - eyes bulge with fatness (everything about their
          appearance is full and prosperous)
    7b - have more than heart could wish
    8 - brag about lifestyle
    9 - scoff at God
    10 - even tempt God's people
   11 - blasphemous - say God doesn't know what they're doing
   12 - summary - at ease//increased with wealth

- point of all of this is - Asaph was intensely
   envious//jealous of the fact that the wicked were getting
   away with their sin--in fact, they were prospering in it.

- Jealousy can take 2 forms:
   1) I wish I had what they had.
   2) I wish they didn't have what they have.

   - Asaph was guilty of both.
   - let me ask you this morning - Is Asaph the only
       believer who has struggled with this?
   - are you a jealous person?
       - are you jealous of unbelievers?  other believers?

- the Scripture speaks strongly about the effects of
   jealousy:

   - Prov. 27:4 - "wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, but
       who can stand before jealousy?"

   - James 3:14-16 - "...this wisdom is not that which comes
      down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.  For
      where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is
      disorder and every evil thing."

- now, Asaph gets down to some of the bottoms lines.
  summaries of his wrong/foolish thinking in the next verses:

III. The Confusion Caused By Envy

    A. Confusion about living - 13-14

        - INPUT - how would you summarize these verses?
           (my internal purification, and external
            purification have been a waste
             - cf. John White - I've been barking up the
                wrong spiritual tree)

    B. Confusion about talking - v. 15

        - as we mentioned above, Asaph has the presence of
          mind not to discuss these matters "with just
          anybody" until he's found some biblical answers"
          (cf. discussion of 2 ditches above)

    C. Confusion about knowing - v. 16

        "when I thought to know this, it was too painful for
          me."

        - this is how Asaph got to the condition described in
            verses 2-3.

        - Phillips - "At this point the Psalmist wrings his
           hands. The problem he has so clearly stated and so
           carefully studied overwhelms him.  To the
           intellect there seems no way out. The godly
           suffer.  The wicked triumph.  If God be God, if He
           be both good and omnipotent, how can it be?"
- now, thank the Lord, the Psalm doesn't end here.
- in the rest of the verses, Asaph gives us the cures for
   envy, and explains how he could get to the place where he
   could say what he did back in verse 1.

IV. The Cures For Envy

    A. A return to the house of God - v. 17

        - Asaph couldn't be talking about the temple at this
          point, because it hadn't been built.
        - "house of God: here is probably being used in a
            very broad sense to describe the place(s) he
            would go and the people he would go to in order
            to find answers from the Word of God.

        - of course today we would be talking about the
          church, the Word, pastors, trusted Christian
          friends.

INPUT - what would a person gain from "returning to the house
         of God" that would help in answer these questions
         and any question about life/spiritual things?


B. A reconsideration of man's future - 17-20

    - this is a very important key.
    - "then I understood their end"

    - going to the house of God gives perspective.
    - anytime you or I are envious of the wicked, we're not
        thinking "long range" enough.  (Develop)

C. A repentant heart - 21-22

    - "I was like a beast before thee"
    - INPUT - what's the point? (animals are only concerned
        with the immediate)


D. A review of personal blessings - 23-26

   - the importance of thankfulness as a "hedge" against
        envy.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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