So in this psalm we see that Asaph believed as he said in verse 1 that
1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But then admits in verse 2
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Somehow it just did not add up to him! The goodness of God, yet the prosperity of the wicked.
The following verses 4-11, describe what he sees all around him. If God is good why does the evidence of his eyes tell him differently? He goes on to describe those who have no interest in God, yet they are healthy, strong, carefree, arrogant and malicious, and, not only that but, they also get away with it! Then to add insult to injury, they are even allowed to lead many others astray. Why? How can that be?
I guess if the psalmist’s life was also healthy, strong and carefree, he may not have complained so much, but sadly it was not. In fact in verse 14 he says of himself,
“All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.”
And the conclusion he reaches is,
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.
Ever felt like this?
What’s the point God of trying to do what is right, when those who do wrong thrive and it seems that the righteous ones receive what the wicked ones deserve?
It was a dilemma for him, such that he says:
16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply” or as the Message puts it, “all I got was a splitting headache.” And so he makes his move. The move that would change his life. A move that we all need to make when we become despondent over the state of the world around us.
The moment when his understanding was turned all around. When, in his words, he “enters the sanctuary of God.” When he takes himself into God’s presence, with all his doubts and fears, and he takes time to listen to God’s point of view on the subject. Maybe through waiting quietly on God, maybe bringing all his issues before him in prayer, maybe as he read the Word of God, or maybe as a result of godly counsel. We are not told how God speaks to him, how he changes his mind, just that he did.
And so everything changed when he “entered the sanctuary of God”, and he says, “then I understood…” (verse 17), or as the Message Bible puts it, “Then I saw the whole picture.” or the Passion Translation: “…in the light of your glory, my distorted perspective vanished.”
Michael Willcock says, “The understanding of the Psalter, and of our present psalm within it, is clearly a matter of orientation. Those who look at the world with what seems to be the simple, innocent perspective of … Psalm 73:1 i.e. ‘God is good…’ will be disorientated by the hard experience of real life, which seems to contradict it. They need to be reoriented – to be turned so as to see these confusing facts from a different point of view. [i.e. God’s point of view].” (see references # 5)
This recognition of “the whole picture” and that, “in the light of [God’s] glory”, will then enable us to move to a deeper understanding than we have ever known before, that ‘God surely is good…’ A solid foundation to stand upon when our faith is challenged by the circumstances of our lives and the philosophies of the world around us which seek to undermine our faith. May we always respond, like the psalmist, and go to “the sanctuary of God”, whatever that might mean for us, in order to discover afresh his perspective on things.