Have you ever had a turning point in your life when things changed, maybe not in your circumstances, but in the way you saw life very differently?
Jesus told what is now a well-known story, often referred to as the Parable of the Prodigal Son or the Lost Son. It is an amazing parable (i.e. not a true story but with depth of meaning) found in Luke 15:11-32. Basically, the younger son of a farmer asks for his inheritance early so that he can leave and explore the world. He gets his way and “sets off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.” (v. 13) He then finds himself alone and in poverty. In fact, things were so bad that “he went and hired himself out…to feed pigs.” (v.15) The ultimate indignity for a Jew!
Then we read some really relevant and important words. Jesus said, “…he came to his senses.” (v.17) (I will let you read the rest of the story yourself).
Life had become unbearable until that moment when the prodigal son “came to his senses”. Then everything changed.
In Psalm 73:17, we see the same thing happening to Asaph when he too came to his senses. He wrote:
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
This is the centre of the poem. Asaph doesn’t exactly give us much information about this time, but, as Brueggemann says, it is “a decisive time, a turn in perspective. A new orientation was wrought; a refocusing of reality happened ‘in the sanctuary of God’. The holy place offered another look and freed the speaker from the mesmerizing evidence so close at hand…the reality of God’s holiness caused the speaker to reperceive the tempting alternative. Now he takes a long view and sees ‘their’ destiny…[and] the psalm moves on, but in … quite [a] different direction.” (# 2)
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
Martin De Haan ll says, Asaph “could finally see as God sees, and understand that what was in store for the wicked was not a pretty sight.” He speaks of their “absence of security (v.18)” i.e. “on slippery ground”. Also an “absence of anticipation (v.19) i.e. “suddenly are they destroyed”. Then an “absence of hope (v.20)” i.e. “soon to disappear like a dream” (TPT). De Haan continues, “For Asaph, the coming of judgement of unbelievers was a wake-up call. In a way he had not anticipated, his anger softened. Now, instead of pointing his finger at those who seemed to be escaping the justice of God, he began looking at himself.” (Martin De Haan II Why is Life so Unfair – Psalm 73 RBC Ministries 1982)
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
Then he moved onto the all-sufficiency of his God. As well as a new understanding of the fate of the wicked, Asaph had come to a new understanding of God Himself. He had moved from disillusionment and frustration to a new gratefulness and confidence in the One who “is good to Israel”. (v. 1)
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 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.
Brueggemann concludes: “The psalm impresses one in its remarkable insight and candour. It is the tale of a heart seduced and then healed, a heart isolated and then restored to fellowship….it is in the holy place (v.17) where one gets free of the ideology of self-sufficiency, affluence, and autonomy long enough to recognize that the decisive reality is a move on the part of the faithful God. The denial of God (v.11) does not change the reality of God (v.23)” (# 2)
Father, thank you that you are God and can be totally trusted even in the midst of injustice and wickedness. Help us to spend time in “the sanctuary of God”, whatever that might mean for us, and to experience You as the strength of our hearts. Amen.