Psalm 73: Injustice and guarding against envy (Part 1: Introduction)

Introductory Prayer: Father, thank you for giving us your Word, to teach us. Thank you for giving us your Son, to save us. And thank you for giving us your Holy Spirit, to help us and to advocate for us. God, teach us not to despair, but rather give us the grace needed to trust in you though dark thoughts. Amen.

Today we are going to be taking a look at one of my favorite psalms, #73. This psalm is in two parts really and the first part is pretty depressing, and unfortunately, familiar. Let’s just take a look at the middle part right now right now.

Psalm 73:4-14 (NKJV):
[The wicked], there are no pangs in their death,
But their strength is firm.
They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.
Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
Violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes bulge with abundance;
They have more than heart could wish.
They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression;
They speak loftily.
They set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue walks through the earth.
Therefore his people return here,
And waters of a full cup are drained by them.
And they say, “How does God know?
And is there knowledge in the Most High?”
Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who are always at ease;
They increase in riches.
Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocence.
For all day long I have been plagued,
And chastened every morning.

And to maybe get a better picture oh what the writer is complaining about here, lets look at that again in the very colloquial translation, The Message.

Psalm 73:4-14 (Message)
[The rich and wicked] have nothing to worry about,
not a care in the whole wide world.
Pretentious with arrogance,
they wear the latest fashions in violence,
Pampered and overfed,
decked out in silk bows of silliness.
They jeer, using words to kill;
they bully their way with words.
They’re full of hot air,
loudmouths disturbing the peace.
People actually listen to them—can you believe it?
Like thirsty puppies, they lap up their words.
What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch?
Nobody’s tending the store.
The wicked get by with everything;
they have it made, piling up riches.
I’ve been stupid to play by the rules;
what has it gotten me?
A long run of bad luck, that’s what—
a slap in the face every time I walk out the door.

What a giant downer – so much complaining! Is this God’s Word here? Is this the sort of thing God wants us to write down or to say? Let’s step back a bit.This is just the middle part. The writer gives us some meta commentary before and after. Let’s get some background on what he just said.

Psalm 73:1-4, 15-28
Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.
When I thought how to understand this,
It was too painful for me—
Until I went into the sanctuary of God;
Then I understood their end.

Surely You set them in slippery places;
You cast them down to destruction.
Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment!
They are utterly consumed with terrors.
As a dream when one awakes,
So, Lord, when You awake,
You shall despise their image.

Thus my heart was grieved,
And I was vexed in my mind.
I was so foolish and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You.
Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish;
You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord GOD,
That I may declare all Your works.

Psalm 73:15-18 (Message)
If I’d have given in and talked like this,
I would have betrayed your dear children.
Still, when I tried to figure it out,
all I got was a splitting headache . . .
Until I entered the sanctuary of God.
Then I saw the whole picture.

I’m going to deal with two questions today. The first is a large abstract one. Why is there injustice in the world today? Why isn’t the world fair? Why is it full of evil and why doesn’t God do something about it?

The second question is more personal and practical. How can I avoid ending up like the guy in the psalm? Are there some practical ways to guard myself against envying the rich or the wicked so much? It seems like I find myself doing it all the time.