Have you ever felt such deep disappointment that led you to believe that God was no longer there or had forgotten you? Perhaps it was a situation where you didn’t particlarly like the way He was running the universe? Maybe it hadn’t yet come to head, but you were simmering inside even though carrying on as if everything was fine. Maybe you are feeling like that now. You’ve noticed that your passion for God has started to ebb, you are beginning to lose your desire to be in the Word and pray; you’ve started to fall asleep in church; you’ve become critical and hard to live with, and you just don’t care much about the things of God.
If you feel this way, or think that you ever might, Psalm 73 is very important. It is a tale of how a true believer became isolated from God through a crisis of faith. It also shows the process that person (the psalmist) used to restore himself to fellowship.
The psalmist began by confessing that God is good. This is important. While he didn’t understand the ways of God, neither did he stop believing in God. He began with what he knew to be true about God before he proceeded to address the things he didn’t understand. Many people are not successful with faith-crisis issues because they do not have a firm footing from which to deal with them. Do yourself a favor and don’t reinvent the wheel every time you struggle with God. Start your struggle by confessing those things which you know to be true and then proceed from there.
The psalmist then proceeded with his compliant. The psalmist (Asaph- writer of 12 Psalms) was a singer and chief musician in King David’s court. Asaph wasn’t engaged in a scientific study. He merely looked around and saw the lives of those who did not have a heart for God and it seemed to him that they were getting along just fine, maybe even better than he was. He wondered if it was even worth it to be righteous. He began to get the sense that things just weren’t fair and this began to distance him from God.
We do the same thing on a human level. I know some people, for example, who go to church and make the observation that they are the only ones who aren’t happy or have it all together. Therefore, they feel out of place and stop attending. It is not abnormal to make unsubstantiated assessments about people or situations which cause us to feel a certain way about ourselves. The psalmist did this as he looked around at the health and prosperity of those who did not love God, and it destabilized him. He could not make any forward progress in his relationship to God. Notice how he put it in v. 2, “my feet had almost slipped”.
A number of years ago, when we lived in New England, I went up on my roof after a snow storm to shovel off two or three feet of snow along the edge to prevent an ice build up. It was melting, so as soon as I shoveled a section it became very slippery. I had to be extremely careful and deliberate with each step because I felt I was about to slip. Finally, it got so bad I could no longer move in any direction, I was completely immobilized. So it is when the feet of faith feel like they are almost slipping- we cannot move in our relationship to God.
And so Asaph poured out his complaint before God; he did not broadcast it to others. He realized the effect that such spiritual turmoil could have upon the believing community, especially upon those who were less mature in the faith. Instead, he kept pondering the issue and struggling with it before God until something happened. In v.17 we read, “till I entered the sanctuary of God and then I understood…” We’re not told what happened when he went to church that day. We know that he was on the church staff, being the chief musician in the Temple. Maybe he was leading a worship song that he had sung a million times before, when all of a sudden he gained a new perspective of the Lord. He ceased dealing with God as an object of speculation and began to see Him as the subject of worship. He bowed himself before the majestic greatness of God and his whole perspective changed. He bowed and then understood — that God was just and that the wicked and their wealth would be destroyed.
The psalmist also confessed his own humiliation and brokenness, v. 21, “when my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant, I was a brute beast before you.” This is a biblical response when we recognize the presence of God – like Isaiah, “Woe is me for I am undone! For I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the KING, the Lord Almighty” (Isa.6:5). Or Peter, in Luke 5, after he had questioned Jesus’ authority and then witnessed his power in the great catch of fish; he fell down before Jesus and said, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man.” Also, Job’s experience, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3, 4).
Similarly, the psalmist confessed his humiliation and something else (v. 23-24); He also confessed the realization that God had always been with him, even though he felt far away. God was present with him and would be even in death (“and afterward you will take me to glory”). You can sense the psalmist’s growing passion for God in v. 25, 26, Asaph turned from the wealth of the wicked that he once envied to his true wealth. “And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. God not only satisfies completely, but He remains the true treasure that even death cannot take away.
Do you remember that I told you about being stuck on my roof, feeling that my feet were about to slip? The only way I got out of that predicament was by falling back into the unshoveled snow on my roof. The very thing I tried to get rid of became the very thing I turned to in the end. The psalmist did the same thing with God. He pushed God away and his feet almost slipped. He fell back into God and he found his refuge.
Stay at worship, my friend. Keep in the Word and maintain your prayers, regardless of how you feel because this is real faith. Hang onto what you know to be true: God is good, He will always be with you, He will never fail you, He is your refuge, He is enough!
[Note to my readers: I am going through chemotherapy. Therefore, if I have made any glaring grammatical or spelling errors, please be gracious and attribute it to my chemo brain and not to my ignorance, which is far more likely.]