During the kingly reigns of David and Solomon in Israel, a man named Asaph ministers at the temple in Jerusalem. This man of God has been chosen to be one of the chief musicians of the Levitical choirs. He leads songs of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. Both prophet and poet, Asaph has authored a number of psalms in the Book of Psalms. He wrote Psalm 73 during a time of discontent and questioning in his life…

“As for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles.” – Psalm 73:2-4

Asaph’s faith is wavering. He is plagued with envy… envy for the seeming life of ease enjoyed by the ones who turn their backs on God. It appears their comforts are many, their troubles few. This man of God is experiencing the worldly temptation of covetousness that can shake even the most faithful. He sees blessings falling on the wicked… the ones who have spurned the Holy One Himself.

“Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth… They say, ‘How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?’” – v. 9, 11

Asaph sees their bold arrogance, their haughty, callous hearts. They speak blasphemously against God and derisively against His people. They seek to oppress the very ones who follow them. They care not that their lives are sinful, for they have no fear of God.

“Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.” – v. 13

Asaph wonders why the wicked seem to be unjustly rewarded. He sees his trials and hardships contrasting with what appears to be the burden-free life of the unbelieving. He has forgotten his many blessings. He questions whether his life of godliness has counted for anything.

“When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely You place them on slippery ground;
    you cast them down to ruin.
– v. 16-18

Asaph’s thoughts weigh heavily upon him as he ponders these mysteries… until he enters God’s sanctuary. In the Lord’s presence, all becomes clear. God never forsakes His treasured children. He showers His love and blessings on them. His rewards last for eternity. The wicked are the ones walking the slippery slope, refusing to turn from their evil ways. They are the ones who will face God’s final judgment.

“Those who are far from You will perish; You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.” – v. 27

Asaph remembers God’s promises. The justice of God will always prevail. The unrepentant will face their due punishment. For they have chosen the path that leads away from the Lord. They have refused His love and mercy. They have rejected His forgiveness and grace. Their choice to live independently from God will last for eternity.

“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You.” – v. 21-22

Asaph realizes that while he was wrestling with thoughts of envy and bitterness, he was drifting away from the Lord, His truth and His promises. He was wandering from the Lover of his soul. His self-centered, self-pitying thoughts were an affront to the One to whom he owed his all. Asaph acknowledges his sinful ways. God stays his slipping feet.

“Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory.” – v. 23-24

Asaph is overwhelmed by the goodness of God. The revelation of His grace, His kindness, His generosity floods Asaph’s mind and heart. He remembers the Lord’s enduring presence and fellowship, guiding him through life… and eventually leading him to glory. He is overcome with thankfulness for his bountiful blessings.

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – v. 25-26

Asaph’s revelation of God’s goodness leaves him in humble, reverent awe. The Lord is his heart’s desire. Forever he longs to abide with Him, to dwell in His glorious presence. Asaph’s thirst is once again for his faithful God who is the answer to all his questions… the source of all his strength… the fulfillment of all his longings. Asaph’s faith is restored.

“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.” – v. 28

Asaph’s preface of “as for me” at the start of the psalm marks an awareness of his straying from his Lord. Here at the end of the psalm, he is acknowledging the blessings of living in God’s goodness. His envy for the wicked has become empathy for their eternal fate. He now longs to tell of God’s wondrous deeds so as to draw the unrepentant to Him.

“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” – v. 1

Asaph’s psalm prayer journeys from a drifting faith to an anchored faith. Often, that is the pattern of heartfelt prayer. At times, like Asaph, we may wrestle with the mysteries of life. Yet God is patient with our struggles. He will never abandon us in our qualms and questionings. He patiently guides us to new revelations of His truth. Our faith is revived, renewed, reinspired as we commune with Him.

God’s goodness pervades our lives. His loving kindness and generosity abounds toward us, His chosen ones. He showers us with His blessings and rewards, both in this life and for all eternity. For we are the pure in heart. We are the ones made righteous and holy through Christ. We are the forgiven ones, blessed with eternal life. We are the ones privileged to live forever in the favor and goodness of God.