Psalm 73 Study Question 5

Sycamore Presbyterian Church Friday Men’s Bible Study Psalm 73 (see notes)

Question 5. Get more specific ideas about what Asaph did “in the sanctuary” (v. 17a). (a) Read verses 21-24. How did worship give him a new perspective on himself? (b) Read verses 25-26. How did worship give him a new perspective on God? How is this the real antidote for his problem?

21 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.

Interesting that Asaph compares the worst part of his separation from God to a state of animal-like brutishness. Something exactly like that happened to King Nebudchadnezzar:

All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, 32 and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” 33 Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

Nebuchadnezzar had separated himself from God with his arrogance – and God made him like a beast for seven years. Asaph recognized this possibility much earlier. I think God is trying to teach us that separation from Him is like a state of being less than fully human. I think today the application is to recognize that we can only be fully human when we are found in Christ.

As already discussed, that separation (which seems to be a common theme in this study into the Psalms) arose from Asaph’s envy and resultant bitterness. And yet, the contrasting statement in verse 23 (“Nevertheless, I am continually with you,”) teaches us that Asaph recognized his essential state as unchanged: he was always in relationship with God, even during his worst time. An elementary reading of this verse (“I am … with you,”) sounds like he is giving himself credit for this continuity. A broad, careful reading of scripture would contradict that conclusion.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Here Asaph meditates (and, of course, leads us to meditate) on God, specifically on the fact that He lives in heaven. The question, “Whom have I in heaven but you?” focuses on God’s supreme value and desire of his heart. The same goes for God’s presence on earth. Asaph recognizes that his mortality (flesh and heart; body and soul) will be taken up into God and in this way he will live forever with him.

This is a brief but powerful meditation on salvation. Today we’d say that we need to preach the gospel to ourselves, remembering the price Jesus paid on the cross, how such a heavy price would not buy something lost cheaply, how God’s fatherhood is infinitely loving and deep. This part of the psalm is a call to remember that:

nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:39)

Notes:
Using Praying the Psalms Group Study Product
All Bible quotes ESV

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