Sycamore Presbyterian Church Friday Men’s Bible Study Psalm 73 (see notes)
Psalm 73 is a Psalm of Asaph (50, 73-83). This may have been a joint venture between Asaph and David (see 2 Chronicles 29:30, in which Hezekiah commanded the Levites to sing “the words of David and of Asaph the seer”), or Asaph himself. Asaph was the leader of a family or guild of singers that served in the temple. It’s quite instructive, given the arc of the story in Psalm 73, to know this: Asaph and David both had power and position within the civil and ecclesiastical Jewish world. And in Psalm 73 we hear the lamentation of a man who witnesses the sin of corruption in high places.
Question 1. Verses 4-12. What was the “all this” the psalmist saw that almost overthrew him?
4For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek.
5They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment.
7Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies.
8They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression.
9They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.
10Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them.
11And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
The psalmist despaired of the prosperity of the wicked. He complains about their comfortable lives that they enjoy despite their arrogance and wickedness. It is true that men without conscience can seemingly “get ahead” more easily by cheating, whether in their personal or professional lives. A good contemporary example is FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) president Sepp Blatter. He was recently reelected to a fifth term as president, despite a career wracked with scandalous activity: widespread bribery to win votes during elections, and the solicitation of bribes from soccer officials in return for favorable decisions on the location of their immense soccer tourney the World Cup. He was arrogant, fat and sleek and only now is God bringing him down through His divine justice minister (the civil magistrate.) In the U.S. This arrogance is typically (but not exclusively) exemplified by rich CEOs or politicians such as the Clintons and former House Speaker Denny Hastert. The list of crimes is impressive: powerful men promising oppression, setting their mouths against the heavens, or the government stealing from the people. It’s notable that Asaph says that they have no pangs “until death,” perhaps a bit of foreshadowing. At death, the eternal pangs of the wicked are so unbearable as to be unimaginable.
Verse 2: The psalmist talks about his feet nearly stumbling, his steps nearly slipping. This implies that he was on a walk with God (which can be inferred because this is a) a worship song and b) from verse 11.) Because of the “all this,” his walk with God was severely impacted. We can’t ignore the injustice that we see around us. If we are with God, we will have some expectation that the world will seem right to us. I think that Asaph recognized that this was a normal expectation. This is what the psalmist labored under, and we ought to recognize that we will want everything to be “right” if we’re Christian. Moreover, because of the nature of modern communications, the actions of the corrupt rich and powerful are more easily seen.
Verse 16: The work associated with trying to understand this dichotomy is described as “wearisome” and never contradicted in the psalm. In other words, the psalmist never returns to this work of understanding to complete it. Once he calls it wearisome, he’s done with it. When we consider that Jesus described obedience to His law a light thing, taking on tasks the Bible describes as wearisome begins to seem like a waste of time. In other words, not worth doing. How do we apply this? Stop trying to make sense of a fallen world. It’s fallen! The Preacher also had this reaction.
Verse 21: The psalmist 1) became embittered. We know this is a sin (Eph 4:31, Heb 12:15) and the psalmist unabashedly confesses it. How much healthier would our walks be if we just admitted to our sin like this, even if only to God? Bitterness is a devastatingly painful and nasty emotion. God wants us to be free from it. This bitterness 2) pricked his heart. He couldn’t experience bitterness and then simply go on his way. It burrowed into his soul and this affected his walk with God. Bitterness is such a strong emotion that it touches everything.
I think that the proper summation of this part of the study is that envy leads to bitterness, which is powerful, and will spill over into other parts of your life. It can’t be contained.
Using Praying the Psalms Group Study Product
All Bible quotes ESV