Psalm 73 – Confessions of a Former Bitter Beast

Bible opened to Psalm 73 with Chuao Baconluxious Chocolate on green plate

Today’s passage: Psalm 73

Today’s chocolate: Chuao Baconluxious

Psalm 73 is yet another response to the question, “Why do good things happen to evil people?” and the answer is once again, “On a long enough timeline, they don’t.” The psalmist, Asaph, used to envy the prosperity of the wicked and think he was wasting his time by being good, but something happened to change his mind. There’s a turning point at verse 15 that divides the psalm into two halves, allowing Asaph to look back at his former perspective and critique it. What happened to open his eyes?

Well, he walked into God’s sanctuary. That’s it! He recalls, “When I pondered to understand this [i.e. the prosperity of the wicked], it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end” (16-17). In the presence of God, he realized that God brings evil to justice in time. And despite the eloquence of his argument in the first half of the psalm (vv.1-14), when he looks back on it, his old way of thinking strikes him as kind of stupid. He describes Past Asaph in unflattering terms: “When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You” (21-22). In essence, he says, “I didn’t know what I was talking about!” He knows what it’s like to be bitter, and he’s not unsympathetic to those in a cynical place, but he also knows what it’s like to grab God’s outstretched hand and come up out of the pit.

There’s something peculiar about how Asaph makes his case, though. The pivot point in the argument, the change from resentment to faith, doesn’t come at the point where he walks into the sanctuary in verse seventeen. No, it comes two verses earlier, where he reframes everything he’s said up to that point. He says, “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children” (15). And I follow his argument in the entire rest of the psalm, but I don’t understand what he’s getting at in verse fifteen. How exactly does saying that evildoers get good for their evil, saying “In vain I have kept my heart pure” (13), betray the generation of God’s children? What does he mean by that?

Question of the Day: What does he mean by that? Seriously.

 

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