Do me a favor and please read Psalm 73.
We are in a new “book” of the psalms. Book III is considered “Levitical” in nature as most of the psalms (73-89) are considered to be written by Levitical Priests (the priests that were descendants of the tribe of Levi as well as Moses and Aaron who were responsible for temple worship, sacrifices, and the like). And so what we are to get, and feel, is that BECAUSE God is holy and BECAUSE we come before him WE TOO should be holy and WE TOO should remember our place.
Just this morning I was listening to a podcast on Proverbs … and so Psalm 73 now makes absolute sense with the irony and struggles we see in the wisdom literature of Proverbs. It simply does not make sense when the wicked prosper. It simply does NOT make sense when people who are not Godly and abuse the poor and the downtrodden then prosper and grow “fat and happy” or “strong and lean”. And what can really begin to hurt us is that when we see these people prospering while we are suffering, it truly does make you wonder how much God actually cares.
“I pray every day, I tithe, I give to the poor financially and physically, I donate, I sacrifice, I give! Give! Give! And yet why does _____________ happen to me! Why do I have this ________________? WHY God?”
This is the struggle of Job. This is the struggle of people who want to believe and yet cannot fathom how God does what he does – or why he doesn’t do what people profess he does (love, act, restore, etc) when hurt, famine, death, corruption, and affliction happen. How do we, how can we, profess to knowing the God we know while those things simply happen around us? This is the eternal struggle for ALL people (OK, that’s a general statement but I don’t think it’s too far off).
But everything is perspective – isn’t it? Simply because we see the person who has prospered by climbing on the backs of others doesn’t mean that she is “prosperous” – right? She may LOOK so now, she may SEEM so on the outside but eternally and INTERNALLY it looks different. So I think we have to keep THAT perspective.
There also needs to be a conversation about falling trap to the victim mentality as well as the “ways of this world” actions (as the psalmist realizes in verse 21). Bitterness, envy, lust, anger – those are all foolish ways of this earth. Those are things that are not even close to the wisdom of God’s love and work in not only our lives but his kingdom. And then there’s the whole other conversation and reality that we too could have those things that others have…if only we were to sacrifice what we know and feel from God and seek the things of this world instead of things from above. And the truth there is that you cannot have one with the other. James 4:4 is a good reminder that we cannot be friends of this world and a friend of God at the same time.
Finally, there is the truth that simply because bad people thrive in this world doesn’t mean they are living and acting outside of God’s spectrum. God is faithful, true, and in complete control and we have a trust in him and his work.
But here is where I REALLY appreciate this psalm. For all the “yeah, I wonder and feel that too” that I read here I sure do appreciate the grace extended in verses 23 to the end. That for all my foolish thought, for all my anger, for all my pride, for all my arrogance, for all my claims of “wanting that too” that I see (with “stuff”, money, etc) – we still belong and are loved by God. That even when we succumb to the thoughts of this world we are still in God’s thoughts. I may lose focus on HIM but he does not lose focus of ME.
And that’s really where we are encouraged to seek and ask. Are the “things of this world” that which we seek? Are you and I willing to seek the world and lose God – or seek God and lose the world (Phil 3:8)? And really…if we have God as our focus are we really “losing” anything at all? While the world would say “yes” – I would argue not at all. We, instead, are gaining eternity and so much more.