STAYING CLOSE TO GOD

Opening Prayer

O God, thank you for the presence of your Spirit in me. Make the truths of your Word real for me today.

Read PSALM 73

BOOK III

Psalms 73–89

Psalm 73

A psalm of Asaph.

Surely God is good to Israel,
    to those who are pure in heart.

But 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;
    their bodies are healthy and strong.[a]
They are free from common human burdens;
    they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b];
    their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
    with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
    and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
    and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
11 They say, “How would God know?
    Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—
    always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
    and every morning brings new punishments.

15 If I had spoken out like that,
    I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
    it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
    then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
    you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
    when you arise, Lord,
    you will despise them as fantasies.

21 When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
    you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But 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.

Footnotes

  1. Psalm 73:4 With a different word division of the Hebrew; Masoretic Text struggles at their death; / their bodies are healthy
  2. Psalm 73:7 Syriac (see also Septuagint); Hebrew Their eyes bulge with fat
  3. Psalm 73:10 The meaning of the Hebrew for this verse is uncertain.

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Meditate

‘Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay / close by me forever and love me I pray … fit us for heaven to be with you there.’1

Think Further

Psalm 73 begins the third set of psalms. Almost the numerical center of the book, it is the theological center, looking back as a synopsis but marking a shift to a more questioning attitude. Psalm 72 ends with a paean: ‘may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.’ But so does the very final psalm: ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.’ Psalm 73 reinforces the major message which flows through Psalms 1–72, that godliness does not mean relying upon our own strength or resources, but relying on God: what the psalmists constantly called ‘taking refuge’ in God.2 In Psalm 73, however, a questioning note enters. Why do the wicked prosper? Why doesn’t God act?

The psalmist’s Scripture was the Torah, in which it was unquestioningly proclaimed that God’s curse upon the unrighteous was both immediate and tangible: ‘Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed … your womb … the crops … your herds.’3 In the psalmist’s experience, in contrast, the ‘wicked’ were healthy, happy, strong, and carefree (vs 3–12). Envy of them almost destroyed him (vs 2,3). Was it all an illusion? Had he kept his heart pure for no purpose? (v 13). Then somewhere, perhaps in the temple itself, the psalmist found ‘sanctuary’ (v 17), a place where he could face himself and how he was acting before God: ‘I was a brute beast before you’ (v 22). He saw that nothing on earth should matter to him but God. His flesh and heart may fail, but God would never fail him (v 26). Fleetingly, his mind reaches for the answer in an unnamed eternity: ‘afterwards you will take me into glory … my portion forever’ (vs 24,26). Finally, he knows that God is all he needs: ‘it is good to be near God’ (v 28).

Apply

Ask the Lord of all to help you in times of doubt. The Lord never fails. You can know he is always near.

Closing prayer

I confess, Jesus, that there are times when I am wearied by life’s challenges—personal, national, global—that seem impossible to overcome. Help me to keep focused on you and your promise to be with me and for me, and to overcome.

Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by kingstar

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