“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalms 73:2, 3)
The guy who wrote Psalms 73 was named Asaph. He was what you might call the first worship leader. He came into leadership as David came to power as Israel’s king. We know that Asaph was the author of a number of the Psalms, as well as being a prophet, and a skilled musician. He saw Israel’s golden years under David, and then later witnessed the deterioration of the kingdom as Solomon turned from following after the Lord. Asaph was a stable leader and faithful follower of God. Yet, there came a point in his life when he became disillusioned and almost lost his way.
Asaph began to look around him, and he observed that the people who did not serve the Lord were living the “high life.” They were full of pride, always at ease, and even mocked the things of God. He noticed that they were cruel and violent, not hesitating to oppress whomever they had to in order to get what they wanted. “They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth. “ ‘What does God know?’ they ask. ‘Does the Most High even know what’s happening?’” What Asaph saw blew his mind, rocked his whole theology, and he was close to slipping away from his faith in God. He became envious of the wicked.
Envy is akin to coveting, but it’s a lot deeper than that. Being envious is wanting what others have, and even going so far as to desire ill will upon those of whom you are envious. Asaph desired the apparent ease and pain free life he observed that the wicked enjoyed. He also desired that they be punished. As he tried to understand these things, he began to question the value of being a follower of God at all. He wonders, “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.” Asaph became bitter inside, and this bitterness was close to destroying him.
Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever looked around you, seen the “ease” with which those who don’t serve God seem to be living, and in your heart envied them? The world is in love with sex, power, wealth, pleasure, and it’s in your face everyday. All of the TV shows, commercials and music of our culture say, “Come on man. Quit being so hard on yourself, you deserve to live a little.” We see a godless society pridefully flaunt their disdain for God, and nothing whatsoever happens to them. In fact, they are enjoying life, while you encounter trial after trial. They are without a care in the world while you seem to be carrying the world on your shoulders. If we’re not careful, we can get to a point where we say, “God, you are not fair. I serve you and get nothing but trouble. I’m done!” Ever been there? Asaph, worship leader extraordinaire was. He needed to get his mind right and he did- in worship.
“So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is. Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.” It was when he went before the Lord that he was able to get the proper perspective. As Asaph worshipped, he saw that the wicked were on a slippery path that eventually would lead them sliding over the cliff of destruction. He may have “almost slipped,” but those who reject God would slip beyond recovery. He understood that their ease and prosperity was like a dream, void of any true substance. He must have shuddered when he realized that “ In an instant they [the wicked] are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors.” Asaph also realized that he had forgotten that the Lord was his portion. He said, “I’ve been acting and thinking like an animal.” (v22) The Lord renewed his mind and he responded by acknowledging that God was all he truly needed, the very strength of his heart. He again saw the reality that in spite of all the hardships, God was with him, guiding him, and leading him to glory. He saw that his envy of the wicked was senseless as he came to the sobering realization that all who reject God will ultimately be destroyed. It was in worship that he got his mind right and once again was able to say, “ But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.”
Are you discouraged? Do you spend more time thinking about how God ought to “stick it to those sinners” than you do worshiping Jesus? Have you become envious of how the world seems to have it so easy, while you have it so rough? Christian, you are called to share in the glory of Jesus. Remember, “… be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” Consider the words of Paul, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”
Don’t let envy of the world lead you into having a bitter, unbelieving heart. Come to the feet of the One who can renew your strength and get your mind right. Jesus is your portion. He is the strength of your life, and being near him is truly all you need. And, as you are renewed, you will be able to tell others of the wonderful things he has done.