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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Through The Psalms- Part I

I'm reading the Psalms again, for the fourth time this year, I believe. I just can't get enough of them. With that being said, I decided to share what God has revealed to me through reading the Psalms by creating a mini-series on the Psalms.

Many of the Psalms are written by men crying out to God for deliverance, mostly from physical enemies, but regardless of the type of opponent, these passages apply to us even today. Psalm 73 is a psalm written by Asaph, not David. In Psalm 73, Asaph expresses a fault of his- envying the lost, the unbelievers, the wicked. He starts off with praise to God, obviously looking back and reflecting on an event God got him through, "Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped." Asaph decides to let us know what almost caused him to sin, "For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." He then explains why he was envious, "For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind."

How many times have we thought that about unbelievers? How many times have you looked with envy at that person who got a great high-paying job, while you are barely scraping by? How many times have you envied someone who seems to have a great life traveling here and there without the hindrance of a spouse or children? Or what about the unbeliever who has been in many relationships and you're still waiting? Maybe when you look around you, you wonder why they seem to have it so good when they don't even acknowledge God for what they have. Asaph did that too. He focused so much on what everyone else had that he did not have, focusing on how unfair it was because he believed and trusted in God, yet God had not given him something honorable and good to desire that the wicked had, but he should have had. When he took his eyes off of trusting God and looked at his circumstances he almost despaired, "All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning."

How many times have you given up like Asaph? How many times have you thought, "I can't do this anymore. God's not giving me a good desire that I want when I repeatedly ask." The despair is real, and sometimes it seems like you just can't continue on with the day. It's a struggle. And so it was with Asaph, "It seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin . . ."

When Asaph made the effort to get up and go to the house of the Lord, to seek Him continually, to keep on worshipping the Lord despite his circumstances, that's when God opened his eyes and allowed Asaph to realize the error of his ways. God will punish the wicked, maybe not now but eventually. Asaph realized that his momentary suffering was better than an everlasting suffering that the wicked will experience. And when he fixated his eyes on what God had given to him- eternal life- he was able overcome his sorrow over his circumstances.

What's even more amazing about this passage is that Asaph did what many of us do when we're upset about our circumstances- we become angry with God, "When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you." He admitted how cruel and evil he was to God, not realizing that God had given him so much more than he deserved. God's reaction to Asaph's cruelty is a perfect reminder, "Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory." No matter how we treat God, He will never treat us back with the same cruelty we gave to Him. He takes us back when we don't deserve it, and that's what also helps Asaph to realize that even though his circumstances haven't changed, his perspective has, and that makes all the difference.

Asaph ends with the realization of who God is and who he, Asaph, is as a person, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Because Asaph's focus has been directed towards God, he realizes that God is all he needs. Asaph acknowledges that this life will bring us down to despair, but God will give us hope to strengthen us during those times- there's no doubt about that!

Asaph then resummarizes what he has learned, "For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge that I may tell of all your works." Asaph knows that the ungodly will suffer greatly, and he is thankful that though he may not have what he so desires from this earthly life, he realizes that God is greater than anything on this earth, and that as long as he has God now, he will have him eternally.

What a powerful Psalm! Whatever you may be struggling with, remember Asaph's pattern of redemption from his despair. 1.) Asaph continued serving the Lord despite his circumstances. Maybe you want to take a break from volunteering or your Bible study or other church activities. Maybe you want to skip a church service. Don't do that- follow Asaph's lead and continue on. God sees perseverance and rewards that. 2.) Direct your focus on what God has done for you and not what He hasn't done yet. Continuing to read the Bible, to pray constantly, and to worship the Lord allows us to redirect our focus on God and not the problem. 3.) Give praise to God even when your circumstances don't change. Remember that God will reward you in due time. Don't lose heart!

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