1 A psalm of Asaph.
How good God is to the upright,
to those who are pure of heart!
2 But, as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
my steps had nearly slipped,
3 Because I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For they suffer no pain;
their bodies are healthy and sleek.
5 They are free of the burdens of life;
they are not afflicted like others.
6 Thus pride adorns them as a necklace;
violence clothes them as a robe.
7 Out of such blindness comes sin;
evil thoughts flood their hearts.
8 They scoff and spout their malice;
from on high they utter threats.
9 They set their mouths against the heavens,
their tongues roam the earth.
10 So my people turn to them
and drink deeply of their words.
11 They say, “Does God really know?”
“Does the Most High have any knowledge?”
12 Such, then, are the wicked,
always carefree, increasing their wealth.
13 Is it in vain that I have kept my heart pure,
washed my hands in innocence?
14 For I am afflicted day after day,
chastised every morning.
15 Had I thought, “I will speak as they do,”
I would have betrayed this generation of your children.
16 Though I tried to understand all this,
it was too difficult for me,
17 Till I entered the sanctuary of God
and came to understand their end.
18 You set them, indeed, on a slippery road;
you hurl them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly they are devastated;
utterly undone by disaster!
20 They are like a dream after waking, Lord,
dismissed like shadows when you arise.
21 Since my heart was embittered
and my soul deeply wounded,
22 I was stupid and could not understand;
I was like a brute beast in your presence.
23 Yet I am always with you;
you take hold of my right hand.
24 With your counsel you guide me,
and at the end receive me with honor.
25 Whom else have I in the heavens?
None beside you delights me on earth.
26 Though my flesh and my heart fail,
God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever.
27 But those who are far from you perish;
you destroy those unfaithful to you.
28 As for me, to be near God is my good,
to make the Lord GOD my refuge.
I shall declare all your works
in the gates of daughter Zion.
McCann p. 92 An important psalm. Ask an important question – the nature of God’s presence in our world. This psalm, as part of the Wisdom tradition, has much in common with the Book of Job. “…where is God’s justice in a world where the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?”
A Crisis of Faith (verses 1 to 12)
The prosperity of the wicked
The turning point (verses 13 to 17)
The resolution (verses 18 to 28)
The plight of the wicked
The prosperity of the psalmist
What kind of psalm is it? It has characteristics of a number of types of psalms.
p. 94: both McCann and Brueggemann consider this a central / THE central psalm of the Psalter due to its location (NEAR the center) and the theological importance and nature of the psalm.
Mays p. 241: “The first person style is a convention of instruction. The narrated experience is surely real and personal, but the poem is not a piece of private reflection. Its purpose is to provide others in the psalmist’s community with guidance and insight that will help them with the problem of disparity between faith and experience.” Psalms 37 and 49 also
A Psalm of Asaph – a collection of these begins part 3 of the Psalter.
Asaph is one of the chief leaders of the Levites, perhaps the ancestor of “a Levitical guild that had certain responsibilities for worship. The Asaphites may well have been responsible for writing some psalms, as well as collecting and editing them, and perhaps leading the performance of them in worship services. Another Levitical guild, the Korahites, is associated with Psalms 42-49, a collection that begins Book II …”
1 Chronicles 25:1: “David and the leaders of the liturgy set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, who prophesied to the accompaniment of lyres and harps and cymbals.”
Verses 1 to 12
McCann p. 95 vs. 1 = “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” (all three major sections begin with the Hebrew for “truly”; none of these sections do so in our NAB translation)
p. 95j – is faithfulness really paying off? The wicked sure do seem to be doing pretty well!
Clifford p. 18: “Thus the prospering wicked are a continual scandal, for they advertise the view that it does not matter how one lies. Might rules, and Yahweh is silent. This is exactly what the wicked conclude: “Is there knowledge in the Most High?’”
The text is difficult to translate at many points. Alter p. 253: v 7 = “Fat bulges round their eyes, imaginings spill from their heart.” And p. 254 – verse 10 (for all) is completely unintelligible, anyone’s guess. He goes with “Thus the people turn back to them, and they lap up their words.”
Verses 13 to 17
p. 97 In verse 15 the psalmist recognizes that the community of believers that he is immersed in provides reason to stay faithful.
Verses 18 to 28
p. 97 – probably not a literal change in the world but a new understanding that the successes of the wicked are illusory in the end, not a true peace or true well-being
Clifford p. 19: “In one sense, the divine visitation does not alter the situation; the wicked are still carefree and the righteous are still afflicted. Rather, the new understanding makes it possible to bear these afflictions, for God is now recognized to be there.”
As with Psalm 1 (beginnings, middles, and ends are important and often related) the psalmist asserts that our relationship to God is true wealth, the way we were created to be, true wisdom.
Psalm 73 for today
Prosperity gospel = God wants his followers to be rich. Send me $10 a month! God’s blessings will surely flow to you if you do!
p. 99 “… because it promises a quick fix, and because it plays right into the contemporary propensity to define life in terms of material abundance, the prosperity gospel maintains a wide appeal.”
Do we think of faith / faithfulness as some sort of “insurance” policy for this life? Or the next? We tend to not “get” the idea of being a follower of Jesus means taking up the cross, suffering.