Monday, July 18, 2016
Tempted to Quit
A Psalm of Asaph.
“Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.” (Psalm 73:1-6)
The Psalmist knew God had blessed Israel and those who obeyed God, but he found it confusing to look at the wicked. In fact it had reached a point where he was almost ready to give up on God, because It seemed like they were even more blessed. Other people died of lingering sicknesses, struggled to make ends meet, or dealt with family and legal problems. The worst people seemed to avoid all these problems. As several writers have described Bill and Hillary Clinton, it is like they are Teflon coated and nothing sticks.
“Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.” (Psalm 73:7-9)
Not only do all the problems seem to just slide off the wicked, but they have everything they want in quantities no one could ever use. They spend thousands of dollars on a dress or tee shirt, and live in homes that other people could not even pay the light bill for. They constantly ignore the standards of right and wrong and joke about taking advantage of those who are less fortunate. They don’t hesitate to speak to use gutter language or take God’s name in vain.
“Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” (Psalm 73:10-12)
By comparison, God’s people frequently find themselves forced to squeeze out their last penny to pay the bills, and begin to wonder if God even realizes the struggles the face. Sometimes they wonder if God even cares. Even while Christians are struggling, the wicked are getting richer, and gaining power and respect.
“Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.” (Psalm 73:13-15)
As he looked around, it seemed the Psalmist had wasted his time trying to please God. It seemed like it had been foolish to do things the way God had said because it had prevented him from having what others had. Not only that but he had spent his life concerned about not offending people and constantly dealing with guilt and even suffering for things he had done while the wicked didn’t have to deal with those things. The psalmist’s feelings are very common, and thousands have come this same point and turned their backs on Christianity as a result.
“When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.” (Psalm 73:16-19)
The feeling that he was depriving his family and wasting his time trying to serve God really hurt, until he went into God’s house and heard God’s word. Then he began to understand the consequences of their actions. Though they seem to be doing so well, they are like a gymnast on a balance beam covered with ice. At any moment they could slip off with no warning or opportunity to prepare for the fall and be seriously injured or killed. It will happen inevitably, no matter how skilled they may be, and when it does, their future will be completely destroyed. Ultimately, they will be cast into the lake of fire for eternity.
“As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.” (Psalm 73:20-22)
When God addresses the situation, it will be violently like someone startled from their sleep. Angry at being disturbed. As he understood what was happened the psalmist was saddened that he had even entertained the idea of giving up. The very thought was as foolish as if he was some kingd of animal with no ability to thing about the consequences of his actions.
“Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” (Psalm 73:23-25)
He had not fallen away because God held him like a parent holding the hand of a little child to keep him from danger. Like a loving father, he can count on God to show him a safe way, and then, at the end of his life, to receive him into heaven. As Peter 1:5 tells us, we “…are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” He alone is our hope for the future, either in heaven or on earth.
“My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.” (Psalm 73:26-28)
Sometimes our best intentions are not enough to keep us from doing things we know are wrong, and other times we simply give in to the feeling serving God is hopeless. It is God that gives us the strength to keep trying even after we have failed. Those who do not have his strength just continue to go away from him and will be destroyed. Knowing we are kept by his power, we can get up and try again even after we’ve fallen, trusting him to help us, and sharing what he has done for us.