1. The Problem
(a) Introduction, vv1f. (b) The prosperity of the wicked, vv3-6. (c) The insolence of the wicked, vv7-10. (d) The scepticism of the wicked, vv11-14.
2. The Solution
(a) The end of the wicked, vv15-18. (b) The vindication of God, vv19-22. (c) The victory of faith, vv23-26. (d) Conclusion, vv27f.
The same problem is dealt with in Psa 37, and in Job.
Cf. Jn 16:21; 2 Cor 4:17; Heb 12:2 for encouragement to take the ‘long view’.
Psa 73:1 A psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
‘Psalm 73 is enlightening in regards to the development of the concept of individual resurrection. The psalm begins, “Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart” (NRSV). The problem is stated clearly: “I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (v. 3 NRSV). These wicked people mock, do violence, oppress, are prideful, and speak evil (vv. 6-9). Yet they are at ease and their wealth has increased (v. 12). The psalmist then makes the rhetorical statement, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure” (v. 13). Seeking to understand this seeming incongruity was troublesome to the psalmist (v. 16) until he perceived the end of the unfaithful (v. 17). They will be destroyed in a moment (vv. 19, 27), but the righteous Yahwist will receive a different recompense. Even though his flesh and heart may fail, God is his “portion forever” and “afterward … will take him into glory” (v. 24b).’ (EDBT)
Psa 73:2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
Psa 73:3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
The wicked – This expression is not limited to the notoriously wicked; it includes all who attempt to live their lives without reference to God, and therefore include the majority.
‘You think Providence does not deal righteously because the unworthy are exalted, and the worthy depressed. Do but tarry awhile, and you will have no cause to complain, or to grow weary of godliness, or to cry up a confederacy with evil men; they are never nearer their own ruin than when they come to the height of their exaltation…. Who would envy those that climb up a ladder for execution?’ (Thomas Manton)
‘Seeing there is a God, he will deal righteously, and give just rewards to men. Things seem to be carried in the world very unequally; the wicked flourish. Psa 73:3. They who tempt God are delivered. Mal 3:15. The ripe cluster of grapes are squeezed into their cup, and, in the meanwhile, the godly, who wept for sin, and served God, are afflicted. Psa 102:9. ‘I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping.’ Evil men enjoy all the good, and good men endure all the evil. But seeing there is a God, he will deal righteously with men. Gen 18:25. ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ Offenders must come to punishment. The sinner’s death-day, and dooms-day is coming. Psa 37:12. ‘The Lord seeth that his day is coming.’ While there is a hell, the wicked shall be scourged enough; and while there is eternity, they shall lie there long enough; and God will abundantly compensate the faithful service of his people. They shall have their white robes and crowns. Psa 58:I 1:’Verily there is a reward for the righteous:verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.’ Because God is God, he will give glorious rewards to his people.’ (Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity)
‘He gives often more of the world to those that shall have no more hereafter.’ (Robert Leighton)
Psa 73:4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
Psa 73:5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.
Psa 73:6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.
Psa 73:7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity ; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
Psa 73:8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
Psa 73:9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Psa 73:10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.
Psa 73:11 They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?”
Psa 73:12 This is what the wicked are like— always carefree, they increase in wealth.
Psa 73:13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
Psa 73:14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.
Psa 73:15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children.
Psa 73:16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me
Psa 73:17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
Till I entered the sanctuary of God – Here is the great turning point. Up until this moment, the psalmist’s thoughts have been focused on himself and the apparent prosperity of ‘the wicked’ (“I…they…”. But from now on, he will be in conversation with God (“You…”).
Until I went…Then I understood their end – We must learn to take the long view. See Jn 13:7.
‘When the race is ended, and the play is either won or lost, and ye are in the utmost circle and border of time, and shall put your foot within the march of eternity, all the good things of your short nightdream shall seem to you like ashes of a blaze of thorns or straw.’ (Samuel Rutherford)
Psa 73:18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.
Psa 73:19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!
Psa 73:20 As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
Psa 73:21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
Psa 73:22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
Psa 73:23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
Psa 73:24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Psa 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Psa 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psa 73:27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
Psa 73:28 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.