Seeing from the Right Perspective

Psalm 73, a Psalm of Asaph

1Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart! 

2But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped. 

3For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 

4For there are no pains in their death, And their body is fat. 

5They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind. 

6Therefore pride is their necklace; The garment of violence covers them. 

7Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot. 

8They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high. 

9They have set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue parades through the earth. 

10Therefore his people return to this place, And waters of abundance are drunk by them. 

11They say, ” How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?” 

12Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth. 

13Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure And washed my hands in innocence; 

14For I have been stricken all day long And chastened every morning. 

15If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children. 

16When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight 

17Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end. 

18Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. 

19How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! 

20Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form. 

21When my heart was embittered And I was pierced within, 

22Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. 

23Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. 

24With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory. 

25Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. 

26My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

27For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. 

28But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.

THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD. THANKS BE TO GOD. HALLELUJAH

This morning I have titled my sermon “Seeing from the Right Perspective.”

Have you ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed? Have you ever had a bad hair day? Have you ever taken two steps forward and three steps back? Have you ever been a day late and a dollar short? Have you ever felt like you were flogging a dead horse? Have you ever felt like your ship has sailed? Have you ever overslept on the morning the early bird got the worm? If so, you enjoy the company of Asaph and every other human being to grace God’s green earth. We all get discouraged at times. It seems easier to look at the speed bumps on our highway to happiness if we are at fault in some way, perhaps a bad decision or lack of decision on our part. But when we have done all that was expected of us and have done it well yet find ourselves in a traffic jam with no exit in sight, we might question God and His care for us.

Maybe this morning, I’m talking to people who have had their lives upended by COVID 19. Maybe you were just getting ahead, and now you are further behind than ever. Maybe you saved and saved for years for this summer’s family vacation, and you have had to use that money for rent and groceries. Maybe you work hard at your job and have respect with your employer and fellow workers but got laid off anyway. Maybe you were on the fringes of scared before this all happened and now, you are smack dab in the middle of what scared means. Now you must find a way to pick up the pieces of the plans you had made but realize those plans may never materialize just how you wanted them to. Yes, maybe I’m talking to you this morning.

We may admit, as Asaph in verse 1, that we serve a good God who honors the righteous. He says, “Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart!”  But just as quickly as Asaph, we move to verses 2-3: “But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” 

Asaph admits his trust in God had waned when he says in verses 4-12 that he saw and envied how the arrogant, wicked, prideful, and violent with vile imaginations seemed to get a pass on all they said and did, even gaining wealth and prosperity in the process, and the people that upheld these mockers of God got to satisfy their lust for more in their heroes’ ill-gotten waters of abundance.

In verses 13-14, Asaph shares his way of thinking based on what he has seen and experienced. “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure And washed my hands in innocence; For I have been stricken all day long And chastened every morning.” What the psalmist is expressing here is his perception of the vanity of living a pure life and willingly coming under the instruction of the Lord when the wicked around him are flourishing. He contrasts his life with the life of the wicked in verse 5, “They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like mankind.” Yet he keeps his thoughts to himself as we read in verse 15: “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.” In other words, Asaph is saying, “If I had voiced my frustrations aloud to those around me, the only fruit it would bear would be rotten; to cause an offense in others toward God.”

When we, as Christians, experience those feelings that Asaph experienced, it sets us back. We know that God is good. We know that He cares for us. We know that he loves us. But when we fall into the enemy’s trap of envy and comparison with the wicked, as well as other Christians whom the Lord has prospered, our knees of faith get weak and we can feel ourselves beginning to slip in the mud of doubt and unbelief. As Asaph says in verse 16, “When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight.” I believe he was troubled by what he saw, but also by how he perceived what he saw. He was troubled by how he was reacting to what he saw.

We all have been there. How many of us have not laid awake at night worried about an upcoming bill? How many of us have not labored under fear of a bad diagnosis from the doctor? How many of us have not questioned the providence of God when tragedy struck? We can all say that at one time, it was troublesome in our sight.

But luckily, Asaph changed his line of sight to a new perspective. Verse 17: “Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end.” It was not until Asaph entered the sanctuary of God that his vision was changed. It is said the difference between nearsighted people and shortsighted people is that the nearsighted can be corrected. But we know, as Christians, that God can change our shortsightedness in the sanctuary of His presence. Hebrews 12:1-2 exhorts us to set our sight, saying “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” And Ephesians 2:4-7 tells us, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Friends, if we will but take it, we have the best seat in the universe. From that perspective, nothing is hidden.

It is amazing how a change of perspective changes our perception. One of the early explorers of South Africa’s ocean waters, Bartolomeu Dias, went around a cape on a stormy sea. His ship threatened to go to pieces, so he called the place the Cape of Storms. But Vasco da Gama, who came later, changed the name to the Cape of Good Hope, for he saw ahead of him the jewels and treasures of India. We can call this a life of storms if we wish. But if we can see the glorious redemption of eternity ahead of us, we can call it what it is only in Christ—a life of good hope.

In verses 18-20, Asaph saw what was true the whole time in God’s sight but was hidden in his own: “Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.  How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!  Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form.” Here Asaph makes another comparison. “Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction” is contrasted with his state in verse 2, “But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped.” He was tempted and troubled for sure but came through the fire with the help of God. The wicked, however, were destroyed.

In verses 21-22, we hear how Asaph, with his new set of eyes, describes his former blindness: “When my heart was embittered And I was pierced within, Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.” It is said that hindsight is good, foresight is better, but insight is the best of all. The nearness of God brings insight to Asaph and he now sees the grace of God that was with him, is with him, and will continue with him, verses 23-27:

23Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. 

24With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory. 

25Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. 

26My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

27For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.

And one last contrast ends the Psalm. Asaph again contrasts the agony of verse 2, “But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped” with the victory of verse 28, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.”  

I will end with the following illustration. Gold is one of the most valuable materials on earth. It has been used for centuries as money, but it also has many uses in industry, manufacturing, and even space flight. One of the traits that makes gold so useful is that it can be shaped and formed so easily. In fact, a single ounce of gold can be flattened out to cover three hundred square feet.

But gold ore dug out of the ground contains many other elements that must be removed prior to the gold being useful. The refining process for gold involves intense heat. Gold melts at a temperature of almost two thousand degrees Fahrenheit. That incredibly high temperature is required for gold to be ready to be used. The Christian life involves much the same process. Sometimes we are surprised when “bad things happen to good people.” But the Scripture tells us that fiery trials are part of God’s refining process for our lives. Rather than griping or complaining when trials come, we should rejoice as we think of the end result they will produce.

Let us be like Asaph and draw close to God, change our perspective, and change our perception.

Amen

Published by doctorpaddy

An ordained minister, Christian communicator, and educator.

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