How many of you have been treated unfairly at some point in your life?
We’ve all done things that brought consequences that we thought were unfair at the time. When I say “unfair”, I’m talking about something that happened to you or someone close to you that was genuinely unfair.
Maybe you got passed over for a promotion even though you were the most qualified for the job. Or perhaps your son was the best baseball player on his team, but he sat on the bench because the coach started his son ahead of yours. Have you had to suffer the consequences for someone else’s mistake? Maybe you did your job well and your department exceeded expectations, but because your company’s overall financial performance was poor, you had to sit in on the meeting where everyone got chewed out.
I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been treated unfairly at times, or we’ve witnessed the unfair treatment of other people. We understand of course, that there is no guarantee of fair treatment, not in this world. In fact, Jesus pretty much guaranteed just the opposite in the last verse of John 16 where He said, “In this world, you have trouble.” And that includes those times when we get a raw deal even we didn’t do anything to deserve it.
Our passage today is from the 73rd Psalm. It was written, under the inspiration of God, by a man named Asaph who was…….what we might call a worship pastor today. He was the minister of music under King David.
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?”
12 This is what the wicked are like- always carefree, they increase in wealth.
13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children.
Pay close attention to the next two verses:
16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!
20 As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
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.
Asaph was troubled by the things he saw going on around him and he lays it all out in this psalm.
He saw wicked people who were prosperous and healthy, and he saw righteous people of God who were impoverished and suffering from various illnesses and afflictions. And he could not understand why it was happening. In fact, he was becoming jealous of the wicked and their prosperity.
The wicked people he was talking about were not common street criminals. They were most likely pillar of the community types. As Asaph pointed out in verse 6, they had no problem resorting to violence if anyone got in their way. They had the power to do so apparently.
In verses 7 and 8 he described how they made no effort to hide their sin. In fact they boasted about it. They considered nothing to be too evil or too vile. Nothing was off limits.
They openly mocked God and openly defied God in both word and deed. And because of the prosperity they enjoyed, and because it looked like they were getting away with their sin, they began leading others astray. Other people were drawn to the lifestyle of these wicked people. We see this today. People flock to wealthy athletes and entertainers and hang on their every word, so long as the money holds out.
Asaph said they were so arrogant and sure of themselves, they thought they had concealed their sin from God. Or that God simply didn’t care.
All of these things troubled Asaph so much, he asked, “Have I been a man of God for nothing? Has my devotion and observance of the Law been for nothing?”
He was having a crisis of faith, so much so that it made him physically ill. At some point he considered walking away from his ministry and his faith. But, even though he was having a crisis of faith, he did not have a lack of faith.
Jesus said all we need is faith the size of mustard seed. Asaph kept all of these things to himself. He did not complain openly. He had enough good sense to know that if he did so, he might cause others to start doubting their own faith. He was a leader and people looked to him for leadership. Had he walked away, others may have walked away also. He had just enough faith, and his love for God and God’s people was just strong enough, to keep him from doing anything that would have damaged the reputation of God.
But still, the burden became so great, he came to realize he could no longer carry it alone. That was when he turned to God for help. – “I entered the sanctuary of God.”
He took all of this to God. He probably said something along the lines of “God, what gives? This isn’t fair!!!”
You know what? As long as we do so with proper respect, we can bring our troubles and complaints to God. “God, what’s going on here? Help me understand all of this.”
That’s what Asaph did. He found a place where he could be alone with God. Your sanctuary can be anywhere you happen to be. It can be in your car or in a quiet corner of your home. You can be sitting on a park bench or you find a quiet place at your workplace where you can be alone with God for a few minutes. What I’m saying is, the sanctuary of God can be anywhere. You don’t have to get in your car and drive to your church. The sanctuary of God is any place where you can be alone with God.
When Asaph entered the sanctuary of God, he was able to get away from the distractions. He was able to focus on being in the presence of God. And as he wrote in verse 17, he finally understood the ultimate fate of the wicked. He understood that the prosperity and good health they enjoyed in this world was only temporary. He finally understood that God would judge the wicked and when He does, His justice will be swift and sure.
The things that Asaph saw still go on today. Christians get cheated in business deals.
We see non-believing people prosper while Christians lose their jobs and their homes and suffer financial ruin. We see spouses walk away from a marriage when the other partner has done everything right. We see children of Christian parents go astray. We see people suffer every day even though they did everything right. Why do these things happen? Because we live in a fallen world. Wicked and evil people are given free will just like everyone else. And they use their free will in ways God never intended. They do what seems right in their own eyes. We live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people and it will continue to be this way…………until Jesus Christ returns and restores all things. Then the perfect fairness and justice of God will prevail.
At the conclusion of this psalm, Asaph confessed that, though he envied the prosperity of the wicked, he was reminded that nothing in heaven or earth is more desirable than God. And it’s a reminder for us too. Everything in the world is temporary. Jesus is eternal, and He is all we need.