1 God is indeed good to Israel, to the pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my steps nearly went astray. 3 For I envied the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have an easy time until they die, and their bodies are well fed. 5 They are not in trouble like others; they are not afflicted like most people. 6 Therefore, pride is their necklace, and violence covers them like a garment. 7 Their eyes bulge out from fatness; the imaginations of their hearts run wild. 8 They mock, and they speak maliciously; they arrogantly threaten oppression. 9 They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues strut across the earth. 10 Therefore His people turn to them and drink in their overflowing words. 11 The wicked say, “How can God know? Does the Most High know everything?” 12 Look at them—the wicked! They are always at ease, and they increase their wealth. 13 Did I purify my heart and wash my hands in innocence for nothing? 14 For I am afflicted all day long and punished every morning. 15 If I had decided to say these things aloud, I would have betrayed Your people. 16 When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless 17 until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny. 18 Indeed, You put them in slippery places; You make them fall into ruin. 19 How suddenly they become a desolation! They come to an end, swept away by terrors. 20 Like one waking from a dream, Lord, when arising, You will despise their image. 21 When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, 22 I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward You. 23 Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me up in glory. 25 Who do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. 27 Those far from You will certainly perish; You destroy all who are unfaithful to You. 28 But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, so I can tell about all You do.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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Asaph admits from the beginning what I had only voiced in my own heart – I was “envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (v.3). For the next nine verses (vv.4-12) he describes “them” exactly as I saw “them,” as a young man desirous of success and the good life God was surely going to bestow on me. I mean, I was doing and saying all the right things. Surely being a Christian would at least minimize my troubles and help me realize my ambitions in life.
Asaph continues to speak my own heart when in verse 13 he begins to question his own faith, and he backs me up even more in verse 14 by lamenting, “Why am I having all these troubles when the evil seem to prosper with such ease?” He was serving God; they were not. It wasn’t fair!
Doesn’t this help you to understand the agony of Asaph? The wicked may even have been those very people who came to the temple to worship, but in a very perfunctory way. They gave lip service to their faith, but showed no genuine heart for God. Comparison is such an easy trap to fall into. And where comparison begins, grace ends.
Asaph was convinced he was a righteous man. If the prosperous were wicked and deserved to be punished, he was righteous and deserved to prosper. When compared to these “sinners,” he was righteous—much like the self-righteous Pharisee who compared himself with the publican in Luke 18:11.
But as for me, I did not know where to turn next. Should I stay the course and continue to try to please and serve God, or should I pursue the success of the world? I mean, if you can’t beat them, might you just as well join them?
Fortunately, the experience of others can be a great teacher, and I am thankful that Asaph was so open and honest. For in verse 16 and following, he begins to teach through his experience the way home. What changed his outlook? The answer, I believe, can be summed up in one word—WORSHIP. Instead of protest, there is praise. “When I tried to understand all this it was oppressive to me, until I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny” (vv. 16-17).
Worship gave Asaph a new perspective on himself. Before he went to God in worship, Asaph viewed himself as distinct from others whom he saw as more wicked than himself. At worship Asaph was forced to view himself in comparison with God, not with wicked men. Finally, he honestly admitted that he too was a sinner. In his moments of inner struggle Asaph was upset and bitter, senseless and ignorant. He was like an animal (vv. 21-22). Worship forces us to look at ourselves as God sees us.
And in worship with God—in that sanctuary with Him where there are no interruptions or distractions, where He has your full attention—you will begin to find out if your life, your heart, reflects His image or not. We all know that “God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27).
And in those moments of reflection on His image, He shows me that He does not envy, He grieves. He shows me that He does not compare me to others, He offers me grace. And at that moment, in the presence of the Almighty God, I see the grace-filled gaze of Jesus, and—just like Peter—my heart breaks and weeps. I like to call this Divine Intervention, the only source of true change that will last.
Today, I ask myself:
- Am I envious or do I grieve?
- Do I live in comparison or grace?
- Do I protest or do I worship?
Dear Father, I am reminded today that You said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. But as for me, Your presence is my good. I will make You God my refuge, so I can tell about all You do. Amen.