Today’s blog post (and my return from an extended hiatus) is a bit different than what i’ve posted thus far. Instead of being a personal post, it is rather a glimpse into how i work through a Psalm. i’ve been working through the Psalms for the better part of a year now. The fact that i am only in chapter 73 tells you much of my consistency, both in time spent in the Word and in sticking with one book. i’m all over Scripture when i read it. One day i will be in Genesis, the next 1 Corinthians, then in Psalm on yet another day.
i had originally planned on starting Isaiah (see what i mean with being all over the place?!) which also looks fitting for my current mood, but when i saw ‘GOD’S WAYS VINDICATED’ above Psalm 73 i knew i would go no further tonight. In my desire for more of the Lord, more adoration, more more, this was what i wanted. i wanted to read of God’s ways being vindicated, which means to be cleared of wrongdoing or to be declared right and justified. God’s character and His people are being attacked viciously today, all over the world. ‘God is just an angry God threatening to burn everyone who doesn’t do what He says.’ ‘God is too demanding.’ ‘Where is God’s love when people are being brutally killed every day??’ ‘If God hates sin, why doesn’t He put a stop to it?’ And on and on it goes. We are so quick to blame God, to paint Him as wrathful and distant, but we don’t stop to look at where we went wrong. Maybe we are the problem and not God. That doesn’t feel so good, does it? Because suddenly we might be responsible for what’s wrong in the world. Suddenly the blame might lie on us instead of a God we see as distant and aloof.
So you see, reading of God’s ways being vindicated was something i very much wanted today. Both to calm my anxious heart and to be ‘ ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks [me] for a reason for the hope that is in [me].’ (1 Peter 3:15) If someone were to attack the character of God in my presence, would i be able to defend Him, as my Father and Friend? i call Him such, you know. i say i love Him, but how equipped am i really to defend His name, His honor, His goodness?? How equipped are you?
Verse 1 starts us off strong and tells us what this whole chapter will elaborate on: God is indeed good to Israel, to the pure in heart. See? He is good…to the pure in heart. Isn’t this the part we always question? We think we’re pretty good but if that is the case, then why is God still being so hard on us? Verse 2 starts with a very important word: BUT. Words are important in Bible study; in this case, the word ‘but’ tells us that whatever is coming next will counter what was just said.
‘But as for me..’ i’ll stop here for a bit. As. For. Me. See what the psalmist is doing here? ‘God is good, but as for me, my feet almost slipped; my steps nearly went astray. For I envied the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.’ From what i’ve seen, this is always a huge cannon in the attack against God. Bad people get away with doing bad things. In fact, they seem to be doing better than we are! So we get jealous. And that, as the psalmist saw, is where we go astray. We look at their lives and they seem better off than we are, so we start to desire what they have.
In verses 4-12, the psalmist rattles off how the wicked have it so good, not being afflicted like most people and always being at ease, always increasing their wealth. All of this and more while mocking, speaking maliciously, and violence covering them like a garment. Isn’t this the part where we ask ‘Yea? If God is real and He loves everyone, why does He allow this?’ Well, we are not alone in that. Verses 13 and 14 tell us the psalmist grappled with this same question.
And i want to digress here to say that grappling with such a question (Does God truly love us..love me?) is not wrong. It’s not. But not addressing it and letting it stew into bitterness in our hearts is. We can take anything to God, anything and everything. If there is one thing i’ve learned from the Psalms is that David was a very brave and daring man when approaching God. Some things he says to God and ask of God seem to fly in the face of the very essence of who God is. And if this man could be called – by God Himself, no less! – a man after God’s own heart, then i don’t think God was too offended by his boldness. And that means we can too! Because God already sees our heart not admitting something to Him is fooling no one but ourselves. Bringing it before God will bring clarity to what is dim and fuzzy, light to what seems dark and vague, and understanding to what is not understood. So bring Him your deepest struggles; He can handle it.
So both the psalmist and people today struggle with the goodness of God in the face of the evil that prospers in the world. But we must read on to see how he handled this struggle. He didn’t voice these thoughts out loud to all and sundry. He says that to do that would have been a betrayal to God’s people. And this means that while God can handle all of our struggles, people can not. Not everyone, especially fellow Christians, can handle some of these deep questions and struggles that arise in our lives. Maybe they don’t have the foundation yet, maybe their understanding of God is still being shaped or healed from their struggles. Maybe they are still in the mindset to even entertain such thoughts of God is a deep sin! If you don’t know where someone is spiritually, voicing things like this to them can greatly hinder them. So let us be wise in who we share our struggles with, not everyone needs to know everything, and not everyone can handle it. So that, i believe, is why the psalmist didn’t voice his thoughts aloud.
He says in verse 16 that it seemed hopeless to him when he tried to understand all of this. And isn’t that how it is? We look at the world and all that is going wrong and try to fit God’s love into all of that and it just doesn’t fit. We move things around, trying to get the pieces to fit together, but it all seems hopeless. Until…’Until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny.’ Instead of trying to figure this out in his own mind with his own understanding, he looked at it from a heavenly perspective. Suddenly, he saw how it was. He understood the wicked people’s destiny. God brings down the wicked. He doesn’t let evil go unpunished; it might go on for a time because of His grace and giving them time to turn to Him (The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9), but evil does not go unchecked.
In blaming God for all the evil in the world, we leave out two other very important sides, both with their own will and agendas: humans and Satan. God gave us the freedom to choose from day 1. He told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but put it there anyway. That way, their not eating it was a matter of choice instead of a matter of it not being an option in the first place. God never created puppets; He created people who always had the freedom to choose Him or themselves. And Satan is God’s enemy; he wants to destroy the world and take as many with him as he can. So if there are three sides in play here, why does God get all the blame? Why do we not acknowledge the choices people make and the consequences and effects they carry? Why do we ignore that Satan is an enemy who is hell-bent on destroying all that is good? If God gives us the choice instead of just forcing everyone to do good, doesn’t it stand to reason that selfish people and an evil Satan with all his demons got the world to the place it is today? Doesn’t it make sense that things seem bleak and hopeless when our entire American culture is built on “me”? We are not standing up for good, for God, for justice. We want our own way on our own terms. We don’t seek what is right according to God, who Himself was not created but created everything, but according to what we think is right, the created beings. Come on! Who do we think we are??
‘When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward you.’ How succinct! When we become embittered towards God, we become unthinking animals toward Him, doing things like blaming Him for all the evil in the world. How foolish can we get? God created us when He didn’t have to; God gave us a way to live in harmony with Him and other people; and when we messed it all up, He sent His only Son to die for the sins we kept and keep on committing. He fixed our problem with His own blood. And what do we do? We say that to say ‘Jesus is the only way to heaven’ is intolerant and unfair and go looking for our own way. We blame God for all that’s wrong with the world. That’s why burying our struggles and not bringing them to the Lord is wrong. We lash out in our pain and confusion instead of bringing them to One who can bring a peace that passes all understanding.
And how does God react to our folly? Let’s read verses 23 and 24. ‘Yet (another important word..all of what was just said, but still…) I am always with You; You hold my right hand, You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward, You will take me up in glory.’ We disparage the goodness of God still? We run God down; we doubt His goodness; we attribute blame to Him that belongs to a very powerful and determined enemy and on our very own shoulders, and YET we are never without Him. He doesn’t leave us! Just think, if someone did half the things to us that we have done to God in our lives, we would have run in the other direction a long time ago. These two verses contain such hope! Four separate things we can hold on to:
- God is always with us. We might turn aside and choose our own way for a time, but God does not leave us.
- God holds our hand. We don’t have to walk through life alone. God is holding our hand to lead us and help us get through it.
- God guides us with His counsel. We don’t have to rely on our own understanding, which cannot possibly be compared to that of the living and all-knowing God. So what hope it is to know that He guides us with His counsel!
- After all of this, He will take us up in glory!! The greatest hope of all. For those that remain true to Him even when evil seems to reign supreme there will come a day when all of this will be no more. God will bring us up to Him to live in glory with Him forever, in a place where sin will be no longer. Sin and Satan will be defeated forever. (This is that eternal perspective we need. We see only the now, but this is only a blink compared to eternity. And in eternity we will live in the holy presence of God, never to know pain again.)
(For these last 4 verses i want to paraphrase them and make them personal. This Scripture applies to us personally and i want to take this to my heart.) Who do i have but God? When it comes down to it, there is nothing here i want but God. He is eternal while this world and all in it will fail, including my own flesh. My heart will fail, it will not give me hope or get me through the trials of this life. But (here we have that important word again. The previous thought doesn’t stop there, there’s more!) God is my strength! He is my portion! And here is where hope for the battle against evil comes in; those who are far from God will perish. God will not allow those who continue to willfully disobey Him and fight against Him to rule forever. Evil will be wiped out, it does not win in the end. It has a time of power now because God is giving people chance after chance after chance to turn to Him. But a day will come when evil will be defeated for good. In the meantime, ‘God’s presence is my good.’ (i love how the CSB puts that!!) In a time where all seems evil and we question whether there is any good at all, God’s presence is my good. That is where good is found. Not in the world, not in people, not in things, but in the presence of God. And we have full access to Him, Jesus made sure of that.
When the evil of the world seems to be overwhelming and makes all seem hopeless, make the Lord God your refuge, so you can tell about all He does. Let’s make the Lord our refuge so we can tell about all He does. Let’s make Him our refuge so that we can tell a broken and confused world who He really is.
i don’t know about you, but God’s ways certainly seem vindicated in my eyes. i feel so puny and so very foolish after examining this Psalm. ‘God is indeed good..’ and ‘I was an unthinking animal toward [Him].’ It sounds a bit harsh perhaps, but when taking a step back and looking at this from an eternal perspective, it actually seems very fitting.
i have always known God was a good and loving God, even if i couldn’t feel it. But i didn’t always have something to back me up on why i believed that. Life experiences are good, but they are not as strong as Scripture. Experiences will not stand up under intense scrutiny since they are subject to memory, personal experience, and relevance. But Scripture is our sword, able to cut down any lie. It is our weapon (the only one) in our armor as described in Ephesians 6. Today’s study has sharpened my sword. The word of God cuts deeper than anything i can say on my own. And my prayer is that you will find the same. This psalm is only one chapter in a very big book. The Bible isn’t about us but rather about God, and we will find instances of His goodness all across the pages. All we need to do is look for it.