God’s Goodness (Part 1)

Read Psalm 73:1-14

We start the second of the Teaching Psalms and today we consider the age old problem the believer has to contend with:

Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer?”

There is not one believer who has not gone through this stage, or, if you are a new Christian, a time will come where you will definitely go through it. Forewarned is forearmed, so take special note as we study this Psalm of Asaph.

But first a little background information. Asaph was king David’s Chief Musician and no doubt was under the influence of David’s enthusiasm for his God, Adonai. This Psalm is closely coupled to David’s Psalm 37 which covers the same subject and gives advice on how to overcome the contrast of wicked men prospering while the righteous suffer.

If you have that same problem in your mind then I suggest you study these two Psalms in the light of what I will be bringing you today and the next message. While reading Psalm 73 and examining its breakdown I realized that the Psalm was divided into two sections, exactly 14 verses each, and each with 6 points of discussion, with the first section describing the worldly influence and the second part describing God’s influence. So lets’s systematically look through these two sections:

1. THE WORLD’S INFLUENCE UPON ASAPH

1.       GOD’S GOODNESS (verse 1)

Asaph starts the Psalm of with a positive note by first declaring that “God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” God is good to His children, ie, all who believe in His Son Jesus Christ, all who have accepted Him as Saviour and Lord of their life. God is good to those who obey His Son’s commands to live a pure life in the Spirit and everyday living. Jesus told the Samaritan Woman at the well, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

2.       ASAPH’S CONFESSION (verse 2)

It is not easy to make a confession of one’s sin in public yet here Asaph confesses that he nearly left the protection of Adonai. One important spiritual principle is brought out here and it will not please many people in this world, and it is this: the further you move away from the Lord the further you move out of His divine protection. I have seen so many who do not want to serve the Lord or let themselves be surrendered to Jesus’ authority, yet they try to claim all the promises of God which do not belong to them.

No one can claim anything of an estate unless they have been specifically mentioned in the will. Any person whose name has NOT been written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life has not the slightest chance of entering heaven. Asaph nearly left the Lord; he had fallen into a backslidden condition and out of the will of God. As he said, “My feet had almost slipped; I nearly lost my foothold.” May we all keep the straight and narrow!

3.       ASAPH’S DESCRIPTION OF WORLDLINESS (VERSES 3-11)

In these 9 verses Asaph lists some of the influences that nearly made him loose his salvation. There are those who preach that once one has given one’s heart to Jesus one has secured a place in heaven and that, no matter what they do after that, their salvation will not be lost. No matter how sincere these preachers are, they are misleading others into a false sense of security. Only those who overcome to the very end of their life will inherit everlasting life.

You can read this in Matth. 10:22 where Jesus Himself said, “He who stand firm to the end will be saved” This is indeed a serious warning that should not be taken lightly; it could cost you your salvation. Jesus’ Words should not be played around with! Now what are the things that could make us lose our salvation?

Here is Asaph’s list:
Envy, pride, scoffing , malice, arrogance, covertesness, blasphemy, godlessness and idle speech. Every one of us can fall into Satan’s trap if we do not do our best to live in the Spirit and walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). Do not envy the arrogant, instead be humble. Study the life of Moses and Jesus as an example of this.

Most of all don’t envy the prosperous. Be content with what you have. Seek FIRST the kingdom of heaven and many things will be added to you. Remember, wealth will not ensure happiness in your life. God will only give it to you if you are able to handle small things first. (Parable of the talents)

4.       ASAPH’S CONCLUSION ABOUT THE WORLD  (verse 12)

His conclusion is no different to those of many today. “This is what the wicked are like – always carefree, they increase in wealth.” In John 18-16 Jesus said that His kingdom is not of the world. Because of this we are not to envy the wealthy. We are rather to seek riches in the spiritual world that will not rust or be eaten by moth and that cannot be stolen from us. Wealth in itself is not sinful. It is its influence over us that counts. Asaph’s conclusion led to the fifth point:

5.       ASAPH’S DOUBT IN JEHOVAH (verse 13)

“Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure,” he said. Is that not what often goes through our minds? I must admit that that has often happened to me. One seems to think that God is not with you, no matter how much you call upon Him and He does not answer. Sometimes it feels that God does not even exist. All I can do is to ask you not to go on or by your feelings when this happens to you. In faith claim the promises of God in the Scriptures.

Remember, if you are a child of God, He has not left you, He is right next to you, walking WITH you through the problem you may be experiencing. What God is doing is to let you go through a learning curve that will keep you upright when the next problem occurs. Jesus’ biggest promise is given in Matthew 28:20 when He said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Asaph learned that he must not go by feelings but by the promises of God. He learned not to give in to any doubt he may get or have about God.

6.       ASAPH’S CONSCIENCE PLAGUES HIM (verse 14)

“For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.” We now come to an important principle that applies to all backsliders. First let me define the term “backsliding” so that we all know exactly what it means because this word is used very loosely by some Christians. Backsliding can be effected in three different ways.

  1. The first is that the believer slowly moves away from Jesus and his worship of the Lord, but he still retains his moral values. In other words he becomes one who no longer worships Jesus but has not rejected Him.
  2. The second backslider slips back into the life of sin and immorality and he too does not deny that Jesus is the Son of God.
  3. The third backslider is one who eventually completely rejects Jesus as the Son of God.I’m not here to judge the first one, but the last two types, although in different degrees of backsliding, are out of the protection of God, out of the New Covenant of Grace, out of the household of God. Like the Prodical son, the Father could do nothing about his son until that day that the son, now listen carefully, OUT OF HIS OWN FREE WILL came back to the Father’s house.You see now that it is possible not to reject Jesus, yet you can be completely out of God’s will and so far away from Him that for all intents and purposes you are no longer among believers. When the Spirit of Jesus has been grieved He leaves, because He will not act against the will of the person self. He is either a welcome visitor or a rejected visitor. The act of coming to Jesus is an act of the will. No one can be forced into the kingdom of God.In the backslidden condition the backslider still has the memories of the “once saved” condition he was in. Memories are not easily blotted out. It was in this condition that Asaph said that his conscience plagued him. In his backslidden condition those memories kept on coming back to him. A person who has become an alcoholic has great difficulty in getting rid of his problem; so it is with backsliders. He may want to come back but the pull of the world may be just too great upon him. It takes great love and care and effort and patience on the part of other believers before he comes back into the fold on his own free will. This longing to come back to Jesus and knowing that he cannot on his own often causes great grief and stress in the backsliders life.

In conclusion I put to you this challenge. If one or more of you listening this morning are in a backslidden condition, and the Holy Spirit is talking to your heart right now, use the Royal telephone number, Jeremiah 333, ie, Jeremiah chapter 33:3 where God in His wonderful compassion said, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

God is that compassionate Father in the parable of the Prodical Son and He is standing at the doorway of His house looking out for you, longing for you to return to that time when you and He had wonderful times of communion and companionship together.

Asaph eventually came back to the Lord and as a result penned this beautiful Psalm.

In my next message we will consider the second part of this Psalm of Asaph under the heading “God’s influence on Asaph”.