This Week's Focus Passage

‘For I was envious at the arrogant.’

Focus Passage: Psalm 73

‘For I was envious at the arrogant.’

It is sad in the extreme that the lament of Asaph is not only common among those in the Christian church, but that it is prominent among, not only nominal Christians, but true believers. Nonetheless, there are happily many lessons for us to take to heart and mind from the complaint of Asaph and his subsequent ‘coming to terms’ with the issues. Who indeed was Asaph? There are a good number of the Psalms that are attributed to him, whether the ascription is correct or whether it is not. We should seek to discover who this person was before discussing his remarkable complaint. Charles Haddon Spurgeon is always helpful in his ‘Treasury of David,’ and the introductory notes he has provided for each and every psalm. We must not suppose any man—not even Spurgeon—to be always correct in his understanding, yet we may consider that he is not going to take us too far astray with his comments. The blessedness of his conspicuous loving dependence upon the veracity of the Word of God is always a helpful compass in our navigation of the Scriptures because, through his faith, the polestar is always his Savior. His helpful remarks upon the authorship of this seventy-third psalm are worth repeating; and he has left us with the following suggestive thoughts to ponder:

‘This is the second Psalm ascribed to Asaph, and the first of eleven consecutive Psalms bearing the name of this eminent singer. Some writers are not sure that Asaph wrote them, but incline to the belief that David was the author, and Asaph the person to whom they were dedicated, that he might sing them when in his turn he became the chief musician. But though our own heart turns in the same direction, facts must be heard; and we find in 2 Chron. xxix. 30, that Hezekiah commanded the Levites to sing “the words of David and of Asaph the seer;” and moreover, in Nehemiah xii. 46, David and Asaph are mentioned together, as distinct from “the chief of the singers,” and, as it would seem, as joint authors of psalmody.’

As in the matters of other portions of the Word of God where the authorship may be in question, our faith is certain that whether Paul or Apollos, whether David or Asaph, the true Author is God the Holy Spirit, and we may read and study His Word with that blessed confidence in our hearts and minds.

Many of the writers refer to the thoughts contained in this somewhat perplexing psalm as speaking of a ‘temptation to apostasy.’ Asaph frankly confesses that his ‘steps had well nigh slipped.’ This has evidently occurred because he had taken his eyes from off his God and was focusing upon the ‘winds and the waves’ of the ways of the arrogant and the wicked. His faith is floundering; his trust has ‘well nigh slipped.’ This is, to use a metaphor, a looking at the glass half empty when we should be seeing it rather as half full, and in point of fact for the believer, ‘our cup runneth over.’ The blessedness of the psalm is that ‘it ain’t over ‘til it’s over,’ and when Asaph does in fact turn his eyes away from the things of the world and the seeming prosperity of the wicked, he recognizes the ‘prosperity of the godly.’ The condition of the believer is not influenced by the circumstances of the ungodly and sinners, much less is the position of the believer affected by the case of the unbeliever. The truth remains as Paul uttered and wrote it two thousand years ago, He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things? We that have been foreordained; that have been called by the Holy Spirit; that have been justified through the gift of faith in Christ; that stand to be happily glorified in that great day; why do we look enviously at the six-figure salary of the arrogant, or the magnificent health that the wicked may be enjoying; when we see that everything seems to work out well for them no matter what? They appear to be able to fall into cesspools and come out smelling like a rose every time. They have more than heart could wish even though they care nothing for God, for His Word; for the Gospel, or for His people; nonetheless ‘being always at ease, they increase in riches.’ Is it for us then to join ourselves to Asaph’s lament and moan with him, surely in vain have I cleansed my heart, and washed my hands in innocency? Not so fast! God has said. Let us go into the sanctuary of God and consider the latter end of those who do not love God.

Consider the value of meditating upon the goodness of God in the land of the living. David goes so far as to say, ‘I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living.’—Psalm 27:13. Asaph ‘well nigh’ fainted until he went into the house of Jehovah; until his faith was enlarged to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living. How often is it that the faith God has given us needs to be enlarged? Was it not the twelve themselves that found need to cry, ‘Lord, increase our faith!’? And if they that had walked with Christ for three years while He was on this earth needed their faith to be enlarged, how much more do we in this perverse and faithless generation? By the grace of our God and Father, we may walk by faith and not by sight. We will find ourselves, as did Peter, looking at the winds and the waves and beginning to sink. Let us cry out, ‘Lord, save me, or I perish.’ We may see the way to the Celestial City hindered, as did Christian, by lions in the way. Let us gird up the loins of our minds and continue on our way and singing with the eminent precentor, Asaph:

Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart faileth; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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