It is difficult to play according to God’s rules in a world that rewards those who ignore God. This is a reality that a man named Asaph wrestled with in Psalm 73. In verse 3 Asaph confesses, “For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Given that we live in a fallen world, we watch as those who live entirely for themselves succeed while those who aim to do the right thing miss out. One needs to look no farther than the political scene to confirm this truth. I have heard so many lament that it seems you cannot succeed in politics unless you are willing to compromise integrity and do whatever it takes (ethical or otherwise) to win the election. Or if you think about the office environment, how many people have advanced their own careers by taking credit for the work of others or by throwing their peers under the bus in order to look better? Realities like this leave many of us expressing the same attitude that Asaph reflects when he admits he was envious of the wicked in light of their success and their apparent ease in life. In fact, Asaph acknowledges his temptation to forsake God’s way in the hopes of replicating the success story of the wicked in verse 13: “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” But what is the righteous person to do when these same thoughts come knocking?
Thankfully, Asaph did not give in to this initial impulse towards envy of the wicked. He wrestles with what appears to be dueling realities: on one hand he believes that God is good, rules over everything, and will call all people into account, but on the hand he sees people willfully turn away from God’s law and (at least in the present) get away with it and thrive! But how Asaph seeks to reconcile these dueling realities is all important–he goes to God in worship. Verses 16-17 say, “But when I thought how to understand this [why he should bother playing by God’s rules], it seems to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their [the wicked’s] end.” In other words, the wisdom of living life according to God’s rules only made sense when Asaph saw the big picture. Living according to God’s rules makes complete sense when you see God for who He is. Asaph came to the sanctuary to meet with God in worship, and in so doing he was reminded of the character and promises of God, and it was then that Asaph realized that the way of the wicked will end in destruction. So even though those who disregard God’s rules may enjoy “success” and “victory” today, those who know God understand that those who play by God’s rules win in the end. This perspective enabled Asaph to ultimately say of God, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You (Ps 73:25).” Meeting with God in worship reoriented Asaph and gave him perspective. May the same be true of us when we are tempted to turn away from God.
Rev. Andy Schuster, Guest Preacher