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11th October 2016
I recently came to Psalm 73 on my daily reading plan. As I read the psalm I was almost surprised at the psalmist's honesty, but I was also struck that he was putting into words thoughts which I think many of us have at one time or another.
The psalmist tells us about a time when he was wrestling with a big question. He knew that God is good to his people, those who live His way (v.1), but he also saw that those who don't live God's way ('the wicked') seem to prosper in life (v.2). After talking about the way ‘the wicked’ rebel against God and yet seem to prosper, the psalmist concludes 'Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches' (v.12). This makes him think that perhaps he’s lived God's way for no purpose (v.13), especially as doing so has often led to more suffering (v.14). What's been the point if his life would have looked the same, if not better, if he'd just gone his own way?
I think many of us can relate with this, even if we'd never dare admit it. We look around us and see people living their own way. They seem to do quite well in life; they often seem to be happy. We begin to wonder if it would really matter if we fiddled our taxes a little, or entertained those inappropriate thoughts, or joined in with the office gossip. In fact, maybe these things would actually bring us some good (a little extra spending money, some momentary pleasure, more friends at work), and maybe going the world’s way, rather than God’s, would reduce the chances of suffering and being the ‘odd one’ who’s the butt of jokes for not doing this or that.
But the psalmist found an answer when he went to the sanctuary (the place where God lived among his people) and there worshipped Him (v.17). When he drew near to God he saw the truth: Those who go their own way are ultimately headed to destruction. No matter how good their lives may look now, they are on a slippery slope (vv.18-20). But to live God’s way is to be ‘continually with’ him (v.23). It is to know His guidance in this life and his welcome into perfection with Him in the next (v.24). When he encounters God, he realises the emptiness of life without God which means that any worldly pleasures and benefits pale in comparison, and his heart cries out ‘there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you’ (v.25).
Drawing near to God reminds us that his way truly is best for us. The world and the enemy will try to lure us with false promises of contentment in worldly pleasures, but God has promised to be good ‘to those who are pure in heart’ (v.1), and that goodness is the promise that ‘the pure in heart…shall see God’ (Matthew 5:8). Learning this truth means that when temptations come, we can learn to turn away and declare ‘for me it is good to be near God’ (v.28).
Posted by Andrew Bunt