Psalm 73:1-3 – Truly God is good to Israel,

to those who are pure in heart.

[2] But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,

my steps had nearly slipped.

[3] For I was envious of the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

God is good to the pure in heart. When someone says “God has been good to me” what do you suppose has happened in his life? Did he win the lottery? He got the job he had been praying for? His mother was healed of the illness that was afflicting her? All those would be legitimate. But could we say “God has been good to me” if the prayers had not been answered, the hoped for job had not materialized and mom died?

Psalm 73 starts out with a claim that God is good to Israel and then he clarifies what he means by that – those whose hearts are pure. In other words, “Israel” even in the Old Testament sometimes meant spiritual Israel – those who have kept the faith.

Having said that God has been good to them he then goes on to explain that he had been envious of others who were prospering while he was not. In others words, though God had been good to him he had not recognized it because of his troubles. The circumstances of his life had blinded him to the goodness of God. Same old, same old. This is precisely what happens to many Christians today. We start comparing ourselves with others who are not faithful and we see that their car is not held together with bailing twine, their homes could be used for your morning church services and they go to the club every morning with healthy bodies that they manage to keep in shape since their schedules are not booked up from sunrise to sunset.

What the Psalmist is saying is that God had been good to him but he had failed to see it because he took it upon himself to define what it means to be blessed by God. Hear him in verses 12-14

Behold, these are the wicked;

always at ease, they increase in riches.

[13] All in vain have I kept my heart clean

and washed my hands in innocence.

[14] For all the day long I have been stricken

and rebuked every morning.

They have it easy and I have it hard. Therefore God is not being good to me. This is the sad reality of how we think. It is understandable. When life is hard it is difficult to recognize the goodness of God to us in the non-material matters of life. It is hard to keep a spiritual perspective when the physical is being so powerfully hard. To add the effort at keeping one’s faith strong in the midst of all this is wearisome. And while enduring the hardships of life and struggling to keep a faith that does not faint in the face of those hardships we see that there are godless people who do not seem to be suffering at all. It all adds up to sinful attitudes, sinful conclusions and sinful actions.

What did the Psalmist do? He sat down and thought. He took the time to put things together properly. Hear verse 16.

But when I thought how to understand this,

it seemed to me a wearisome task,

He takes it upon himself to understand why things are the way they are. It does not start out well. It wearies him. So, he goes to the place of worship, the place where God is represented and the place where the faithful gather for worship. There God helps him get his thoughts together and he comes to the right conclusion.

Psalm 73:17 – until I went into the sanctuary of God;

then I discerned their end.

For all the ways that the wicked have it easy, their final destiny, which is forever, is far from enviable. In fact, the very thing that the Psalmist envied were what are sending them to ruin. The wealth, the ease of life, the seeming ignorance of God toward the way they live are the very things that are evidence that they should not be envied, but pitied.

Psalm 73:18 – Truly you set them in slippery places;

you make them fall to ruin.

That pity should result in praying for their salvation and an opportunity to give them the Gospel.

It is always better to be in the place of God’s saving grace with little of the world’s goods than to be outside of that grace and be in possession of much.

We are to walk through life with an eternal perspective. The hope of eternal life enables us to always say “God has been good to me”, no matter what the difficulties are. A walk with God now in the face of our difficulties is better than a walk with no troubles and no God with us. It is easy to lose sight of such things. But they are true and they are a great tonic for the soul. God has been very good to us. The cross is proof of it, no matter what.

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