Asaph was an important singer in Israel, and this is the second psalm composed by him. In addition, it is the first of eleven in a row by him. We do not have any details of his biography, as we do with David, but we (possibly) learn a great deal about his personal piety simply from the psalms he wrote. This psalm provides a particularly good example.
“Truly God is good to Israel, Even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; My steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked . . .” (Ps. 73:1–28).
Summary of the Text:
Asaph sets his anchor at the very beginning of the psalm (v. 1). In vv. 2-14, he records the details of his temptation, which was to envy the prosperity of the wicked. Having stated this problem, he is nonplussed about how to act (vv. 15-16). He comes next to the solution to his dilemma, realizing the destiny of the wicked (vv. 17-20). He comes to this realization through worship. He then adores the wisdom of the God, and concludes the psalm with robust praise (vv. 21-28).
Heart and Feet:
When you begin to doubt the righteousness of God, your own righteousness is wavering on the brink. If God is not righteous, then what is righteousness (v. 1)?
When the heart is clean, God is seen to be good, known to be good. But Asaph almost lost it at this point, and as a result his feet almost slipped. The problem was that in his heart he envied foolish and wicked men. They are, as sleek as all get out, getting away with it. Their little piggy eyes are closed over with fat, and somebody gave them a golden pride necklace. They are proud of having little piggy eyes, award-winning eyes. Everything seems to be going their way, and they talk big. Their tongue struts through the earth.
They sit down with a full cup. They have it all—wealth, women, wine. They raise that full cup in a toast. Where did omnipresence go? What can omnipotence do? What does omniscience know? They talk this way and no lightning bolts fry them where they sit . . . what can the pious heart conclude?
The pious heart wonders what is the point? They sin up a storm, and are sitting on top of a pile of good things. I deal with my sins honestly every morning, and then go out to wrestle with my afflictions (vv. 2-14), which usually get the best of me.
So What’s the Point?
Asaph then realizes that he is completely undone. If there is no point, then there is also no point in having no point. He realizes that if he spoke the way his heart wanted to speak, he would stumble the children of God. When everything collapses into nihilism, nihilism also collapses. If we stand for nothing, we cannot stand at all. And when he sought to grapple with these things, carnal reason could not do it. It was too painful for him (vv. 15-16).
A View from the Sanctuary:
What happens now is that faith grasps something. This is not a faint hope, or a wispy dream. This is not the fan of a losing baseball team thinking something like, maybe next year. This is the view from the sanctuary. Asaph went to worship God, and it was then and there that he understood.
When it came to the wicked and proud, their insolent pride was located in a slippery place. They were careening toward destruction. When it happens, it will happen in a moment. It will be a desolation flash. They will be consumed with terrors, and all their wealth, both fists full of it, will amount to what you could carry out of a dream. That is how the devil bribes his little fools. He ushers them into a dream El Dorado, and he supplies them with stacks of dream trunks, and invites them to store up as much of the dream treasure as their heart desires. Take as much as you want. Take it all, the devil smiles. Ready to go? Someone is shaking you awake.
Conviction After the Fact:
When Asaph came to see the folly of their great sin, he also saw the folly of his own great sin. If it is foolish to be preening yourself because you are high above all your fellows—because you are standing on a tall gallows—how foolish would it be to be safe below, but to be envying the man who is standing up there? That must be the best view in the city. Who envies the turkey his comforting fat two weeks before Thanksgiving? Who congratulates the man who dreamt that he won the lottery?
And Asaph is pierced to the heart by his own folly, comparing himself to a beast. But notice the nature of his faith. At the beginning he says that he had almost slipped, but here he acknowledges that God was continually with him, and that God held him up by the right hand. The man who almost slipped was guided by the good counsel of God, and was going to be received into glory. The man who almost slipped was a man who could never slip.
His flesh will fail. His heart will fail, but God is the strength of his heart—meaning that his failing heart will never fail. Can a Christian fail and fall away from Christ? Absolutely yes. Can Christ fail and fall away from a Christian? Absolutely no. Take that yes and take that no, and place both of them in the palm of the Father’s hand. They harmonize there. They are not a contradiction because they are answering two different questions. If it were possible for a Christian to lose his salvation, every Christian in this place would have already done so.
Were Christ’s bones breakable? Were they made of a substance that could be broken if the necessary force were applied to them? Of course. Christ’s bones were not made out of titanium. Is the Word of God breakable? The answer is of course not (John 10:35). And the Scriptures declared that no one bone of His would be broken (Ps. 34:20; John 19:36).
Those who are far from God will perish. Those who draw near to Him will never be cast out. It is therefore good to draw near to God, which is why we have come to the sanctuary (v. 28).
You can be broken, but the Word cannot be. You can fail, but Christ cannot fail. Your logic can trip and fall, but the Logos can never fall. The failures can all fail Christ, and do. But Christ never fails His failures. And that is your glory, that is your pride, and that is you sole confidence. You are His failure.