Ep.165: Psalm 73: What is God Good For?

Hello. I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

The poet begins Psalm 73 by stating his traditional belief that God rewards the good. But he soon introduces a shocking new perspective. When he sees how successful the wicked are, he decides that maybe God isn’t so good after all. 

Here’s what the poet sees when he looks at the wicked. May you sometimes see the same things.
– The wicked have robust health (v. 4)
– They have fewer troubles than the righteous (v. 5) 
– They speak arrogantly against heaven, advocating violence and malice, but God does nothing (v. 6)
– They are popular. People flock to their rallies and praise them (v. 11)
– They say, “God doesn’t see or care” so we can do whatever we want (v. 13)
– And they just keep getting richer and richer. Their stocks go up and mine go down. 

Their success breeds shocking arrogance.
  Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
      and their tongues take possession of the earth (v. 9). 

Now compare that with me, says the poet. I keep the covenant, I avoid evil, and what does it get me? God sends me trials every day and threatens punishment if I disobey. He doesn’t make me healthy or wealthy. This is no way to live! Maybe, like the wicked, I should declare my independence from God. Maybe I should quit paying his taxes and observing his rules. 

But then the poet worships in the temple, where he finds God’s presence and begins to see things differently. 

First, he gets a new perspective on himself. He says, “I’ve been thinking like a donkey”:
    When my heart was grieved
        and my spirit embittered,
    I was senseless and ignorant;
        I was a brute beast before you, God (v.21). 

The writer also gets a new perspective on what happens to those he envies. He says:
    . . . then I understood their final destiny (v. 17)
    Surely God places them on slippery ground;
        he casts them down to ruin.
    How suddenly they are destroyed,
        completely swept away by terrors (v. 19).

And finally, the poet gets a new perspective on what goodness is. Goodness is not the stuff we accumulate or the independence we fiercely defend. Rather, goodness is found in relationship with God. The poet says to God,
    …I am always with you;
            you hold my right hand.
            you guide me with your counsel . . .
      Whom have I in heaven but you?
            And on earth I desire nothing beside you (vv. 23-25). 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, like the poet we have envied the wicked.
– those to whom dishonesty and wealth come easily, while we work hard for a bare living.
– those who are rich and popular, while we are socially awkward and poor.
– those who have good looks and robust health, while we are sick, depressed, and hurting.
– those who live comfortably with the status quo while we struggle with issues of righteousness and justice.

With the poet we are tempted to say,
  Surely in vain we have kept our hearts pure
      and have washed our hands in innocence.
  All day long we have been afflicted,
      and every morning you correct us (vv. 13-14). 

As we come into your presence today,God, we invite you to change our perspective. Thank you that: 
     …you are always with us,
            you hold us by our hand.
      You guide us with your counsel
            and you will take us into glory.
      Whom have we in heaven but you?
            And earth has nothing we desire besides you.
      Our flesh and heart may fail,
            but you are the strength of our life
            and our portion forever  (vv. 23-26). 

It is good to be near you, O God, our help and our refuge (v. 28). 


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.