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Psalm 73 - Comfort Reserved for the Saved

INTRODUCTION: I returned to the Psalms for this study, and to the first one within Book III, one either written by or for, Asaph the singer. In developing the paraphrase, I compared eight Bible versions, and used the Hebrew lexicon to try to gain a sense of many of the key words. Much of the text of the paraphrase is a combination of the various versions, with just a smattering of my own phrases. As I reread and rewrote the three paragraphs repeatedly, and considered some of the commentary, which I had read, I tried to balance the phrases within the sentence structure to give me the most cohesive sense of the original writer's content. This paraphrase represents my own understanding of the passage; and the prayer, which follows the paraphrase, is my response after meditation. As I began that meditation, it seemed the author had described an over balance of pleasure and comfort to the wicked versus the servants of God. But then I began to consider these last times in which we live, and the unparalleled relative luxury of all people in the "western world". I also reflected on the complete scriptures we now have, versus the portions of Old Testament which were available during the writing of this psalm, and realized how the additional truth of the New Testament more clearly reveals the nature of our blessing now, and guarantees eternal blessing through the seal of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 73 in Personal Paraphrase

God is pleasant and favorable to Israel, to those pure in the inner man. My footing was almost gone, And my steps were nearly brought to an end. For I was envious of the boastful as I observed the prosperity of the ungodly. For they are suffering no pain: but rather enjoy prominence. They do not have toil as other men, nor are they plagued among men. Therefore they wear pride like a necklace and injustice like a garment. Their eyes bulge with fatness: they have more than the heart could imagine. They mock, and speak wickedly of extortion: they speak proudly. They set their words against heaven, and this language goes all around the earth. People return here: and water continually pours out for them. They say in their hearts, "Does God know?" "Is there knowledge in the Most High?" The ungodly prosper perpetually; they increase in wealth and power. I have cleansed my inner man for no purpose, and washed my hands while already innocent. For all day long I have been plagued, and punished every morning.

If I would say, I will declare such thoughts as these; I would be dealing treacherously against generations of your children. When I pondered to understand this, it was too painful for me; until I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. You put their feet where there was danger of slipping, so that they go down into destruction. How suddenly are they wasted! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one is awake, they are ended; they are like an image gone out of mind when sleep is over. As a dream when one awakens, so, O Lord, when you arouse yourself, you shall despise their image.

Thus my heart was grieved and a gut-wrenching feeling seized me because I was foolish and did not know; I was like an animal before you. Nevertheless I am continually with you: you have held me by my right hand: now, you provide your guiding counsel; afterward, you will take me up to abundant riches. In the heavens and on the earth, I take sincere pleasure in you only. Body and soul are spent, but God is the rock of my soul, and is my portion forever. Those who are far from you shall perish; you have destroyed all that go lusting away from you. But it is good for me to draw near to God: to make my refuge the LORD God, that I may declare all your works.

--- Reflections in prayer ---

Lord you are faithful and unchanging to all of your chosen people, and this is an undisputed fact of your nature and essence! I have often been caught up in my own thoughts of the many that enjoy extreme pleasure in this present physical world. There is danger of bitterness developing within me for being envious of the opulence I can observe all around, especially in our age of industrial and electronic marvels. It is common for your name to be maligned and mocked, and for those who have wealth and influence to claim they have accomplished all their success through their own efforts. Without your Word to guide me, I would easily, conclude that it seems that righteousness is not rewarded above unrighteousness. If this were true, than why not take any and all opportunities to have personal gain, regardless of the consequences to others?

But if I follow such a course of reasoning, and spread this untruth, I would mislead generations that follow me as they cross the path of my life. In the thoughts of my unregenerate mind, this is beyond my comprehension, and troubles me greatly to even think about it. But then, I have entered your sanctuary through my salvation in Christ, and your Spirit has opened the truth of scripture to me. You have set the ungodly on a course, which they will follow, to their own destruction. Death will come upon them so quickly; it will be like waking from a dream. You will forget them as their life passes, and they will find they were only in a temporal existence like that of a dream, but now face eternal separation from God.

Through the realization of your complete holiness and omnipotence, I am gripped by the feeling of how foolish I was before my salvation, and sometimes even now, when I forget your grace. Nevertheless, you have continually held me by my right hand, leading me as your child in love. With this thought I can be overwhelmed with joy: while on earth you are my guide, and soon you will receive me where you are, because you have gone to prepare a place for me! So, on the earth or in heaven, you are the truth source of joy and contentment. My body and my soul grow weary here, but the LORD God is the rock of my soul now, and will be my portion forever. Those who remain far from you will suffer eternal death, for you destroy all those who reject your salvation. But it is good for me to draw near to you my LORD, to make my refuge in you, and to declare all your mighty and marvelous works. Hallelujah, Amen.

Published 4 June 2004, first issued 15 September 1999