June 1, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Psalm 73)

Submitted by Chul K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Psalm 73

Key Verse

v.28  But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the sovereign LORD my shelter; I will tell of all your deeds.

God is …

God is good to people who are pure in heart.  God is merciful and patient to even the arrogant during their lives on earth. God is the only one who issues final assessment upon the lives of people. God is the one who teaches me truth about who He is, who I am, and how I should live my life. God reveals these precious truths again and again when I enter his sanctuary to surrender my ego and to worship Him.  God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  God is my shelter. God is the sovereign LORD who brings judgment against the arrogant in his time.  It is good to be near God. God is the only one who gives everlasting meaning to everything that exists in the world. Even good things in this world are transient and will eventually expire and forgotten. Only God is eternal and so are whatever and whoever He acknowledges.

Lessons for me …

It is good to be near God especially when I am confused and cynical about faith in God due to seemingly discouraging experiences that I run into. The psalmist’s honest struggle in reconciling God’s justice and goodness for his own people with seemingly successful lives of the arrogant was finally resolved when he entered the sanctuary of God–which means he was in the experience of worshipping God. It is encouraging to see how God would reveal himself ever more clearly and would not mind teaching me truth about Him again and again when I approach Him with honest struggles and questions regarding Christian life. There is always hope of healing, changing of mind (repentance), and reviving of the soul when I put myself in God’s presence. Satan always discourages me not to come near God when I feel like I am not in a “godly” mode and my heart and mind are filled with a sense of defeat, discouragement, and cynicism. But, this psalm teaches me that those times of confusion and bitterness would be the very moments when I need God’s presence in my life more than ever. In his own words, the psalmist said he was senseless and beast-like when he entertained these thoughts of complaints, bitterness, and cynicism. Yet, as confused and bitter as he was, he decided to enter God’s sanctuary.  He decided to be near God, which seemed to be the only deliberate effort that he made to get out of the bitter, confused, and cynical state of his heart.  Even in the midst of tremendous disappointment and discouragement, when he came closer to God, and when he put himself in a place of worshipping God, to his surprise, God revealed to him the truth which led him to a new horizon of completely different perspective about life.  He was reminded of how fleeting those people’s success was and how dreadful it would be for them to face God’s judgment utterly unprepared. Indeed, he now realized that it is good to be near God. There is no one but God he can desire in this world. He experienced spiritual revival. I should do the same.

Another lesson is that I should not come to a conclusion too quickly by saying words of complaints and bitterness even when I feel like saying it emotionally.  The power of words is such that when I recklessly express my complaining heart, it tends to reinforce my negative feelings. It also brings discouragement to others around me.

Lastly, it is indeed a blessing to receive God’s constant intervention in my life whenever I am on a wrong track. Considering my life in the past as well as the present, I have to acknowledge that it is a blessing that not a lot of things in my life went as well as I wished. The first description of the evil people whom the psalmist was envious of was “the arrogant.”  They were fundamentally arrogant because they thought they did not need God, which means that they thought they could handle their lives without counting on God. They were lucky enough that everything that they touched seemed to go well, even more than they expected. Yet, because of these series of successes in their lives, they ended up being so deluded about their fundamental limitation in life that they put their trust upon themselves rather than God. As for them, the issue of believing in God or not, was not a question of true or false. It was more like an issue of relevance. Even if there is God, they would not care much about Him since they would not see God’s relevance to their lives because their lives seem to go well without bringing God into the picture of their lives. God was simply irrelevant to them. How sad it is to see all these material blessings in their lives turn into a curse when it is the successes in their lives that make them feel so indifferent and irrelevant toward God’s presence in their lives. Indeed, they were on a slippery ground and I have no reason to be envious of them. If I don’t struggle over my sins and failures, if I don’t receive any correction for them, if I always experience success and receive praise and approval from people for whatever I do, then, I would surely feel good about myself, and start to feel like I can do a lot of good things without much help from God. This would be indeed a slippery road to growing away from God. I am genuinely thankful for many of my concerns, failures, as well as God’s correction and guidance in my life because they make me realize how weak, lame, and sinful I am and make me humble and desperate before God.  Indeed, it is good to be near God.

Prayer

Father God, thank you so much for teaching me such precious lessons through this psalm. I must admit I sometimes share the sentiment of bitterness and cynicism as this psalmist’s when things do not go as well as I hoped in my life. When I see the arrogant enjoy success, instead of being concerned about their lack of concern for God’s judgment towards their lives, I am often intimidated by their success and lose sight of their dire need for the gospel. Looking back all those moments, indeed, it was when I entered your sanctuary to worship you even as confused and discouraged as I was, that You revealed the fundamental truth about who You are and who I am and how I should live my life.

Thank you so much for teaching me again and again that You are a Creator of this whole world and there is no real meaning and purpose for my life apart from You. Indeed, everything in our lives, both good and bad, is transient and they come and go and ultimately no one would remember them and nothing would matter at the end of the day unless You bless them and make them eternally meaningful. Oh God, I am like a senseless beast who keeps forgetting what I learned and keep going back to my familiar, self-centered and selfish perspective about life, which make me feel anxious about things that do not matter in the end and feel discouraged when those things did not pan out in the way I want. Please bring me closer to you especially when I am in those moments.  Please shed your light upon my darkened heart and mind again and again through bringing me to a place of worship for God. Indeed, it is good to be near You, God. When I enter your sanctuary, there is true hope of your light of truth enlightening my senseless mind. Please help me to keep entering your sanctuary to receive your grace and mercy in the times like those.  It is a blessing to receive your divine intervention and guidance in my life. I ask you for your continuous counsel in my life so that I may not lose my sense toward life, and that I may be able to teach others of who you are and of all the great things that you have done in my life. Thank you so much for being a good God.  Indeed, You are good to those who seek your presence. Thank you, LORD. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Submitted by Jennifer K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Psalm 73

Key Verse

Psalm 73:1, 28

Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

God is …

God is good and He wants to share His goodness with his people.  It’s because God is good that He wants to rescue us from the destiny of the arrogant and wicked.  Even though the psalmist describes the wicked as having struggle-free and pain-free lives, he also describes plenty of miserable consequences that the wicked experience, as well as a progression toward self-deception and finally destruction.  Wickedness starts with pride, when we think we know better than God and we don’t obey his commands.  Pride is ugly when you see it in a person.  No one wants to be around a proud person because a proud person won’t admit he is wrong and he is stubborn.  Violence comes from pride because a violent person insists on having his way.  As violent people trample on others using force, they develop callous hearts.  Callous hearts are deadened hearts because they have no fear of God.  It also leads to callousness towards people and hurting people through scoffing, malice, and oppression.  They don’t stop using their mouth to hurt others, but their “mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth” (73:9).  That is utter delusion, because no mere human being can possess heaven or earth.  The problem with this kind of arrogance is that such a person cannot know God.

God saves me by showing me what is true from his sanctuary.  When I’ve lost sight of the truth, that’s when I’m in danger of falling.  For the psalmist, the truth became blurred and he started to envy the wicked.  He saw the wicked living carefree lives with health, strength, and prosperity.  His own efforts and struggles to keep his heart pure seemed in vain to him.  But God gave him understanding from his sanctuary to finally see the destiny of the wicked.

God is the best thing in my life.  In the end, it is worth it to have struggles, to do the hard work of keeping my heart pure and even experience being “plagued” and “punished” in my effort to be faithful to God, because to be with God is the only thing that matters in the end.

Lessons for me …

This psalm is a warning of a very real pitfall that the psalmist personally experienced.  He says, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold” (73:2).  What did he almost slip from?  He almost left God.  He was tempted to believe that God was NOT good, because those apart from God seemed to be so happy and prosperous.  But at the end of the psalm he is so thankful and relieved that he was rescued.  He was awakened from the trance-like state he was in.  He has a huge sense of relief that he didn’t fall in the end, because he would have forsaken the best thing in his life, which was God Himself.  He almost slipped because he “envied the arrogant when [he] saw the prosperity of the wicked” (73:3).  He was this close from turning away from God because of how intense the struggle felt and he wanted out.

One lesson for me is how often my envy and my desires are not rooted in reality and don’t make sense intellectually or even from experience, but I’m driven by emotions and cravings for comfort and self-protection.  The psalmist knew that the wicked do have struggles, as life always involves struggle and pain, but his emotions colored his perception of reality.  I think as a Christian over time it’s easy to forget the struggles and pain of my life before following Christ.  As we struggle against our laziness and selfishness to serve God and struggle against our sins and character flaws that hurt others, we can start to envy those who don’t have to struggle with these things.  They do seem so carefree and prosperous.  And after years where we don’t see much progress in our personal lives, the fact that I still have the same issues, and I feel I haven’t changed, I don’t see the fruit, I can relate with the psalmist who says, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence” (73:13).  Especially if I had expectations that following Jesus would bring me certain benefits, and I don’t see that in my life, whether it’s relational impact on others, expectation that I’ll change and become a certain kind of person, or that I should get rewarded with marriage and stable job and good health.  I’ve personally experienced that my mind and judgment could be clouded by my emotions of anger and frustration because of my expectations of how my life should be if I followed God.  At the time that I was struggling with frustration and envy of the carefree and godless life, I knew intellectually that if I left God, I would still have struggles and I would only spiral downward.  But emotionally I felt that I wouldn’t be able to continue much longer being “plagued” and “punished” day and night as I struggled to deal with my sins.

One of the things that saved the psalmist was his connection with the people of God.  In v. 15 he writes, “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed your children.”  Remembering the people of God brought the psalmist back to reality.  His sense of duty and faithfulness to them was a huge source of protection.  Indeed, it’s the people of God who have saved me in the past and continue to serve as reminders for me daily.  As I see my leaders, my peers, and younger ones faithfully serving the Lord, my relationship with them is what exposes the true nature of my rebellious desires.  I can’t euphemize my self-protection, selfishness and greed before the people of God.  I have to call this what the psalmist calls it–betrayal.  It’s only in the context of relationship that I can see how hurtful my sin is.  When I call it betrayal, I have no excuses.  I have no defense.  I’m just a wretched sinner.  All I can do is enter the place I don’t want to go because I’m filled with shame, which is “the sanctuary of God,” but it’s still the only place I can go.  It’s alarming to me how I could go on serving God but not entering his sanctuary.  When I know full well that I’m a sinner, I know that I have no business entering that holy place, the sanctuary where only the holy God can dwell.  But because of God’s mercy, he makes it a sanctuary for me, and he hides me there in his grace.  When I enter the sanctuary of God, he rescues me from the confusion of my sinfulness.   The one most important thing in life becomes absolutely clear, that the only thing I need is God Himself.

Prayer

Psalm 73:1, 28

Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

Lord, You are good, and You have been so good to me.   Thank You for rescuing me when “my feet had almost slipped” and when I had wanted to forsake the struggle of repentance.  I would have missed out on the best relationship in life, to be with you and to know you as “the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  When I start to feel that the struggle You call me to go through is not worth it, I am betraying You and Your people.  You are the one who did the hard work to forgive me of my sins on the cross.  You suffered and died in order to bring me into Your sanctuary.  Your people have suffered and struggled long before and much harder than I ever have.  Please bring me into your sanctuary again.  There is no peace apart from You.  I want to come to You again as my refuge and tell of all your deeds.

Submitted by Angela C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Psalm 73

Key Verse

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

God is …

The psalmist recognizes that God is a good God and that surely He has been good to Israel. I, too, need to regularly confess and to acknowledge who God is and all that He has done in my life. Since last year, I’ve been writing down at least three things that I am thankful for. Through this daily exercise, I was able to see more clearly the greater reality of what God has called me to and to simply develop and to cultivate a grateful heart that sees the glass as over-flowing with grace and blessings beyond what I deserve rather than to hold to the view that my glass is half empty.   If God is good, then He provides everything I need.  Even though it may seem like my life is lacking, these are my wants rather than my needs.  I can trust that God will give what is best for my life.

God has compassion on those who don’t know Him.  They are bound for eternal separation from Him, and that grieves His heart.  God invites me to share in His heart for those who don’t know Him, to share the good news of the gospel with them, and to change their eternal destination.

Lessons for me …

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.

The psalmist anguishes over the fact that he almost slipped and lost his foothold (v.2). How did the psalmist begin to slip and to lose his foothold? It started with “envying the arrogant” when he “saw the prosperity of the wicked” (v. 3). When I start to look at those who live for the world, then I start to slip in my faith. It begins with a subtle admiration of what others have–a well paying job, a nice home, a comfortable life without worries apart from your nuclear family.

16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Apart from a relationship with God and the greater reality that He is calling me to, Christian life does seem “in vain” (v.13). When I have feelings of envy or discontent, I need to voice them honestly and go back to giving thanksgiving to God, which makes me see how inappropriate it is for me to be discontent. Envy is a sin because it is telling God that I am unhappy with what He has given me and that I’m greedy for more and not just more, but more of what I think is best for me and not necessarily what God thinks might be best.  Also the last Sunday service message on Matt 9:35-38 was a reminder of the reality of how Jesus sees people. When I strive to live a carefree life like the world, my final destiny is eternal separation from God. But rather than stopping at this realization, God wants my heart to be broken by the realization that people are like sheep without a shepherd and instead of wasting my time on being envious and wishing that my life be easier, I need to pray to have God’s compassion for others. Instead of thinking that I am oppressed by the world, I need to turn around and see how those who cannot enter the sanctuary of God are the ones who are oppressed and in need of God’s truth. God’s desire for me is that I can share in His heart for people and to see the world the way He does and to want to own the problems of others. The lesson here for me is that as I examine the life that God has called me to, that I do not hide, run away, or get into predictable patterns of life.

Prayer

24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank you that you are a Sovereign and good God and that in you I can take refuge over my sins and struggles. Please forgive me for the times when I have envied the lives of those who do not yet know you. They seemed to have no struggles, but instead seemed to be free from the burdens common to man. However, Lord, you remind of the kind of final destiny and destruction a life panting after the things of this world would ultimately result in. The world and all that it has to offer will one day vanish. Lord, let my prayer be that though my flesh and my heart may fail, that I can say till the very end that you and you alone are my strength and that I can rejoice that you are my portion forever. But let me not stop there. You have given me the grand purpose to tell others of your deeds and altering their eternal destination.  I thank you for this kind of a privileged life despite the fact that I have done nothing to deserve. Amen.

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