Psalms 73-74: Devastation and Distress – God’s Answer: Part I
Introduction: All is Not Lost No Matter How it May Appear
Introduction: This five-part series: Psalms 73-74: devastation and distress gives God’s answer at a time when the Davidic monarchy had fallen. Asaph looked at the circumstances initially from his perspective and concluded frightening things. Asaph came to his senses. He viewed the reality of devastation and distress through God’s answer and there was victory.
Book III of the Psalter is composed of seventeen Psalms (Psalms 73-89). These psalms introduce an entirely different perspective in the life of God’s covenant people. According to God’s providence, life had changed dramatically for Israel’s king and Israel. There was now distress in the midst of the collapse of the Davidic kingdom. Psalms 73-74 captures the devastation and distress of and in Israel but more importantly, God’s answer. Devastation and distress – God’s answer are never to be divorced. When they are are, the person and nation are living the lie.
Consequently there was a paradigm shift in the Psalter’s emphasis. In book III the central focus of the Psalter is no longer on David and his activity as the messianic king and God’s anointed in establishing his and Yahweh’s kingdom of righteousness, peace, and prosperity. The kingdom had collapsed and the glory departed Jerusalem. In the place of glory there was distress and devastation – of the people and the land. Yet the psalmist of Psalm 73-74 viewed the devastation and distress and concluded that God had not left His people.
For review, it is well to remember that the theme of book I (Psalms 1-41) is the rise of the Davidic kingdom with conflict and confrontation within and without the kingdom. The theme of book II (Psalms 42-72) centers on the glories and rise of the Davidic kingdom and communication both within and outside Israel.
However, beginning with book III (Psalms 73-89) there is a theme change. The theme is one of collapse. The glory had departed. Israel has been defeated and there is distress, devastation, and desolation throughout the land. God’s enemies had seemingly won the battle. God’s enemies were Israel’s enemies but Israel failed to acknowledge this fact. Israel had sold herself to God’s enemies (spiritual and physical adultery) and there were severe consequences. God scattered His people into exile. Devastation and distress – God’s answer was the only answer!
As a result of rebellious Israel’s demise, most of the Psalms in book III deal with Israel as a corporate community. In contrast, books I and II of the Psalter were predominantly individualistic – written in the first person. An “I” perspective was common in books I and II but not so in book III. However, Psalm 73-74 are one of the few psalms in book III that is written in the first person.
International enemies were on the prowl and were God’s agents to subdue and humiliate Israel. The devastation of Israel and the distress of people came and was manifested at the collapse of the Davidic kingdom. Book III concluded on a very sad note. The throne and crown of the Davidic king was cast into the dust (Psalm 89:38-39, 44). Who would have dreamt that this would happen? The author of Psalm 89 gave an unexpected and startling answer: it was Yahweh, the God of the Davidic covenant who brought the distress and devastation (Psalm 89:18, 39, 44-46). A logical question surfaced concerning the faithfulness of God: had God failed His people? If He did then He was not trustworthy.
Book III is divided into two parts. Psalms 73-83 as well as Psalm 50 are ascribed to Asaph and Psalms 84-85, 87-88 are ascribed to the Sons of Korah who also authored Psalms 42-49. David authored a single Psalm in book III (Ps. 86). Thus, in book III two thirds of the psalms are ascribed to Asaph and one third to the Sons of Korah. Asaph, of the tribe of Levi, was thought to be one of David’s three chief musicians (the other two were Hemen and Jeduthun). He was put in charge of the worship music (1 Chronicles 6:39). Sons of these men were appointed by David as temple musicians. There was a generational responsibility for the music of the temple that continued even after David’s death.
Psalms 73-74 open Book III and introduce the reality of Israel’s situation: devastation and distress but with God’s answer. Psalm 73 is a personal lament and Psalm 74 is a corporate prayer asking God to come to the aid of His people. The truths contained in the series: Psalm 73-47: Devastation and Distress – God’s answer is applicable today as well. Each Psalm centers on the “bad guys” and their seeming winning ways. The psalmist wants to how and why. Asaph’s individual perspective of Israel’s situation was much like the writer of the book of Lamentations, apparently Jeremiah.
Both of these men gazed at the predicament of their beloved city and land with a mixture of shock and hopelessness. Devastation and distress filled the land and people. They concluded the realty that Israel was in deep trouble (Lamentations 1:1-6; 2:5-6; 4:1). In another sense Asaph’s initial perspective is similar to that of Habakkuk. Asaph looked at Israel’s enemies and wondered how it was possible for them to be winning. Habakkuk rightly surmised that Israel was a wicked nation and wondered why Yahweh was so slow in correcting her (Habakkuk 1:1-4). In each case, wicked nations seemed to be winning and wicked Israel seemed to be losing. How could that be?
In response to God’s providence, each of the authors experienced inner-man turmoil. There was distress within their very souls. In Psalm 73-74, Asaph made an honest appraisal of Israel’s situation and concluded that the “bad guys” – the wicked – were winning. Israel was in the throes of very hard times. he knew Israel had failed God. But from his perspective, the wickedness of Israel’s enemies trumped Israel’s wickedness. However, in the end, Asaph emphasized the sovereignty of God and His good control.
Psalm 73 is an individualistic psalm that centers on Asaph’s response to the presumed shalom of the wicked and absence of shalom which Yahweh had been promised to Israel (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6). Asaph wrestled with the temporal destiny of boastful, wicked nations, enemies of Israel on the outside (73:3-5). Seemingly they flourished at the expense of Israel. Asaph begins his Psalm with a statement of fact: God is good and He is good to the pure in heart (73:1). Asaph knew that Israel was Gods people but he was also aware that Israel had failed to function as a godly nation. They were not pure in heart but neither were the ungodly nations.
Asaph was a man of God. One of the major themes of all the psalms authored by Asaph is God’s sovereign rule over His people and all nations. The force of this conviction comes clear as Asaph counsels himself to accurately interpret circumstances. Psalms 73-74 provide God’s answer for devastation and distress. God’s answer is the balm that all Israel needed. The series: psalm 73-74: devastation and distress is intended to capture those truths.
1. The Psalter has a context. Book III gives a perspective on the devastation in Israel due to her idolatry and God’s judgment. How does Asaph begin Psalm 73 and what is its significance?
2. How was Asaph able to make such a statement?
3. In the end, what determined Asaph’s final conclusions? Was it his circumstances, his feelings, or his logic in contrast to being led by the truth about and from Yahweh?
Psalms 73-74: God’s Answer for Distress amid Devastation: Part II
Initial Conclusions: Psalm 73:1, 2-12, 13-14
Continuing our study of Psalms 73-74: devastation and distress, it is important to put the Psalms of Asaph in perspective. The Psalms authored by Asaph (Psalms 73-83 plus Psalm 50) emphasize God’s rule over Israel and other nations. In that sense they are kingly psalms. But the setting is often in the midst of Israel’s failure and demise and her enemies taking control and resultant distress and devastation. Such is depicted in Psalms 73-74.
Asaph often expressed God’s sovereignty by picturing Him as Deliverer, Savior, and King of His people. Moreover, Asaph was confident that Yahweh was approachable. Thus Asaph made honest assessments of Israel, her plight, and her conquerors and he presented his thoughts to Yahweh. Psalm 73 is one such assessment and presentation. Psalms 73-74: devastation and distress give a picture of a man who comes to his senses and correctly understands.
However, these were hard, unexpected times for Israel. Israel’s destiny was more troublesome given her prior position as a result of God’s covenantal faithfulness. Yahweh was Israel’s husband and she was Yahweh’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22-24; Jeremiah 3:4; 31:9; Hosea 11:1-4). Based on the circumstances and in spite of Israel’s failures, it appeared, even felt like, God had made a mistake and had not kept His promise. Devastation and distress were everywhere. Psalms 73-74: devastation and distress refreshingly unpacks God’s answer.
In Psalm 73, Asaph spoke as an individual and his initial thoughts are given in verse 1: Surely God is good to Israel, those who are pure in heart. Asaph expressed the fundamental truth that God is good and approachable. Yet in the moment, this truth seemed so distant and unreal as he witnessed distress and devastation. In verse 2, he wrote that his foot (himself) almost slipped. Good is an interesting term. David used the term in Psalm 34:8 when he called the people to come and taste and see that God was good. Good summarizes all that God is as God.
The phrase: God is good, is equal to saying: God is. Everything that God should be as God is summarized in the word good. God is good in His Being and what He gives. Yet when Asaph surveyed Israel all he saw was “bad.” He was in danger of reading God through circumstances – distress and devastation – rather the circumstances through the person and character of God.
Asaph knew God but he demurred as in verses 2-12. When he looked at the circumstances and his own reaction (devastation and distress) the people who God used to spank (discipline) Israel, he began to doubt his assessment as given in verse 1 and ultimately the goodness of God. The invaders and conquering armies were winning! They enjoyed every advantage that was initially Israel’s. These advantages were being denied God’s people! God’s covenant people were in trouble – distress and devastation – and Asaph wanted to know where was God.
In verses 2-12, Asaph contrasted himself with God and the pure in heart. He once was pure in heart but not now. Verse 2 described it well: my feet had almost slipped and I nearly lost my foothold (v. 2). There was a time when he was pure in heart! He gives a but now. In the following verses he presented his fall out of grace but not out of his salvation. He provided proof that he was impure in heart. He envied the wicked and their seeming prosperity.
The foreign invaders who had taken Israel captive now enjoyed advantages that were rightfully Israel’s (v.3). Israel has distress and devastation rather than the “good life” he described in verse 4. The invaders appeared to have what he and Israel did not have but wanted – they had no struggles; good health, strong bodies; freedom; and no burdens or human ills (v. 3-5).
He accurately defined the wicked as proud (v. 6), having callous hearts with evil contents of their minds/hearts (v.7), and scoffers and arrogant speakers of malice who threatened oppression (v. 8). Moreover, they laid claim to heaven and the earth (v. 9-10) and they bad-mouthed and mocked God (v.11-12). They denied God’s knowledge let alone His omniscience and omnipotence.
Even though Asaph acknowledged the wicked as wicked, he described them as “having it all together” and prospering. Asaph was doubleminded. He was convinced that they had increased wealth and a carefree life (v.12) and that the wicked had no struggles or burdens – they had no bond, fetter, or chain (v.4-5, 12). All of these Israel now had summarized as distress and devastation.
The wicked were carefree and released from the burdens so common to man. Seemingly, they were not plagued by human ills. Asaph’s perceptions were based on what Israel had now, what Israel had had, and what the wicked had now. To make matters worse Asaph knew that God was in control.
Asaph was faced with the reality of God and His trustworthiness. Was Israel His covenant people? How was he to understand the circumstances? His dilemma was similar to Job’s. Job knew he had a viable and beautiful relationship with God. His circumstances seemed to say otherwise. He demanded that God give him an answer. God did not but He gave Job Himself. Job repented (Job 42:2-6).
Verses 13-14 expressed the result of Asaph’s “comparative religion.” Based on his understanding and interpretation of the situation, he determined that he had made a mistake – a big one. He was on the “wrong” side. In fact, it was futile and useless for him or anyone to be part of God’s covenant people. Being a believer was a bummer. The proof of this conclusion was the circumstances.
If Asaph applied his logic to the cross, Jesus was a loser and the cross was absurd. His thought could be summarized “look at what the other guys have as compared to me. They have a cake walk and Israel and I have trouble on top of trouble – distress and devastation.” Instead of the wicked being plagued, he said he and the nation were. He concluded this was not fair.
A turning point begins to appear in verse 15. As he reflected on his words in verses 13-14, he was amazed that he would entertain such thoughts and conclude what he did. He did not believe that he would ever think and speak the way he did about God and His providence to himself or to God. He realized that what he was thinking and saying was pure foolishness. He was coming to his senses (Luke 15:17-18). God always has His answer for devastation and distress.
1. What was Asaph’s situation?
2. Give reasons why it is easy to read Yahweh from circumstances rather than circumstances according to biblical truth?
3. What was the basis for his wrong conclusion?
4. What was one truth about Israel that Asaph apparently ignored?
5. How was Asaph like Job?
Psalms 73-74: Part III
Victory through God’s Perspective: Psalm 73:16-20
Continuing our study of Psalms 73-74: devastation and distress, we know that Asaph was a gifted individual. He understood where the gift of music came from, and he used his music to praise the Lord and communicate His Word to a needy world. However, as this psalm demonstrated, people in God’s service must be vigilant. Asaph came to his senses. But like Job, initially he could not figure out God and what He was doing. A proper view of Asaph’s relationship with God and God’s relationship with Asaph and Israel was trumped by Asaph’s reliance on his own understanding and his dependence on experience and feelings. He read God from the circumstances rather than the circumstances through biblical truth.
In verse 2, he wrote he almost slipped, meaning he was about to “blow it.” For a time, he did follow the lead of the arrogant and ignorant, the impure in heart. In his thinking, the wicked were everybody but him. Israel had failed to bow the knee to God and they deserved God’s discipline. But not the way He was doing it! Asaph did not understand or like God’s discipline and His refining fire. How can it be that God was disciplining Israel? He knew but when faced with its reality and God’s method he was dismayed.
However, in verses 16-20, there was a paradigm shift in his thinking and wanting. He came to his senses. God was truly in control. Now he contemplated the situation from God’s perspective rather than his own. No reason is given for this shift except that he entered into the sanctuary of God (v. 17). I suspect that Asaph was referring to coming into God’s presence, thinking God’s thoughts, and desiring what God desires. Moreover, the psalmist recalled and mediated upon that non-negotiable truth expressed in verse 1: God is good – circumstances don’t change that fact. Later, he wrote that when judging God’s trustworthiness and goodness from appearances and experiences he functioned as a “brute beast” – an animal (73:21-22).
The “now” must be seen through the eyes of saving faith and biblical truth which enabled him to look past the situation to the God of it. The reality of distress and devastation was an opportunity to see with “God’s eyes.” “Rather than life for the “now” he understood the present via the future. Our time is in God’s hand (Psalm 31:15). There is an end and eternal destiny for all (73:18-19). God is always on His throne as Ruler and Controller irrespective of circumstances. Moreover, God must have a purpose, one of which is given in 73:23-26: God’s presence is to be desired above all else.
Growth in fellowship and intimacy with God was the key. God will destroy His enemies in due time – His time (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). The psalmist came to realize that God’s people had failed to be pure in heart (Psalm 73:1; Matthew 5:8). God deserves loyalty, affection, devotion – single-minded allegiance. Israel had not done that. But God had not left His people. God was trustworthy.
In reality, Asaph had distanced himself from God. He has lived the lie! He was far from God but God was not far from him. He thought sensually, temporally, and physically rather than suprasensually, spiritually, and eternally. His perspective was wrong. He thought in terms of the now without the eternal. It wasn’t until he began to consider God, life (God’s providence), self, and others from God’s perspective that he gained victory.
In essence, he concluded that life now and God’s design for believers is not simply about now. Rather, being in God’s presence now and in eternity are God’s desire, design, and goal for His people and the Triune God. The true now of this life is based on the fact that resurrection life begins now (Romans 6:9-11; 2 Corinthians 5:7. 9). Eternal life begins now. Asaph lived on the Old Testament side of the cross but he understood that salvation is about mote than a fire escape out of hell. It is anew life lived now and eternally with distress and devastation!
Every believer has an eternal perspective by virtue of his union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. As a result, the believer will think and desire from a heavenly perspective. He will then to act accordingly and he will be of earthly good. Since every believer is in Christ and since Christ is in heaven, the believer has an inheritance and residence in heaven with Him (Colossians 3:1-3; 1 Peter 1:3-5). These facts should motivate believers to think, desire, and act like Christ while God has them on this earth (1 John 3:1-3).
Those with an unbiblical now-mindset focus on what others have and they don’t have. A now mindset leads to misery on the earth and to hell eternally (Proverbs 13:15; Psalms 16:4; 32:10). Asaph had a clearer understanding of the now. He was satisfied with the truth that man’s destiny is more than what happens in this life. Asaph’s paradigm change is expressed by David in Psalm 34:8 (Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.) and by Paul in Philippians 3:7-11. Paul counted everything loss (the now) for the surpassing knowledge of knowing Christ Jesus (the eternal which begins at salvation).
Asaph was now trusting in the Lord rather than self. He expressed confidence in the Lord as he honestly thirsted for the Lord’s righteousness and justice. He relied on the fact that God would reward the righteous and punish the evildoers. Asaph knew that God would act in His time, His way, for His glory and for the good of Israel (v.20). That was good enough for him!
1. Asaph was a godly man. What happened?
2. How does the “old Asaph compare with Esau in Genesis 25:29-34?
3. How does the new Asaph compare to the Prodigal in Luke 15:17-18?
Psalms 73-74: God’s Answer: Come to One’s Senses: Part IV
Psalm 73:21-22, 23-26, 27-28
Continuing our study of Psalms 73-74: devastation and distress, we find that Asaph had come to his senses (v.16-20). In verse 21-22, Asaph was grieved and embittered – inner-man angst – sorrow, anguish, and turmoil. He was surrounded and drowning in the devastation outside of him. He was distressed within. Asaph described his inner-man turmoil as violent and sharp (the meaning of the words in the original language). He wrote that he was thinking like an animal. He was senseless and ignorant, a brute beast before God.
There was a battle, a war going on in his inner person. He described his problem. It was not the wicked and that which was outside of him. Nor was God the problem. He concluded that he was the problem! He was living animal-like according to feelings with a now, me first, rely on my understanding approach to life. He had adopted the mantra: for me, by me, and to me according to my feelings. Self-centeredness ruled and therefore God had to answer to him.
His sorrow and turmoil resulted from living the lie. God was in control but God’s control was not according to Asaph’s idea of control. Such it was for Job. Asaph came to his senses and reconsidered himself (v.21-22). He had thought like an animal and not as an image bearer of God. Animals are out for themselves. They take, never say thank you, and expect you to serve them. Such it was for Asaph. However, God did not leave Asaph. Therefore Asaph was able to give words of life to himself and for every generation after him (v.23-26).
Verses 23-26 contain a fundamental creed for every believer that models Christ’s way of life. Asaph acknowledged God’s presence and guidance.
v.23: Yet I am always with you: you hold me by my right hand.
v.24: You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory.
v.25: Whom I have in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
v.26: My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Asaph expressed the ever-presence of God by an “I to God” phrase: I am always with you. Asaph had known that God was ever-present but like Job and David, God’s presence had been a burden. Job and Asaph could not figure God out. In his turnabout, Asaph not only referenced God but he also referenced himself. He was in God’s presence because God was always with him and even in him by the Holy Spirit. Asaph now appreciated God’s presence. What he had considered to be a burden he now considered a blessing.
Asaph made a life-changing statement of faith: God is all he needs and desires (v.25-26). Those words flow from a man who taken things into his own hands and concluded that God had it wrong. Circumstances proved that fact. Asaph looked at people and circumstances but not through the God of them who happened to be his God. It was only when he reversed the priority of his gaze that he changed.
Asaph began with God and moved to circumstances viewing them from God’s perspective. He put himself in his proper place. He humbled himself and declared that he was not God. He did not think this testimony was a burden. It was a blessing and a relief; it was a time of growth. Such is one of the beauties of the answers given in Psalm 73-74: devastation and distress.
The psalmist’s mantra in verses 23-26 is very similar to Paul’s words in Philippians 3:7-11. Both authors expressed a desire for a level of intimacy with the Triune God as they moved from a “now” philosophy of life and sensual living (interpreting God and His providence solely via the senses) in contrast to suprasensual living (interpreting God’s providence and drawing conclusions via the eyes of saving faith and true hope: 2 Corinthians 5:7, 9; Romans 8:24-25). God will have the victory and His people will enjoy the fruits of the victory but only in His time.
As all the saints, Asaph was imitating Christ. Jesus understood the reality, value, and beauty of a relationship with the Father for His sheep and for Himself (John 10:25-30; 16:31-33). Therefore, Jesus had an eternal, suprasensual perspective of life and it affected His present-day living (John 4:31-34; Hebrews 12:1-3). Jesus pointed Himself heavenly and eternally in order for Him to be of earthly good. And He was! So, it should for every believer.
In the closing verses (v. 27-28), Asaph returned to the subject of a person’s present life and his eternal destiny in the midst of the truths of devastation and deliverance. In verse 27, he wrote that those far from God – the wicked and unfaithful of verses 2-12, 27 – are destroyed by God (Matthew 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). His conclusion was based on the truth that God is the just Judge who will right wrongs in His time, His way. In verse 28, Asaph concluded with a personal note: it was good to be near God. Asaph is speaking of intimacy with God as he thinks God’s thoughts and desires what God desires. Those far off – the unfaithful – will perish.
Asaph had come full circle and so have we. The series: Psalms 73-74: devastation and distress offers help and hope for all believers so that they do not live the lie. He spoke about himself in verse 2: his foot almost slipped. Asaph knew it was God who sustained him and brought him back into the fold. Therefore Asaph closed the psalm with the testimony that the Lord is his refuge. Consequently he vowed to be a soul-winner as David did (Psalm 51:12; James 5:20).
1. How did Asaph counsel himself? See Luke 15:17-18.
2. Initially, how was Asaph like Esau? See Genesis 25:29-34.
3. Consider the “now” approach to life in Genesis 25:29-34, Philippians 3:19, Psalm 73:22, and James 3:13-15. Record the situations in which you are tempted to live sensually.
4. Consider the suprasensual approach to life as given in 2 Corinthians 5:7, 9; John 4:31-34; and 1 John 3:1-3. What is the major focus?
5. How do 2 Corinthians 5:7, 9 help to have a proper vertical reference in life?
6. As a believer you are a new creature in Christ (Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17). What is the significance of that change for living suprasensually?
Psalms 73-74: God’s Answer for Devastation and Distress from Psalm 74: Part V
Continuing our study of Psalms 73-74: devastation and distress, as indicated previously, Psalms 73-74 begin book III of the Psalter. The focus of Psalm 73-74: devastation and distress of God’s people and God’s answer has come full circle. The Davidic kingdom was collapsing and seemingly God’s faithfulness to Israel. In Psalm 73, Asaph presented his individual perspective on Israel’s fortunes of devastation and distress. He made conclusions that were animal-like until he came to his senses which he did. In the end, he did an about face and said he could not get enough of God (v.25-26).
The position and content of Psalm 73-74 is similar to that in Psalms 42-43. Both are the opening Psalms of their respective books (books II and III) written by the same author; both authors describe their reaction to God’s providence; both authors record how they were tempted to read God from the circumstances; both record a paradigm shift in their perspective as they begin to properly counsel themselves (Psalms. 42:5, 11; 43:1 and Psalms. 73:13-18; 74:12, 20); and both record victory based on God’s faithfulness and their relationship to Him.
Psalm 74 more pointedly identifies the “bad guys” as the invading armies of international enemies. Their coming brought devastation to the people and the land. In the psalm, Asaph focused on the defilement of Zion and the temple, the place where God met with His people (74:5-8). God’s presence was being denied Israel! This must have struck home when you considered verses 16-22 in Psalm 73. It was in the presence of God that Asaph had his awakening.
These enemies and their invading armies were attacking God as well as God’s people. The Northern Kingdom had fallen and now the Southern Kingdom was in disarray and in chaos. The entire Southern Kingdom was being divested of its glory, its gold, its treasures, and soon its people (see 2 Kings 24:10-13). The final fall of the Southern Kingdom and Jerusalem was described in Psalm 79 (2 Kings 25:1-9). Life in exile was a reality. It was God’s judgment and Israel’s sentence for arrogant and ignorant rebellion.
In contrast to Psalm 73, Asaph speaks corporately in the form of a prayer. He opened with an appeal to God in the form of a question: Why have you rejected us forever O God? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? (v.1). He then asked God to remember His people whom He had purchased and whom He called His inheritance (v.2-3). Asaph appealed to God’s covenantal faithfulness – His promise-making and promise-keeping. Confidently yet humbly he asked how long God would “hold back His hand” (v.10-11). Asaph knew that God was God and that He ruled. He had learned the lesson described in Psalm 73.
Asaph followed the two questions in verses 10-11 with a paradigm shift in his thinking as recorded in verse 12: But you O God are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth. Asaph held on to and held out the truth that God is Israel’s king and his king. He is their hope and Savior. Asaph did not know when or how deliverance was coming but he did not let circumstances deter him from his Lord.
In verses 13-17, he remembered and recalled the unchanging, promise-making and promise-keeping God. He reflected on God’s previous care of Israel. He recorded a series of past activities by God which were the basis for and confirmation of God’s power, might, and trustworthiness to Israel. In the past, God had power which He wielded for His people and His own name. These recollections underscored Israel’s position with God and gave Asaph hope.
Asaph closed the psalm with a prayer (verses 18-23). He appealed to God for the continuation of His care in verses 18-19. This is a far cry from his initial perspective as given in Psalm 73. He focused on the simple truths that God is and He had acted in the past on behalf of His people for His own sake. In verse 20, Asaph confidently prayed for God to have regard for your covenant.
In spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness, Asaph appealed to and praised God for His covenantal faithfulness (v. 21-23). Asaph knew that God had proclaimed to Israel that I will be your God and you will be my people (Exodus 6:6-8 and 19:5-6; Deuteronomy 26:17-18; Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 7:23; 11:4; 30:22; 31:1, 33; Ezekiel 11:20; 36:28; Hosea 1:9-10; 2:23 – Romans 9:26; 1 P 2:10). Asaph, in spite of Israel’s predicament, had no reason to doubt that Israel’s unchangeable God would not continue to be Israel’s God and honor His promises. However, Asaph did not know what form that God’s faithfulness would take but he trusted. He interpreted the current events based on God’s trustworthiness.
Paul brought the full force of the truth of God’s covenantal faithfulness home as recorded in 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 and 5:5. In Christ is God’s amen so that God’s yes is yes and His no is no. Christ and His Messiahship summarized the whole of redemptive history (John 6:37-43; 17:1-5, 24-26). In eternity past, the covenant of redemption was instituted; in the present, God works to seek and save His people in Christ by the Holy Spirit; and in the future, Christ will come to fulfil and consummate God’s promises.
In Christ, God has fulfilled and is continuing to fulfil His covenant promises. Asaph lived on the Old Testament side of the cross. Yet, in the end, he was not dismayed but trusted. Every Christian should be encouraged all the more because they live on the New Testament side of the cross. They have the fuller revelation of the Trinity’s redemptive plan. The lessons from Psalms 73-74: devastation distress should be an encouragement so that believers don’t live the lie.
1. Simple biblical truths about God and self are to be used for the glory of God and the blessing of His people. What truths are evident in Psalms 42-43 and 73-74?
2. Asaph was tempted to do what?
3. In Psalms 73-74, there was a turning point.
a. What was it and how did it come about? What were the results?
b. What truth led did Asaph grasp that enabled him to come to his senses? See Psalm 73:1, 16-20.