Close to Stumbling
Close to Stumbling
“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart! But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:1-3). This is probably a problem that every one of us has had at some point or another. It really doesn't seem fair that the wicked in this life are able to prosper so much, does it? I mean just look at the lives some of them lead! Why do they have it so easy?
The psalmist says that he almost stumbled over this problem. He looked at the arrogant and the wicked and saw that nothing was ever difficult for them. It got so bad that he began to think like we might think sometimes: “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence” (Psalm 73:13). Did you ever think like that? Did you ever begin to wonder why you worked so hard to do the right thing? I have! Now we know that we weren't the first ones to ever think that thought.
It is encouraging to me (and I hope to you) that he stops short of taking this line of reasoning too far. All of us have become frustrated with the apparent futility of being the "good guy," but most of us keep plugging along, not giving in to the temptation to give up, but we may allow ourselves to become cynical and discouraged, thinking it's not doing any good. The psalmist says that if he had gone that far and made these statements out loud, he would have ...betrayed the generation of Your children (Psalm 73:15). That means he would have led some of God's children astray, making them believe that righteousness really was a futile effort. He says the whole problem is troubling and hard to figure out...until he comes to God. Look at verses 16,17: When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. It is in God that we find, not just the answer to the puzzle, but the strength to endure.
Not that we want to glory and revel in the plight of others, or that we want to "dance on their graves," so to speak, but we don't have to be envious of the "good life" that the wicked seem to enjoy. They're headed for judgment. “Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form” (Psalm 73:18-20). I don't know about you, but I don't see anything here that I find attractive now!
Well, enough about the wicked. Yes, we envy them sometimes and we get discouraged when they seem to always come out on top, but we want to know what will help us. It doesn't help me to acknowledge the downfall of someone else! This is where the problem hits me and most of us. We get embittered. I need to get over such bitterness. What do I do?
“When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:21-24). This is the answer to such bitterness. God will lead us out of it. God will encourage us. The key is being continually with Him! The answer is letting His counsel guide us and afterward He will receive us to glory.
“Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works” (Psalm 73:25-28). This is it, isn't it? There is nothing of the wicked that I need covet. God will eventually destroy them and all they have, but the nearness of God really is for our good, isn't it? If you want to have a peace of mind this week that you might not have had before, you can have it if you make Jehovah God your refuge. Donnie Bates