April 12: Psalm 73

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April 12: Psalm 73

Proper perspective on the wicked

Long Meter double 88.88 D                     In Christ Alone
Before the Throne of God Above

God’s surely good to Israel, to every one whose heart is pure.

But as for me, I nearly fell; My footsteps were no longer sure.

For I was envious of the proud, and wicked ones with wealth endowed;

For in their death no pangs they know; Their strength is firm from day to day;

(Repeat last phrase of tune) They have no part in others’ woe,

Nor plagued as mortal men are they.

They make their necklace arrogance, and clothe themselves with violence.

Their hearts o’erflow with wickedness; their minds with evil plans they seek.

They scoff; they threaten to oppress; disdainful words they proudly speak.

Their mouth the heights of heaven raids; their tongue around the world parades.

Their people therefore this way turn, and drink their streams that overflow.

“For how,” they say, “can God discern? And does the Most High really know?”

Behold, ungodly men are these, who gain in wealth and live at ease.

Then surely I have toiled in vain to cleanse my heart from all offense.

(Repeat last phrase of tune) And vainly from each guilty stain, have washed my hands in innocence.

Still grievous plagues all day I’ve borne, and have been chastened every morn.

If I would let my thoughts lead me to speak with doubting words this way,

Behold, the children called by Thee, I certainly would then betray.

But though the facts I tried to see, the problem deeply troubled me.

Then came I to God’s sanctuary, and there considered well their end.

They’re set on slipp’ry ground by Thee, and them to ruin Thou does send.

How rapidly destroyed are they, by sudden terrors swept away!

As one who from a dream awakes, their form, O Lord, You will despise.

So when my heart with grieving breaks, and bitter thoughts within me rise,

I senseless am, and blind within; a beast before Thee I have been.

Yet evermore I am with Thee: Thou holdest me by my right hand.

And Thou, ev’n Thou, my guide shall be; Thy counsel shall my way command.

And afterward in glory bright, Thou shall receive me to Thy sight.

For whom have I in heav’n but Thee? None else on earth I long to know.

My flesh may faint and weary be; my heart may fail and heavy grow;

With strength does God my heart restore; He is my portion evermore.

They perish that are far from Thee; in their unfaithfulness they die.

But surely it is good for me that unto God I should draw nigh.

I’ve taken refuge in His Name, that all Thy works I may proclaim.

With strength does God my heart restore; He is my portion evermore.

Psalm 73 is concerned with much the same moral dilemma as Job and Habakkuk —“If God is just and on the side of justice, and if also God is almighty, why do wickedness and injustice seem to prevail?” Already in this, its most elementary moral presupposition-—its basic sentiment of hope, expecting goodness and justice to prevail over evil and injustice—Psalm 73 stands radically at odds with much of our present popular philosophy. Indeed, one of the more characteristic features of the modern world is its growing inability to presume that the moral order, including the social order, is rooted in the metaphysical order. Relatively few people in today’s culture seem any longer able to presuppose that they live in a moral universe where the differences between right and wrong, justice and injustice, are fixed in the composition of reality. In a world whose only presumed rule is the survival of the fittest, why would anyone anticipate that justice and goodness would prevail? For Psalm 73, however, since it presupposes the identification of the world’s Creator with the Author of the moral law, the prevalence of evil in the world is the stuff of a crisis. Even as the psalm begins, the crisis has already been worked through, so to speak, and the prayer simply reviews the reflective process that brought about its resolution. The believer reflects on the judgments of God, who knows how to deal with the unjust, and will, at the last, do so. Finally, the believer commits his own destiny to God, who will never abandon him, ever be with him, and at the end, receive him into glory. (Reardon, p. 143-144)

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