The Final Destiny of the Wicked: Psalm 73

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Today’s Sunday Psalms entry is written by Timothy Tennent.

Psalm 73 (NIV)

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

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
    I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggles;
    their bodies are healthy and strong.
They are free from common human burdens;
    they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
    their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
    with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
    and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
    and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
    Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—
    always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
    and every morning brings new punishments.

21 When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
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.

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

Book Three of the Psalms begins with a collection of eleven psalms from Asaph (Psalms 73–83). Asaph was a gifted poet and musician who was appointed by David as a worship leader in 1 Chronicles 6:39. This section of the Psalter helps us see the remarkable gifts of this ancient worship leader who is fearless in taking on very difficult experiences and helps us to gain, through worship, a divine perspective on them.

One of the most common spiritual ailments, which to one degree or another seems to raise its ugly head among most everyone, is comparing ourselves to others. We often look at the lives of our friends and neighbors and we wish we had their jobs, owned the cars they drive, had more of their physical appearance, had the influence they have, or many other points of comparison. Whether it be our neighbor or some glamorous movie star, most of us can relate to this problem. Psalm 73 focuses on this problem and provides the spiritual remedy.

Asaph looked around at his enemies and saw that, from his perspective, “they have no struggles” (v. 4). “Their bodies are healthy and strong” (v. 4), their lives seem to be carefree, and their wealth seems only to increase (v. 12). When Asaph sees the wicked prospering and the righteous full of strife and difficulty, he starts down that road of self-pity. He says, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence” (v. 13). Many of us have been down this road, so we can relate to Asaph.
In verse 17, the entire force of the psalm begins to change directions. In verse 17, Asaph describes what happens when he enters the temple of God to worship. He says, “[When] I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” In the presence of God we are able to capture the long view and see the final end of the wicked. Even though they seem happy and secure for now, in the end they will be brought to ruin and be left speechless before the judgment seat of God. This psalm stands as an utter rejection of the worldview that has no place for God. In contrast, it helps us to gain a proper perspective on our lives and on the final destiny of the world. There is no better way for this to happen than to enter into God’s presence. In his presence all things are seen in a new light. The loud narratives of this world and culture start growing dimmer, and the great narrative of God’s eternal purposes begins to swallow up all the false narratives of the naturalistic and idolatrous world, which can all too easily hold our attention.

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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