Psalms 73 • August 23, 2023 • t1270
Pastor John Miller teaches a topical message through Psalm 73 titled, “Settled In The Sanctuary.”
73:1 A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. 5 They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men. 6 Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment. 7 Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish. 8 They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; They speak loftily. 9 They set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue walks through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return here, And waters of a full cup are drained by them. 11 And they say, "How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?" 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. 13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. 14 For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning. 15 If I had said, "I will speak thus," Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children. 16 When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me-- 17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end. 18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. 19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. 20 As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image. 21 Thus my heart was grieved, And I was vexed in my mind. 22 I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. 24 You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. 26 My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. 28 But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.
I want to read just the first three verses to get us started. Asaph says, “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. 2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone,”—and notice he says—“my steps had well nigh slipped,”—and he gives us the reason, verse 3—“For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
Have you ever looked at the circumstances of your life and been tempted (I emphasize the word “tempted”) to believe that God is not fair or God is not good. Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to “good people” and good things happen to “bad people” and you say, “Well, I read my Bible,” or “I go to church,” or “I’m a Christian, but it doesn’t seem to benefit me at all. I suffer all the time. I’m sick, and I need help all the time.” You start looking at the wicked or the ungodly and, like Asaph in verse 3, you begin to be, “…envious at the foolish,” and their prosperity. We get our eyes off of God and get our eyes on others and begin to feel that God is not fair or that God is not good.
All through the Bible we find great men and women of God who struggled with this. Job actually had a struggle with this. He had all his family wiped out in a single day—you talk about having a bad day—and Job was left with only his wife who said, “Why don’t you just curse God and die.” “Thank you, sweetheart, I needed that encouragement.” They needed to come to my marriage study, I guess. Job had to come to the conclusion, you know, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, “…blessed be the name of the LORD…Though he slay me,”—I love this, Job said—“yet will I trust in him.”
Then I think of the prophet Jeremiah. You know, Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. He wrote the book of Lamentations, which is the book of weeping. Jeremiah preached his whole ministry, a whole lifetime, to the nation of Israel and never saw one convert. Did you know that? He never saw anyone listen to him, believe him, turn or repent. Sometimes I’ve wondered, “Could I keep going year after year after year preaching and not see one convert or no one want to hear the Word of the Lord?” But Jeremiah was faithful in spite of the circumstances that he was in. He was thrown into a dungeon, thrown into a pit, he was arrested and abused for his preaching, but he remained faithful.
I think of Habakkuk who preached and saw the wicked prospering and the wicked coming against the people of God and God using a sinful, wicked nation to judge the people of Israel. He said, “Lord, I don’t understand. It doesn’t make sense to me. Why are You allowing this?” He said, “I’m just going to go up into the tower, and I’m just going to pray and wait on You until You speak to me and show me what You’re doing.” That’s the one time when Habakkuk wrote, “…the just shall live by faith.” You might really give that as a title to Psalm 73. It’s a reminder that we need to live by faith and not by sight, that we’re pilgrims and have to stand on God’s promises and “…looked for a city…whose builder and maker is God.”
In Psalm 73, Asaph shares with us his own struggle when God didn’t seem to make sense. So, in his trial and in his faith, Asaph looked four directions. I’ve always liked to take this Psalm and divide it into four directions that Asaph looked. If you’re taking notes, you can write them down. First of all he looked back. He starts the psalm by giving his conclusions, and he starts by writing in retrospect. He’s already been through the trial. He’s come out the tunnel with light at the end trusting in God victoriously, so in the first three verses he’s basically looking back and explaining that he went into this horrible trial when he doubted God. There are two facets to it. First, there’s his conclusion, it actually starts with his conclusion in verse 1. Secondly, verses 2-3, is his confusion.
Let’s look at his conclusion in verse 1. It starts with, “Truly God is good to Israel,”—that’s the main important point—“even to such as are of a clean heart,”—those that are right before God. “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. 3 For I was envious at the foolish,”—which is a reference to the unbeliever or the non-Christian or the non-believing in God person, the unbeliever or the heathen—“when I saw the prosperity,”—and now he calls them—“of the wicked.”
There’s an interesting thought here, “Truly God is good to Israel.” In Hebrew, it’s actually, “God only is good to Israel.” The emphasis is on God and emphatic in the fact of His goodness, but an interesting thought is the fact that if there is no God, there is no issue. When you see the wicked prospering and you see injustice in the world, and it seems like God isn’t fair…if you’re an atheist, there’s no problem here, yet I hear people who say, “I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God, and the reason I don’t believe in God is because He lets all these bad things happen to good people.” Well, if there is no God, then there’s no right or wrong, there’s no moral standard by which you can fix your decision on what is good or what is bad.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it, but really what is really good and what is really bad is for God to determine, not us. What we call “bad” in God’s economy could be good, and what we call “good” in God’s economy could be “bad,” but it’s only because we believe in God that we wrestle with the problem of evil and suffering and sorrow in the world because we do believe God exists, right? and we believe that God is good and we wonder why would God allow this. We need to walk by faith and not by sight and realize too that the Bible says His ways are not our ways. His ways are beyond our ways, and “…his ways past finding out.”
Let me just mention this again and we’ll move on, that the sorrow, suffering, that we see in the world today was brought on by man’s sin. The world we live in is not the one God created, it’s the result of the fall of man. Man sinned against God, and God came from heaven in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ, took on humanity, not sinful humanity but sinless humanity, He suffered and died to redeem man back to God, and one day He will redeem even planet earth. He will set things right. The problems in the world today are not God’s fault, they’re the result of sin, and God sent His Son, who became a Man and suffered and died. If it weren’t for the cross and the incarnation, the death of Jesus on the cross, I would have a hard time believing that there’s a God of love in a world of sorrow, but the cross changes everything. God became a Man, and He suffered and died to redeem us back to God; and this world is fallen, but He came to save us from our sin.
Notice the affirmation in this conclusion, “Truly God is good,” and as I said, in the Hebrew in which it was originally written, only God is always good. It’s emphatic—God only always good. Amen? We say, “God is good all the time,” right? What we need to do is by faith believe that and stand on God’s Word, and no matter what our senses tell us, no matter what our sight tells us, we hang onto the truth that God is good. V. Raymond Edman, the author of one of my favorite books called The Disciplines of Life said, “Never doubt in the dark what God has spoken in the light.” I love that quote. “Never doubt in the dark what God has spoken in the light,” so when all is dark around you and you can’t see what’s going on or why God would allow this or where God is, never doubt the goodness of God.
Then, the confession is in verses 2-3, where he says, “But as for me,” so the contrast is intended between verse 1, the conclusion, “God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me,”—he’s looking back—“my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped,”—I almost stumbled and slipped, and the reason—“For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Be careful not to get your eyes off God and start looking at the wicked and the earthy, temporal prosperity. He was honest and humble about his doubt.
The second thing that he did was look around. This is kind of the heart of the psalm, verses 4-12. He looked back, now he looks around and explains his envy of the prosperity of the wicked. He says, verse 4, “For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. 5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. 6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. 7 Their eyes stand out with fatness.” In the Living Bible it paraphrases that, “These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for!” They have all that they would want. Verse 8, “They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. 9 They set their mouth against the heavens,”—which means they blaspheme God—“and their tongue,”—this is a word picture, a figure of speech—“walketh through the earth.” It speaks to their boasting.
Verse 10, “Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. 11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” He identifies them very clearly in verse 12, “Behold, these are the ungodly,”—and where do they prosper?—“in the world,”—not in eternity, but in this world temporally—“they increase in riches.”
He was slipping because he was not living by faith in God’s Word. He was living by sight. Asaph was envious of the wicked in three areas. I want to break it down. First he was envious of their health, verses 4-5. They seemed to be immune from disease. Go back with me to verse 4. “For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.” It’s kind of like he looked at the wicked and says, “They’re never sick. When I go to the doctor’s office, in the waiting room, they’re all believers, suffering and sick, and there are no unbelievers.” Is that true? No. If you go to the hospital, the only people that are sick in the hospital are Christians, and why am I sick when I’m a godly man and I love the Lord, but it seems like others seem to have “…no bands in their death,” they have no sickness. They seem to live painless lives. They also seem to be immune from disaster. They seem to be immune, verse 4, from disease, and they seem to be immune from disaster, verse 5, “They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.”
It’s hard for me to hold off here, so I’ll spill the beans. The conclusion that he was coming to were from the devil. There really is a devil, and guess what? He’s a liar. He likes to take the wicked’s seeming prosperity, put it right in front of you and get you to get your eyes off God, and pushes his lie. Asaph was in danger of forgetting God’s truth—listen carefully—and believing the devil’s lie. Don’t listen to the devil. What he’s telling you, some of you are suffering right now because you’ve been listening to the devil’s voice rather than God’s voice, “It doesn’t pay to be a Christian. God is never going to answer prayer. He doesn’t love you. Why did He let you get sick? Why did He let your children suffer? Why did He let this happen?” You’re just listening to the devil rather than feeding on God’s Word, which is true, and being discouraged and you’re going to slip. Don’t listen to Satan’s lies.
Notice also the reference to their pride. He was envious because they seemed healthy and strong, never sick, never suffered—a lie from the pit of hell—and then their pride, verses 6-9. Notice it with me. “Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.” They’re marked by pride and violence. This is a great description of the wicked in our culture today. “Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish,”—we see the prosperity of the wicked—“They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. 9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth,”—you see this big tongue with little feet, and it’s walking all around the earth. He’s describing the wicked that he was envious of—their worldly prosperity and pride.
Notice in verses 10-12 he says, “Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. 11 And they say,”—this is what the wicked say, mockingly—“How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?”—does God really know what’s going on?—“Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world.” Notice that his problem was that he was envious of the ungodly, and notice the phrase, “in the world.”
Did you know that if you’re a Christian, you’re in the world but you’re not of the world, right? This world is not our home. We are to be pilgrims, strangers, sojourners looking, “…for a city…whose builder and maker is God.” We’re not to get attached to this world. We’re not to be conformed to this world. We’re not to love this world, we’ll be condemned by the world, and not to be envious of those who are wicked and ungodly and who prosper in this world.
Now, he looks inward or within, verses 13-16. First, he looks back; secondly, he looks around; now he looks within. The more he looks around and within, the more discouraged and depressed he became. He says, verse 13, “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain,”—it doesn’t do any good to live a pure life to follow God—“and washed my hands in innocency. 14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.” How’s that for a great verse? That’s a verse that a lot of Christians don’t put to memory. You don’t find it on little prayer cards, “All day long I have been chastened and plagued every morning.” He also says, verse 15, “If I say, I will speak thus,”—or if I talk about it at church or share with other believers—“behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.” He would go to the church and not really even share what he’s going through and then says, “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me,” verse 16. Stop right there.
I want you to note, verses 13-16, all the personal pronouns I, my, me—he had an “I” problem. Do you want to get depressed? Think about yourself. Just go home and try it this week. Just think—all day long, everyday, all the time—about yourself. Spend some time in front of the mirror as well, you’ll get really depressed. But if you look at Jesus, you’ll get blessed, as the saying goes. All the personal pronouns in that section, the danger of our eyes off of God and on self, brought him to wrong conclusions, verses 13 and 14, it doesn’t do you any good to be a Christian. It’s so easy to come to the same conclusion today, if you’re listening to the devil and not listening to God, right? What good does it do to be a Christian if all you have is misery, sorrow, and suffering.
It’s interesting when Joseph was rejected by his own brothers, sold as a slave to Egypt, did everything right, was lied about by Mrs. Potiphar, thrown into prison, and finally, years later, he’s released, brought back to Egypt. His brothers come to get grain. They bow down before him, and he finally reveals himself to his brothers (I’m making a long story about Joseph very short). Joseph finally said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant if for good.” Isn’t that beautiful? You intended it for evil, but God somehow will take what the world may call “evil” and God meant it for good. This is why be very, very, very careful what you, looking at your life right now, are saying, “This is bad,” could be the best thing that ever happened to you.
Paul the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 12 said, “Because of the abundance of the revelations, God gave to me,” he didn’t say the word “God,” but I believe that that’s the only One who would have given it to him, “God allowed me to have a messenger of Satan to buffet me.” Why? “…lest I should be exalted above measure.” Because God had blessed Paul and given him this paradise experience and these revelations, God had to humble Paul so that he would stay usable for His Kingdom and for His glory. Paul says, “God allowed this in my life. God let it happen. You meant it for evil, God meant it for good.” You can look back on your life as a believer and say, “I saw that what was seemingly a tragedy or a pain and there was sorrow, God used for good and for His glory.” God redeems even our worst situations, if we respond properly for His glory. So, Asaph had the wrong conclusions, and we often do as well.
Then, Asaph had a painful conflict in verses 15-16. He said, “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me,”—so it really was a painful experience. Asaph was being real. He could’ve piously pretended that he was victorious and that it only would have been a hypocritical action on his part. You know, I want to urge you as a believer, not go around sullen or sulking and complaining, but if you’re suffering, solicit prayer. If you’re sorrowing, the Bible says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” When we get to verse 17, and see, “Until I went into the sanctuary,” when you come into the sanctuary, find somebody and say, “Pray for me,” or “I’m going through this,” or “I’m dealing with this,” or “I’m discouraged,” or “I’m doubting God,” or “I need prayer.” The Bible says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” If you want to deal with your sorrow, then be a blessing to pray for others, so “…pray one for another,” that God would help you.
After church is over I encourage you pray for one another, encourage one another, and if you’re down or discouraged, don’t keep it to yourself, find someone to pray with. We have the pastors and other prayer team up after the service in front of the platform, but you can have someone pray for you. Be a part of a small group. Reach out to others. Don’t carry the burden by yourself, let others pray for you.
What do you do when God doesn’t make sense? Well, here’s what we do. Lastly, verses 17-24, he finally looked up. He looked back and said, “Man, I almost slipped, but I discovered truly God is good. I looked around and saw what looked like the prosperity of the wicked while the righteous suffered, and then I looked within and it was so painful for me I couldn’t even talk about it.” Then, finally he goes to the sanctuary and looks up.
You might’ve noticed when you come into this part of the church building where we meet that we actually have the little sign over the door that says, “Sanctuary.” That means it’s a place set apart to worship God. This sanctuary is to be a place of worship, to be a place of prayer, to be a house of hearing the Word of the Lord. It’s a sanctuary, and a place to get our perspective right.
Follow with me, verse 17, “Until,”—I love that ‘Until,’ so all that was happening, his painful experience—“I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” This is why I titled this study, “Settled In The Sanctuary.” Ever come to church discouraged, bummed out, and you hear the worship, you start to sing, you hear the Word, God’s Spirit speaks to your heart, and you get your eyes back on Christ and you feel built up, you feel edified. Amen? It’s the right thing to do. You need to be a part of a fellowship. Get into the sanctuary, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then,”—not until then—“understood I their end,”—that’s the end of the wicked. Then, he describes it, “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. 19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.”
Notice these three terms: “destruction,” verse 18; “desolation,” verse 19; and “terrors” or “consumed with terrors.” Now, he’s seeing clearly. He’s not looking at their physical health. He’s not looking at their material wealth. He’s not looking at their pride or their haughtiness. He says, “They’re headed for destruction. They’re headed for desolation. They’re headed for terrors.” He says, verse 20, “As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. 21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins,”—I was just convicted for my foolishness—“So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.”
Look at verses 23-24. He says, “Nevertheless I am continually with thee,”—he’s talking directly to the Lord—“thou hast holden me by my right hand. 24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” Don’t miss verses 23-24. These are the blessings that Asaph had all the time, when he was about ready to slip and getting so discouraged, he forgot to count his blessings, name them one by one, and Count your many blessings, see what God has done. Amen? So he starts to list them here for us.
Notice it says, “Until I went into the sanctuary.” I can’t emphasize enough the importance of corporate worship. I don’t know if you remember how painful it was during the Covid lockdown when we couldn’t congregate or gather. Sadly, sadly, tragically, a lot of Christians have not come back to church. I don’t know how you can be a true believer in Christ and not want to be a part of the body of Christ. I sometimes occasionally still meet people out and about the city that say, “Oh, I haven’t been back since before Covid. I watch online.” I’m glad you watch online, but that is no substitute for the house of the Lord. Amen? It’s no substitute for Christian fellowship. We read in Hebrews, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is…and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching,” the last days, we need to gather together the more. We need one another. We need to pray for one another, encourage one another, provoke one another to love and to good works.
Kyle Yates, who has written an awesome commentary on the book of Psalms, says, “So much depends on the worship of God in a sanctuary. The psalmist might have gone on for many months without ever finding the solution to his problem had he failed to enter the sanctuary. This poor man might have been miserable, a doubter, a scoffer, a man without God unless as such time with a touch of the Spirit had prompted him to enter God’s house.” “Until I went into the sanctuary of God.”
Do you know if you want to flourish as a Christian, be planted in the house of the Lord. Find a good church and be a part of it. I heard a pastor say the other day, and my heart just resonated with him and I said, “Amen.” He said every Christian should find a good church and build their life around that church. You see so many people running here, running there, and running here and running there, and way down on their priority list is a good church. I think it should be on the top of the list.
Find a good church. What’s a good church? A Bible-centered church, a Bible-teaching church, a church that loves God’s Word and feeds the flock and teaches the Word of God, and build your life around it—your marriage. Your marriage needs the church, the church needs your marriage. Your children need to grow up in a good, healthy church. Be planted in the house of the Lord. It’s so valuable. It’s so important. Don’t make church a low priority of your life, and make sure that you control your time and discipline yourself to say, “It’s time for fellowship. It’s time for church. This is what we do—‘…as for me and my house, we…serve the Lord.’” We do that by being in the house of the Lord. Some say, “Well, that could be legalistic,” yeah, you can call it that, but those who are planted in the house of the Lord flourish because they’re grounded in God’s Word and they’re a part—not only be a part of a church, but be serving and be connected in the church to the lives of other believers.
So, Asaph went to the sanctuary. This was the turning point, verses 17-24. He looked up to God and got a new perspective that was eternal. Note this: First of all he saw the end of the wicked, verses 17-20, and describes their end as they are headed to destruction, desolation, and they would be consumed with terrors.
Remember the parable of the rich man and Lazarus? The rich man, “…fared sumptuously every day,” beautiful clothes, lots of food, big house, all that he ever wanted to eat. Lazarus was a poor man who sat by his gate begging for the crumbs which fell from his table. If you stop the parable right there and ask, “Which of the two would you rather be?” The natural inclination, “I’d rather be the rich man. Who wants to be a poor man begging for bread at the rich man’s table?” But the story is not over. They both died—by the way, rich and poor both die. When you look at these rich people, remember “And as it is appointed unto men once to die,” and you have to leave it all behind. Actually, the more you have in this world, the harder it is to die. It only makes dying hard when you look at all the things you have to leave behind. You can’t take it with you, so why not distribute it before you die?
The rich man died and where did he go? “And in hell.” Do you still want to be the rich man? “Oh, no, no, no, I think not.” Lazarus died, “…and was carried by the angels,”—they were his pallbearers, where?—“into Abraham’s bosom.” I’d rather be Lazarus. I’d rather temporally suffer like Lazarus and have eternity. The rich man did not go to hell because he was rich. If you’re saying, “There it is. It’s in the Bible. Rich people go to hell.” No they don’t, sinners go to hell, unbelievers go to hell. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. There’s poor people going to hell, and there’s rich people going to hell; there’s rich people going to heaven, there’s poor people going to heaven. It doesn’t matter. It’s your relationship to God. Don’t get so hung up on the temporal that you forget the eternal, that, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,”—in eternity.
Asaph saw the end of the wicked, and he saw his foolish heart, verses 21-22, “So foolish was I.” Whenever we see God in the sanctuary and in His Word, it humbles us, right? So he was humbled.
Thirdly, Asaph saw God’s goodness and mercy. I love this passage. Notice these four blessings. These are blessings that are true of every one of us. If you don’t get anything else we covered tonight, get this, he saw God’s presence. Verse 23, “Nevertheless I am continually with thee,”—and he saw he had God’s power—“thou hast holden me by my right hand.” The “right hand” was always the symbol of strength and power. Thirdly, he saw God’s providence, verse 24, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel,”—and, of course, that would involve God’s Word, we have the Scriptures. Fourthly, he has God’s promise, “…and afterward receive me to glory.” So, we have God’s presence, He is with us. Never forget that God is always with you. Jesus said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Do you believe that promise? Rest in that. You say, “Oh, I feel God forsaking me.” No He hasn’t, He promised He wouldn’t. You have God’s power. He’s holding you by His right hand. I think of God holding me. I love the concept of God holding and protecting me.
When I had younger children, I always loved to be able to hold their hands. If you have a little toddler and you’re crossing a busy street, you don’t let them hold to you, you hold them, right? You grab their whole arm and you lift them up when you walk across the street if you have to. You grab hold of them. I’m so glad God has a grip on me. It’s not about my holding Him, God is actually holding you. I love that we can sense His presence and His power.
Then, there’s His providence, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel,”—and His promise—“and afterward receive me to glory,”—or heaven. Remember Jesus promised in John 14, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go…I will come again,”—take you to heaven with me—“that where I am, there ye may be also.” That’s a promise from God. No matter how bad the outlook, try the uplook. Amen? It’s always bright.
Psalm 23, “The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” He leads me, He guides me, He anoints my head with oil, “…my cup runneth over.” I go through the valley of darkness, of deep death, but when I come to the end of my life, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD,”—for how long?—“for ever.” So, all this and heaven, too!
Write down 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. Paul says, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” We need an eternal perspective.
If you haven’t ever read the book, Through Gates of Splendor, it’s about Jim Elliot and the other missionaries that went to Ecuador. It was written by Jim Elliot’s wife, Elisabeth Elliot. They were all martyred for their faith. They were speared by the native Indians trying to bring the gospel to them. Before Jim Elliot left to go to Ecuador, he was a promising young student who graduated from Wheaton, and everyone thought you could be a pastor in America and have a blessed ministry. Why would you want to go to Ecuador and try to reach the Auca Indians? If any white man ever made contact, they all died. They were all put to death. They were savages. Jim Elliot was the one who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” How marvelous to think that we can give our lives for God. Amen? He may not call you to go to Ecuador to reach the Auca Indians and die preaching the gospel, but He may call you just to be a faithful servant here—a faithful husband, a faithful wife—to live for His glory and for His honor.
The summary is in verses 25-28. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” He’s really seeing the importance of trusting the Lord, and “I have God on earth and in heaven.” Verse 26, “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. 27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou has destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. 28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.”
Notice the contrast. In verse 2, the psalm opens, “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped,” and verse 28 he closes with, “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.” What changed between verse 2, “I almost slipped,” and verse 28, “I will draw near, I will trust, I will declare His works.” His circumstances did not change, his heart did. The circumstances did not change. He gained victory even in the midst of his suffering, and that’s what God does. He doesn’t always change our circumstances, but He changes our heart. We need to let Him change our hearts.
In closing, God’s Word is true no matter what we see. Walk by faith, not by sight. Secondly, spend time worshiping God. Be in His house regularly with God’s people worshiping and hearing His Word. Thirdly, keep an eternal perspective. When life seems unfair, take time to worship. Get your spiritual vision properly focused on God. Amen?
Pastor John Miller teaches a topical message through Psalm 73 titled, “Settled In The Sanctuary.”