Title: Overcoming Discouragement
Text: Psalm 73
Background: We’re in Psalm 73 today. I think most of us understand the book of Psalms to be a hymnal for the Jews. But, it is so much more than that! There is a congruency – a consistency and a melodic line that flows through the entire book. There is purpose and design. My intention this morning isn’t to prove that. Maybe I can do that at sometime in the future. For now, let me bring you up to speed with Psalm 73.
I know some are thinking: what? I thought we were in Romans. Answer: we are. But, I felt the need to preach from Psalm 73 this morning since earlier in the week. It was not originally on my calendar, but felt the Lord’s prompting and so, I’m leaving Romans for today and preaching Psalm 73.
With that being said, turn to Psalm 73.
What you know of the book of Psalms is composed of 5 individual books. Psalm 73 is the 1st Psalm in the 3rd book. Do you see that there in your titles and subtitles? A quick outline of Psalms would look like this:
- Book 1: 3-41
- Book 2: 42-72
- Book 3: 73-89
- Book 4: 90-106
- Book 5: 107-145
- Conclusion: Praise 146-150
As we start in Book three, we see that Book two has just ended. The Psalm states that it is “to/for/of Solomon”, but as it ends in v 20, we read: 20 The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended. So, King David probably composed this psalm as a prayer. David is a great earthly picture of a king and God, who is King of kings, has selected this man who will follow him. This is what scholars call a ‘Royal’ Psalm. Israel understood their King to be God’s man for the job of leading Israel and they prayed for him.
God is their King and David is their earthly king. In a sense, they rule together because David has been chosen of God. And, God has chosen not just David, but his heirs, as well. And, the Messiah, who is to come, will be like him. Or, better worded: David is ‘like’ the Messiah who is to come. You and I already know this. David was a type of Christ to show us a picture of the one who would come: Jesus.
And He is our focus.
If we skip down to Psalm 74, we see this call from the Psalmist begging God to defend His own cause: not the cause of the Psalmist, but that of God. The Israelites, The Kings of Israel have not imaged God the way they should have. Their situation has made God look bad. Sure, what has happened to them is a result of their own behavior and rejection of their King and His laws. But, when Israel is conquered or in famine or in ruin, it appears God can’t take care of his people – which, of course, just isn’t true.
So, 72 is the Culmination of the section on King David and 74 is this plea for God to act on His own behalf. The Israelites are making God look bad and the Psalmist is begging God to act. So what is 73 all about?
Introduction: He begins by telling us what He knows: God is Good
He begins with God is Good! (rd v1); you would think that’s all that needs to be said, but there really is a great lesson here in this Psalm.
Oh, how I wish I could just make this statement and you’d all say: Duh, yeah! God is Good – All the time. All the time – God is Good! I wish we all felt it and didn’t have to struggle with it. But, the truth is, although I think you might have a little trouble admitting it, God is good and we don’t always see it that way. Asaph sure didn’t.
That’s what he’s saying in v2-3: “God is good! But, I didn’t always feel this way”; rd v2; He says: I almost stumbled, I almost fell. And then he tells us why: rd v 3: He says: I had been discouraged at what I saw in the prosperity of the wicked. The word saw here, means to watch with envy. It means to covet.
Asaph was really struggling at some time in the past. He sat down and watched so many others, who were wicked people, live what looked like blessed lives. He saw sinful people living prosperous, easy lives. He on the other hand – didn’t have it so easy. That just didn’t seem fair. Surely someone who walks with God faithfully should have it easy, No? And, the wicked – they should struggle! But that wasn’t what he was seeing with his eyes. And so he became envious.
V 4-12 tells us what he ‘sees’. And, as we move verse by verse through to v 12, we see a progression of wickedness and a blindness of those who join with them.
Let’s look at what he saw of the prosperous:
Rd v 4a; As Spurgeon said: “They have a quiet death; gliding into eternity without a struggle.” Rd v4b; You must also consider that a 21 Century health-conscious person isn’t going to get this metaphor. There is plenty to eat and the work is easy.
Rd v 5; man, it sure appears that they got it pretty easy compared to the rest of the world! Rd v 6; Pride is easy to understand, but violence as a garment, well, that’s a little harder. I think this means that their wealth and prosperity have led them to cruel and violent behavior toward others. Rd v 7: These people get whatever they want – whatever their eyes see and their imaginations crave.
Rd v 8-12; Marvin Tate, author of the Word Biblical Commentary on Psalms 51-100, says that this passage seems to indicate that the ordinary people turn to the rich and drink down their language with unthinking desire for their affluent lifestyle. Regardless of how vile they may be, the ways of the rich are very attractive to many people. Even their foolish language (v 11) is treated as wise.
Ill.: This sounds so 21st Century America to me. For some reason, we think the rich are the smart people and that what they say has great value. In many ways, especially in this regard, we’re no different from Asaph.
Now, when we come to v 13, we see a self-assessment that the Psalmist does.
“Truly” begins v1 and here demonstrates that something has changed. In v 1, the force of the “truly” is “in spite of everything to the contrary, God is good to Israel.” In spite of the way things appear in the prosperity of the foolish and the suffering of the faithful, God is Good! In v 13, the force is: “in spite of all the indications of well-being of the wicked, I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence”—which means that the speaker refused to run after the prosperous wicked and adopt their ways. It sounds as if he feels like he’s been good for no reason at all, but I don’t think that is his point. No, he’s saying in spite of all indications that the wicked are being blessed by God, I chose to keep my heart clean and not follow their path.
Rd v 14-16: lit., “it was a wearisome thing in my eyes.” Let me stop right here and now of how Asaph had become so discouraged. You can hear it in words. And, I’m pretty sure you could hear it in his voice, too, had you been around to hear him.
Oh, how Asaph was discouraged: have you ever been discouraged? Maybe you’re there right now.
- Maybe you got passed up for that promotion. You’ve worked harder and longer and what has happened is just unfair. Maybe that other person even cheated or was dishonest. You played it fair and you’re your integrity, but now they have the promotion. There’s just something not right about that.
- Maybe you’re checking out that other family. What is it about them? They always seem to be getting a new car or going on vacation. How can he get that much time off? They’re never in church on Sunday morning. You’re not even sure they’re saved. And you’re discouraged because you’re driving the same ole’ beater. You’re thankful you don’t have payments to the bank, but you’re local garage is getting regular payments.
- Maybe you’re looking around at all the other churches in town and feel like God’s blessing everyone else, but us. Those people are getting a new worship center. Those people are remodeling their Family Life Center. Those people are getting a new Gym. Those people have a children’s ministry or a youth ministry or a (you fill-in the blank) ministry. Those people have this awesome choir and you find yourself discouraged because you’re looking at these other churches and don’t understand why God isn’t blessing you when you’ve stayed the course. You’ve been faithful. Your heart and your hands are clean before God.
Transition: But then, something incredible happens to Asaph as he encounters God.
Asaph’s Sanctuary Experience:
He was discouraged and wearied until… rd v 17; 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Asaph had a God-encounter! He saw what was real and realized what was not real. The sanctuary of God is the very presence of God. Asaph met God and it changed his attitude.
Isn’t it amazing what a proper perspective can bring? Asaph saw what was eternal and was able to bring into perspective what he had been looking at in the prosperity of the people.
When he saw God for who He really is, then:
- He saw the people for who they really are. Rd v 17b; rd 18-19;
- He saw his predicament, his situation in light of eternity. Rd v 20;
- He saw how he had been in his attitude toward God; rd v 21-22
Pray: Oh, God, forgive us when we focus on this temporary situation and put too much value on it in light of eternity. Oh, Father forgive us when miss what you’re doing in our lives and in the lives of others because we are focused on the temporary. Oh, Master, forgive us for when we think you owe us something – like you’re so lucky to have us on your team!
What a fearful, dreadful consideration: to be at odds with God. Would you choose today the materialistic success of the Western Church over and above God’s presence? Asaph says, no! rd v 23-24; He says I’ve experienced your presence and in v 25-26 he says, I don’t want anything in heaven or on earth that puts me at odds with you. I only want you! Rd 25-26
Whom have I in heaven but you. There’s none I desire beside you.
Conclusion: Now, the Psalmist has a great perspective on things. Now he really knows what is important. rd v 27-28
- Their ending
- My blessing: the presence of God – and that truly shows how wonderfully good He is!
Application: So, How do I keep from getting discouraged?
- Discouragement comes from a focus on the wrong things. When you want something more than you want God, you’re going to become discouraged.
- Discouragement comes when you think God owes you something. I’ve kept my hands clean and my heart pure. You owe me. You’re like the older brother in the prodigal son parable. When you assume that you’ve kept your hands clean and your heart pure and because of that, God owes you… you’re going to become discouraged.
- Discouragement is bred through gossip, slander and negative grumblings. Discouraged people discourage others. This kind of a person is a rebel and a beast toward God, too (v. 22).
- Discouragement is cured with a proper perspective of things:
- That God is in charge, in spite of what your circumstances tell you.
- That God is really all you want and need. Everything else is superfluous.
- That whatever you’re going through – it will pass. Let God teach you in it.
If you’ve been focusing on the wrong things: repent.
If you’ve been thinking God owes you something: repent.
If you’ve been badmouthing the church, a ministry, the pastor, an elder, a member: repent.
You don’t know what God is doing to and through others. So trust that what He is doing is right and best. It is what will bring him glory.
I’d like to visit with you about these things. Maybe you have a question about Christianity or maybe you’re interested in what it means to be a member of Calvary. If you want to talk about Psalms or this message – I’d love to visit with you.