One of my favorite Psalms for reorienting my heart. It's NOT about me. Thank goodness! You'd think I'd see this more clearly and consistently since verses 25-26 make up one of my tattoos.
4 Reflections from Tim Keller on portions of Psalm 73
Psalm 73: 1– 3.
1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
THE EVIL OF ENVY.
The psalmist confesses that he is in the grip of envy (verse 3). To envy is to want someone else’s life. It’s to feel not just that they don’t deserve their good life but that you do and God hasn’t been fair. This spiritual self-pity— which forgets your sin and what you truly deserve from God— drains all the joy out of your life, making it impossible to enjoy what you have. The power of envy is such that it made even the Garden of Eden feel like it was not enough. No wonder the psalmist almost “slipped” and turned from God (verse 2). Don’t let yourself slip into envy, or you will destroy your own joy.
Lord, the goods of this world are spread so unevenly! Yet I confess that if I had more prosperity I would not be as upset about the injustices. My envy is filled with self-righteousness, and it robs me of contentment. Forgive me and change me. Amen.
Psalm 73: 15– 20.
15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. 16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. 18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20 They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
THE DREAM OF THE WORLD.
The first step out of the sinkhole of resentment and envy is worship. The psalmist enters the sanctuary, and in the presence of the true God his sight clears and he begins to get the long-term perspective (verses 16– 17). He realizes that the rich without God are on their way to being eternally poor; the celebrities without God are on their way to being endlessly ignored (verses 18– 19). Within the confines of a dream, you may be very intimidated by some powerful being, but as soon as you wake, you laugh at its impotence to harm your real life. All the world’s power and wealth are like a dream. They can neither enhance nor ruin a Christian’s deepest identity, happiness, and inheritance.
Lord, I praise you for being more real than the mountains, and in you I am richer than if I had all the jewels that lie beneath the earth. In my eyes, by your Spirit’s power, let “the things of the world grow strangely dim in the light of your glory and grace.” Amen.
Psalm 73: 21– 23.
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.
The antitoxin for envy and self-pity is humility. The psalmist first saw that his sin hurt him (verse 2) and then that it hurt others (verse 15), but finally he sees he has been as arrogant toward God as the people he despised. There is in us a fierce, instinctive self-will as unthinking and inhuman as that of a wild beast (verse 22). Augustine remembered stealing pears only because it was forbidden. Deep in us something snarls, “No one tells me what to do.” Only by admitting this darkness within can the glorious word of grace—“ yet” (verse 23)— dawn on him. God never let him go. Only when we see the depth of our sin will we be electrified by the wonder of grace.
Prayer: Lord, the deeper the darkness, the more visible and beautiful the stars. And the more I admit my sin, the more your grace becomes a reality rather than an abstract idea. Only then does your grace humble me and affirm me, cleanse me and shape me. Make your grace amazing to my heart. Amen.
Psalm 73: 24– 28.
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.
NOTHING BUT YOU.
The psalmist breaks through. “Whom have I in heaven but you?” (verse 25) means “If I don’t have you I have nothing— nothing else will satisfy or last.” We rightly want to be reunited with loved ones in heaven. What makes heaven heaven, however, is that God is there. Those who have gone before are not looking down at us fondly but rather are caught up in a never-ending fountain of joy, delight, and adoration. Augustine writes: “God alone is the place of peace that cannot be disturbed— and He will not withhold Himself from your love unless you withhold your love from him.” Life in glory with God (verse 24) will suffice for the healing of all wounds, the answering of all questions. Jesus has promised.
Lord, I thank you for how suffering drives me like a nail deeper into your love. It is not my earthly joys but my griefs that show me your grace is enough. “I live to show your power, who once did bring first my joys to weep, and now my griefs to sing.” Amen.