“That just doesn’t make sense, Uncle Chris,”my three-year-old niece said when I tried to explain that my wife and I were flying home after Christmas. “Why can’t you just come home with us?”In her three-year old mind the separation of our family after such a joyous and gift-laden celebration just didn’t make sense.
The cognitive dissonance in a toddler’s mind may be dismissed as cute, but we adults are not much different. When we take an honest, wide-eyed look at the world around us we too struggle, turning intellectual summersaults as we attempt to make sense of the unfairness and injustice at home and abroad. Why do the good die young, cheaters win, and those who look out for number one get the last word? The contradictions we see around us leave us crying out to God, asking him to help us to understand it all.
People have wrestled with these questions for thousands of years, and in Psalm 73 we get a glimpse into one such personal struggle. Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, writes a poetic confession of his attempt to understand his world, and in doing so, reveals to us God’s perspective on the mystery.
In Asaph’s experience, it’s in the sanctuary of God that the world makes sense.
With this in mind, take time to slowly and reflectively read Psalm 73.
Psalm 73 has three parts: Asaph’s description of the world around him (vs 1-16), the action Asaph takes to make sense of it all (vs 17), and the powerful wisdom granted Asaph by God himself (vs 18-28).
The first is summarized well by verses 12-13:
“Look at these wicked people – enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply. Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?” (Psalm 73:12-13 NLT)
All around him Asaph sees wicked people who hurt, manipulate, and control others in their self-centered games, and they wear their cruelty like a badge of honor. Their mouths have room for only evil words. (vs 6-8)
But what really drives Asaph crazy is that they are the poster-children for sinfulness, they live in a big house on the hill with all the health and wealth of young millionaires. (vs 4-5)
All this leads Asaph to wonder the same thing we often do: if bad people get what is good, and good people get what is bad, then why am I trying to be good? (vs 13-14)
In a state of confusion, when our tendency is to try even harder to be innocent or abandon the pursuit all together, God offers another alternative. Asaph’s actions in verse 17 represent the very best reaction to bewildering circumstances.
“Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood…”
There is but one place where the world makes sense. That one place is the sanctuary of God.
The word “sanctuary”in Scripture means any place that is made sacred or holy by the presence of God. A sanctuary is any place where God is. When Asaph didn’t understand the world around him, he went to the source, and there he found clarity.
After being in the sanctuary of God, Asaph better understood the world, himself, and God.
In response to Asaph’s confusion in verses 3-14, God reminded Asaph that he is not unaware of the suffering nor the boasting and brutality of the wicked. Asaph learned that the charmed lives of the wicked are a temporary illusion. Those who selfishly hurt others and rebel against God will stand before the judgment seat of Christ like all of us. On that glorious day, God will make all things right, and end evil forever.
God also taught Asaph a humbling lesson: Asaph was not as innocent as he thought. After being with God, Asaph understood anew the depth of his own brokenness. Asaph’s confession reminds us of Matthew 7:1-5 where Jesus warns against pointing out the tiniest infraction of our brother while denying our own glaring sinfulness. God alone is the judge, and God alone is the hope for freedom from our own brokenness.
Finally, in the sanctuary of God, Asaph is reminded of God’s overwhelming goodness despite the wickedness of our hearts and the world. His words, finishing Psalm 73, are so beautiful:
“I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.”
How has God convicted your heart, given you answers, or soothed your soul after being in his presence? Share a significant time you have encountered God and the change that has resulted.
Read an earlier post by Chris here.