Envying the Wicked (Psalm 73).
By Richard Bacon
Copyright 1998 © First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett

This is a psalm of Asaph, as are the next ten psalms. Notice as the psalmist begins the psalm, he makes the mistake that we have been warned against again and again, by the psalms and scripture in general, of envying the wicked. How often do we say to ourselves, "I wish I were in the wicked's place." Asaph admits it was foolishness on his part to think that way. But he does realize that the wicked seem to be in prosperity many times. They seem to be in positions of power. Their strength seems unbreakable at times. Who would not envy the wicked? Here is who: the person who considers their end. If all you see is the present, then you will fall prey to the temptation of envying the wicked. But if you lift up your eyes and look through time to their end, you will see that they are destroyed. First of all they die; but that is just the beginning of terrors for the wicked. For they undergo a terror that by God's grace we have escaped: not by our own works, not by standing firm ourselves, not by any reliance on our own arms, but by grace. Asaph finally admits, starting in verse 22, "So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.... Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee?" If God is not going to uphold me, Asaph says, who will uphold me? Verse 26 says, "My flesh and my heart faileth." Asaph is saying, "It may seem to me that the wicked are strong, but I have one stronger than they are to uphold me."

So when we see the ungodly prospering in the world; when we see them increasing in riches; when we see them sitting in the places of power and authority; there is a temptation to envy them. But I submit to you that the reason God allows such a temptation to exist is to strengthen our resolve that we will not be like the wicked.

One of the things that makes the Psalms so vastly superior to human compositions, is that again and again, in virtually every psalm the psalmist makes a distinction between the godly and the ungodly. He tells you, "Look, by God's grace here is the way you are and you need to stand in that." Take away grace and it may seem to you that the wicked man is an oak tree, but what you really have in the ungodly is not an oak tree at all. He is like the dandelion that blooms in the morning and by afternoon is a puff ball. The first wind that comes along will blow it away. God intends to blow upon the wicked.

Even in the imprecatory psalms, as the psalmist prays down God's wrath on the ungodly; let us learn where the target of God's wrath is and stand off the bullseye. Let us learn what God hates and not be that.

Yes, we do need to make a distinction, as the psalmist does, between the godly and the ungodly; not because of any good thing in us, but because God makes such a distinction.

You will simply not find people writing many songs about the just judgment of God. In the Trinity Hymnal the few hymns that you do find on the subject of God's justice are psalms. Interesting, is it not, that they had to choose psalms to find songs about God's justice and judgment. I would never say that God is all justice and judgment and no mercy. Listen, we live by mercy! But neither should we so accentuate any of God's attributes above the others that we end up with an unbalanced view of who God is. And that is precisely why God gave us a songbook so that we would not overlook any of his attributes in our praise songs.