Psalms 73:1-5, 21-28
“Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. 2 But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. 3 For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness. 4 They seem to live such painless live; their bodies are so healthy and strong. 5 They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else. 28 Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside. 22 I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. 23 Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. 26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. 27 Those who desert him will perish, for you destroy those who abandon you. 28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.”
The Psalms are songs of poetry written by men of God that detail both the difficulties and delights of this life. They describe different times in Israel’s history, from David on the run from King Saul, to the Jews returning after their captivity in Babylon. Some were written after great victories while others came after devastating defeats. Psalms 73 was written by a man named Asaph a skilled musician and one of the leaders of David’s choir, 1Chronicles 6:39, as well as a prophet of God 2 Chronicles 29:30. Asaph also experienced the blessing of watching his children serve as they led God’s people in song, 1 Chronicles 25:1 records that four of his sons participated in conducting the chorus that sung at the temple dedication. Even though he was used by God in many ways, he still struggled with the temptation to give in to bitterness, anger and envy. Asaph started out not only seeing but also saying how good God has been to Israel. He doesn’t just witness the goodness of God he is a witness to the goodness of God. At first he is able to clearly recognize God’s hand of blessing but when bitterness sets in he becomes blind to the blessings of God. Asaph was well aware of how far the nation of Israel had come from slaves serving the Egyptians and a homeless vagabonds wondering in the wilderness, to a people with their own land that flows with milk and honey. The land that God had given them as a possession was a prosperous land. While he focused on God he saw the goodness but the moment he took his eyes off of God all he could see was the garbage. Asaph starts by sharing God’s faithfulness but slips and falls because of envied. Rather than being caught up in the wonder and worship of God he allows himself to be concerned with what the wicked are doing. His praise turns to pouting because he focuses on the prosperity of people instead of the provision of God. Here we have the worship leader focused on the world instead of the works of God. Envy is what blinded him from the truth and bound him up in bitterness. Envy is that monster of resentment that rises up within us because we believe that we deserve to have what others have and they don’t. We justify our jealousy by believing that we have worked harder and longer. But the blessing that Asaph started out seeing was a gift from God not something that he had made happen. Envy isn’t just dangerous it is deadly because it draws us away from God and destroys our relationship with Him. Notice how warped and tainted his thinking becomes in verse 4 and 5: “They seem to live such painless live; their bodies are so healthy and strong. 5 They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.” His reasoning isn’t just ridiculous it’s wrong; he is replacing truth with a lie. Envy causes us to rest and rely on lies. When we allow envy to invade our hearts; we only see what envy allows us to see. Converting will cloud your thinking. Asaph comes to the conclusion that people who don’t serve God don’t struggle, that the worldly don’t worry because they live a problem free life. The more he allows envy to control his thoughts the less he thinks about the goodness of God and the more he thinks about greed. Envy is like rust on iron it always ruins. Bitterness doesn’t just blind it also binds. Asaph has gotten to the point that all he can think about is what he is envious about. His polluted thinking results in him believing that the way he has been living his life has been a waste, that doing the right thing has turned out wrong. He is starting to think that a righteous life should result in riches, this prosperity philosophy is from the world not the Word. Jealousy leads us away from Jesus and we end up trading His peace for pointless possessions. Asaph slipped on the sin of self-gratification, The belief that I am here for my happiness. Life started to revolve around the riches of this life instead of the relationship with the Lord. He hasn’t just fallen he has become foolish, here he is saved and full of the Spirit of God yet unable to get ahead. Instead of seeing the blessings he is looking for benefits. This is where envy becomes pure poison to the human mind and happiness becomes nothing more than a memory. Not only is the envious person rendered unhappy by their envy, but they also desire to inflict the same misfortune on others. If I’m not happy, nobody should be happy. This is one of the reasons why many have a hard time rejoicing when others are blessed, because they can’t see past their envy. They get mad when they see a happy marriage because they’re not happy with their marriage. To them a happy family is a frustration because they’re not happy with their own family. When you walk around whistling it makes them mad because they are unhappy with the fact that you are happy. Are you struggled and reacting to the prosperity, pleasures and privileges of other people? Are you allowing yourself to become jealous over the junk because you have forgotten about the joy you have in Jesus? No matter how mature we are in our faith we can all become mired down in the bog of bitterness and experience the crippling effects of envy. When we stop focusing on the faithfulness of God we quickly loose perspective, envy will get you to look to people and possessions as the evidence of blessing. Is your witness one of joy or jealousy? Stop comparing yourself to people and come back to Christ, remember what Jesus told Peter when he tried to compare his lot with that of John in John 21:15-20. Jesus said to Peter, “If I want John to remain until I come, what is that to you. You follow me.” Stop focusing on others and start focusing on the Author. As the old hymn says “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” Stop looking to riches as a reason to rejoice and look to your relationship with Jesus.