“Indeed those who are far from you will perish.
You put an end to those who are false to you.
But for me,
It is good to be near God.
I have made Yahweh God
Thus I may tell of all your works.”
This psalm concludes with the familiar praise of God as a refuge. Those who are far away from God will perish. God will put an end to those who are false to him. However, Asaph the psalmist was glad to be near God. Yahweh had become his refuge. Thus he was able to tell everyone about all his good works.
“When my soul was embittered,
When I was pricked in heart,
I was stupid.
I was ignorant.
I was like a brute beast toward you.
Nevertheless I am continually with you.
You hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel.
Afterward you will receive me with honor.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
There is nothing on earth
That I desire other than you.
My flesh may fail.
My heart may fail.
But God is the strength of my heart.
God is my portion forever.”
This psalmist Asaph says that he was stupid and ignorant when he had these strange thoughts about the prosperous wicked people. He was acting like a brutal beast toward God. However, God led him by the hand and gave him counsel. God then honored him. There was no one else in heaven besides God who could help him. There was nothing on this earth that he desired. His heart and his flesh might fail, but God remained his strength and portion forever.
“If I had said.
‘I will talk on in this way.’
I would have been untrue
To the circle of your children.
But when I thought how to understand this,
It seemed to me a wearisome task,
Until I went into the sanctuary of God.
Then I perceived their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places.
You make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment.
They are swept away utterly by terrors!
They are like a dream when one awakes.
You despise their phantoms.”
This psalmist Asaph deals in the hypothetical of what might have happened if he walked in their ways. He would have been untrue to the children of God. He was confused and weary until he went to the Temple sanctuary of God. There he understood their end. These wicked ones were on slippery ground. They would fall to ruin. They would be destroyed in a moment. They would be swept away with terrible terrors. This was like a dream. When you awake from it you hate it. The wicked were only enjoying temporary success.
“Therefore the people turn and praise them.
They find no fault in them.
‘How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?’
Such are the wicked.
They are always at ease.
They increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean.
I have washed my hands in innocence.
All day long I have been plagued.
I am punished every morning.”
Asaph, the psalmist warned that people were praising these wicked people. No one seemed to find fault in what they were doing. The people were saying how can God not know about this since he is the most high one. The wicked ones seem to be at ease as they increase their wealth. Asaph maintained that he had kept his heart clean in vain. He had washed his hands in innocence. However, all day long he suffered from illness. He was punished every morning as he woke up.
“I was envious of the arrogant.
I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no pain.
Their bodies are sound and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are.
They are not plagued like other people.
Therefore pride is their necklace.
Violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes swell out with fatness.
Their hearts overflow with follies.
They speak with malice.
Loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against heaven.
Their tongues range over the earth.”
Here we have a vivid description of these wicked arrogant people. Asaph, this psalmist, was envious of their prosperity. They did not have any pain with their sound slick bodies. They did not have troubles like other people who had various illnesses. They were proud violent people. Their garments and their necklaces were indications of their violent nature. They had fat eyes and foolish hearts. They were malicious people who threatened violence. They spoke against heaven as they pursued things here on earth.
A psalm of Asaph
“Truly God is good to the upright.
He is good to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me,
My feet had almost stumbled.
My steps had nearly slipped.”
The 3rd book of psalms begins with Psalm 73 from Asaph. In fact, there are 12 psalms attributed to Asaph, Psalm 50, and the next 11 psalms at the beginning of this 3rd book of psalms. Asaph was a transcriber or author of psalms at the time of David and Solomon. This may also refer to the group named after him who were musicians at the Temple. This Asaph is described in 1 Chronicles, chapter 6, as one who could trace his ancestors directly back to Levi. In 2 Chronicles, chapter 5, he is listed as a Temple singer at the time of Solomon during the transport of the Ark of the Covenant. This psalm seems to be a consideration of justice and why did the evildoers prosper much like in the book of Job. There is the common statement that God is good to the upright and the pure of heart. However, this Asaph has almost stumbled. He has almost slipped.