The Only Place Where Life Makes Sense Is at the Foot of the Cross: Psalm 73 Paraphrase
Psalm 73 is one of the most beloved Psalms in the Bible. The author, Asaph, asks the age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to God’s people?” But he adds to that question, “Why do good things happen to bad people who hate God?”
I’ll be preaching on Psalm 73 at Cornerstone Community Church on March 16. Here’s my extended paraphrase of Psalm 73.
An Extended Paraphrase of Psalm 73
73:1: Beyond a shadow of a doubt I know theologically that God only, always, and in every way is good to His children. He always prospers His people with what is eternally best for them.
73:2-3: But as for me personally and emotionally, in my heart my faith was tottering on the brink of doubt and despair. My mind was burning with envy and my emotions fuming with anger at the arrogant fool. He praises himself, boasts about himself, and raves about himself—he loves himself—instead of praising and loving God. But it seems like God does good to those who praise themselves, and He does bad to those who praise Him. I looked with eyeballs only at the wicked who war against God and His people and I saw that they had peace and prosperity. It looks to my fleshly eyes that the prodigal son prospers while the faithful son wastes away. That makes no sense to my fleshly mind!
73:4-5: You would think it would be the godly who were exempt from troubles, but as I look around, I see the ungodly having no physical troubles or pain. Instead their bodies are healthy and well-nourished. They don’t endure the toilsome labor and burden of work that the rest of us are cursed with. The ungodly have health and wealth and the godly have sickness and poverty. Is the good God blessing those who curse Him and cursing those who bless Him? Is the good God good to the bad and bad to the good? I envy the lifestyle of the rich and famous!
73:6-8: Everything goes so smoothly for the God-haters. They are decked out in self-importance with necklaces of pride and garments of violence. Their hearts are fatty and bloated with sin, yet their evil hearts have more than anyone could ever wish for. Their tongue rules with intimidation, bullying, oppression, and abuse of the less fortunate.
73:9-11 The wicked decree how things should be done on earth and what God can do in heaven. They revile God and beguile men. A rabble gathers around them—sycophants, bootlickers, brownnosers, and lapdogs who lap up every word they speak as if they are words of life. But they are really words of death and blasphemy. They declare that God is clueless. They say, “Since we are bad and God is good and our lives are blessed, God must be ignorant! He’s a puny god. Bad people can get along just fine without God because He doesn’t know what they are doing. God doesn’t know what He’s doing!”
73:12-16: Let me recap: the wicked live the lifestyle of the rich and famous while the godly live the lifestyle of the poor and nameless. So…here’s my quandary. When I looked around with eyeballs only from a fleshly, temporal perspective, beyond a shadow of a doubt it seems like in vain I kept my heart true to God. What’s the use! How worthless and purposeless to purposefully be true to God since day and night I’m in turmoil inside and in pain outside. Until now, I’ve been terrified to admit this to anyone because I didn’t want to cause God’s people to doubt God’s goodness. But I can’t take it anymore. I can’t keep silent. Life is an unsolvable riddle that confuses me without end and without answer. Trying to figure out why bad things happen to God’s people is an intolerably painful puzzle that can never be pieced together!
73:17: That’s what I thought about the God-haters, about my life, and about God until I went into the sanctuary of God. That’s where I saw life with redemptive eyes, with spiritual eyes, with eternal vision, with Cross-eyes, with Christ-tinted lenses. Nothing made sense until I shifted my point of view to look at life with a redemptive perspective.
73:18-20: I finally understood the last end of the God-haters—their final state before a holy God. Beyond a shadow of a doubt those who arrogantly and willfully reject God forever will slip on the false foundation they built. In the end, everything they built turns into a desolate ruin. In the end, their souls experience constant terror. Their lifestyle of the rich and famous was but a dream, an illusion—here today and gone tomorrow—forever.
73:21-22: My new sanctuary perspective—my new redemption mindset—not only changed my thinking about the God-haters. It changed my thinking about me! I had been so self-righteous—like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. Now I realized something as I reflected on my soured, sick, envious heart and my embittered spirit. I was foolish and ignorant—looking at life with eyeballs only. In fact, I was looking at life like a brute beast, like a stupid animal, like a dumb, soulless ox! I wasn’t ‘good’ at all. And all the badness in me must be covered and forgiven by God!
73:23-26: But most importantly, my new sanctuary perspective—my new cross-shaped lenses—changed my thinking about You God! Even while I was saying you were unfaithful to me, you were always faithfully with me. What grace—what great grace to forgive and love me even while I was speaking lies about You and doubting You! You hold me by my right hand—like a tender, understanding, forgiving Father. In this life, You guide me like a Sovereign Shepherd with Your wise counsel. In the next life, You will receive me into glory—to Yourself—by grace alone! Without You, heaven with all its glory would be a vast wasteland, an empty void. And while I am here on earth, I desire nothing besides You. All the things of earth that I envied are less than nothing compared to You. Even when my flesh was failing and my heart was foolish, You are, were, and always will be the strength of my heart. You’re all I want. All I need. Just to be with You—forever!
73:27-28: Now I realize the eternal truth—the God-haters who choose to live far from You will perish. There is no life apart from the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. All who are unfaithful to the forever faithful Father will reap the consequences of their God-hatred. But as for me—both theologically and personally—it is good to be near my good God who is good to me all the time. I put my trust not in the counterfeit satisfaction of this life. Instead, I put my trust in my Sovereign Shepherd, my Savior Shepherd who is my Refuge and Rock. Instead of complaining about the lifestyle of the rich and famous, I will live to make Your name famous!
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How can Asaph’s honest wrestling with the question, “Why do bad things happen to God’s people”? help you as you honestly wrestling with that question?
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