Passage: Psalm 73
Speaker: Steve Hands
Series: Core Values – Prayer
Seeking God’s Face In Wisdom
Should we trust God? At church, we say and sing all the time that God is a “good, good Father”, but how do we reconcile that claim with our daily experiences of pain, injustice, chaos, and trouble? Over a thousand years ago, Asaph wrestled with the same questions. The maxim he had been told again and again was “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (Psalm 73:1). But the rampant injustice and wickedness around him pummeled his heart until he nearly gave up on God. As every generation wrestles with this same question, may we learn the pathway to wisdom Asaph tread, looking not only at the evidence of injustice we see (73:1-14), but seeking the truth among God’s community in worship (73:15-20), so that we can celebrate and rest in God our strength and portion forever (73:21-28). How can we seek God’s wisdom when faced with serious challenges?
First, we look beyond the evidence of injustice(73:1-14). Asaph started where we all tend to, with his experience of the present. As he looked around, he saw a ton of wealthy wicked people abusing their power, hurting and oppressing people, mocking God as impotent and unimportant. As far as he could see, there was no payback coming for the oppressors, not from a righteous judging God, not even from an impersonal karmic force. When his present experience took up his whole perspective he sank into despair, self-pity, and doubt about whether God cared about innocence at all (73:13). This whole mindset is a trap that can very easily slip us up, and Asaph warns us of as much (73:2). When we get stuck in our own heads, we spiral in sadness, convinced our situations won’t change. To move forward, we have to get a broader perspective. But where can we find it?
Asaph found his broader perspective by seeking truth in the sanctuary(73:15-20). While Asaph was stuck in his own head, he couldn’t make sense of the injustices he was observing (73:16). But when he gathered with the people of God to seek God’s face, he was able to discern truth from illusion (73:17). The security of the wicked was in fact a slippery slope, a false hope, that would be blown away like lingering candle-smoke (73:18-20). Likewise, when we worship together, pray together, seek God’s face together, we remind each other by song, prayer, and God’s Word the eternal perspective on justice, suffering, recompense, and righteousness. We gain the capacity to face injustice in our lives as we strengthen each other in worship and prayer.
Finally, reflecting on this whole experience, Asaph sees the folly of his despair and cynicism and celebrates God his strength and portion(73:21-26). Asaph had learned that God was patient with him, continually walking alongside him, holding his hand (73:23). And that for all the apparent wealth, ease, and prosperity of the wicked, they didn’t have the one thing that truly mattered: the presence of God himself (73:25-28). May we too learn to treasure God’s presence with us above all things, celebrating his patience with us in our struggles, and trusting in his ultimate vindication of his faithful ones.
So what? May we bring our real questions to God, inviting him to broaden our perspective to see what is true and what is false through worship and prayer in the community of his people.