Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish. They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth.
Therefore his people return here, and waters of a full cup are drained by them. And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.
When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me — until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awakes, so, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.
Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works. (Psalm 73; A Psalm of Asaph)
Wishing To Be Like Them
Riches have an appeal that tries the souls of men. Fleshly pleasures lure the senses of the carnal appetites to drink deeply in the anticipated enjoyment. Pride exalts the heart to boast of excelling in self-worth and value above others. There seems to abide a glow of unending success in the lives of the wicked as they prosper every day with little consequence to the trials of life. Their prosperity is the jet-set life of living free unbounded by the shackles of restraint with a care-free inexpressible romance of wealth, pleasure and fulfillment. It is easy to look upon this kind of life with an envious heart wishing for a taste of the high-life. The glitter of the stars life is only a façade of the deeper reality shielded by the lights of fame and fortune. What is perceived as a life filled with great strength and virtue is in reality an empty shell of carnal pursuits ending in destruction. The age-old problem of envying the wicked is realized by the great Biblical poet Asaph who bears his soul of his struggles with envying the abundance of the wicked. And he is not alone.
Sin is fun. There is no doubt to this as evidence by its popularity. The wicked live without restraints and free from the awareness of consequences, life is a fast-paced perusal of how far and how fast and how soon can the fun begin. Sin is appealing. By its very nature it tingles the mind and races the heart to engage in the moment of pleasure like a drug high allowing a moments escape from the realities of life. Sin captivates the ears of those who hear the deceptive beauty of the sirens song to drink deeply of its pleasures filling the eyes with a desire needing to be fulfilled. Asaph heard the song and saw the abundance of the wicked and wanted to drink deeply from its well. It is the common lot of all to feel the heart strings being plucked by the passions of the mind and flesh. It takes all the strength of godly character to stop and see the true nature of the lust of wickedness.
Asaph describes his battle after the fact. He knows the only true happiness a man can have is to experience purity of heart. There are many things that try the soul but the end of a thing is where the true value is found. His heart was tempted by the allurements of the unrighteous but he examined it all more clearly when he made one vital decision in his life: he went into the sanctuary of the Lord. It was then he understood the whole picture of sin. What is so alluring about wickedness is there is no need to see what is at the end of the road. It is like jumping out of an airplane and experiencing the thrill of flying through the air. The exhilaration of freedom is intoxicating and without bounds. All is well until the sudden stop at the end. Sin does not come with a parachute. Satan makes man believe that he is a god and he can fly like the birds. For a time man thinks he can do the impossible but all he is doing is falling to his death. In a moment and in the twinkling of the eye, life is filled with pleasures and then life crashes into the earth. Asaph learned from the sanctuary of the Lord to trust in a life that had meaning, purpose and an eternal home.
Being envious of the wicked is not something new under the sun. In a world filled with incredible prosperity where lotteries give millions to so-called lucky recipients and stars and athletes bask in the glow of wealth and popularity, feeble hearts envy for a taste of the life that will only bring heartache, despair and desolation. Asaph knew he was foolish and ignorant. Searching the word of God he gained a deeper appreciation for the character of contentment, joy and trusting in the riches of God’s love and His care. He knew there was no one that could bless him like the Lord who was his strength and his portion forever. This was something that was eternal. Truly God is good.