(Adapted from an article that appeared in “Knowing the Scriptures”, Mar.-Apr., 1936)
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the
renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and
acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2).
The 73rd Psalm illustrates two processes at work in the experience of
Asaph. In the first section (1-16), he is being conformed. In the
second section (17-28), he is being transformed. In the first he
forms conclusions in the presence of men, in the second he forms
conclusions in the presence of God. From his first position three
things impressed him about the wicked.
Asaph Conformed, Forming Conclusions in the Presence of Men
THEIR PROSPERITY (3-7). “Their eyes stand out with fatness; they
have more than heart could wish”. Passing through life in this way they
have no pains in their death; but their strength is firm (4). Compare
this with others who had “waters of a full cup wrung out to them” (10).
In that dispensation, prosperity was an indication of God’s smile, as
we learn in reading Haggai’s prophecy. This perplexed poor Asaph.
THEIR PRIDE (6). God’s intention in blessing was to lead them to
repentance (Rom 2:4), instead of which it produced pride which bound
them like a chain. Agur prayed to be kept from this snare (Prov. 30:9),
and Paul warned Timothy against this danger (1 Tim. 6:11). Violence
marked them in their dealings (6), similar to what is described later
in James 5:5, “Ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter”.
THEIR PRESUMPTION (8-10). They thought nothing of setting their
mouth against heaven (9), like many who follow in their steps (Jude
16). We have outstanding examples of this today. “Because sentence
against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of
the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:11).
The consideration of these things led Asaph to conclude that he had
erred in having his heart cleansed (13). So it will be if we see things
from this point of view. We will find our faith wavering, and our steps
slipping if we form our judgment here.
Asaph Transformed, Formed Conclusions in the Presence of God
We follow Asaph as he enters the sanctuary for in the words of what
another has said, “We seek to interpret God in the presence of
difficulties, instead of interpreting difficulties in the presence of
God”. Having changed his point of view, he sees an entirely different
picture. Outside he saw the wicked and their prosperity; now their
peril (18). Like the rich farmer in the parable, they forgot God (Luke
12). Outside he saw their pride; now their panic, “utterly consumed
with terrors” (19). Outside he saw their presumption; now their
perdition, “Thou castedst them down to destruction” (18).
He now compares himself with the wicked, and sees that they are set in
slippery places (18), while he is held by God (23). While it may seem
attractive to tread this path, viewed in this light, it has its
dangers. The wicked “are brought into desolation” (19); he is guided
with God’s counsel (24). They are cast down to destruction (18); he is
received up into glory (24). What a contrast! How different everything
appears viewed in the presence of God!
Asaph appreciated three facts: that God guarded him, guided him, and would glorify him. We enjoy these blessings today. We read:
1. “Who are kept by the power of God” (1 Pet. 1:5) - GUARDED
2. “He will guide you into all truth” (Jn. 16:13) - GUIDED
3. “And whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30) GLORIFIED
Asaph now exclaims, “Whom have I in heaven but thee” (25)? He is like
the bride who exclaimed, “My beloved is mine” (Song of Sol. 2:16). It
is one thing to have God’s blessings; it is a greater joy to have
fellowship with God. Looking back, Asaph was conscious of backsliding.
“Thus was my heart grieved, and I was vexed in my mind” (21). He
realized the value of drawing near to God (28), as he compared his past
thoughts with his present thoughts.
This scene, in which we are called to live, influences our thoughts,
which shape our character. We shall find ourselves thinking as Asaph
did in his first view, until we are conformed to this age. Our
standards of judgment will be those of the unsaved, and are sense of
values governed by what is around us.
To counteract this influence we must have our “minds renewed”, by
leaving the presence of men, and seeking the presence of God. Failing
to change our environment, our environment will change us. Paul spoke
in the light of God’s presence when he said, “We look not at the things
which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things
which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are
eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).