17 Feb - From Sight to Insight - Psalm 73


Read Psalm 73:1-28

Have you sometimes wondered, "Why do the innocent suffer while wickedness is glorified?" These kind of questions are as old as life itself. 

This psalm is like a sandwich – with two outer sections, comprising two visions of life - which are diametrically opposed to each other. The first in verses Psalm 73: 2-14 and the second one in verses Psalm 73:18-26. And sandwich in between is a small section, Psalm 73:15-17 – which acts like a fulcrum or pivot – a turning point for the song if you like. 

This first vision is dominated by what we can see. It is about “sight” and the mood is one of envy.  The psalmist was mesmerised by what he saw. “my steps had nearly slipped” - There is slippery seduction going on here. Why is it that the wicked and proud are at the same time, blessed, bold and beautiful? They are struggle-free (Psalms 73:3-6). They live care-free lives. They wear their pride with designer’s grace. The evil imagination of their minds (Psalms 73:7-9) knows no limit. And the people turn to them (Psalms 73:10-11) they  questioned God – where is Jehovah God in all this? 

While the first vision is about sight and the mood is one of envy, the 2nd vision is radically different. It is about insight - understanding, and the mood is confidence. The psalmist, awakened from his dream, from the slippery seduction – now understands that is they who are on slippery ground. The fortunes of the wicked will change. They are living ephemeral lives. 
How did it change for the psalmist? 

Psalms 73:15-17 is the pivotal point. Three truths help him to transit from the first vision to the second. 

Firstly, he saw that life is probational - For he discerned their final end (or destiny) (Psalms 73:17). He began to have a longer perspective. Measured in the temporal, it seems that they have shalom. But because God is still God – and will hold them accountable for their pride and wickedness – their end will be one of destruction. Life is only for a while. This is the Christian view of life - we are accountable. 

Secondly, he saw that life is communal (Psalms 73:15) Asaph was thinking from the perspective of a leader : If I had said “I will speak thus – adopted this outlook of life - I would have betrayed the children.” For they are also many who have chosen to follow God and lived differently. They have not slipped. They have not fallen into the slippery seduction. If I do now, I will betray and stumble them. Courage is found in the company of God’s people and when we know that others are looking to us. It is like a mother who chooses to be strong for the sake of her children in the face of great adversity instead of giving up. The realization that what we do counts because others are counting on us. 

The psalmist realised that both communities - one which belongs to the first, and the other the second - were calling for his allegiance. If we are deep in one, we will, neglect the other. 

Thirdly, he saw that life is spiritual. In the midst of the mental oppression, internal suffering and faith crisis – he entered the sanctuary of God. And there, he was helped as he moved from sight to insight – and saw the truth of life for what it really is. There he was reminded and nourished by the will of God, the Word of God and the worship of God. 

Jesus Christ has come to give us these 3 gifts: destiny, community, and the presence of God. Only through Christ, can we move away form the mesmerising first vision of the life and enter the second. 

The psalmist did not say that his suffering has ended. The wicked and rich continue to prosper. But he now understands. The psalm started and ended with a statement of what is good. In verse one – it is a creedal confession. In the last verse here (Psalms 73:28) – it is a cry of personal commitment. From creed to commitment, it is a spiritual journey that we need to take as we traverse through life. 

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