“Truly God is good to Israel.” He is a Father to those who are pure in heart. “But as for me,” Asaph wrote, “my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.” What was his crisis? He was envious of the arrogant when he saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Who are the wicked? Like all who live, the wicked were created by God. They were made in His image. How are they different from the righteous? They will not humble themselves before the Lord. They wear their rejection of God like a necklace. They are not the same as those who may be very weak in faith—those who are plagued by doubts and spiritual assaults. The doubter may be very meek, but the wicked man is violent, foolish, malicious, and oppressive.
The worshiper almost fell because he envied evil people. He saw them in their immoral boldness, openly claiming that God could not know what they were doing. Yet they seemed to prosper continually!
The righteous man began to think like a fool. He was facing the rebukes of mockers. He was suffering. He was greatly tempted. He was ready to say something that would have been bad for him and for others who were counting on him.
His transformation back to spiritual peace came in worship. When he went into the gathering place of God’s people he remembered that the prosperity of the wicked would not last forever. In the suddenness of a moment the wicked man would be destroyed and would be “swept away by terrors.” He would not be able to face his inevitable end with true peace.
This insight came to the worshiper in the sanctuary. Then he admitted his fault before the Lord. His soul had been embittered. He had been walking in ignorance. He was sorry for his foolish envy, and he repented. He remembered that even if the wicked man had everything on earth, the righteous man, though he might be destitute, had God.
To have God is better than any other pleasure. God holds us. He counsels us. At just the right time, when our days on earth are done, He will receive us into glory. This is what the One Righteous Man, the Messiah, has won for us with His blood, and it is worth more than anything else that this fading world can offer.
When we realize this truly, when we remember what this true historical person, Jesus of Nazareth, has won for us, we will sing a better song than the bitterness of envy.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Stay near to God. Always make the Lord your sincere refuge. Tell of His works. Suffer now for a little while, if it be His will. He is with you now and forever.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Glorious Lord, forgive us for our foolish envy. We forget what You have done for us. We treat eternity as nothing. We look at someone in their momentary dishonest or crass gain, and think that such a man is better off then we are. Bring us back to You in worship together with all of Your people. Help us to contemplate our existence in a real world of blessing which You have secured for us through the blood of Your Son. It is good to be near You, O God.