73:0This is a psalm by Asaph, or one that somebody wrote for him or his music group. You can read about Asaph at the end of this psalm.
The psalmist had a problem. Bad people had plenty of money and things. Good people did not. Why? Would it be better for him to be bad? Then he went into God's house. There he understood that bad people would die, but good people would always live with God!
In this psalm, we have translated ‘bad people’ as ‘godless.’ This meant:
– Before 500 BC, people who were not Israelites
– After 500 BC, people who did not obey God and fought against him; it did not matter who they were
BC means years Before Christ came to live on the earth. About 500 BC was when many Israelites returned home from the exile. They came from Babylon.
So the psalmist starts with what he had learned: God is good to the people whose hearts are clean.
Now I Understand
This is a psalm of Asaph.
73:0The psalm is in three parts. They all start with the same word in Hebrew: ak. It means ‘surely.’ We have translated it ‘I am sure’ in verse 1 and ‘I was sure’ in verses 13 and 18.
1 I am sure that God is good to the people of Israel,
to the people whose hearts are clean.
73:1The psalmist (maybe Asaph) starts with what he thinks is true. ‘God is good to Israel’, verse 1. He then says whom he means by Israel. It is not everyone that lives in that land. It is only those ‘whose hearts are clean.’ This means the people that love and obey God. There are other people in Israel that do not love and obey God. He calls these ‘the godless’, verse 3.
2 But this is what happened to me.
My feet nearly slipped and I almost fell over.
3 Some people had made themselves important.
Because I was angry, I wanted the things they had.
I saw that godless people had plenty!
73:3The godless had plenty of money and things. God did not seem to punish them. This made Asaph angry! He also wanted plenty of things. He almost stopped loving and obeying God. That is what ‘my feet nearly slipped and I almost fell over’ means, verse 2. The important words are ‘nearly’ and ‘almost.’ God did not let the psalmist fall. God was with the psalmist, even if the psalmist did not believe it.
4 And so their bodies are fat and healthy.
Even when they die, they feel no pain.
73:4Asaph tells us more about the godless:
– They have plenty to eat and drink so they are fat (or healthy), verse 4
– When they die they do not have a lot of pain like some people, verse 4
– They do not have trouble like most people, verse 5
– They make everyone see that they think that they are important, verse 6 (necklace and clothes are what people see)
– They are proud (which means they think that they are important), verse 7 and they oppress people (or are not kind to them), verse 8
– They say that everything in heaven and earth belongs to them, verse 9
5 They do not have trouble like other people
or the difficulties that hit everyone else.
6 So they, the godless, wear their pride like a necklace.
The bad things that they do, they wear them like clothes.
7 Their eyes look out from fat faces.
Their hearts are full of pride.
8 They laugh at people and say bad things about them.
In their pride they talk about oppressing people.
9 The mouths of the godless say that the skies belong to them.
And their tongues demand the earth.
10 So his God's people turn to them.
They drink everything from them the godless.
73:10This makes ‘his people turn to them’, verse 10. The Hebrew Bible does not say who ‘his people’ are, or ‘them.’ Many Bible students think that it means this: God's people (whose hearts are clean) want to be like the godless. They want this so that they too can have plenty of money and things. They ‘drink everything’, verse 10, or ‘do everything the godless do.’ Then they ask each other if God knows what they have done, verse 11. The answer is God does know because he is with his people.
11 And they God's people ask, ‘How can God know?’
And they ask ‘Does the Most High see everything?’
73:11Some Bible students think that it is the godless that ask the questions in verse 11. The Hebrew Bible only reads ‘they.’ But the answer is the same: God knows about them also!
12 This, then, is what godless people say and do.
They have no trouble and plenty of money!
73:12This part of the psalm finishes with ‘the godless have no trouble and plenty of money’, verse 12.
13 I was sure that I had made my heart clean
for no good purpose!
Also, I had washed my hands
to show that I had done nothing wrong for no reason!
73:13In verses 13-17, Asaph tells us his thoughts. He ‘almost fell over’, verse 2, but he did not really fall over. As he says in verse 23, ‘I was always with you (God).’ But he did want what the godless had. We say that they ‘tempted’ him. He even wrote in verse 13 that ‘his heart was clean for no good purpose.’ This means that it was a waste of time being a good Israelite! But he did not slip and fall over, verse 2, for several reasons:
– God was always with him, verse 23
– When the godless tempted him, he felt bad, verse 14
– He would have hurt the good Israelites (or ‘let them down’), verse 15
– He wanted to understand why it happened, verse 16
14 I had trouble all day
and it started to hurt me every morning!
15 If I had said, ‘I will agree with what the godless say’;
then I would have let down all your children.
16 When I thought about this,
it was so hard for me to understand.
17 Then I went into the house of God.
That was when I understood what would happen to them the godless.
73:17So he went to the house of God. Maybe this was the temple in Jerusalem. We know Asaph went there, 2 Chronicles 5:12. Maybe it was another house of God. It does not matter where it was, or when. The psalmist saw what would happen to the godless. He tells us in the last part of the psalm.
18 Then I was sure that you would put them
in a place where they would slip!
You would throw them down and destroy them.
73:18God would surprise the godless, verses 18-20 and 27. In a moment, God would destroy them. One minute they would be there, the next minute they would not! It would be like a dream. When you wake up, it has gone, verse 20. The verse says that it is God that wakes up to find them gone. It is true for God's people also.
19 It will take just a moment to destroy them!
Great fear will sweep them away completely.
20 It will be like when you wake up from a dream.
Lord, when you get up, you will forget that they were there!
21 When my heart hurt me and my stomach was painful.
73:21The psalmist was sorry, verses 21-22. He knew nothing! He was stupid! He was like a wild animal! His heart (thoughts) and his stomach (body) had hurt him, but it was all his fault! (Fault means ‘doing wrong.’) God was with him all the time and that was the most important thing in life, verses 23-26. Look at what he wrote about it:
– God would hold his hand and be his guide, verses 23-24
– God would take him to glory, verse 24
– God would give him everything on earth he needed, verses 25-26
– God would make him strong, verse 26
22 I was stupid and I knew nothing.
I was as an angry animal with you!
23 But really I was always with you.
Now you hold me by my right hand.
24 What you say to me will be my guide.
And then you will take me to glory.
73:24Christians believe that ‘take me to glory’ in verse 24 means ‘take me to heaven.’ This is because only God has real glory and God's home is heaven. The word ‘glory’ means ‘something that shines very much.’
25 I know nobody in heaven except you.
And, with you, there is nothing else on earth that I want.
26 My heart and my body may fail,
but God will always make me strong.
He is all that I will ever need.
27 I am sure that people far from you will die.
You will destroy everybody that does not obey you.
28 But it is good for me to be near to God.
I have made the LORD God my safe place.
I will tell people about the good things that you do.
73:28So the psalmist made God his ‘safe place’, verse 28. Another word for ‘safe place’ is ‘refuge.’ It is a place where you can find shelter. In a storm, a shelter will keep the wind and rain off you. In the storms of life (the bad things that happen) God will keep you safe. This is what the psalmist believed. It is better to be ‘near to God’ than to have plenty of money and things. In a moment they will all be gone, but God will always be with us!