It is very easy to look at the world and feel frustrated and angry that living a greedy and self-interested way seems to bring satisfaction, comfort and an easy life for some. Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, felt similarly and his insights are very helpful!
He describes being envious of the arrogant when he saw ‘the prosperity of the wicked’ (v3). He observed that these people live comfortable lives which have no trouble or strife in them (v5). They prosper materially and have increasing wealth (v12). They have so much that, like overfed housecats, they are ‘fat and sleek’ (v4). Their attitude is one of pride as they parade around but their actions are violent (v6). The way they speak demonstrates the state of their heart as they mock and scoff and threaten any who would challenge or oppose their schemes (v8). They arrogantly speak against God declaring, ‘How can God know?’ (v11).
It appears that these people are untouchable, unable to be challenged by other people and left to live in ease by God: ‘These are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches’ (v12).
And things have not changed from Asaph’s day to ours. It still seems that those who exploit their workforce make more money, those who evade taxes increase their profit margins, and those who overlook the vulnerable flourish. It seems that there is advantage to be gained by focussing on oneself. It seems that power and influence can be obtained through wealth and exploitation, and that their power and influence can be extended in ever-increasing measure irrespective of their moral values.
It appears that greed results in material reward, and ruthlessness helps in becoming powerful. It often looks like those who have no regard for God are able to rise to the top, extend the reach of their influence, and live in luxury and comfort. It often seems that those who have power are able to lord it over those under them without challenge or consequence.
These observations inevitably lead to the question, ‘Why bother putting God first and pursue righteousness, holiness and justice? Surely living in a godly way is a fruitless task for which there is no reward? (v13).’
It is at this point the psalmist has a revelation. While wrestling with these big questions he enters the presence of God (v17). It is here, in the sanctuary of God’s presence, where a new perspective is obtained. Suddenly, instead of his focus being on the prosperity of the wicked he is confronted by the presence of the Almighty, and his thinking is changed.
The lesson of this Psalm is that the sanctuary of God is the place of perspective.
It is in the sanctuary as we lift our eyes to Him that our vision gets corrected.
It is in the sanctuary, knelt before the One who sits outside of time, where an eternal perspective becomes possible.
It is in the sanctuary that the temporary and fleeting nature of the pleasures of sin become obvious.
It is in the sanctuary where it becomes clear that comfort and prosperity in this life is not the same as eternal prosperity.
It is in the sanctuary where we observe that reward in this life pales into insignificance when compared to glory in the next.
It is in the sanctuary where we are reminded of the holiness of God and that, in the end, He will deal with sin and the wicked will ultimately perish, not prosper.
It is in the sanctuary where we gain heaven’s perspective.
So when you are tempted to throw your hands up in despair and the prosperity of the wicked, enter the sanctuary. When you are tempted to join in the accumulation of worldly comforts, enter the sanctuary.
Enter the sanctuary and fix your gaze once again on our God: ‘But for me it is good to be near God’ (v26).