Psalm 73

April 02, 2024

1 Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.

3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.

5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.

6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.

7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.

8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.

9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.

10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.

11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?

12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.

13 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.

14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.

15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.

16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;

17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.

19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.

20 As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.

21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.

22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.

23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.

24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.

28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

The Point:

The goodness of God sometimes fades in our minds when we are confronted with the success of evil. But then we look through eyes of faith and see the redemption of God and His judgment on the wicked.

How do we feel in the recitation of this psalm?

Our hearts are in turmoil as our eyes fixate on the evil power of the wicked. Suppose for a moment that you are swimming in shark-infested waters. As a gigantic, twenty-foot great white bumps your leg, you feel small and vulnerable. But would fear overwhelm you? Or would you be more impressed with the power of God who made such a magnificent animal? Are you more likely to glorify the big shark, or glorify the big God who made the shark? Very often, our moods and perspectives are fear-based, being controlled by the actions and achievements of the wicked around us. When this happens, we lose our focus on God, Who sometimes does give wicked men temporary success in order that He might perfect His judgment upon them. By the end of the psalm, we refocus our eyes upon God, acknowledge His protection and salvation, and realize His absolute justice.

What does this psalm teach us?

Verse 1. The psalm begins with a gracious recognition of God’s goodness to Israel, the body of the church, and the assembly of the saints. As we take in the big picture of God’s work with the church in history, throughout the world, and in our own local church, we get a clear picture of the rich blessings God has poured out on us, and we begin to see the sharp difference between the church and the world around us. In the church there is more holiness, sanctification, joy, and blessing than what we find in the wide world surrounding the church.

Those who make up the church should be the “pure in heart.” Purity of heart is a singleness of vision. When a foreign substance like dirt is mixed into clear water, it becomes impure. Another example of impurity is the impure eye of an unfaithful man who is quickly taken with other women besides his own wife. Similarly, the impure heart is a double-minded heart (James 1:8). It is unstable and lacking in faith because it fails to keep God in its sights. And this is precisely where the psalmist is failing—this will become clear in the succeeding verses.

Verses 2–16. It was the point at which Asaph’s attention was drawn to the prosperity and power of the wicked that he almost slipped. How often do we see the wicked prosper? At times in human history, as human empires grow over hundreds of years, we see a steady growth in the power of the wicked. We watch them as they abandon God’s law, endorse abortion and infanticide, and continually teach less and less fear of God in their schools. In the face of the massive expansion of evil, it is easy to be overwhelmed with discouragement. Sometimes the wicked do enjoy more resources, more power, and better health than those who faithfully serve God. This only further fortifies the wicked in their prideful state. As the years go by, they are less and less concerned with the possibility of God’s existence or His displeasure with them. As Asaph considers these things, he bitterly confesses, “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.”

For a moment, Asaph gives way to depression. His spirit falters when he walks over the slippery ice field of disbelief because his eyes are removed from the goodness and justice of the living God. This is what happens to the double-minded man of whom James speaks. When the eyes of the saint begin to wander from God and then focus upon the works of men, his faith in God will languish. The problem with Asaph is that he is distracted. Without the backdrop of the law of God, any believer may be distracted by the delights, activities, and temptations of this world. Or, without the backdrop of the sovereign will of God,  he may be distracted by the oppressive acts of the wicked as they sin with apparent impunity. This distraction can press our souls to the ground, causing us to think of nothing but the machinations of the wicked. These distractions distort our perspective.

Verses 17–20. The resolution to these tormenting thoughts comes promptly in verse 17. All Asaph has to do is to step into the congregation of God’s saints, and instantly his vision is restored and he sees the end of the wicked as clear as day. For Asaph, this clearer vision led him to interpret reality in these two possible ways. He understands that God would not vindicate those who love Him by punishing His enemies— and He doesn’t care a thing about justice. Or He is saving the wicked for a dreadful day of judgment in which He will wipe them away in terrifying and sudden destruction—and justice is highly important to Him. It can only be one or the other, and a man of true faith will conclude that the latter case is the true one. Two hundred years can seem like a very long time when there is nothing but vile oppression and evil power working against the people of God. But if you can see it from God’s perspective, you will see that the legacy of the wicked will be nothing but a dream soon forgotten. The evil of the wicked is but for a moment, while their destruction is forever.

Verses 21–24. Now as Asaph sits in public worship, he is better able to see himself from the vantage point of God’s reality. Now he can see that he was ignorant and blind to the truth. His heart was grieved and embittered until he saw the hand of God holding him up. As the fog cleared ever so slightly, the focus upon God sharpened even more. Hope returned, and now he knows for certain that one day God will receive him into glory. With this perspective in view, he can hardly be bothered any more by the wicked and their evil progress. God is sovereign; God will judge the wicked, and Asaph is going to heaven and eternal glory. Why should he be bothered with what the wicked are doing?

Verses 25–28. The psalm ends with words that nourish the heart of every man, woman, and child of faith. Truly, there is nothing in heaven and earth that could satisfy the believer besides God Himself. All of our hopes, desires, and purposes hang upon God alone. For the Christian, it is an all or nothing proposition. Either men will find in God the fulfillment of their every hope and desire, their very purpose for living, their salvation from the corruption of sin and temptation, and final justice for every cruel injustice wrought on earth, or they will not. True believers will seek for these things in God and God alone.

When we focus upon the tyranny of evil governments, the deceitful scams, the tragedy of families broken up by sin, and the domination of men who do not fear God in media, entertainment, and education, we are quickly overwhelmed. When we face our own flesh and see how easily we are led into temptation, we are weakened at the very prospect of taking up the battle against it. “My flesh and my heart fail.” But in our weakness we have just enough strength to say, “God is my strength and my portion forever!” We have just enough strength to acknowledge God as Savior because we know that strength comes from God Himself.

How do we apply this psalm?

1. Distraction is a joyless business for the Christian. When we are constantly surrounding ourselves with news reports or fictional stories about wicked men who continually break God’s commandments without receiving consequences but do not have the vision of God’s righteousness, justice, and redemption, we will be disheartened in our faith. Therefore, we should be careful how much we immerse ourselves in godless education, media, and entertainment. Whatever we do, we need to engage in regular prayer and the reading of the Word such that we are able to see the backdrop of God and His truth around us and behind everything we experience.

2. Let us be careful not to allow feelings of defeat or bitterness to consume us as we view the success of wicked men in the workplace or in the political realm. Some Christians and their ministries over-emphasize the conspiracies of godless men against God’s law and His liberty. They lose the proper perspective because they themselves are not living in the fear of God and do not have an understanding of His sovereignty, power, and love for His people.

How does this psalm teach us to worship God?

1. There is something about public worship and the assembly of the church that clarifies our vision, enabling us to see the world around us from the right perspective. Those who are absent from the public assemblies of worship will constantly slip and slide in the ice fields of wrong perspectives and discouragement.

2. It is appropriate to mention the wicked and their activities during our public worship of God, but it must only be a brief mention. Godly worship is always to be focused upon God in His redemption, His final and perfect judgment, and His goodness to His church. That is the vision that we must capture every time we worship God in our families and churches.


1. Give several examples of Faith Psalms.

2. What is it to be pure in heart?

3. According to James, what sort of man is unstable in all his ways?

4. Why did Asaph’s foot almost slip?

5. How did Asaph regain a vision for God?

Family Discussion Questions:

1. What happens to you when you focus a little too much on what the enemy is doing?

2. Are you a different person after Sunday worship? When you stop the work and entertainment that you do on every other day and focus upon God in the assembly of the saints on Sundays, do you find this changes your attitude and perspective?