Even though he questioned the value of his innocence, the writer’s perspective is changed when he entered into worship. The wicked are not as prosperous has he once thought (73:18-20). The writer knew his feet were in danger of slipping when he became envious, but the wicked are in a slippery place as well, in ignorance! Because they trust in their wealth and power, they are in the most insecure place imaginable. The prosperity of the wicked is compared to a dream. It is not real and substantive, it is merely a vapor which will pass away when morning comes. The wicked are “unreal” or even naturally unstable, liable to fall at any moment.
We might think it strange that this new perspective might come out of a worship experience since we do not really sing worship songs about the damning of the wicked. This is true in the psalms, however. Assuming the writer did engage in the liturgy of the temple, then there is a strong possibility that he would have sung some of the Psalms which reminded him that God is a righteous judge and would punish the wicked.
The writer’s change in perspective is also seen in his self-evaluation (73:21-24). Like most people who have “come to their senses,” he feels a bit foolish. he calls himself senseless (only in Pss 49:11, 73:22, 92:7, Prov 12:1, 30:2, parallel to foolish, etc.), he compares himself to an animal which has no reason or wisdom at all. In saying this, he is not deprecating himself out of a false humility. Worship has taught him what he really is (a child of God) and his understanding of the way things really are in this world will be driven by that worship experience.
He recognizes that God is always with him, holding his hand as a parent with a small child. The reason a small child can walk or play with confidence is the knowledge that the parent is nearby and watching over them. The psalmist is describing himself as a small child who simply needed to be reminded that his loving parent is keeping watch nearby.
This is a child-like faith, but it is not a simple, unquestioning faith. In this psalm the writer has expressed very grave doubts about God’s justice in the world, perhaps even the ability of God to keep his promises. He has critically evaluated both the world and his faith, and returned to an honest faith in the God who is very near.
The writer’s changed perspective is also seen in his renewed commitment to be near to God (25-28). The last two verses of the Psalm returns to the theme of the first, “But for me, it is good to be near God.”
The writer’s commitment to God is based on God’s presence in his life. He is always with me, he is near. This is an expression of God’s persistence. The image of a young child is particularly good because a parent has to work pretty hard to watch over a child all of the time. A parent must be persistent, since the moment you let your guard down there is going to be crayon on a wall or a spoon in the light socket.
This also expresses God’s sufficiency. God is all that the writer needs; as it turns out, he does not need to envy the prosperity of the wicked since God has given him all that he needs, he is able to be completely satisfied in the presence of God. What more on earth could there be to satisfy me compared to true fellowship with God?
As it turns out, the proverb in 73:1 is correct. The one who is pure in heart is near to God, the external circumstances of the individual do not matter, whether they are wealthy or in poverty, whether they are in good health or suffering greatly. True shalom, the peace which the covenant speaks of, is to be found in nearness to God and only in nearness to God. Conversely, it is a fearful thing to be far from God, as are the wicked. Their apparent prosperity in the present time is nothing, it is in fact not real prosperity at all.
Ironically, in the end, misery is to be far from God, while true shalom is to be near to God.
2 thoughts on “Psalm 73:18-22 – Viewing the World from God’s Perspective”
Hi Phil, Been appreciating your comments on Psalm 73. Watching with interest for what you will say on the last 6 verses. Best, Art Sims
I forgot to post the last section! It is posted now….
Psalm 73:23-28 – It Is Good To Be Near God! – http://wp.me/pjGbY-2N3