The Lord Our Portion
The Lord Our Portion
A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5 They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. 7 Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. 8 They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. 9 They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. 10 Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. 11 And they say, "How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?" 12 Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. 13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 14 For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. 15 If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed the generation of your children. 16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! 20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. 21 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22 I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. 23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. (Psalm 73:1-28 ESV)
This psalm’s authorship is attributed to Asaph. He is a Levite priest. In book III of the psalms 11/17 psalms are ascribed to him. Some think the psalm is attributed to him because he was over the singing of the psalm.
*These are the men whom David put in charge of the service of song in the house of the LORD after the ark rested there. 32 They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting until Solomon built the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they performed their service according to their order. (1 Chronicles 6:31-32 ESV)
Just a reminder that God uses many different people in the furthering of his purposes, the writing of sacred songs, the performing of them and much more.
- The Power of Envy
The psalm begins by affirming that God is good to Israel. But interestingly he also further qualifies it. God is good to the “pure in heart.” He is speaking about the community of faith that is grounded in covenant responsibility. Pure in heart is what any good Israelite should have, but just because someone is an Israelite doesn’t mean they are devoted to God. You can be in the visible people of God and yet not doing what God calls you to do.
God is good to Israel, but he makes a confession. He slipped. He almost fell from his allegiance to this doctrine. What is it that would make a man slip in his admonition that God is good. Is it the threats from evil? Is it the intimidating presence of Satan? An army telling him to recant? It is none of that.
*For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. v3
The power of envy and not getting what others are getting. It seems petty in some ways. And yet we all know its pull. But this inward desire can change your theology, devotion, view of the world. He wasn’t getting what he wanted and it is unfair. How could God allow this??
He almost slips because he envies the godless. Jealous is to envy, to have your anger aroused. Just before Joseph’s brothers threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery it is said they were jealous of him (Gen 37:11). They wanted what he had.
God is a jealous God. He envies to have the hearts of his people (Deut 5:9 ESV).
V4 begins a series of observations of the godless. He looks at them and says, they have no pangs until death. They are trouble free. Not a care in the world. They are fat and sleek, they are healthy and strong. They have no lack. They are not in trouble like everyone else (v5). Their instagram is the trip to the Caribbean, the new car, fun time out on the town, eating out at their favorite restaurant, new tv. You don't see the hurts, the worries, the fears, or the limitations.
They have all this wonderful stuff, but look at me. I have problems all around. My life is not so trouble free. I'm not that well off. Not true but what we tell ourselves.
Because their life is so good they are proud (v6). That is what happens when everything goes right. You become conceited. Think it is because of what you have done, who you are. Too good to have hardship. They are corrupt, speak wickedly, and threaten others. v8.
Their eyes swell through the fat. they have more than enough. They are wicked and yet they are always increasing riches (v12).
This leads him to conclude "all in vain have I served God" (v13). I have tried my best to serve him, honor him, and it has not produced a life of abundance, a life free of struggles. Do you ever feel like you have served God in vain. You didn't get what you wanted.
- You have a good attitude, work hard and a team player but it's the other kid who has the bad attitude, doesn't honor God, is mean to others who is the star player.
- You honored God with my finances tithing everything you have and month after month you barely get by. What is the point?!!
- You went to the True Love Waits conference and answered every question on the premarital program and yet you don't have a very good relationship with your spouse.
- You have been in church your whole life and am still struggling.
Life is like one giant rebuke after another (v14). He tries to understand it but it is wearisome (v16). Doesn’t even want to discuss it. Why bother. It is as futile as the life I have been living.
Have you ever been in this place? If not, just wait. Your faith will be tested. If not you probably have not lived long enough. But note this song written by a leader in the temple worship. Even leaders struggle with this. No one is immune to doubt. Church would sing this song in their gathering. Church should be a place you can acknowledge your doubts and struggles. These are problems common to all people. Are we going to be a church that embraces people saying uncomfortable things. We can't help them if we don’t.
It’s not wrong/unusual to struggle with this. But it also is not good to remain in that place. If you have never struggled with this then your faith has not really been tested. If your love has not returned then you have not passed the trial.
That’s the problem in this psalm, but it ends with him in a different place. So what happened.
- The Power of the Sanctuary
*a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! 20 Like a dream when one awakes,
Laconic about what happens in the sanctuary, but by verse 18 he is able to re-envision his entire existence and to reperceive the true destiny. The life of the self indulgent and will evaporate like morning dew. Disappear like a bad dream (). There was something in the sanctuary that led him to see the end of each. I believe it has to do with the preaching of God’s word and the community embracing that.
*the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. (1Ti 3:15 ESV)
Sounds like he heard about the end fate. In terms of the New Testament it sounds like he may have heard something like,
*[“What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36).
His time in the sanctuary changed him. The place of the church. I want you to see the value of church and the need to be a part of it. The sanctuary in the psalms is a holy and sacred place. It has an effect when people come into it. It is the place of the presence of God. It is esteemed. People are eager to attend.
The sanctuary, the church, brought him off the ledge. He values it. He sees the place for it. I want to ask, do you esteem the church? Do you believe God can and will use it in the lives of others? Are you coming to church eager for this to happen and are you praying for it? This is how God works in the church, ordinary people.
The church is God’s plan A planfor changing the world. You see it here. If you want to have an impact in the world join the church.
- His true Portion
This psalm is about what slice of the pie am I going to get. Will I get something good. Like a bunch of kids hovering around the birthday cake and everyone worried about not getting something. It’s a lack of faith and logic.
The writer now sees life through an eternal lens. He sees that the wicked may flourish for a moment, but God will judge them in the end. He sees the greatness and grandeur of God and states there is nothing else that he wants. The conclusion of his search is articulated in v25, 26.
*25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
These are powerful verses. His heart will fail but God is his strength. Everything can fail. Money will fail. People will fail. The one thing he can depend on is God. He realizes how vain his craving for the commodities of the world was. This is the cry of a disciple. It’s not the prayer of an elite Christian, but every Christian.
Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, (Joh 6:68 ESV)
Comes to confess his own attraction to this destructive alternative was an act of bitterness, stupidity, and ignorance.
Look at how he was before. When he was embittered and pricked in heart he was brutish, and like a beast (v21-22). A brute beast does not reason. Like a man trying to get a donkey to move and the donkey just stands there. Won't listen to reason. Doesn't matter how good the arguments are. Perfect logic.'''. Donkey just doesn’t want to move. That is how he was. You may recognize times you are like that. You may recognize times others are like that. You can give all the best rational, the right theology, but they ignore and sink in their misery and complaining. That is being a brute beast.
His attitude is essentially the same problem as what was in the garden (Job and Jeremiah). God put his people in the Garden of Eden, Paradise, but they sought happiness outside of him. Same thing here. And so this brings us to the ultimate question of will you be happy in God alone or is it God plus…
Keeping up with the Jones. Habits. This attitude is the root of much of our unhappiness in life. Doesn't want God but stuff. Imagine if your child said “I just want your stuff.” Not that interested in you but very much wants you stuff.
Our idols reveal themselves when we are willing to push away from God because we did not get what we wanted.
**What is ironic is he is struggling because God has not given him more stuff. He wants something other than God, God doesn't give it to him, and so he rejects God.
People crave acceptance and when you don’t get it, particularly when you don’t get it at church, push away from God. God has not given me what I want. I want to be successful and God has not given it to me so forget him. He is not there. So many people quit church because it doesn’t give them what they wanted. God has bigger plans than you.
*Are you embracing what God may want to do in your disappointments? Or are you mad at him?*
Often we only seek God for what he can do for us. Only seek him to get stuff. God rejects that. He won’t allow it to stand.
But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. (Psa 73:28 ESV)
He began asserting God is good. He slips because he wants the good others have, life without troubles, riches, fatness, … he ends saying it is good to him to be near to God. It is the presence of God he is satisfied with.
This is his portion. This is what really matters. Slice of the cake. It is the only thing that really endures.
Craving things other than God ultimately leads to our demise.
- Concerned that one consequence of disappointment with God, perhaps simply a lack of devotion to him is that we serve him in a manner that does not cost us anything. You profess to follow Jesus and go through the motions but simply don't find him that desirable. Don’t want to do anything that leads us to sacrifice. You don’t live by faith. Mission trip, no way. Sharing the gospel, not so much. Tithing, are you kidding me. Excited about church, why in the world.
One of our greatest threats today is the indifference most people have to Jesus. People are not willing to express their hurt, struggle in faith, frustration and so it just lingers.
It leaves us empty. It leads us on a path of destroying others, ignoring our true identity. When we have that thing we think we have everything we need, that we are better than others, that nothing can stop us. When we don't have it the world is ruined for us. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
That is the only thing that can truly satisfy us, that can never be taken away. Don’t fill your life with stuff. Fill it with God. Make a point to protect time with God.
Is God your all in all. Is he your everything.
Quiet times. Bible before phone. What does your phone bring you. Distraction
- Extended time with God. Busy yourself with a vacation, places to see. Maybe try taking time off and spend in God’s word and fellowship with others. That is more restoring than anything else.
- What can you not go a day without?
If only in this life we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied above all people (1 Cor 15:33).
Satisfied with the presence of God. Remember being with Phylis a year ago. Saying she wanted to go and be with my Jesus. His presence was real and powerful and delightful.
Prop: The Lord is the source of true and lasting good and when he is our portion we find faith and satisfaction. We must embrace his presence as more desirable than anything else. If we have him we have everything. If we don't have him we have nothing.
This leads to the pure devotion that is to be in his people.
Sure I need a promotion, but I don’t really need it. I don’t really need more people in the church. I don’t really need healing. We pursue those but not like our life depends on it. What is your biggest problem in life. Just pull back and carve out time with the Lord. Consider how great he is. Confess where you are not trusting him.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25-26.
- What prosperity did the psalmist see in others that caused him to question God? What areas cause you to struggle?
- What is the end fate of those who do and do not serve God?
- How is God’s presence better than anything else? How can you spend time in his presence this week?