As I was praying the other night, I was seeking the Lord for a word in relation to what is and has been going on around us lately. I wanted something that would be an encouragement and inspiration to my brothers and sisters in Christ and yet also, explain, at least to a degree, what we are witnessing in the world around us and not just in the world but in some religious circles. It truly is enough to make anyone discouraged and wonder where our Heavenly Father is.
Well, it just so happened that the last time I left off reading in the Book of Psalms was at the beginning of Psalm 73, the Psalms attributed to Asaph, and the part of Psalms in the Bible listed as Book Three.
I’m sure it was no coincidence, but rather the Holy Spirit who was answering my heart’s cry for answers! First, before getting into the Psalm, I want to share with you some research on just who Asaph, the Psalmist, was.
Who was the Asaph mentioned in the Book of Psalms?
There were a number of Levites that King David assigned as worship leaders in the tabernacle choir, according to 1 Chronicles 6:31–32. Asaph was one of these men (1 Chronicles 6:39). Asaph’s duties are described in detail in 1 Chronicles 16. According to 2 Chronicles 29:30, both Asaph and David were skilled singers and poets. Asaph is also mentioned as a “seer” or prophet. The “sons of Asaph” are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 25:1, 2 Chronicles 20:14, and Ezra 2:41. The sons of Asaph were likely a guild of skilled poets and singers, modeling themselves musically after Asaph, their master. The church musicians of our day can be considered spiritual “children of Asaph.”
Psalms 50 and 73—83 are called the “Psalms of Asaph” because his name appears in the superscription at the head of those psalms. Regarding Asaph’s role as a prophet, of particular interest is the imprecatory Psalm 83, which deals with God’s judgment of Israel’s enemies: Edom, the Ishmaelites, Moab, the Hagarites, Gebal, Ammon, the Amalekites, Philistia, Tyre, and Assyria. If we examine the psalms written by Asaph, we can see that all of them have to do with the judgment of God, and many involve the prayers of the people at the prospect or moment of a particular event.
Asaph was a gifted individual. He understood where the gift came from, and he used his music to praise the Lord and communicate His Word to a needy world.
Identity of Asaph
Asaph is identified with the twelve Psalms and is said to be the son of Berechiah who is said to be an ancestor of the Asaphites. The Asaphites were one of the guilds of musicians in the First Temple. This information is clarified in the Books of Chronicles. In Chronicles, it is said that Asaph was a descendant of Gershon the son of Levi and he is identified as a member of the Levites. He is also known as one of the three Levites commissioned by David to be in charge of singing in the house of Yahweh. In 1 Chronicles 6:39 David appoints a man named Heman as the main musician or singer and Asaph as Heman’s right hand assistant and the Merarites at his left hand. Asaph is also credited with performing at the dedication of Solomon’s temple in 2 Chronicles 5:12.
As an officer within the Jerusalem religious system, Asaph would have participated in both the public and private side of that system. He served as an official for several years, starting with King David and serving King Solomon as well, if he is the same Asaph mentioned in 2 Chronicles 5:12. During his long term, Asaph saw the best and worst of other officials. His complaint against corruption among the rich and influential, recorded in Psalm 73, might have been directed towards some of those officials. The words he used to describe the wicked come from the same lexicon of words used by officers of the cultic/sacrificial system.
The articles related to the son of Berachiah and descendant of Kohath refer to the same person. Together with Heman, the grandson of the Israelite prophet Samuel, he and his male descendants were set aside by King David to worship God in song and music. He authored Psalm 50, and Psalms 73 to 83.
Psalms, for generations have always been a great comfort to God’s children and though they deal with rebellion and judgment, they also deal greatly with God’s mercy and grace as well as His Saving Character.
In Psalm 73, ascribed to the aforementioned, Asaph, it would appear to be a very personal cry to the Lord and yet, even while I was praying and reading, I sensed within the verses, a modern-day cry for answers and the admittance and recognition of how we as individuals can still fall short at times. Yet if it wasn’t for God’s unlimited mercy and grace, we would be lost on the slippery path and cliff of destruction that Asaph so aptly names.
The great thing about the Psalms, even though they were written pretty much to extol God’s character of mercy and grace towards the Israelites, His chosen people, because of their inspiration, they can be individually personalized for each of us as well as for the Church of Christ corporately.
In verse one, we see Asaph proclaiming the goodness of the Lord towards Israel and towards those of us whose “hearts are pure.” But he then goes on to explain some of his own personal misgivings in light of the circumstances happening around him.
1 Truly God is good to Israel,
to those whose hearts are pure.
2 But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
3 For I envied the proud
when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
4 They seem to live such painless lives;
their bodies are so healthy and strong.
5 They don’t have troubles like other people;
they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.
6 They wear pride like a jeweled necklace
and clothe themselves with cruelty.
7 These fat cats have everything
their hearts could ever wish for!
8 They scoff and speak only evil;
in their pride they seek to crush others.
9 They boast against the very heavens,
and their words strut throughout the earth.
10 And so the people are dismayed and confused,
drinking in all their words.
11 “What does God know?” they ask.
“Does the Most High even know what’s happening?”
12 Look at these wicked people—
enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.
Much like what most of us are seeing and experiencing with what is going around us today, so it was with Asaph. Evil (and I don’t use that term lightly) and corruption are ever present and so very blatant. The Lord warned us these times would be as “in the days of Noah,” and certainly enough, we see the depravity and self-centeredness abound in the world around us.
The arrogant pridefulness and seeming lack of care for others, the lack of service towards others and the concern for self-prosperity is astounding for being so blatant and in your face. To top it off, there appears to be an air of bragging concerning the deeds that some are able to get away with. A total rejection of God and anything related to His character and nature is bad enough, but the things that so many say, as if God doesn’t exist and of course, in most of their minds, He does not. Yet we in the United States, hail from a nation that was founded on His blessings, grace and mercy, yet just like God’s chosen in the past, turned their backs on their Father when things were good, so America has done the same thing today.
At times, in our self-pity, when we allow the flesh to rule over the spirit, we can feel as Asaph and wonder.
13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?
Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?
14 I get nothing but trouble all day long;
every morning brings me pain.
This is something we ALL fight. It is the proverbial war of the spirit with the flesh, yet because we wear this mantle of carnality, we must determine in our spirit to seek the truth and meditate on the true Sovereignty of our Almighty, Heavenly Father!
Of course, we don’t often mention this to our brothers and/or sisters because it would appear to be a fall into doubt rather than a forward journey of faith. Yet when we seek the Lord and His wisdom, He is quick to show us the truth and reveal the true tragedy of such world belief and behavior.
15 If I had really spoken this way to others,
I would have been a traitor to your people.
16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.
But what a difficult task it is!
17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,
and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path
and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.
19 In an instant they are destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors.
20 When you arise, O Lord,
you will laugh at their silly ideas
as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.
The short span of time in which the wicked believe they have the upper hand is nothing compared to the eternity of joy and peace that await God’s children, the chosen of His Heart! The wicked may brag and seem to prosper and get away with corruption today, but at what cost to their peace, not to mention their eternity?!
God Almighty, our Heavenly Father is so very gracious through His Holy Spirit to each of us. He is so willing to guide us, our thoughts and meditations to the truth and let us see the flaws of being envious of those whose lives are nothing more than what the Apostle Peter describes as the “grass and the flowers of the field.” (1 Peter 1:24). Their lives may appear beautiful today, but tomorrow the flowers fade and the grass withers away into nothing!
Thank God for His unfailing love, mercy and grace towards us individually!
21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant—
I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.
There is nothing in this world or that the world system has that is greater than the assurance and comfort of knowing we are in the Hands of the Almighty Who is proud to call us sons and daughters, His children! We live such a short time in this natural world when there is a whole lifetime of eternity just over the threshold that is beyond imagining; and it has been PROMISED to those of us who keep our hearts after the Lord! What possibly could the temporary riches or seeming pleasures of this world have to offer to us in the light of true LIFE everlasting?
Sadly, to those who place their happiness upon the riches and pleasures of this world, those who openly reject and rail against the Name of the Lord, there is an eternity of darkness, loneliness and separation from the very God Who only desires them an eternity of peace and joy. Yet it is not God, Himself Who is casting them away, but rather it is their own decisions to reject Him and what He has to offer in the coming life. How utterly sad is that?!
27 Those who desert him will perish,
for you destroy those who abandon you.
28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.
God Almighty is the ONLY source of true peace and joy. Eternal assurance and comfort has no price by comparison. It is no wonder that those who call upon the Name of the Lord shall not just be saved, (Romans 10:13), but shall rest in the present, assured of safety and belonging in the Hands of our Heavenly Father!
There is nothing in this world that compares, so there is nothing in this world worth envying!
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.