Whom Have I But You? 

February 4, 2006 ~ Bay Ridges Long Term Care Centre


(all Scripture quoted from the New International Version of the Holy Bible)


Psalm 73:1-14Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2  But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3  For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4  They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5  They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. 6  Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. 7  From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. 8  They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. 9  Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. 10  Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. 11  They say, "How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?" 12  This is what the wicked are like— always carefree, they increase in wealth. 13  Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. 14  All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.


This message is written at a time where the words of Asaph in the first verses of Psalm 73 seem especially appropriate to my situation. An article that I read earlier this week, written by a former pastor who is now an atheist, has caused in me a similar reaction to Asaph’s. This article, entitled: “Literal Believers Must Grasp At Straws To Prop Up Their Myth1”, is an attack against the historicity of Jesus in which the author attempts to prove by means of various lies and half truths that Jesus did not exist but that He was a myth created by man. It filled with smug affirmations that discount eyewitness evidence for Jesus and elevates the ideas of men who doubt God beyond their merit. Having seen this same attitude reflected in almost every aspect of the society in which I live and having experienced first hand its wanton disregard for God I am brought to the edge of despair. To live in this world and see so many turn their backs on an undeniable God and live as though He didn’t intimately care for them is more than disturbing. It is very difficult to continue in my faith when the world’s lack of faith seems to be overlooked by God and its rebellion against Him yields no consequence.


Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, confronted by the same situation, had a similar reaction; wondering why the wicked prospered while the Godly suffered. Interestingly, he encountered this situation while under the reign of King David, during the golden age of the Kingdom of Israel. (Godlessness can flourish anywhere.) He, like me, saw the evil being practised around him and wondered why he, a God fearing man, should suffer while the Godless flourished. I can almost hear him asking the same question that I’ve been asking: “If God is real, why is there so much unpunished evil and so much unrewarded righteousness?”


Like me, he was tempted to doubt that God punishes evil, he saw no evidence of it. He was tempted to doubt that God rewards the righteous, he saw no evidence of that either. He is tempted to doubt, that is, until he enters the “sanctuary of God:”



Psalm 73:15-20 If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed your children. 16  When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me. 17  Till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. 18  Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19  How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20  As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.


It is in the sanctuary, in the presence of God and the people of God, that Asaph realizes that the well-being of those who reject God is temporary. He refers to them as being on “slippery ground.” Their destruction is assured, like they are sliding down an ice covered hill they are not able to prevent what will happen to them. Once he is in the presence of God he understands that his own future is assured. He remembers that his own suffering will end when God takes him into glory. He is restored to faith in spite of the circumstances of his life. Asaph’s problem had not been that God was not paying attention to the righteous but that he, Asaph, had not been paying attention to God. He had permitted his limited human perspective to cloud his faith.


This is also the problem that I have been struggling with, especially in response to the way in which we have allowed this to be guided over the past number of years. We have seen man enact laws that are in opposition to the law of God. We have seen morality scorned and immorality encouraged. We have seen Christianity disenfranchised from the nation it helped to create. From a human perspective Christians have reason to doubt that God is concerned. For the past several months I have been tempted to doubt that God is concerned, or even that He is in control.


Not until I started paying attention to God again, instead of man, did I realize that my problem was not what was happening in the world around me; my problem was what was happening inside me. I was paying more attention to man than I was to God. By allowing myself to be blinded by what I thought God wasn’t’ doing I couldn’t see what He was doing. I had stepped away from my faith.


Asaph, upon returning his attention to God, realizes that he had been blind and that his own position is preferred when compared to the wicked. He concludes his protest with a hymn of praise to God and an affirmation of his faith in Him:


Psalm 73:21-28 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22  I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. 23  Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25  Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing 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  Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28  But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.


Faith in God may sometimes seem contrary to the circumstances that surround us but it can never be contrary to the fact that He is real and He loves His own. In the final words of Psalm 73 Asaph writes:


Psalm 73:25Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.


Asaph has returned to God, in spite of what he sees happening around him


Many years ago Maltbie B. Babcock wrote one of my favourite hymns: “This Is My Father’s World.” The final verse of this hymn echoes the words of Asaph, affirming faith in God regardless of the apparent power of evil:


This is my Father's world.

O let me ne'er forget

that though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father's world:

why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let the earth be glad!


Regardless of the strength of this world or its determination to do away with God, He remains the ruler. I am His child. Nothing else matters.


Isaiah 7:9 If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.


1 February 1, 2006; Dan Barker; http://bbsnews.net/article.php/20060201000220916