In Psalm 73, the psalmist tell us that he had been behaving like a “brute beast” before the Lord. What does this mean exactly? To be savage, uncontrollable, lacking intelligence, sensitivity, and compassion, this is a brute beast and describes the unrepentant sinner perfectly. Not to say that the unbeliever is unintelligent, but rather ignorant of that which would benefit them the most. They are not completely without sensitivity or compassion, but their sensitivity is limited to that which they deem worthy of their compassion. They are not out of control, but refuse to yield control of their lives to a cause greater than themselves and their own desires. Psalm 73 looks at the relationship that an unbeliever might have with the Lord, and juxtaposes it against that of the believer.

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.

For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

They have no struggle in their death; their bodies are well-fed.

They are free of the burdens others carry; they are not afflicted like other men.

Therefore pride is their necklace; a garment of violence covers them.

From their prosperity proceeds iniquity; the imaginations of their hearts run wild.

They mock and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression.

They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongues strut across the earth.

So their people return to this place and drink up waters in abundance.

The wicked say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?”

Behold, these are the wicked—always carefree as they increase their wealth.

Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure; in innocence I have washed my hands.

For I am afflicted all day long and punished every morning.

If I had said, “I will speak this way,” then I would have betrayed Your children.

When I tried to understand all this, it was troublesome in my sight until I entered God’s sanctuary; then I discerned their end.

Surely You set them on slick ground; You cast them down into ruin.

How suddenly they are laid waste, completely swept away by terrors!

Like one waking from a dream, so You, O Lord, awaken and despise their form.

When my heart was grieved and I was pierced within, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You.

Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand.

You guide me with Your counsel, and later receive me in glory.

Whom have I in heaven but You? 

And on earth I desire no one besides You.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Those far from You will surely perish; You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.

But as for me, it is good to draw near to God. 

I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may proclaim all Your works.

Psalm 73

I Envied The Arrogant

“For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” This may seem like a an odd thing for Asaph to have written about, but if we reflect on our own lives I am sure we will recognize where he may have been coming from. Initially, we may ask ourselves what exactly we have to envy about the wicked and arrogant, so let’s take a quick look at some of the points Asaph makes here. I’ll list out some qualities that Asaph mentions above:

  • Prosperous
  • Carefree
  • Well-fed
  • Free of burdens/afflictions
  • Say and do as they please

Take a close look at that list. Does it seem like there is anything wrong with it? I have to admit that at first glance this seems like a list of attributes that we should be striving for rather than against. in America especially, we place our individual liberty in the highest order, and we can all agree that we desire to be well-fed, carefree, and healthy at a minimum. We may not have any interest in being prosperous, specifically to be wealthy, but I would argue that if we desire to be healthy, well-fed, and carefree, then we ultimately desire to be wealthy. We would need money to pay for the food, medical care, and peace of mind that comes from knowing we have nothing to worry about. Thus, it seems that the modern Christian in America very closely fits Asaph’s description of a brute beast, at least initially. I think that the distinguishing factor revolves around one thing, whom we choose to serve.

What does a beast do? It serves itself. If it is hungry, it eats. If it is tired, it sleeps. If it is angry, it lashes out. A beast pays no mind to what it is eating, nor does it care if anyone else is able to eat. It only cares for itself, and the things which it deems as important. So, while we all may look at the list above and feel as though we also desire those things, we should not desire them in the same way as a beast might.

Asaph made it clear that he was initially jealous of the success and wealth of others. This is something that we can all relate to, the question we should be asking ourselves as Christians is whether we have any reason to be jealous at all. Do we wish to serve ourselves or to serve God? If the answer is God, then surely God will ensure that we have what we need to serve Him. We only become jealous when we desire to serve ourselves.

When my heart was grieved and I was pierced within, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You.

Psalm 73:21-22

It is only because Asaph realizes that he was serving only himself that he can admit that, he too, had been a brute beast. Desiring only to ensure that he had food, money, power and authority. He was not concerned for his neighbors, and thus he had been carefree. It didn’t not concern him to see others starving when he had food, it did not bother him to see others in bondage, so long as he was free. This is what should distinguish the Christian from others. By serving God, we serve one another. If I am prosperous, let me use that prosperity to lift others up. If I am free, let me use that freedom to bring others closer to God.

Look within yourself and ask whom do you serve? This is not a question that can be answered and then forgotten, but rather, this is a question upon which we should reflect continuously. I know that I constantly need to question my motives, and it is far too often I find that I am concerned more for myself than for those around me. It becomes tempting to tell myself, “I can’t help others if I have nothing”, similar to how an airline will suggest that you put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others in an emergency. This logic is flawed, as we already have our oxygen mask. As Christians, we have placed our trust in the Lord and He will ensure that we have what we need to serve Him. We do not need to concern ourselves with gathering more money, food, power, or freedom than others, we should not be concerned with the size of our own kingdom, instead we should be concerned with the kingdom of heaven.

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