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Profiles in Fear-- Asaph

Discussion in 'Music Ministry' started by Alcott, Jun 28, 2019.

  1. Alcott

    Alcott Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Dec 17, 2002
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    The writer of at least a dozen Psalms in the Bible is the subject of another profile in fear—but this time it’s a different kind of fear. It’s a different kind of profile, for that matter. In Psalm 73, Asaph, believed to be the much-referenced musician at the times of David and Solomon, and surely one the best composers of his time, puts his experience into a song of praise. His fear was not that of being killed or mutilated in battle, and certainly not of being left without descendants to carry on his family’s musical legacy. But it was a fear we can probably relate to—a fear that while we watch many who sneer at God and live easy lives, and some of the worst become wealthy and famous, our own efforts in living a godly life really profit little for ourselves or anyone else, in spite of all the assurances we have long relied upon.

    Asaph begins with a bold and beautiful statement: “Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart!” What a glorious truth and a glorious way to say it! But stay with him, for it doesn’t take him very long to blow it. “But as for me” he says in verse 2, “my feet came close to stumbling, My steps had almost slipped.” Uh—how come, Ace? “For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Hmm…well, we might be envious, too, if we let ourselves do that.

    Verses 3 through 15 in this Psalm must be about the biggest pouring out of neurosis to be found anywhere in scripture. “For there are no pains in their death,…They are not in trouble as other men... They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; They speak from on high…” And he sulks on and on and on. The key word, of course, is “they.” He works hard at playing instruments and composing lyrics and setting things up for the continuous (literally) worship of his God. But they do not, and they bask in fortune and fullness for themselves, and derision for those not as materially blessed. We could modernize Asaph’s moanings with something like: They—these people born with a silver spoon in their mouths; these people who had their Ivy League educations paid for before they were in kindergarten; these people who have their choices among dozens of admirers before they settle down; these people who, if they go to church at all, do so only to further their business or political ambitions. If we obsess our minds on the pretentions of those who “have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof (as we sneak a peak at the New Testament for a second),” we will probably do worse than envy them—we will become them.

    And that is where Asaph was, I believe, at this point in his life. He was on the verge of becoming like the ones he envied, and feared he was facing a no-win decision, and his desperation to ostensibly continue doing what he thought was his ordained role in life resulted in his neurosis, so expressed, layer upon layer, by his pathological poetry. And surely we have been there before—the crossroads of going further into depression, or of sacrificing our principles in hopes of obtaining what we thought those principles would accomplish for us, but so far have not.

    So Asaph was on the brink of a critical verdict. He ends his jealous rantings with verse 16, as he says, “When I pondered to understand this, It was troublesome in my sight…” and he discovered that the answer was not very far away. “…Until I came into the sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end.” All he did was to go back to where it all started for him; the place the Lord inhabits, where He is sought and praised. The reason for it all in the first place is enough to understand—to understand that God is to be praised for who he is; not for the worldly things he may or may not do for us. To understand this is also to understand that to envy the rewards of ungodliness is to envy the consequences of the same; the main consequence being that what is apart from God in this world will remain apart from Him in the world to come. The parades of pretentious prosperity will end, Asaph acknowledged, but “Whom have I in heaven but You (v. 25)? It can be a strong temptation to concede that we can’t wait a full lifetime to receive the true abundance that we have been promised, and to go after it ourselves with compromised morals. But in the end, only God remains, and those who refused to separate themselves from him, who have resisted the concession that Asaph pondered. If you’re dealing with this now, do what Asaph did. It’s not to go into a literal sanctuary, but, in the age of grace, to your inner self, where you met God the first time; where it all began for you, as for Asaph it did in the tabernacle. In either case, He is there where you found Him the first time. And like the first time, He is ready to give you new understanding.

    To envy the pretentious
    Is, to God, to be contentious.