Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity ; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. – Psalm 73:1-14
This is an interesting bit of water…this passage addresses envying those who seem to have it all despite rejecting God and his provision. This is the second Psalm ascribed to Asaph or perhaps to his musical group. The “I” in this could be Asaph or some other member of his group, but I think it would apply to many of us.
The author is recounting an inner struggle, “my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold”. This reminds me of someone on a precarious path with a steep cliff on one side and a hill slope on the other. One misstep and it would mean a dangerous fall into the unknown. It seems the author is finding it difficult to focus on the path they are on rather the path of other seemingly more successful people — “the arrogant”. The reality is that is ultimately someone else’s story.
Then comes the water reference. The successful, arrogant, people apparently are providing “waters in abundance”. So they are taking on the role of provision in the lives of those who follow them that is supposed to be reserved for God alone. They also Mock God by saying “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This reminds me of the attitude that the came up in the book of Job when Elihu was rebuking Job.
The Psalm does not end on a hopeful note. The author seems to conclude that “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.” I reject this conclusion and remain confident that in the end God always wins.
Prayer: Thank you for guiding us along the path that leads to you. Help me to focus on that path and not the path being followed by others.