Have you ever been envious of people who portray success but do not portray a fear for God or respect for His word? It’s easy to fall into the trap of the world where every decision is about moving forward in advancing our personal prosperity. This is what Asaph describes in Psalm 73. Look closely at the paradigm shift from a focus upon God and His work on behalf of His people to a focus upon the prosperity of the wicked.
Psalm 73:1–12 (ESV) — 1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5 They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. 7 Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. 8 They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. 9 They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. 10 Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. 11 And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
This is nothing new. When Eve was tempted in the Garden of Eden by the serpent, he caused her to take her eyes off God and focus upon her personal gain.
Genesis 3:1–5 (ESV) — 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Back to Asaph’s words about falling into the trap of envy. Envy is really sin because it is strongly connected to coveting. Consider the definitions where envy is a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or good fortune; covetousness is a yearn to possess or have something.
Exodus 20:17 (ESV) — 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
So what do we do when we catch ourselves falling into the trap of longing to be like the wicked because of their apparent prosperity?
The answer is found how God moved in Asaph’s life to bring a change of mindset.
Psalm 73:16–17 (ESV) — 16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
Please understand the importance of worship. As Asaph was caught up with envy of the wicked and consumed by their apparent free and prosperous lifestyle, it all became a wearisome task to try to figure things out UNTIL he went into the sanctuary of God. When we worship God we get a fresh view of His greatness and a fresh view of His word, which includes the plan that God has for those who reject Him and His word so that no matter how prosperous their way seems now, it won’t always be that way as God has the final say.
Psalm 73:18–20 (ESV) — 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! 20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
As Asaph continued his return to a Biblical worldview and mindset, He was made to see a fresh awareness of the destiny of the wicked, a revived awareness of self, and a renewed awareness of God.
Psalm 73:21–26 (ESV) — 21 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22 I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. 23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73 is about a change in mindset which is something we could all use. As we learn from Asaph’s personal account may we also be ready to acknowledge our need to be renewed in our understanding of the destiny of the wicked so that we pray and long for a change in their mindset rather than mimic what they are doing. May we also be ready to step back and see what God has provided for us as He is both the supplier and the supply of the keys to real prosperity.