Study Guide: Psalm 73

Not long ago I read an article about how social media may be shaping our moral selves.  The article didn’t touch upon the most obvious way that is happening, the explosion of pornographic material and the millions of eyes that search it out.  No, the writer wrote about things more subtle.  For example, he took up the matter of how social media invites you to envy and covetousness as you scroll through yet another friend’s (whom you don’t even know) pictures of their latest European excursion while you enjoy your 3rd hour waiting for the mechanic to finish keeping the old clunker going.

Comparing ourselves to others and measuring our lives against theirs is common though foolish because it substitutes an image for reality.   Even people gaily splashing in the springs of St. Moritz are people, which is to say, they are as burdened by their own loads as we are.

Comparing ourselves to others is all-too-natural but it is also dangerous not only because it engenders feelings of envy but it diverts our eyes from what really matters, which, of course, are the things of God.

While considered a Psalm of Lament, Psalm 73 comes off more like a Psalm of Confession.  However, there are moments of regret and sadness.  But, the more I think about it, it seems appropriate that regret over one’s lustful struggles and a desire to turn back falls somewhere in the realm of repentance.  Repentance entails both regret, confession, and sorrow before God- a sense of one’s inadequacies on the journey of faith.

Let’s Dig In

Read through the Psalm a couple of times if you haven’t already.

The Psalm is the first in a series of 11 by Asaph, one of King David’s chief musicians.

The Flyover

You may recall that one of the things I advocate is to do a flyover of the Psalm.  That is,  just look at it.  How long is it?  Where are the divisions?  Are there parallel lines or repetitions?   Are there changes in person or tense?

The Psalm is divided by 3 markers: the word “Surely.”  (Could be translated as “Indeed” or even “Truthfully speaking”)   Those divisions fall at vss. 1,13, and 18.
The Psalm is bordered by gracious claims about God:

vs. 1: “Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.”

vs. 28  “But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my
I will tell of your deeds!”

Between those words of assurances, the Psalmist seems scattered, self-contradictory, and grieved.

However, there is a turning point for him at vs.  17.   To that point, he has confessed his envy of the wealth and health of the lavishly rich.  But, within the span of a few lines, he is really down on them.

Does this should like DREAD to you?   How we are drawn to things that repulse or frighten us…simulataneously?”    One minute his envying them and then the next he is heaping scorn upon them.

But then vs. 17:  ‘…till I entered the sanctuary of God;/then I understood their final destiny.”

‘…til I entered the sanctuary of God…”   How does worship serve to helps us re-order our lives?  And, in asking that, I mean actual worship but also the larger sense of having one’s life rightly ordered around God as God?

What sorts of things does the Psalmist realize after having entered the sanctuary?   How do those things compare with the seething lust to which he confessed in the first part of the Psalm?

What’s your take away from the contemplation of this Psalm?