The Worth of Worship
by Dennis Michelson
Introduction: The heading for this Psalm indicates that it is a Psalm written by Asaph. This man was essentially a choir director for the choir of Israel. He presided over the Temple worship and evidently suffered a real crisis in his faith.
For those of you who are preachers, you might say that Asaph went ahead and said some things that you have often thought. Asaph struggled with life's inequities because it seemed like "Sammy Saint" was always suffering and "Peter Pagan" was doing just fine.
As Asaph looked out over the congregation in the House of God he found himself struggling on the backside of a big question mark. The Psalm helps us all work through such a dilemma and see life from the Divine perspective, rather than our myopic view from the choir loft.
1. Asaph's Tension (73:1-2)
He rightly notes in a general way that he knows "God is good to Israel', especially those who are walking with Him in integrity. However, verse two sounds a discord when he uses the adversative "But" and then turns his attention specifically to his own situation.
The old gospel song says "someone slipped and fell . . .was that someone you?" Asaph opines that his feet "almost" slipped. Something had caused a genuine crisis between what he knew about God and what he observed in his own experience.
2. Asaph's False Perception (73:3-9)
3. Asaph Sees the Church's Defection
- He observed the wealth of the wicked (73:3)
It seemed that the harder he tried, he could not get ahead in the struggle for sheer existence in a materialistic world. He looked at his neighbors as he drove to church and they had new cars, golf course memberships, and seemed wholly unaffected by the "economic crisis." In fact, he became envious at the prosperity of the wicked.
- He observed the health of the wicked (73:4-5)
Asaph was distraught because he was trying to live for God but his kids were getting sick and his ungodly neighbors were quite well - thank you very much! The more he looked at them, the more his heart was torn by the thought that life is just not fair. In other words, God is not fair.
- He observed the pride of the wicked (73:6-9)
The ungodly were shaking their fist (and everything else) in the face of God and nothing bad seemed to happen to them. Their haughty looks and gold chains were almost more than he could bear. How can God let the ungodly prosper like this?
It was bad enough with the ungodly but now those who claim to know the Lord are falling right in line with the world. The word picture in Hebrew here is like some dogs standing under camels and drinking the water and saliva falling from their mouth.
What a picture of the church today - drinking spit from the world and loving every minute of it. Asaph concludes that he can see no real difference between the ungoldy and those who claim to know the Lord. He is very, very frustrated.4. Asaph's Introspection
He comes close to the point of saying "if that is the way things are then why am I sacrificing to serve God?" He catches himself in verse 15 and says to himself "I had better watch what I say" and so exercises some wisdom in holding his heart so it does not erupt out of his tongue. There is a climax in verse 16 when he exclaims "this is too painful for me to handle." He is about to enter a long desert of the soul . . .until . . .5. Asaph's Revelation
What a beautiful word - "Until." He realizes - once he makes it to the House of God that he had grossly overestimated the prosperity of the wicked and the hypocrites. He plays the tape all the way through and says "then understood I their end." As Paul Harvey used to say "now you know the rest of the story." This led very quickly to...6. Asaph's True Perception
He realizes that this life is all they have and he has much, much more. All of their "prosperity" can be gone "as in a moment" but Asaph's riches are eternal.7. Aspah's Conviction
"Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and AFTERWARD receive me to glory." There it is! He found the answer in the House of God! The world - and even the church - will tell you there are no answers to life's real, pressing questions in church.
You need to go somewhere else and find real answers. Aspah's conviction is that life's greatest questions can be answered by the God of the House in the House of God. Worship is when we give God our undivided attention and affection for a few moments and when we encounter His greatness. Then life's greatest trials and questions seem so small.