A Few Thoughts on Psalm 73

In Psalm 73 the Psalmist recounts a time when he was fighting against envy. He saw the wicked prospering and grew discouraged. As the Psalm unfolds the author – Asaph – returns to the LORD. In verses 25-26 he provides these powerful lines:

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

These verses always challenge my discontentment. My heart and flesh are always searching for “more” or “better” things in this world. But the truth in these verses drives a dagger through my erring desires. What is greater than God and eternity with Him? What temporary prosperity is greater than eternal glory? The treasures and pleasures of this world are shifting sand, but God is our strength (our Rock) and our forever portion.

This morning the questions I ponder are these: What are the things of this world that I desire and delight in more than God? What temporary pleasures will I avoid today in order to focus greater attention on the eternal prize of Jesus?

Caiaphas Is Out of a Job

In Mark 14 we read the record of Jesus “trial” before the Jewish council. For most of the trial Jesus remains silent, but eventually the high priest Caiaphas directly asks Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus responds, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

At this admission Caiaphas tears his garments and pronounces that Jesus is guilty of blasphemy and therefore must be put to death. Providing helpful commentary on this scene is Frederick Leahy:

Caiaphas was a polished ecclesiastic. He knew what to do and when. He knew that he was soon to preside over a meeting of the Sanhedrin in plenary session formally to confirm the verdict given. Then the court would be solemnly constituted in the name and by the authority of the God of Israel. Knowing that the prisoner was charged with an offense which deserved the holy intolerance of God, Caiaphas gave expression to his professed horror by rending his garments. As a rule the high priest was forbidden to do this (Lev. 10:6; 21: IO), but this was no ordinary occasion. The torn clothes were meant to symbolize a broken heart, but the heart of Caiaphas was unbroken. In his heart of hearts he was glad that at last he could condemn the prisoner. He was simply acting a part. Hendriksen rightly discerns his thoughts: ‘We’ve got him now.’

The Cross He Bore, Frederick Leahy

Despite Caiaphas’s pretense his actions in this moment prophetically manifest two powerful truths.

First, his rule as high priest is over. Tearing those high-priestly robes is a picture that the better high priest has come – and what Caiaphas refused to see is that the better high priest was standing bound in front of him. The tearing of his robes is akin to the tearing of the veil in the temple that will happen later in the day.

Second, R. A. Finlayson points out that about the time Jesus would be standing trial before Caiaphas the temple priests would be examining the Paschal lambs for sacrifice. Although Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin find Jesus unfit what they fail to realize is this: by putting Jesus to death, they are offering up the final sacrifice, effectively ending their purpose as priests.

God’s Unthwartable Plan

This past year (2023) the Meadowview family worked through Daniel in our Sunday gatherings. One of the repeated take-away’s from Daniel is the truth that God is always working His plan and no one can thwart that plan. King Nebuchadnezzar delivers a summary of this point following his restoration to power.

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Daniel 4:34-35

Fast forward a few hundred years to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the temple guards. Though the events in the garden and certainly the events that follow are shocking, they are no accident. We might be tempted to think that the Father was momentarily distracted and in that moment the chaos of Jesus arrest, trials, and crucifixion ensued.

The truth is all of history – even the events of Daniel – were leading to this moment in the garden. Dutch theologian Klass Shilder writes:

God has arranged all of the preceding centuries, all of the intervolutions of time, all of the events from Genesis 1:1 up to this moment – has arranged and moulded them, has had them converge in such a way that there would be a place for this hour, the hour in which His Son will be bound… He allowed neither the forces above nor the forces below to tamper with the clock of history. He directed the battles of Caesars, the conflicts of kings, the migration of peoples, the world wars, the courses of stars and sun and moon, the change of epochs, and the complex movements of all things in the world in such a way that this hour would come and had to come.

The Cross He Bore – Frederick S Leahy

The events of Jesus life, death, and resurrection happened according to God’s definite plan and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23). All the threads of the Bible meet in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Let us then give our attention Him and the record of His atoning work that culminates in “this hour”.

But let us also be reminded that just as the chaotic events of Jesus life were unfolding according to the plan of the Father, so too are the chaotic events of our lives. The Father’s plans for Jesus could not be thwarted by Satan, high-priests, betrayers, or governors. And the Father’s plans for you will not be thwarted by sickness, broken promises, shattered dreams, etc. We must trust Him as Jesus trusted Him.

Erratic Faith

This week I have been working on a sermon covering John 18 – Jesus betrayal. John tells of Peter pulling his sword and going for the head of Malcus – good thing he was a fisherman and not a swordsman – though I suppose Jesus could have healed a severed head! Immediately Jesus instructs Peter to put his sword away as He surrenders Himself to the guards. In this moment Peter is wiling to fight and die for Jesus.

In the next scene the guards take Jesus to the house of Annas. Peter follows and waits in the courtyard. It is there in that courtyard that Peter infamously denies knowing Jesus (John 18:17).

In one moment Peter is ready to slice and dice his way through a mob of trained soldiers to protect Jesus, but not an hour later he denies even knowing Jesus to a servant girl. So what gives? What is Peter’s problem? Is he bi-polar? Why is his faith so erratic?

I assure you his faith is no more erratic than my own. As I was considering John’s record this week I was comforted by Peter’s erratic faith, because so often my faith is erratic. For example: some mornings I wake up early enough to enjoy the quiet (before the family is up) and in those moments I commune deeply with God. I leave those sessions delighting and abiding in Jesus – ready to face the day. But by 9am I have effectivly forgotten that time of communion and the Savior I was delighting in – instead you will find me grumbling and complaining about some issue that has interrupted my planned schedule. Erratic faith!

Truly, I desire a more consistent and dependable faith and by His grace I will continue to learn what it is to consistently abide in Jesus.

But my greatest hope was Peter’s greatest hope. When I deny, forget, and quit on Jesus. He never denies, forgets, and quits on me – “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13).

I Confess My Iniquity

In Psalm 38 David is experiencing guilt over his sin.

O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath!
For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

Psalm 38:1-8

While there is more going on in this Psalm – enemies are at work – the focus is primarily on the overwhelming guilt David feels: “no soundness in my flesh”, “no health in my bones”, “like a heavy burden”, “all day I go about mourning”, “my sides are filled with burning”, “I am feeble and crushed”, “I groan”. Obviously these descriptions of “guilt” do not sound pleasant, but we should desire that God would cause us to feel this way when we find ourselves in sin. What a gracious gift guilt and conviction are, because they are intended to drive us from our sin and to our Savior.

This is what we see further into the Psalm, David’s guilt drives him to the LORD.

For I am ready to fall,
and my pain is ever before me.
I confess my iniquity;
I am sorry for my sin.

Psalm 38:17-18

And there it is. There in verse 18 we find the gracious and merciful remedy for our guilt: “I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin”. To confess is to say the same thing about our sin that God says about it. It is to say “this is wrong, this is not righteous”. And as 1 John 1:9 reminds us “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Then in 1 John 2:1 we read, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

Friends don’t live under the weight and misery of guilt today – follow David’s lead and say, “I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.”