Complain, complain, complain. My mother, or someone significant in my life, used to say that to me when I would moan and groan. I remember a friend of mine from years ago terminating my one-sided conversation about a broken friendship with the words, "As we say in radio, 'This has gotten enough airplay.'" I under-stood what he meant.
A very popular book on American values is entitled "Culture of Complaint." Seems we like to gripe and have our way and wonder why others have it better than we do. We want our rights, we want our piece of the pie, we want it all now.
Asaph was a godly man in ancient Israel. He was David's chief musician in the days of the tabernacle. He wrote a dozen Psalms, which have topped the charts of sacred music for almost 3,000 years! Surely this faithful servant of the Most High God had no trials and faithless moments.
Oh, how nave we can be! Sometimes, when a well-meaning believer tells an unbeliever about Christ, he sugarcoats the gospel and promises the candidate a carefree life, full of riches and blessings and green grass. True, the Lord does bless His people, but He never guarantees flowery beds of ease. In fact, Jesus himself said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NKJV). We are to be at peace with the trials of life, not expect them to go away.
Psalm 73 was written by Asaph under God's inspiration. It is a heart-wrenching confession by a man of God, one whom we'd expect would be happy about his exalted position and his nearness to the Lord. It is a song, but it is also a prayer, and a very unusual one at that. We will see why in Part 3.
Asaph begins his song with an answer: "Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart" (v. 1, KJV). Nice answer, but what's the question? We'll find that out later as well.
He continues with a confession: "But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked" (vv. 2, 3, KJV). Asaph admitted that he almost lost his faith when he saw how well off the ungodly were. When he saw the wealthy wicked, he coveted the conceited's condition.
Asaph went on to list the things about the iniquitous that irked him (vv. 4-12). They were healthy and strong, carefree and rich, powerful and free to live as they pleased. He emphasized their wickedness, yet envied their wealth.
In despair, Asaph threw himself a pity party (vv. 13, 14). He contrasted the prosperous sinners with the pitiful saints. It is in these verses that we find the question, "Why serve God when others are better off?" and the flip side, "Why should the wicked have all the fun?"
"Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence" says Asaph (v. 13). What is the point of serving the Lord and trying to live a holy life? After all, "All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning" he thinks (v. 14). If this is the way God works, I want no part of it.
Have you ever felt like Asaph? Have you ever doubted God to the point that you were willing to surrender your faith and join up with the unsaved just to get a piece of the action? Do you find yourself complaining about your sorry lot in life? If you're like most of us, you have been in Asaph's position.
Well, what about the super-Christians? You know, the pastors, evangelists, missionaries, musicians? Surely they've got it made, haven't they? God surely shields his choice servants from harm, no? Aren't they the ones He pays attention to while we struggle along these thorny paths?
Don't forget who Asaph was. He was the first Chief Musician in the kingdom. He wrote a dozen inspired, everlasting songs. His name appears in the Bible many times. He achieved more fame than any of us ever will. He may not have been the King of Pop, but he was the Keeper of the Psalms. Yet he struggled with doubt and despair to the point of nearly forgoing his faith. If he could question God's fairness, so might we.
The world seems to think that Christians have it made. So often, we are afraid to admit that we have doubts and troubles and temptations, lest we present a false picture of Christ and Christianity. We think no one will want to come to the Lord when they see us unemployed or unmarried or under the weather or under-fed. Or, worse yet, we doubt God's love and provision when we forget that Jesus himself had "no place to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20).
Are you part of the "culture of complaint"? Let's see Asaph's Consolation in the next installment.
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