Today: [Psalm 73] Abandoning Corrupt Worship. In this chapter we find a man named Asaph as the author and not king David. Asaph was a worship leader from David’s time spanning into Solomon’s reign itself. In this psalm Asaph grieves over the corruption of the pure and simple worship of God. He confesses that the excesses of others almost cause his own feet to slip. He observes the end of those who have strayed in their persons yet claim to be representatives of God’s presence in worship. He concludes that outside of God’s presence in his own life he would likewise go astray.
[Psa 73:1-28 KJV] 1 [[A Psalm of Asaph.]] Truly God [is] good to Israel, [even] to such as are of a clean heart. 2 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. 3 For I was envious at the foolish, [when] I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For [there are] no bands in their death: but their strength [is] firm. 5 They [are] not in trouble [as other] men; neither are they plagued like [other] men. 6 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them [as] a garment. 7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. 8 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly [concerning] oppression: they speak loftily.
In this psalm and several after it we have an introduction to the psalms of a man by the name of Asaph. Asaph wrote 12 psalms including this one – they are 50, and 73-83. Who was Asaph and why would he be allowed to include his writings alongside of king David? Wikipedia has this to say about Asaph:
“In the Old Testament there are three different men with the name of Asaph. The Asaph identified with these twelve Psalms is said to be the son of Berechiah who is said to be an ancestor of the Asaphites. The Asaphites were one of the families or guilds of musicians in the Jerusalem temple. These pieces of information are clarified in the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles. In the Chronicles it is said that Asaph was a descendant of Gershom the son of Levi therefore he is identified as a member of the Levites. He is also known as one of the three Levites commissioned by David to be in charge of singing in the house of Yahweh (see below). In 1 Chronicles 6:39 David appoints a man named Heman as the main musician or singer and Asaph as Heman’s right hand assistant and the Merarites at his left hand. Asaph is also credited with performing at the dedication of Solomon’s temple in 2 Chronicles 5:12. As an officer within the Jerusalem religious system, Asaph would have participated in both the public and private side of that system. He served as an official for several years, starting with King David and serving King Solomon as well, if he is the same Asaph mentioned in 2 Chronicles 5.12. During his long term, Asaph surely saw the best and worst of other officials. His complaint against corruption among the rich and influential, recorded in Psalm, might have been directed towards some of those officials. The words he used to describe the wicked come from the same lexicon of words used by officers of the temple sacrificial system.
So we get some introduction to Asaph and a sense of what he is writing about in this psalm. This psalm is a complaint against corruption not of pagan temples but the temple of the living God that Asaph was called to serve in. Unfortunately in the worship culture of the modern day church we see glaring examples of flawed character and worldly activity and personalities. The cult of celebrity that rules the media world has long crept into the church and as a result performance and titillation of talent at times takes a prominent place over the simplicity of pure worship. One of the beautiful examples of correction in this area was the Vineyard movement of the 1980’s. A man by the name of John Wimber with a background in popular music connected with another performer by the name of Ken Gulickson to bring forth a purity of worship and singing TO God in worship as opposed to singing ABOUT Him in performance.
In verse 1 Asaph declares the purity of heart that should characterize all true worships – but sadly he finds lacking round about him as he goes about the service of the temple appointed to him. In verse 2 he remarks with awe that he almost fell and slipped into this sin himself till he woke up and realized how much foolishness and wickedness was passing for service of the temple in the area of worship to the Most High God. In our own culture as surely it was in Asaph’s we don’t readily embrace chastisement or correction being given to our religious celebrities. Those who have blessed us and entertained us and made us feel good about our walk with God sometimes get by with egregious sin because we love them so but not after a godly sort. Asaph struggles with this himself but then catches himself and comes roaring out into the open to correct and bring the worship of Yahweh back to simplicity, purity and truth.
9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full [cup] are wrung out to them. 11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? 12 Behold, these [are] the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase [in] riches. 13 Verily I have cleansed my heart [in] vain, and washed my hands in innocency. 14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. 15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend [against] the generation of thy children. 16 When I thought to know this, it [was] too painful for me; 17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; [then] understood I their end. 18 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.
In verse 9 Asaph complains that these lofty religious celebrities that are serving with him in temple service are bringing accusation against God by their eloquence and high sounding sentiments. This is very characteristic of our day. Have you ever heard a hymn or song that was so talented and emotionally evocative that it stirred your heart even though you know the message expressed was completely unscriptural? There are many accusations against God in the lyrics of our songs today. Many espouse unbelief and hold God accountable for the things that the scripture tell us are actually attributed to the devil himself. When we find ourselves singing these songs and the theology reflected in the song doesn’t reflect what we know about the testimony of Christ in the word – are we not setting our mouth against the heavens – as the fellow worship leaders with Asaph did? There needs to be a reform in this area but of course who will bring it about? What legislative body in the church take responsibility for seeing this done? It is up to us therefore as individuals to purify our worship and refrain from any song however beautiful that grieves the Spirit of God on the inside of us.
19 How are they [brought] into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. 20 As a dream when [one] awaketh; [so], O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. 21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. 22 So foolish [was] I, and ignorant: I was [as] a beast before thee. 23 Nevertheless I [am] continually with thee: thou hast holden [me] by my right hand. 24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me [to] glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven [but thee]? and [there is] none upon earth [that] I desire beside thee. 26 My flesh and my heart faileth: [but] God [is] the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. 27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. 28 But [it is] good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.
In verse 18 Asaph observes that these pseudo celebrities in the temple worship often came to an ignominious end. In the leadership culture of the church there is a common stereotype of the musician or worship leader who functions without accountability or discipline and comes to completely unnecessary shame if they would simply bring their ego into subjection to the reality of Christ and the leadership set in their midst for them to flow with and stand accountable to.
In verse 23 Asaph doesn’t wag his finger at others failures. He looks at himself and in verse 24 asks for the wisdom of God and the Spirit of God to carry him past such pitfalls as he has seen destroy others. In verse 25 he cries out that there is nothing more important than total dependence upon God Himself. Asaph can see no other confidence or trust worthy of worship than God Himself. He desires to draw near to God because as verse 27 states – to be far from God is to be near to destruction. In verse 28 he concludes after looking around at the chaos of the worship culture in his day that all he can do and his only hope is in drawing closer to God on a day by day basis.
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