Comfort and Warning Concerning the Offense Given by the Good Fortune of the Godless.
A psalm of Asaph, one of the choirmasters of David, 1 Chron. 6, 39; 25, 2.
A REFLECTION UPON THE APPARENT GOOD FORTUNE OF THE WICKED. ó V. 1. Truly, God is good to Israel, only good, nothing but kindness and mercy, even to such as are of a clean heart, for all members of the spiritual Israel have their hearts cleansed by faith, so that they are honest and straightforward in all their dealings with the Lord. This is the poetís comfort in spite of the description of the apparent happiness of the unbelievers which now follows. V. 2. But as for me, his own person being set forward emphatically as an example, my feet were almost gone, almost he had stumbled and tottered; my steps had well-nigh slipped, he had been in great danger of losing his faith and giving way to doubt. V. 3. For I was envious at the foolish, filled with anger at the proud boasting of the ungodly, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked, when he noted the fact that they were living in peace, that nothing bothered them, that they enjoyed everything their hearts desired, and made it a point to tell everybody about it. V. 4. For there are no bands in their death, they are not plagued with sufferings which make them weary unto death; but their strength is firm, well nourished is their paunch, fatness being considered a sign of healthy strength, of stout vigor. V. 5. They are not in trouble as other men, they do not experience the misery of the ordinary mortal; neither are they plagued like other men, they are not bothered with so many inconveniences, they do not run up against so many difficulties; they find ways and means to avert disaster. V. 6. Therefore, because of their apparent immunity against lifeís usual troubles, pride compasseth them about as a chain, they lift up their necks proudly, they exhibit their pride like an ornament; violence covereth them as a garment, their whole nature is cruel and ruthless. V. 7. Their eyes stand out with fatness, this again being a picture of vigor due to prosperity; they have more than heart could wish, literally, ďare revealed the imaginations of their hearts,Ē that is, their proud thoughts appear in their speech and in their acts. V. 8. They are corrupt, given to mockery in their speech, and speak wickedly concerning oppression, in their ungodliness they speak oppression, they plan to keep the upper hand over the believers; scoffing at the idea of trust in God, they oppress all such as hold this trust. They speak loftily, down from the height of their pride, with nothing but contempt for the hopelessly old-fashioned believers. V. 9. They set their mouth against the heavens, to blaspheme God, and their tongue walketh through the earth, with arrogant haughtiness, with meddlesome slander. Note: It is a composite picture which the psalmist draws in this paragraph, his object being not to portray the actions of each individual ungodly person, but to represent one wicked person as speaking for the mass of unbelievers on earth. V. 10. Therefore his people return hither, the multitude of the godless ever rallying round such an arrogant declaimer of blasphemies and slanders; and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them, prosperity being drained by them as they eagerly grasp at success and its enjoyments, or, further multitudes being gulped down by them, those who are duped by them joining with the seducers in their blasphemous speeches and conduct. V. 11. And they say, How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High? They try to deceive themselves and others into the belief that God pays no attention to their wickedness in its various manifestations. They despise the wisdom of God in His eternal Word and arrogantly substitute the so-called assured results of scientific research. V. 12. Behold, these are the ungodly, as here briefly characterized they are found at all times, who prosper in the world, boasting of their success; they increase in riches, they possess everything which this world has to offer; they believe that they are secure forever, without a care to disturb their happiness.
THE BELIEVERíS TRUST AT THE REALIZATION OF THE TRUTH. ó V. 13. Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain, in view of the offense given by the prosperity of the ungodly, and washed my hands in innocency, making diligent efforts to live a holy life before the Lord. V. 14. For all the day long have I been plagued, buffeted with troubles on every hand, and chastened every morning, some new visitation of the Lord striking him with every new day. The psalmist, however, guards against such blasphemous utterances; he does not want to become guilty of speeches against the Lord. V. 15. If I say, I will speak thus, his thoughts being on the point of being uttered, behold, I should offend against the generation of Thy children, giving offense to the Lordís people by an act of perfidy against Jehovah, that is, he found himself in the position of Paul, Rom. 7, when he speaks of the quarrel in his members. V. 16. When I thought to know this, to get a satisfactory explanation of the riddle presented in the situation, it was too painful for me, his pondering remained a toil, did not offer him a satisfactory solution, v. 17. until I went into the Sanctuary of God, to the Tabernacle, or Temple, where the Word of the Lord was kept, which reveals also the mysteries of Godís government of the world, so far as God wants the believers to know them; then understood I their end, then he found out what would be the final disposition of the ungodly, what fate God had in store for them. V. 18. Surely Thou didst set them in slippery places, they who believed themselves so safe and secure against misfortune were in reality in danger of slipping every moment; Thou castedst them down into destruction, bringing sudden ruin upon them. V. 19. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors, wasted away, reduced to nothing, by the horror of the fate which overtook them. V. 20. As a dream when one awaketh, from the moment when a person arouses himself from his sleep, so, O Lord, when Thou awakest, Thou shalt despise their image. A dream may seem real enough while it lasts. but upon awaking a person shakes it off with its effects, as lacking in material substance. Thus the ungodly, with all their show of prosperity, are nothing but a dream-picture in the eyes of God; there is no place for them in the eternal city of God, their fate is decided. V. 21. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins, that is, if his heart should become embittered, if it should hurt him inside, in his inward parts, in his feelings; v. 22. so foolish was I and ignorant; I was as a beast before Thee, he would have been foolish and like an irrational animal before God if he had yielded to dissatisfaction and bitterness. But he shakes off the attack and states what his true comfort consists in. V. 23. Nevertheless I am continually with Thee, in spite of all the offense given by the unbelievers and their apparent good fortune; Thou hast holden me by my right hand, keeping the believer from falling, holding him secure with His almighty power. V. 24. Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel for God shows each of His children on which paths they should go forward, and afterward receive me to glory, when he has reached the goal, his soulís salvation, receiving the reward of mercy. Therefore every believer is constrained to call out with Asaph: v. 25. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? God is his highest Good; in Him there is complete satisfaction. And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee, he no longer finds true pleasure in this world and all its goods. V. 26. My flesh and my heart faileth, they faint, pine, dwindle away under the attacks of misery and tribulation; but God is the Strength of: my heart, the dependable Rock of his faith, and my Portion forever, the inheritance which will give the believer eternal satisfaction and enjoyment. The psalmist therefore, in conclusion, offers a summary of his meditations. V. 27. For, lo, they that are far from Thee shall perish, they who have left God, have become estranged to Him by means of their pride and arrogance, will become victims of eternal destruction; Thou hast destroyed all them that go a-whoring from Thee, in spiritual adultery, in idolatry, by their disobedience and faithlessness. V. 28. But it is good for me, it is his greatest pleasure and happiness, to draw near to God, to be united with Him in the fellowship of faith; I have put my trust in the Lord God that I may declare all Thy works, that he may have reason to praise the works of God for his own salvation. In heaven we shall have the full revelation of the fact that it was the mercy and kindness of God which directed Him in His entire relation toward us, even during periods which seemed dark to us, which we could not explain at the time, and that the end and goal was the salvation of our souls and the glory of heaven. 4)