The Psalms of David

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Psalm 73

    (This is) a psalm of *Asaph.

v1      I am sure that God is good to (the people of) Israel,
       to the people whose hearts are clean.

v2      But (this is what happened) to me.
     My feet nearly *slipped and I almost fell over.

v3      Some people had made themselves important.
     Because I was angry, I wanted the things they had.
     I saw that *godless people had plenty!

v4      And so their bodies are fat (and *healthy).
     Even when they die, they feel no pain.

v5      They do not have trouble *like other people
       or the difficulties that hit everyone else.

v6      So they, (the *godless), wear their *pride *like a *necklace.
     The bad things that they do, they wear them *like clothes.

v7      Their eyes look out from fat faces.
     Their hearts are full of *pride.

v8      They laugh (at people) and say bad things (about them).
     In their *pride they talk about *oppressing people.

v9      The mouths (of the *godless) say that the skies belong to them.
     And their *tongues demand the earth.

v10    So his (God’s) people turn to them.
     They drink everything from them (the *godless).

v11    And they (God’s people) ask, "How can God know?"
     And (they ask) "Does the *Most High see everything?"

v12    This, then, is what *godless people (say and do).
     They have no trouble and plenty of money!

v13    I was sure that I had made my heart clean
       for no good purpose!
     Also, I had washed my hands
       to show that I had done nothing wrong (for no reason)!

v14    I had trouble all day
       and it started to hurt me every morning!

v15   If I had said, "I will agree (with what the *godless say)";
       then I would have let down all your children.

v16    When I thought about this,
       it was so hard for me (to understand).

v17    Then I went into the house of God.
     That was when I understood what would happen to them (the *godless).

v18    (Then) I was sure that you would put them
       in a place where they would *slip!
     You would throw them down and destroy them.

v19    It will take just a moment to destroy them!
     Great *fear will sweep them away completely.

v20    It will be *like when you wake up from a dream.
     *Lord, when you get up, you will forget that they were there!

v21    When my heart hurt me and my stomach was painful...

v22    ...I was *stupid and I knew nothing.
     I was as an angry animal with you!

v23    But really I was always with you.
     (Now) you hold me by my right hand.

v24    What you say to me will be my guide.
     And then you will take me to *glory.

v25    I know nobody in *heaven except you.
     And, with you, there is nothing (else) on earth that I want.

v26    My heart and my body may fail,
       but God will always make me strong.
     He is all that I will ever need.

v27    I am sure that people far from you will die.
     You will destroy everybody that does not obey you.

v28    But it is good for me to be near to God.
     I have made the master and *LORD my safe place.
     I will tell (people) about the good things that you do.

The Story of Psalm 73

This is a psalm by *Asaph, or one that somebody wrote for him or his music group. You can read about *Asaph at the end of this psalm.

The *psalmist had a problem. Bad people had plenty of money and things. Good people did not. Why? Would it be better for him to be bad? Then he went into God’s house. There he understood that bad people would die, but good people would always live with God!

In this psalm, we have translated "bad people" as "*godless". This meant:

   ·   before 500 BC, people who were not *Israelites

   ·   after 500 BC, people who did not obey God and fought against him; it did not matter who they were

BC means years Before Christ came to live on the earth. About 500 BC was when many *Israelites returned home from the *exile. They came from Babylon.

So the *psalmist starts with what he had learned: God is good to the people whose hearts are clean.

What Psalm 73 means

The psalm is in three parts. They all start with the same word in *Hebrew: ak. It means "surely". We have translated it "I am sure" in verse 1 and "I was sure" in verses 13 and 18.

Verses 1 – 12: The *psalmist (maybe *Asaph) starts with what he thinks is true. "God is good to Israel", verse 1. He then says whom he means by Israel. It is not everyone that lives in that land. It is only those "whose hearts are clean". This means the people that love and obey God. There are other people in Israel that do not love and obey God. He calls these "the *godless", verse 3. The *godless had plenty of money and things. God did not seem to *punish them. This made *Asaph angry! He also wanted plenty of things. He almost stopped loving and obeying God. That is what "my feet nearly *slipped and I almost fell over" means, verse 2. The important words are "nearly" and "almost". God did not let the *psalmist fall. God was with the *psalmist, even if the *psalmist did not believe it.

Then *Asaph tells us more about the *godless:

   ·   they have plenty to eat and drink so they are fat (or *healthy), verse 4

   ·   when they die they do not have a lot of pain like some people, verse 4

   ·   they do not have trouble *like most people, verse 5

   ·   they make everyone see that they think that they are important, verse 6 (*necklace and clothes are what people see)

   ·   they are *proud (which means they think that they are important), verse 7 and they *oppress people (or are not kind to them), verse 8

   ·   they say that everything in *heaven and earth belongs to them, verse 9

All this makes "his people turn to them", verse 10. The *Hebrew Bible does not say who "his people" are, or "them". Many Bible students think that it means this: God’s people (whose hearts are clean) want to be *like the *godless. They want this so that they too can have plenty of money and things. They "drink everything", verse 10, or "do everything the *godless do". Then they ask each other if God knows what they have done, verse 11. The answer is God does know because he is with his people.

Some Bible students think that it is the *godless that ask the questions in verse 11. The *Hebrew Bible only reads "they". But the answer is the same: God knows about them also! This part of the psalm finishes with "the *godless have no trouble and plenty of money", verse 12.

Verses 13 – 17: Now *Asaph tells us his thoughts. He "almost fell over", verse 2, but he did not really fall over. As he says in verse 23, "I was always with you (God)". But he did want what the *godless had. We say that they "*tempted" him. He even wrote in verse 13 that "his heart was clean for no good purpose". This means that it was a waste of time being a good *Israelite! But he did not *slip and fall over, verse 2, for several reasons:

   ·   God was always with him, verse 23

   ·   when the *godless *tempted him, he felt bad, verse 14

   ·   he would have hurt the good *Israelites (or "let them down"), verse 15

   ·   he wanted to understand why it happened, verse 16

So he went to the house of God. Maybe this was the *temple in Jerusalem. We know *Asaph went there, 2 Chronicles 5:12. Maybe it was another house of God. It does not matter where it was, or when. The *psalmist saw what would happen to the *godless. He tells us in the last part of the psalm.

Verses 18 – 28: God would surprise the *godless, verses 18-20 and 27. In a moment, God would destroy them. One minute they would be there, the next minute they would not! It would be *like a dream. When you wake up, it has gone, verse 20. The verse says that it is God that wakes up to find them gone. It is true for God’s people also.

The *psalmist was sorry, verses 21-22. He knew nothing! He was *stupid! He was *like a wild animal! His heart (thoughts) and his stomach (body) had hurt him, but it was all his fault! (Fault means "doing wrong".) God was with him all the time and that was the most important thing in life, verses 23-26. Look at what he wrote about it:

   ·   God would hold his hand and be his guide, verses 23-24

   ·   God would take him to *glory, verse 24

   ·   God would give him everything on earth he needed, verses 25-26

   ·   God would make him strong, verse 26

Christians believe that "take me to *glory" in verse 24 means "take me to *heaven". This is because only God has *real *glory and God’s home is *heaven. The word "*glory" means "something that shines very much".

So the *psalmist made God his "safe place", verse 28. Another word for "safe place" is "*refuge". It is a place where you can find shelter. In a storm, a shelter will keep the wind and rain off you. In the storms of life (the bad things that happen) God will keep you safe. This is what the *psalmist believed. It is better to be "near to God" than to have plenty of money and things. In a moment they will all be gone, but God will always be with us!

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