“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
It is an unquestionable reality that the LORD is Good. He called Israel by name, and redeemed her from slavery. Not only did God redeem Israel from slavery, He became her Warrior (Exodus 14:14,25 ; Josh 1o:10,42 ; Isa 43:1)
Asaph knew this to be the case. It was the God-breathed song of his heart, and now it was Israel’s song.
All songs have a story, even of the God-breathed variety. There is sometimes a tendency to think that God works everything out immediately in every case. However, the doctrine of sanctification shows us that God isn’t like us. He is a patient God. When He introduced Himself, He told us His Name: “YHWH YHWH, The God merciful, gracious, slow-to-anger, abundant in covenant-loyalty (faithfulness) and truth”. We want everything now, but God (Eph 2:4), in His glory and infinite wisdom has something better in mind. The depth of God’s love for us in Christ is immeasurable. (Eph 2:7) God’s grace will take an eternity for us to see, and this lifetime is only the beginning! (John 17:3)
Asaph knew the history of God’s dealings with Israel. He’d seen a glimpse of the now and future glory, yet his feet begin to stumble. Much like Peter (Matt 14:30) He took his eyes off his Redeemer. Peter began to sink, and Asaph nearly stumbled. Peter saw the strength of the wind, Asaph saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Asaph gives the painstaking details of his obsession with the prosperity of evil men. He says envious of what God had given them. It must be emphasized again that this was Israel’s “Trinity Hymnal”. Israel would sing this God-breathed song, to worship God; and within these songs, God invites us to be honest with Him. He won’t be surprised by what you say to Him. For the Lord knows what is in the hearts of men. His invitation demonstrates that His covenant-faithfulness, grace, and mercy keeps our feet grounded in the gravity of His love. I’m sure it grieved God that Asaph fell into an envious melancholy over the fleeting prosperity of arrogant men. Yet, God strives with His children.
“For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.” (Psalm 73:4-10)
Whether it’s directly attributed to an idol we’ve crafted with our own hands, or a temptation shipped to us from the local Idolatry inc. , God sanctifies the lows of His children.
Envy is very serpentine. It seems to be the craftiest snake in our hearts. In the Garden of Eden, the snake spoke to Eve pointing her to the one tree of which God said not to eat . Satan convinced Eve that the Tree of Death tasted much better than the others. She’d have something more if she partook of that tree.
As a result Envy is in our bloodstream. If we aren’t careful, envy will drive us. Bigger trucks, bigger houses, better cars, that job promotion, more friends, advanced social status; all of these things are the obsession of a man or a woman snake-bitten by the venomous envy.
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:3-4)
My own feet slip because of envy. It’s a venom that will waste away the Joy of the Spirit. It is a direct attack on God’s goodness. Asaph saw that when he nearly stumbled. God takes care of us, and works everything out for the good of those who love Him. That is why Paul instructs us not to “grieve the Spirit of God, by Whom we’ve been sealed for the day of redemption. We may be tempted to be envious of the prosperity of the wicked as was Asaph. Just look at the assumptions of envy:
(1) God is not good
(2)God doesn’t care about me
(3) If He was good and He did care, He would do everything the way I would expect him too
We should not be taken hostage by the sin of envy. This sin is a horrible taskmaster. Do you feel a driving demand deep in your heart to have what your neighbor has? Are you angry that your co-worker got the promotion that you asked for? What about when your friends were married years ago, and spend most of their time with other couples, do you feel the gravity of envy pulling you deeper down? Perhaps your spouse had the opportunity to spend the day with friends, while you agreed to babysit the kids, and now you are not only beginning to regret it, you’re trying to find reasons reasons that your spouse is wrong for taking advantage of your kindness.
Envy can take any situation, and transform it into a living hell. However, Christ came into the world in order to redeem us from our slavery to Envy. Listen to God’s declaration: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”. (Matthew 3:17) The redemption that Christ gives to us delivers us not only from the guilt of our sins forever, He gives us the Spirit, a new name, and freedom from the bondage of sin, the flesh, and the devil. That includes envy. The power of Envy is rendered obsolete. Sin won’t carry over into the New Heavens and the New Earth. When our needs, and our deepest longings are met by the LORD, the fountainhead of pleasure (Psa 16:11), it will be be revealed that those moments we were overtaken by envy just wasn’t worth the time and/or the energy. Those dead idols really were dead, apparently we didn’t read the autopsy reports!
Envy demands we better ourselves in order to surpass everyone else. Christ says to drink and eat from Him, ye “weary”, He will provide the rest we need, if only we renounce ourselves and believe in Him. (John 6:53-57; Matthew 11:28-30; John 4:10,13)
Envy lies and says that our significance and importance requires that we command our destiny, and craft out our own identity by being first in everything. Christ teaches that appearances can be deceiving (Matt 19:30), the praise that comes from man is a dangerous thing to rely upon. Instead, priority is given to those who recognize that they are the least, that they are sick (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17) , and that they are worthless apart from Jesus Christ, our LORD. (John 15:5; Eph 2:10).
We have a loving Father, who gave His beloved Son to redeem us from our idolatry. When we perceive our supposed “lack” take it to the LORD. He knows what we need, and He knows the deepest desires of our hearts. He knows our hearts in ways that we do not know our own hearts. Let us continually ask God to give us eyes to see, and the grace to find our joy in His provision.