" Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. 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. For there are no no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness:they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleased my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understand I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As as dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image. Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy councel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. 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."
Envy: An Enemy from Within
topic: God's abiding presence is better than abounding prosperity
Lindsey's faded clothes and well-worn shoes embarrassed her. She felt conspicuous at school because she looked different from the other teens. She heard her parents thank God for giving them health, strength, work, shelter, food and clothes. She heard them rejoice in God's faithfulness. She memorized Matthew 6:33 when her family learned the verse together in devotions: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Nevertheless, Lindsey had questions. If her parents were so godly, why didn't they have enough money to buy the newest styles for her? Why did the other kids in the neighborhood, whose parents didn't believe in Christ, have state-of-the-art audio- visual equipment, take fab vacations and wear the coolest clothes? She envied the fun and the many expensive things those other young people had.
Lindsey determined that when she became an adult, she would not go to church or read the Bible. In spite of her parents' instruction and example, she concluded that only a fool would to be a Christian, because ungodly people have more money and more fun than Christians.
Lindsey's kind of thinking has characterized many generations and has resulted in the downfall of multitudes of believers.
Asaph, a chief musician of David, spent a great deal of time developing and leading music at worship services in Jerusalem. He, too, watched the people around him and noticed that the wicked prospered. This prosperity seemed contrary to God's promise of blessing upon the righteous.
Asaph's observations disturbed his mind, and his heart filled with envy. His words in Psalm 73:1 reveal that he understood God had blessed Israel and pure-hearted people: "Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart." But Asaph had trouble reconciling God's goodness to His people with the prosperity of arrogant, wicked people. Like Lindsey, he walked a treacherous path toward rejecting his faith.
Asaph- a man of great musical ability, organizational skill and prestige- enjoyed many advantages as the chief musician of David's day. Nevertheless, the successes and power of certain people around him bothered him. He envied the unrighteous and unbelieving for possessing things he did not have. "But as for me," he wrote, "my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped" (verse 2). He pictured himself as standing on a slippery place, ready to lose his footing.
Joshua, a teenage farm boy, loved to trap and hunt, as had his older brothers, and doing better required some risk taking. His efforts to excel led him into some dangerous places. For example, to set traps near some dens on a hillside, Joshua had to climb a narrow path on a steep hill high above a bluff. One warm winter day, he decided to take a shortcut across the snow-covered hill above the cliff. As he approached an extremely steep part of the slope, he began to slide on the slick snow. Joshua slid for nearly 60 feet toward the edge of the cliff. In desperation he spread his legs and arms in an effort to stop himself. His heart raced as he slid faster toward certain death. When Joshua was only a few feet from the drop-off, his foot snagged a small bush. Hours later, as the snow began to freeze again, Joshua inched his way off the hillside to safety.
The psalmist realized that he was in a spiritually treacherous, slippery position. "For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
Note that he referred to wicked people as "foolish." The book of Proverbs often uses this word to describe an arrogant person who is like a rowdy boy who struts through the halls of his school with his chest sticking out, banging into everybody. He has a haughty spirit and shows concern for no one else.
The causes of envy
In Psalm 73: 3-12 Asaph described in great detail the sleek, well-fed people he envied. They sat at banquets and were unintimidated by others. They prospered, and they took pride in their prosperity (verses 6,7). They often persecuted others (verse 8) and even made sarcastic statements about God Himself (verses 9, 11). They did not seem to have the troubles that other men has, nor were they plagued by famine or war (verse 5). Asaph observed, "There are no bands in their death" (verse 4). They seemed to have painless, unencumbered deaths.
Asaph also noted how the rich seemed to circumvent the problems of life. Their horses were well fed and well trained. They rode fancy chariots that never broke down. Footmen walked before and behind them to protect them. Their granaries were filled with grain for any emergency. They had money to spare and connections so they could buy the best. (see verses 4b and 7.)
In verse 6 Asaph exclaimed that they "wore" pride around their necks like a pendant for everyone to notice. Besides that, they "wore" violence like a garment. They openly demonstrated their heartlessness and violence. Unafraid of the law or the consequences of their behavior, they were able to sap the lifeblood from others without worry (verses 10, 11). In verse 7 he described them as having eyes that stood out with fatness. They had more than their hearts could desire.
He also observed that the people were corrupt (verse 8a). He probably meant "corrupt in their minds." He observed them carrying on high conversations about how they oppressed other people (verse 8b). In other words, they held little conferences at which they discussed with satisfaction their harsh and cruel treatment of less fortunate people.
Asaph saw that they set their mouths against Heaven itself, challenging the rights of God (verse 9). He observed, "Their tongue walketh through the earth," probably indicating that they spent considerable time talking about all of the places they had traveled, as well as their influence from coast to coast.
These rich, proud people had many followers who flocked after them, hoping to gain something by an association with them (verse 10a). Instead, however, the wealthy drained them and persecuted them (verse 10b). Even while they were doing it, they made sarcastic remarks about God, insinuating that He couldn't possibly know what was going on and that He probably knew nothing at all (verse 11).
As Asaph looked at those self-sufficient, strong, proud, violent talkers, he realized that although they were exceedingly ungodly, they prospered tremendously as far as the world was concerned. In short, they were better off than he was. His observation brought him to the same devastating conclusion that Lindsey reached.
The Confusion Caused by Envy
The psalmist concluded that living a pure, godly life was all in vain (Psalm 73:13). He complained, "For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning" (verse 14). His faith in Jehovah was not paying off. As things looked to him, the world was better off than he.
Like many other believers with these kinds of doubts, Asaph hid them in his heart and continued to live in misery. (verse 15). His conclusions were simply too painful to meditate upon (verse 16).
It is fortunate that the psalm does not end with verse 16 and that Asaph also narrated his restoration from that pit of depression.
The Cure of Envy
Four distinct things brought Asaph out of his envious despair. First, he went into the house of God to hear the Word of God (verse 17). He took part in the music portion of the worship under King David, so it was common for him to return to the sanctuary where he could hear the Word of God taught.
Many of us believers have looked at the world and longed after the things of the world. Those who allow themselves to be sidetracked from attending church or Sunday School find it difficult to combat envy. Only when we return to sit under the teaching of God's Word do we begin to see the other side of the picture. Asaph wrote, "Until I went into the sanctuary of God [I envied the wicked; verse 3]; then [after I spent time in the sanctuary] understood I their end" (verse 17). As we worship and learn with other believers, we realize that our righteous life and commitment to the Lord are worthwhile.
Reconsidering the wicked man's future was the second step in bringing Asaph out of his envious despair. This reconsideration occurred while he worshiped in the sanctuary, where teachers of the law confronted him. He noted that though the wicked appeared prosperous, they actually stood in slippery places (verse 18). He came to realize they were the ones figuratively hanging over the edge of the cliff. God would cast them down to destruction (verse 19) just as He had destroyed the hosts of Pharaoh in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:24-29) and had swallowed up Korah in the ground when he rebelled against Moses (Numbers 16). God would cast down the ungodly as He did King Saul at the hand of the Philistines (1 Samuel 15:23; 31:1-9) or Absalom in the oak tree (2 Samuel 18:9, 100. He would punish them as He had the Assyrians after their armies ravaged the land of Israel (Isaiah 37:36, 37).
The psalmist came to understand that the lives of the wicked are like a dream. He declared, "As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image" (Psalm 73:20). Dreams have no meaning or significance in the broad daylight of reality. Though dreams may bring pleasure or despair while they are occurring thay have no lasting value.
That truth brought Asaph to the third step in his cure of envy. Psalm 73:21 and 22 tell us that he repented : "Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee." Recognizing his foolishness and ignorance for thinking such envious thoughts, he lifted his eyes toward the blessings of God.
A fresh look at the presence and provision of God was the fourth step in Aspah's victory over envy. In verses 23-26 he pictured his position as a child of God. The Father tenderly held his right hand to guide him through the course of his life without error or flaw (verse 23). Even though troublesome times and disconcerting days he was assured that God was accomplishing His will in Asaph's life (verse 24a). He also knew that upon his death he would go into God's presence (verse 24b). He no longer measured success in life by the accomplishments of the wicked, but by the presence and care of his Savior. "Whom have I in heaven but thee?" he asked (verse 25a). He concluded, "And there is none upon the earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart, and my portion for ever....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" (verses 25b-28). Asaph could say with Job:
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me (Job 19:25-27).
Every believer today needs to remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. the rich man was materially prosperous; Lazarus, on the other hand, was a beggar. But in the day of their death, God exonerated and blessed Lazarus because of his faith. The rich man, however, died and was ushered into eternal destruction. That story keeps the major issues of life in clear perspective. We believers should never envy the wicked. They do not have God's blessing upon their lives, nor will they experience the presence of God throughout eternity.
this was taken from chapter 7 of "Songs That Touch the Heart: Selected Psalms" by john White.