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Psalms 73, 77-78 Listen
Asaph writes about the wicked (Psalm 73)
A Psalm of Asaph.
1 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.
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.
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.
Easton's Bible Dictionary
A Levite; one of the leaders of Davids choir (1 Chr. 6:39). Psalms 50 and 73-83 inclusive are attributed to him. He is mentioned along with David as skilled in music, and a seer (2 Chr. 29:30). The sons of Asaph, mentioned in 1 Chr. 25:1, 2 Chr. 20:14, and Ezra 2:41, were his descendants, or more probably a class of poets or singers who recognized him as their master.
Asaph is the author of the Psalm. He was David's music man, choir director, part-time prophet, etc. - a well-rounded guy. In this passage Asaph begins by commenting about the envy he felt toward the prosperity of those who do not serve God. Notice verse 3, "For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." In other words, LIFE AIN'T FAIR! We see a transition in his thinking in verses 16-17, "When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end." It's almost as though we can see the wheels turning in Asaph's head on this issue as we read further. His conclusion is clear in verse 27, "For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee." There it is: wickedness coupled with prosperity now, but destruction for eternity. Ultimately, life is fair after all.
On seeking God (Psalm 77)
To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of Asaph.
1 I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me.
2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.
3 I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
4 Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.
6 I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.
7 Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?
8 Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?
9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.
10 And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High.
11 I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.
12 I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.
13 Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?
14 Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.
15 Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.
16 The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled.
17 The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad.
18 The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.
19 Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.
20 Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
In this Psalm Asaph talks about calling upon the Lord and reminds him of what he has done for his people in the past. In the first nine verses Asaph contemplates the rejection he feels he's experiencing at the moment. In verse 10 he determines to reflect on the demonstrations of God in his past. This is a good example for Believers today. When times are tough, just reflect back on how God has provided for you in the past. A positive outlook in one's walk with God is also emphasized in Philippians 4:8 (see notes), "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Incidentally, the subtitle to this Psalm says, "To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of Asaph." Here's what Easton says about it. "The words 'upon Jeduthun' probably denote a musical instrument; or they may denote the style or tune invented or introduced by Jeduthun, or that the psalm was to be sung by his choir."
Maschil of Asaph.
1 Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
5 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:
6 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:
Israel...don't be like your ancestors.
7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:
8 And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.
9 The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.
10 They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law;
11 And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.
God's miraculous leadership out of Egypt
12 Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.
14 In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.
God provided water from the rock.
15 He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.
16 He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.
17 And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.
God provided manna.
18 And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.
19 Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
20 Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?
21 Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;
22 Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:
23 Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,
24 And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.
25 Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full.
God provided quail.
26 He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.
27 He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea:
28 And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.
29 So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;
God judged Israel in the wilderness.
30 They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths,
31 The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.
32 For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.
33 Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.
34 When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.
35 And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.
36 Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.
37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.
38 But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.
39 For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.
40 How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!
41 Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.
Israel did not recall God's deliverance from the Egyptians.
42 They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.
43 How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan:
44 And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink.
45 He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them.
46 He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost.
48 He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.
49 He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.
50 He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence;
51 And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:
Once delivered from Egypt into Canaan, Israel provoked God.
52 But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
53 And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54 And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased.
55 He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.
56 Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies:
57 But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.
58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.
In Canaan, God judged Israel's sin.
59 When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:
60 So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men;
61 And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy’s hand.
62 He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance.
63 The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage.
64 Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.
God delivered Israel from their enemies by King David.
65 Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.
66 And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach.
67 Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:
68 But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.
69 And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.
70 He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds:
71 From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.
72 So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.
Now here's a different kind of a Psalm - a Maschil according to the subtitle. That means, according to Easton, it's "a song enforcing some lesson of wisdom or piety." Asaph is credited with this one, and it seems to be his purpose to warn future generations of the consequences of turning their backs on God. He does so by giving a history lesson summarizing several of Israel's past rebellions. Asaph integrates into this history the process of Israel's continual falls: (1) a disregard for God...followed by (2) a chastening by God...followed by (3) a repentance toward God. This seems to be a continuous cycle in Israel's history; Asaph uses this Psalm to teach a lesson on obedience to God for future generations.
Incidentally, Zoan (verses 12, 43) was probably the city where Moses and Aaron negotiated with Pharaoh. We are told in Numbers 13:22 (see notes), "Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt." Abraham resided for a time in Hebron, so you can see that Zoan was an old city. It was the capital of Egypt at the time Jacob and his family moved to Egypt. The "field of Zoan" seems to be functionally equivalent to "Goshen" where Jacob's people settled in Egypt.
Ephraim seems to epitomize Israel's wrongdoings in this Psalm. Historically speaking, Asaph may be referencing the Philistine incursion and victory at Ebenezer, which resulted in the loss of the ark and the destruction of Shiloh (I Samuel 4:1-11, see notes). The passage beginning with II Samuel 2:1-11 (see notes) gives us a little insight into the struggle between Judah (the tribe that was supportive of David) and Ephraim (the tribe that was supportive of Saul's line). As a matter of fact, it would be Ephraim who would later have a key role in the rebellion of the Northern 10 tribes that would split under an Ephraimite, King Jeroboam (II Kings 12, see notes). It's important to note that the northern tribes never served God after that time. Asaph drives the point home in verses 67 and 68 regarding the struggle between Ephraim and Judah. The rest of the Psalm praises the leadership of David as God's chosen man.
Incidentally, Matthew refers to this Psalm in citing a quotation by Jesus in Matthew 13:35 (see notes).