It can be discouraging at times to see all the evil that is in this world. To see people who prosper despite having no fear of God at all. People who only look out for themselves and don’t care who they hurt.
And when we see them prospering, it’s easy to start saying, “What’s the point of doing what’s right? What’s the point of following God when I’m struggling, and those who don’t give a rip about God are doing well?”
That’s what Asaph struggled with and this psalm describes his struggle with the evil he saw.
He starts the psalm with his conclusion.
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. (1)
In other words, when all is said and done, God is good. And those who follow him and keep pure hearts before him will see his goodness in their lives.
But then he talks about his struggle, saying,
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (2-3)
And in the next few verses, he talks about how all the wicked people he saw seemed to have no struggles at all. They were healthy and rich, with none of the burdens that most people have. This despite how proud and violent they were. This despite all the evil that came out of their hearts and mouths, saying,
How would God know? Does the Most High know anything? (11)
So Asaph cried out,
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. (13-14)
But as he came into the presence of God, all of these thoughts melted away like the mist as he realized their final destiny.
Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. (18-20)
In short, their time will come. Their prosperity lasts only a moment compared to eternity, and then all will see just how temporal it all was.
When Asaph realized this, he felt so stupid for envying the wicked and questioning God. But then he said,
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. (23-24)
The nice thing about God is his patience. That though we sometimes question him and his goodness, he doesn’t give up on us. He continues to stand by us and lead us until the day we see him face to face.
As Asaph realized all this, he sang in praise,
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds. (25-28)
Lord, whom have I in heaven but you? Lord, it’s so easy to be jealous of those who do evil, because their lives seem to be so good. But Lord, it is good to be near to you. Let me never envy the wicked, no matter how good their lives may seem. Instead Lord, be my desire above all things. Be my strength and portion forever. In Jesus name, amen.