This passage is ‘chock full o’ buts.’
In Psalm 73 the psalmist begins with the assertion that God is good to Israel. Well, of course he would say that; he’s Asaph, chief songwriter and songleader for King David’s choirs. He couldn’t very well have begun, “Um… God is… yeah, well… whatever.” The song begins proclaiming God is good. But just as quickly as that is out of his mouth, we find a most telling but.
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I nearly lost my foothold.
But as for me… Do you ever feel that way?
Asaph has written honesty. As you read through the rest of his song you see that he understands what he knows to be true doesn’t always agree with how he feels. He confesses that as he looks around and sees the wicked appearing to prosper, he’s disheartened. Many times it looks like they have no struggles, while he has been laboring hard to live a godly life–it leads him to question whether or not his faith and its corresponding troubles have been in vain (see verses 13-14).
I suspect every believer has experienced this to some degree. Jesus said, “small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life.” Our experience of this journey can feel lonely and discouraging at times. We can wind up asking ourselves, ‘Is this all in vain?’
Asaph testified that he couldn’t make sense of it all. That is, ’till…
In verse 17 we find a gem: “‘Till I entered the sanctuary…” Until then, it befuddled him (love to use a word like befuddled every now and then). The key was when he maneuvered himself closer to God–not in a physical sense, but in dependence. He evidently arrived at a place like Job–a place of crying out to God, “I need to see you!” And it worked.
Here’s an interesting thought: For the songleader of Israel, going to the sanctuary was his everyday life. So, do notice that Asaph kept going through the motions, as we say, even when it wasn’t adding up. Eventually, as he continued, consolation was found. Somewhere in the process, Asaph’s gaze had refocused. Look at verse 25. Whom have I in heaven but you?
Then, in verse 26, you find the biggest but in the text: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Think on that verse for a few minutes. What a beautiful realization! What a marvelous profession on which to stand!
Just before you leave this Psalm, note that the Psalmist has literally come full circle. Back in verse two we read “but as for me.” Look carefully at the very last verse of this Psalm: But as for me, it is good to be near God.
There will be days–and sometimes even seasons–when you don’t feel like painting a smile on your face and singing Kum Ba Yah. When you experience that, I hope that you will appreciate this Psalm. The big buts make it clear: It’s real life. But God!