Read: Psalm 73; Psalm 131; 1 John 4:9-10
It is funny how a conversation can begin with one topic and morph into so many different directions. That's what happened to my husband and me this week. I don't know what started the flow of conversation, but we ended up talking about a time, years ago, when several men from our little town went to Promise Keepers in Boulder, Colorado. At that time, my husband though he was legally blind, could see a bit better than he can now. We were talking about the crowd that was there for that event. It was huge; so, he was reminding me about how he maneuvered through all of those people by following a man in their group who was wearing a bright plaid shirt and hat. As long as he kept his eyes focused on that shirt and hat, he could get through the line for box lunches and get around during the day. Nighttime was a different story since he has always dealt with night blindness. Focus and follow. That was how he negotiated many outings in those days. It wasn't always easy, but it worked as long as he was able to keep his gaze on a person whose eyes were better than his.
That conversation made me think of how we need to guard our own focus. We face a large crowd every day. No, not a mass of people. We face lots of different circumstances that can lure our focus away from the light of God's truth. If that occurs, we can find ourselves off track and in danger of veering into a precarious place. That's where Asaph found himself in today's main scripture reading. Let's remind ourselves of the circumstances that bombarded this musician and the truth and light that guided him back on track.
As we meet Asaph at the beginning of Psalm 73, we hear his reminder of how good God had been to Israel. A good start, but there were troublesome thoughts bouncing around in the musician's head. Like us, there were things going on that Asaph simply couldn't put together alongside the goodness of God that he wouldn't deny. Don't we also face such thoughts? His problem was the wicked. Those who opposed God. Asaph looked around and saw their prosperity. It seemed to him that their lot in life was much better than those who longed to serve God. Even their deaths seemed to be more peaceful than those who served the Lord. At least, that's how Asaph saw it. The arrogant were flaunting their wickedness with no consequences. Was that the way it was supposed to be? None of that made sense to Asaph who was slipping because his focus remained on the unfairness of what he saw. He wasn't able to reconcile the truth of God's love with what he was seeing all around him. These are some of the conflicted thoughts the psalmist expressed in verses 1-14 of this very honest writing. However, in verses 15-28, the dark cloud that had been over Asaph's eyes was torn away, and his vision began to focus properly. How did this opening of his eyes occur? He went into the sanctuary of the Lord. He either entered God's temple or the tabernacle, depending upon when Asaph wrote the psalm. In either case, Asaph's eyes turned away from the wicked who didn't love God to the God Who loved Asaph. His focus changed from what he was not able to understand to the truth that he knew. He changed from being brutish in his thinking, Psalm 73:22, and he stopped envying the wicked. He remembered that there was truly no reason to envy the ones who scoffed at God. Their doom would be sudden and irrevocable.
How different it would be for the righteous who served God. Even if their lives seemed to be less prosperous than those of the wicked, they, including Asaph, had God to walk with them. The psalmist spoke of God holding him by the right hand and how God was with him. Though his circumstances might be difficult, he had the promise of fellowship with the Lord both on earth and throughout eternity. What a life altering focus, and Asaph's focus would cause him to follow the Lord and tell others of His wonderful works, Psalm 73:28. What a change Asaph experienced when his focus was altered!
King David understood the importance of a right focus. In Psalm 131, Israel's sweet singer reminds us that we cannot understand the things that are beyond our understanding. Instead, we are urged to rest like a weaned child who is content and cared for. Where can our focus rest when we have times like Asaph experienced? When what we see doesn't make sense?
When God wants to remind us of His love, He speaks of the cross, 1 John 4:9-10. Even when we cry tears, the cross speaks of God's sacrifice that provided eternity with Him that begins here on earth. No, we won't, like Asaph, be able to put all the pieces of the puzzle of circumstances together; however, when we focus on how God defines love, we won't end up shattered by the confusion of trying to make sense of all that we see.
When we focus on Jesus, we are able to follow Him. Then, like Asaph, we will tell others of His wonderful works.