I love the Psalms. I love them for their poetry. I love them for their picture of God. But I probably love them most for their honesty. In the Psalms, we see the full range of human emotions. We see into the hearts of those who worship the Lord rightly and those who sin in their souls. We see, in short, pictures of ourselves.
Psalm 73 is one of those Psalms that is gloriously honest. It speaks to the depths of who we are. As the people of God, we are greatly blessed. But, if we are honest, we will also admit we can be bitter. We do not like it when life is hard. We do not like it when those who oppose God seem to get away with cruelty and nastiness. WE do not like it when the poor are crushed or the hurting are laid waste. We do not like it when we are not recognized for whatever good we think we possess. And we do not like it when it appears that eternity is so far away that we forget what we exist to be and do.
And when we get bitter, when we hurt and let that hurt coarse through our veins, we act foolishly. And in those settings, we need to be reminded of God and his perfection.
21 When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
The psalmist writes of his time of bitterness. He was frustrated at the injustice of the world. HE did not think he was getting the good he deserved. And so he sinned in his heart.
Notice how he describes his sin. How real does it seem? He says to God, “I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.” Have you ever been like that? I have. I have more recently than I would want to publicly admit.
This passage is a perfect picture of the soul-crushing self-pity that we are so easily led into by our foolish and sinful minds. We come up with a way we want the world to be. The world will not, it cannot, meet our expectations and demands. Nor would having all our expectations met be good for us. And so we rage. WE fuss. We grumble. We become brutish toward the Lord. WE growl and snap and huff and snort and act like animals because we are not getting things the way we think they should be.
What is the solution? For the Psalmist, as we see in verse 23, the solution is to remember that God is with him. Even when life is not giving him what he wants, God is there. Even when he has been grumbling and griping and sinning out of sheer crankiness, God is still there. The Lord has not turned away from him and left him alone. God’s grace is still upon him.
I love the Psalms. Texts like the one above remind me of just who I am and how I can behave. They show me my failures in vivid color. They remind me of the grace of God for my sins that was fully purchased by Christ. No, I do not like seeing my sin. I do not like having a heart that still needs so much sanctification. But I am grateful to God that he has let me see that other believers, better men than I, have fought the same battles, failed the same failures, and landed softly on the same grace.