God is good… all the time. And all the time… God is good. Many say these things, but how many believe these things? When we look at evil and injustice in the world, when we see oppressors triumph, when we see wicked people apparently flourish, that seems topsy-turvy compared to how things ought to be. When we struggle with these things, we are not alone and we are not the first. This Psalm of Asaph details a major crisis of faith and its resolution.
We may struggle in our faith. (Verses 1-15)
The psalmist affirmed that the pure in heart know the goodness of God. But this is no glib statement but is the conclusion following a severe struggle in which the footing for his faith came close to slipping away. When he got his eyes on the prosperous wicked, he became envious. He longed for the prosperity, pride, and popularity they possessed. He began to reconsider the value of living life for God. As Spurgeon put it, “he questions the value of holiness when its wages are paid in the coin of affliction.” If godly living is this tough, and wicked living results in ease and wealth, what is the point in pursuing a purity of heart?
We too may struggle in our faith. Perhaps in the midst of a personal difficulty, we see wrongdoers apparently prospering, climbing the career ladder, and amassing a following. If we focus on them and go down this road, we will tread ground like that of Asaph. The psalmist knew the anguished experience of traveling a dark path. However, he realizes something is wrong in his thinking. It is not until he comes to God’s sanctuary that the light brightens and redirects his way.
We must strengthen in our faith. (Verses 18-26)
Asaph would not wrap his mind around this theodicy, “until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end” (v. 17). When Asaph returned to worship God, his dissonant perceptions of the wicked were resolved. He need not slip up in envy because he realized that they would fall to destruction from their slippery places. Perhaps he meditated on the sacrifices, those innocent victims who symbolized God’s punishment for sin by destroying a substitute. Those not relying on this God and His provision for their sin to be forgiven must themselves be destroyed. Likewise, we must look to the fulfillment and the ultimate sacrifice, our Lord Jesus Christ. When we worship Him and meet with His people to hear the good news of His coming, death, and resurrection, a weak faith will be fed and strengthen and we will understand that the prosperity of the wicked is but temporary, while the worst is yet to come for them.
The Psalmist repents of his former questioning of God’s goodness, comparing such thoughts to those of a senseless beast, and so must we. The pathway out of darkness leads us to forsake incorrect assessments and to positively acknowledge the presence, protection, and guidance of the God who afterward will receive us to glory, where the best is yet to come. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever” (vv. 25-26). What an encouragement for the believer! Should we not rather pity than envy the wicked?
We must stand in our faith. (Verses 27-28)
The Psalmist sums up the conclusion of his conflict: those far from God will perish, but he knows the goodness of drawing near to God. His faith has struggled, but it has been strengthened. He nearly slipped, but now he is standing firm and declaring it to others.
So must we. Believers in Jesus Christ going through a “dark night of the soul” need to strength their faith, feeding it through worship. They need to repent of their former envy and short-sighted fascination with the prosperous wicked. They need to embrace God as their all-in-all, draw near to Him, and share the testimony of a faith that struggled, was strengthened, and now stands.
Truly, God is good… all the time. And all the time… God is good.