The psalmist's temptation. (1-14) How he gained a victory over it. (15-20) How he profited by it. (21-28)
Verses 1-14 The psalmist was strongly tempted to envy the prosperity of the wicked; a common temptation, which has tried the graces of many saints. But he lays down the great principle by which he resolved to abide. It is the goodness of God. This is a truth which cannot be shaken. Good thoughts of God will fortify against Satan's temptations. The faith even of strong believers may be sorely shaken, and ready to fail. There are storms that will try the firmest anchors. Foolish and wicked people have sometimes a great share of outward prosperity. They seem to have the least share of the troubles of this life; and they seem to have the greatest share of its comforts. They live without the fear of God, yet they prosper, and get on in the world. Wicked men often spend their lives without much sickness, and end them without great pain; while many godly persons scarcely know what health is, and die with great sufferings. Often the wicked are not frightened, either by the remembrance of their sins, or the prospect of their misery, but they die without terror. We cannot judge men's state beyond death, by what passes at their death. He looked abroad, and saw many of God's people greatly at a loss. Because the wicked are so very daring, therefore his people return hither; they know not what to say to it, and the rather, because they drink deep of the bitter cup of affliction. He spoke feelingly when he spoke of his own troubles; there is no disputing against sense, except by faith. From all this arose a strong temptation to cast off religion. But let us learn that the true course of sanctification consists in cleansing a man from all pollution both of soul and body. The heart is cleansed by the blood of Christ laid hold upon by faith; and by the begun works of the Lord's Spirit, manifested in the hearty resolution, purpose, and study of holiness, and a blameless course of life and actions, the hands are cleansed. It is not in vain to serve God and keep his ordinances.
Verses 15-20 The psalmist having shown the progress of his temptation, shows how faith and grace prevailed. He kept up respect for God's people, and with that he restrained himself from speaking what he had thought amiss. It is a sign that we repent of the evil thoughts of the heart, if we suppress them. Nothing gives more offence to God's children, than to say it is vain to serve God; for there is nothing more contrary to their universal experience. He prayed to God to make this matter plain to him; and he understood the wretched end of wicked people; even in the height of their prosperity they were but ripening for ruin. The sanctuary must be the resort of a tempted soul. The righteous man's afflictions end in peace, therefore he is happy; the wicked man's enjoyments end in destruction, therefore he is miserable. The prosperity of the wicked is short and uncertain, slippery places. See what their prosperity is; it is but a vain show, it is only a corrupt imagination, not substance, but a mere shadow; it is as a dream, which may please us a little while we are slumbering, yet even then it disturbs our repose.
Verses 21-28 God would not suffer his people to be tempted, if his grace were not sufficient, not only to save them from harm, but to make them gainers by it. This temptation, the working of envy and discontent, is very painful. In reflecting upon it, the psalmist owns it was his folly and ignorance thus to vex himself. If good men, at any time, through the surprise and strength of temptation, think, or speak, or act amiss, they will reflect upon it with sorrow and shame. We must ascribe our safety in temptation, and our victory, not to our own wisdom, but to the gracious presence of God with us, and Christ's intercession for us. All who commit themselves to God, shall be guided with the counsel both of his word and of his Spirit, the best counsellors here, and shall be received to his glory in another world; the believing hopes and prospects of which will reconcile us to all dark providences. And the psalmist was hereby quickened to cleave the closer to God. Heaven itself could not make us happy without the presence and love of our God. The world and all its glory vanishes. The body will fail by sickness, age, and death; when the flesh fails, the conduct, courage, and comfort fail. But Christ Jesus, our Lord, offers to be all in all to every poor sinner, who renounces all other portions and confidences. By sin we are all far from God. And a profession Christ, if we go on in sin, will increase our condemnation. May we draw near, and keep near, to our God, by faith and prayer, and find it good to do so. Those that with an upright heart put their trust in God, shall never want matter for thanksgiving to him. Blessed Lord, who hast so graciously promised to become our portion in the next world, prevent us from choosing any other in this.
Psalms 73:1-28 . God is good to His people. For although the prosperity of the wicked, and the afflictions of the righteous, tempted the Psalmist to misgivings of God's government, yet the sudden and fearful ruin of the ungodly, seen in the light of God's revelation, reassures his heart; and, chiding himself for his folly, he is led to confide renewedly in God, and celebrate His goodness and love.
1. The abrupt announcement of the theme indicates that it is the conclusion of a perplexing mental conflict, which is then detailed (compare Jeremiah 12:1-4 ).
Truly--or, "Surely it is so."
clean heart--( Psalms 18:26 ) describes the true Israel.
2. The figures express his wavering faith, by terms denoting tottering and weakness (compare Psalms 22:5 , 62:3 ).
3-9. The prosperous wicked are insolently proud (compare Psalms 5:5 ). They die, as well as live, free from perplexities: pride adorns them, and violence is their clothing; indeed they are inflated with unexpected success. With all this--
8. They are corrupt--or, literally, "they deride," they speak maliciously and arrogantly and invade even heaven with blasphemy ( Revelation 13:6 ), and cover earth with slanders ( Job 21:7-14 ).
10-12. Hence God's people are confounded, turned hither (or back) and thither, perplexed with doubts of God's knowledge and care, and filled with sorrow.
12. prosper in the word--literally, "secure for ever."
13, 14. The Psalmist, partaking of these troubles, is especially disturbed in view of his own case, that with all his diligent efforts for a holy life, he is still sorely tried.
15. Freed from idiomatic phrases, this verse expresses a supposition, as, "Had I thus spoken, I should," &c., intimating that he had kept his troubles to himself.
generation of thy children--Thy people ( 1 John 3:1 ).
offend--literally, "deceive, mislead."
16, 17. Still he--
thought--literally, "studied," or, "pondered this riddle"; but in vain; it remained a toil (compare Margin), till he--
17. went into the sanctuary--to enquire (compare Exodus 25:22 , Psalms 5:7 , 27:4 ).
18-20. their end--future ( Psalms 37:37 Psalms 37:38 ), which is dismal and terribly sudden ( Proverbs 1:27 , 29:1 ), aggravated and hastened by terror. They are thrown into ruins as a building falling to pieces ( Psalms 74:3 ), As one despises an unsubstantial dream, so God, waking up to judgment ( Psalms 7:6 , 44:23 ), despises their vain shadow of happiness ( Psalms 39:6 , Isaiah 29:7 ).
21, 22. He confesses how--
foolish--literally, "stupid," and
ignorant--literally, "not discerning," had been his course of thought.
22. before thee--literally, "with Thee," in conduct respecting Thee.
23. Still he was with God, as a dependent beneficiary, and so kept from falling ( Psalms 73:2 ).
24. All doubts are silenced in confidence of divine guidance and future glory.
receive me to glory--literally, "take for (me) glory" (compare Psalms 68:18 , Ephesians 4:8 ).
25, 26. God is his only satisfying good.
26. strength--literally, "rock" ( Psalms 18:2 ).
portion--( Psalms 16:5 , Lamentations 3:24 ).
27, 28. The lot of apostates, described by a figure of frequent use ( Jeremiah 3:1 Jeremiah 3:3 , Ezekiel 23:35 ), is contrasted with his, who finds happiness in nearness to God ( James 4:8 ), and his delightful work the declaration of His praise.