WHERE YOU STAND DETERMINES WHAT YOU SEE!
Psalm 73 NKJV
A psalm of Asaph.
1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
One day, six blind men decided to go to the zoo. They hired a guide to tell them about all the exotic animals they couldn’t see. When they came to the elephants, the zoo keeper wanted them to have more than a verbal description, so he allowed them each to feel the elephant.
Since the elephant was large, and since the zoo keeper had limited time, he let each man touch one part of the giant mammal.
The first blind man reached out and his hand grabbed the elephant’s tail. “Aha,” he exclaimed, “the elephant is like a big rope.”
The next man felt a massive elephant leg. He looked strange, no rope was that big. “No, the elephant is like a large log or tree.” He was sure of this.
The third blind man walked forward and ran straight into the elephant’s side, whereupon he pronounced that, “The elephant is really a big wall.”
Next, another of the blind men reached out and took hold of one of the elephant’s ears. It must have tickled, because the elephant wiggled the large ear, causing the fourth man to exclaim, “Oh, see this, the elephant is like a big fan.”
The fifth blind man decided that the first four were all slightly daft and they couldn’t be describing the same creature, so he carefully walked up and put out his hand, the elephant raised his trunk to the man who felt it and grinned in wonder. “My friends, it is obvious the elephant is like a huge snake.”
The final man was totally confused, he walked forward and reached out, hoping to find the truth, and encountered a tusk. He paused and brightened, “I understand, the true nature of the elephant is this, he is a sword.”
The zoo keeper and guide smiled at one another, knowing that none had seen the big, elephantine, picture.
This was the problem which confronted the writer of this Psalm. He was looking at his situation from the wrong vantage point. How often are we guilty of the same thing? There are times when terrible things come our way during the course of our lives. When this happens, we tend to only look at what we can see. However, there is far more to the picture than what these mortal physical eyes can behold.
This Psalm teaches us how to get our eyes off of our circumstances and place them squarely upon the Lord. Our friend Asaph was ready to quit. He was ready to throw in the towel and just walk away from God. However, he learned to look at things, not from a faulty human perspective, but from the perspective of God. You see, like those 6 blind men, where a person stands determines what that person sees. That is the thought I would like to develop this morning.
Let’s spend some time together in this Psalm as we consider the thought Where You Stand Determines What You See.
I. V. 1 HOW ASAPH HAS BEEN EDUCATED
In this first verse, we see Asaph standing on Solid Ground. He has been taught about the goodness of God. He has been taught that the Lord is nothing but good. This is true! Jesus Christ, Himself, testified to the goodness of God, Matt. 19:17, “…there is none good, that is, but God…”. He has been taught two great truths…
A. God Blesses His People – This is a true statement – “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Psalms 84:11
B. God Blesses The Pure – This is another true statement – Matt. 6:33.
I. How Asaph Has Been Educated
II. V. 2-16 WHAT ASAPH HAS EXPERIENCED
Asaph had learned the truth about God, but what he experienced in life seemed to contradict what he had learned. This brought him to a place of confusion and doubt concerning God. In this section of this Psalm, we see Asaph standing on Slippery Ground, v. 2.
The problem for Asaph is the same problem we all face from time to time. We misinterpret the goodness of God! We often think that goodness translates into blessings. Why not ask Job about the logic of this? Do you think, even for a minute, what Job endured was a fun thing? Well, it wasn’t! However, in the end, he had been brought closer to the Lord and he was blessed by God for his faithfulness!
For too many years, a kind of “health and wealth Gospel” has been preached in our churches. People have been lead to believe that if they live the right kind of lives and do the right things, then the Lord is obligated to bless them and give them good things. My friends, that kind of teaching is a lie! Often, the Lord will allow things in our lives that are hard to bear. He will place loads on our shoulders that will literally break us under their weight. This isn’t a pleasant thing, but it is a necessary thing! What we forget is that the Lord is molding us into His image. And, for a lump of clay as badly disfigured as I am, that takes a lot of squeezing and shaping.
Asaph had learned the truth about God. But, I repeat, what he had learned about God did not go along with what he had experienced in the world. As a result, he was confused by several things. Notice what Asaph was confused about:
A. V. 3 By The Prosperity Of The Sinner – It bothered Asaph that the wicked prospered while the children of God did without.
B. V. 4 By The Peace Of The Sinner – He watched the wicked live their lives in sin and slip off into eternity with no problems at all. He was amazed at the peace they had in death.
C. V. 5 By The Pleasure Of The Sinner – He was astounded that the wicked could live lives of such sin and do so without trouble. Their good times just seemed to roll on and on!
D. V. 6-11 By The Pride Of The Sinner – Because they live the lives they do, and there is never any opposition from God, they are filled with pride before Him. They say, “God doesn’t know! Even if He does. He is weak and unable to do anything about it at all”, v. 11. All the while, they squeeze the last drop of pleasure from life, v. 10. It appears to Asaph that they have it made!
E. V. 12-16 By The Progress Of The Sinner – When Asaph took all this in, it caused him to become bitter in his heart.
1. He looked at the life he had been living for the Lord, v. 13.
2. He looked at his own share of sorrow, v. 14.
3. He looked at a life lived for the Lord and it broke his heart, v. 16.
4. Yet, he was afraid to admit how he felt, because he did not want to lead others down the same path of despair he was walking on, v. 15
When Asaph saw these things, he felt like quitting on God. He felt as though he had actually wasted his time in serving the Lord. How many have truly felt that way? When the trials of life begin to pile up on us, we are tempted to think that we would have been better off living like the rest of the world. That there is no benefit in serving the Lord.
The problem with this line of thinking is that life is viewed from a human perspective. When we look at life and its problems from a human perspective, we will always focus our attention on self. Everything will always come down to, “How does this affect me?” “What problems will I face now?” “When will I ever have relief?” “Who cares about what I am facing?” Natural thinking always results in disaster because it allows you to stand in the wrong place and see things from the wrong angle.
If you allow yourself to fall into the trap of looking at life from a human perspective you, like Asaph, will find yourself in a place where you will begin to doubt what you know to be true about the Lord. Friends, that is a dangerous place to be!
I. How Asaph Has Been Educated
II. What Asaph Has Experienced
III. V. 17-28 WHAT ASAPH ENCOUNTERED
Beginning in verse 17, the mood of the Psalm changes. Asaph moves from the Slippery Ground of a Human Perspective and steps squarely unto Shouting Ground of a Heavenly Perspective. It seems that Asaph made a trip to the Temple. There, he talked with the Lord, and he allowed the Lord to talk with him. As he did, he was able to get his eyes off of himself and the problems he faced. He was able to lose his Human Perspective and replace it with a Heavenly Perspective. Notice what became clear to Asaph when he went to the Temple.
A. V. 17b-20 The Future Of The Sinner – Asaph came to realize that the wicked may have the best here. They may live it up and enjoy life to the fullest, but that dream existence they are living on earth will end when the last breath leaves their body! All they have to look forward to is an eternity in Hell to be separated from the Lord forever, 2 Thes. 1:8-9.
(Ill. Before we allow ourselves to become too jealous over the lives the wicked are living, we need to consider the fact that this is the “only Heaven” they will ever know. Isn’t that depressing? Lost friends, you need to get right with God! You may be enjoying your life today and think that you have it made. In truth, you are living on borrowed time! One day, the clock will run out for you and you will find yourself in Hell. Is that what you really want? It does not have to end up that way! Jesus died to pay for your sins. If you will call on Him now, He will save you and take you to Heaven to live eternally with Him. What do you want out of life? Heaven or Hell?)
B. V. 21-22 The Foolishness Of Self – Now, Asaph confesses the fact that he has been looking at everything through a faulty set of lenses. He deals with the matter of his own heart.
(Ill. There are many of God’s children who would have to admit that they have looked at life the wrong way. Instead of trusting the Lord and believing His Word, we have been guilty of looking at our circumstances and doubting the Word of God (The BIBLE)!
We have been guilty of saying:
1. God doesn’t care! – He says – 1 Peter 5:7
2. God doesn’t hear! – He says – Jer. 33:3
3. God isn’t even there! – He says – Heb. 13:5
Instead of doubting the Lord, we all need to come to the place where just take God at His Word! It is foolish to forget God in the middle of our trouble! He is still God no matter what we face in life, Eph. 3:20!)
(Ill. Have you been guilty of doing what Asaph did? Are you guilty of allowing the trials of life to eclipse the face of God? We all do it from time to time, but it needs to be confessed as the sin it is and forsaken for true faith in the Lord our God!)
C. V. 23-28 The Fullness Of The Savior – As Asaph communed with the Lord, he began to see everything more clearly. He not only looked into the future of the sinner and the foolishness of self, but he was able to see clearly the fullness of the Savior as well. He came to realize that as a child of God, he possessed spiritual blessings that towered above anything enjoyed by the wicked! Notice some of the things Asaph discovered.
1. V. 23 The Presence Of God – Asaph realized that even in the midst of his trials, he had never been alone! Even when he could not see God, the Lord had been holding to his hand. God had always been there for him.
(Ill. That is a greater blessing than we are aware of this morning! The fact that our Lord is ever with His children is a blessing beyond description. It means that we are never alone! It means that in ever valley, ever dark night of the soul, ever illness, every situation in life, we have the blessed presence of the Lord to sustain us and comfort us! He is always there – Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5!
(Ill. He (the HOLY SPIRIT) is described as a Comforter. John 14:16, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;” This word describes a friend who is called in to help a person who is troubled or distressed. It refers to a commander called in to help a discouraged and dispirited army. Basically, the word refers to a helper! No matter what we face in life, we have an ever-present, heaven sent Helper in the Person of the Holy Spirit!)
2. V. 24 The Protection Of God – Asaph recognizes that even though the storms of life may rage all around him, his life was under the control and direction of God. He knew that God would guide him through this life and would eventually bring him home to heaven.
(Ill. Friends, we enjoy the same protection enjoyed by Asaph! While we endure the storms of life, we need to be aware that God knows where we are, Job 23:10. He knows about our storm, and He allowed, it to come our way, Rom. 8:28. We need to realize that the storms of life, horrible as they may be, can never rip us from the hand of God. He will guide us through them and will bring us into glory when this life is over. Our problems pose no problem for the Lord.)
3. V. 25-26 The Person Of God – Asaph comes to the conclusion that the Lord is all he needs in this life or in the life to come. He has forgotten about the pleasure filled lives of the wicked and names the greatest blessing that he enjoys: a personal relationship with God Himself! Asaph had come to realize that his flesh was weak, but his Lord was strong)
(Ill. God’s children need to learn that a heart that desires nothing but the Lord is a heart that will never be disappointed! When we get our eyes off the Lord and start to lust after the things of the world, we will become dissatisfied and discouraged. When we want nothing but God, we are sure to have everything we want, Matt. 5:6)
4. V. 27-28 The Perception Of God – Finally Asaph arrives at the place where he can see things from God’s perspective. No longer does he look upon the wicked with envy. Now he knows that they are doomed. Now he knows that the saints have reason to shout even when things look their bleakest. Asaph has come to the place where he knows that God’s way is the only way. He now knows that it pays to be a child of God!
(Ill. My friends, that is the place in the Lord we must all come to if we are to enjoy victory in the difficult days of life. We have to get to the place where we can see things like they really are, and not like we think they are. We have to come to the place where we lose the human perspective and adopt the heavenly perspective. Basically, it boils down to changing the place where we are standing. How do we get to this place?
1. By Prayer
2. By the Bible
3. By Grace
4. By Faith
We get to the place where we can trust the Lord by trusting the Lord. In other words, the more we allow ourselves to believe that God is Who He says He is and that He can do what He says He will do, the easier it becomes to trust Him with all of life! It is the first step that is always the hardest!)
Do we have any Asaph’s present today? Sure we do! There are people at the present moment who feel like giving up from time to time because of the heavy load they are carrying through life.
I would like to challenge you this morning to do what Asaph did. Come and commune with God about the situation. Ask Him to give you His eyes so that you can look at things His way. Ask Him to bring you to the place where you, like Psalmist Asaph, can say, “I have put my trust in the Lord God.”
It all boils down to where you are standing! Don’t be like the blind men who started our study. Don’t be guilty of merely looking at what is right in front of you. Don’t be guilty of just adopting the human perspective. Make the effort today to get the heavenly perspective on your problems, and come to see things the right way: God’s way!
Some are lost here this morning. You can get that big problem solved right here right now, if you will come to the Lord and allow Him to come into your life.
This altar is open! God is here and He is meeting needs this morning. Will you allow Him to meet your? Remember, Where you stand determines what you see!
Pray this prayer with me…