Asaph had it all.
But he didn’t even begin to realize that.
Asaph is anything but a household name. Yet he boasted quite an impressive résumé: as David’s handpicked choir director – first in the Tabernacle and eventually in the Temple; as a prolific songwriter (twelve of his psalms are included in the Old Testament Psalter); as a prophet; and as a good role model (evidenced by the fact Asaph’s sons followed in their father’s footsteps and became Temple choir singers).
Yet, with all of that, Asaph nearly threw it all away.
Somewhere along his spiritual journey, Asaph fell prey to a sickness of the soul that infects many people of faith. At some point in his ministry, for reasons clearly spelled out in Psalm 73, Asaph became jealous of wicked people – a hideously dark disease that, if the truth be told, has at times affected me as well.
Has it ever affected you? Let’s find out. Check out Asaph’s astonishing admission to see if you can relate.
Asaph honestly acknowledged that “I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.” To which I say, Thank God for genuinely authentic people. People whose approach to life is, “What you see is what you get.” People who are poor performers. They cannot act. They will not pretend to be anything other than what they truly are. The kinds of spiritual leaders those in the “Millennial Generation” (see my previous post) crave.
Give Asaph credit; he knew that he was in spiritual peril, about to flush his faith. But why? What threw him into such a traumatic tailspin? Keep reading.
“For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.”
There it is. The heart of the matter. Asaph compared his life of strict spiritual discipline and denial to the wanton wickedness that the undisciplined pleasure-seekers surrounding him enjoyed. And to Asaph (not to sound clichéd about it), life seemed utterly unfair.
Was he right? You be the judge: “(The wicked) seem to live such painless lives; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don’t have troubles like other people; they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else. They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty.
“These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth… Look at these wicked people – enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.”
Except that he was wrong; dead wrong. Perceptions may be reality, but not in this case. Asaph’s view of “the wicked” was skewed from the start, something he thankfully came to realize before it was too late.
Sure, Asaph’s life wasn’t the bed of roses he might have hoped for or expected when he chose to follow God. He lamented (a polite word for whined), “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain.” Sound like anyone you know?
Fact is, life can be tough, very tough. Tough for the righteous. And tough for the wicked, no matter how hardy they might party in order to try to dull their pain with their pleasure. But in the end, it’s all just a mirage.
As Asaph clearly came to see.
Upon reflection, Asaph arrived at four profoundly insightful conclusions:
(1) Had Asaph given in to his envy of the wicked, and flushed his faith in the process, he would have let a lot of people down. People were watching him, just like people are watching us. Fact is, we don’t go down alone; we invariably take a lot of people down with us – people who trust us, look up to us, respect us. That was a price Asaph was not willing to pay.
(2) Payday will come some day. Sure, the “wicked” may be having the time of their lives now… for a little while. But the “passing pleasures of sin” do pass. And that’s the point. And when they do, the wicked are left holding a handful of nothing, except for a bunch of fading memories, and the crushing consequences of their foolish choices.
(3) The wicked reduce themselves to living like beasts, governed only by their carnal cravings and animal appetites. Gone is their dignity, sacrificed on the altars of their depravity. Lost is their self-respect, forfeited by their disrespect of the God who made them.
(4) (And most significantly…) If Asaph turned his back on God, he would be letting Him down — the One, the only One, who never would and never could let him down. Nothing was worth that, for Asaph or for us.
As Asaph so correctly concluded, “It is good for me to draw near to God.” Yes it is, Asaph. And you know what? It is good for us to do the same.