Since I was about 12 my favorite Scripture passage has been Psalm 73. I love all the Psalms; the poetic and honest prayers and praises to God. Every since first reading it, Psalm 73 has been direction to which I have turned and a promise to which I have clung. And from this Psalm, I have learned much about finding fulfillment in Jesus.
Many of the Psalms were written by King David (the one of "David and Goliath" and "David and Bathsheba"). But Psalm 73 was actually written by a man named Asaph.
I'm not going to put the whole Psalm here; just highlight key verses. But I would encourage to read it in its entirety when you get the chance.
Psalm 73 begins with these words: "Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart." (v. 1)
The word "good" that is used here comes from the Hebrew word towb. In this passage of Scripture, towb means "pleasant" or "delightful". God is described as one who brings pleasure and delight.
Asaph says that God is pleasant and delightful to those who are pure in heart. Now, when it says "pure in heart", it doesn't mean those who are perfect, who never mess up or do anything wrong. It means those whose heart desires God.
This first verse of Psalm 73 is a promise. If we had to earn God's goodness with our own, we would all fall horribly and miserably short. But when we desire God, He promises His goodness. And His goodness will make up for all our shortcomings.
I love how in this verse, Asaph says, "Surely God is good." To Asaph, God's goodness is a sure thing. He is completely confident in it. And we can also be assured of God's goodness to us.
It can often be difficult to live with this assurance. I mean, how often have I cut short or altogether skipped spending time with God in prayer or in His Word because there are other things I would rather be doing? How often have I looked to people or possessions to make me feel better when my spirits are low?
If I believe God really is pleasant and delightful to those who desire Him, wouldn't I want to spend time with Him? Wouldn't He be the One to whom I turn for delight when I am feeling down?
Asaph speaks of this in the next verses: "But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked." Psalm 73:2-3
Asaph just got done saying that God's goodness is a sure thing, but now he is saying he almost slipped from that assurance. His foothold, his confident standing on the promise of God, was almost lost. Why? Envy.
Have you ever envied someone? Have you ever thought, "If only I had ___________, like so-and-so." Have you ever compared yourself, your life, your accomplishments, your mistakes, your appearance, to that of someone else? I know I have.
You may have heard the saying, "Comparison is the thief of joy." What a true statement that is. It would also be true to say, "Comparison, or envy, is the thief of peace, contentment, gratitude, even love."
I think the easiest people to envy are others who love Jesus. We see people with godly qualities that we desire, and should desire, in our own lives. But if we are not careful, we can pull out our "spiritual scales" and begin weighing the "goods" and the "bads" of ourselves with those of others. How sick is it that Satan will take our noticing the good in others and the godly desire of wanting to grow more Christ-like, and twist it into such an ugly and disastrous thing as envy.
"Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." Galatians 5:26
In this verse "each other" refers to followers of Jesus. We are not to envy other believers.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud."
1 Corinthians 13:4
Envy is not born out of love, but selfishness. When we envy, we are being self-centered and do not have others' interests or God's will in mind.
"For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." James 3:16
Envy is a sin, and a sign that something is "disordered", or not in line with God's character.
"It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill." Philippians 1:15
We must be careful that our motives for doing good are also good. If we are serving God out of envy, we will never be satisfied, because envy is insatiable.
When we envy others, we are not walking with our feet on the path of God's goodness. And any other path is a slippery one indeed. Looking at our lives and others' lives through the eyes of envy takes our focus off Jesus and leaves us deceived. When we envy the good in other's lives, we often fail to see the troubles they may be facing and the responsibilities that come with their life. We also tend to ignore, or not even notice, the blessing in our own life and this leaves us ungrateful and discontent.
So what do we do when we find ourselves envying others? How do we stop the comparing and jealousy? Let's look at some other verses from Psalm 73:
"...it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God... I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory." Psalm 73:16-17, 24-25
When we find ourselves troubled with envy, the sanctuary, or presence, of God is where we will find refuge. God's presence brings true perspective. We are promised in these verses that He will guide us. This guiding is not just leading us in what we do, but also guiding our thoughts and perception of things so they are in line with God's truth. And when we allow ourselves to be lead by the truth of God, we can see His glory in our lives and through our lives.
So I encourage you to each day this week to get alone with God. Close your bedroom door and lock it behind you, go for a walk, whatever works for you, so long as it is only you and Jesus. Be still before Him, bask in the wonder and glory of His creation. Praise Him and thank Him for creating you, for giving you life, for the blessings that come to mind. And listen to Him. Even if envy isn't an issue in your life, let God give any new perspective He may have for you. Let Him align your thoughts and feelings with His truth.
Now, I can't write about Psalm 73 without including some words on my absolute favorite Scripture verses. These have been the prayer of my heart ever since I first read them:
"Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
My flesh and heart certainly do fail. I make mistakes and do wrong, I get hurt feelings, my perspective gets skewed by my emotions. But choosing Jesus above all brings strength for all; for all situations and circumstances.
What would our lives be like if we were to live these verses out? If we were to desire Jesus more than anything else?
"But as for me, it is good to be near You. I have mad the Sovereign Lord my refuge. I will tell of all Your deeds." Psalm 73:29
Remember the definition of "good"? Pleasant. Delightful. When we desire Jesus, being near Him is all of this and more. That is a promise. He is our refuge during all life may throw at us. We choose to praise Him for all He has done, and share those blessings with others.
And as we find delight in Him, we desire Him more, and as we desire Him more, being in His presence is delightful, and as we find delight in Him... well, that is beautiful cycle in which to live.
p.s. This is the second post in the series Fulfillment in Jesus. If you enjoyed it and found it helpful, you may want to read the first post: The Empty Places
The post Desire and Delight first appeared on The Overflowing.
All Scriptures taken from the NIV, copyright 2011
Hebrew definitions and origins from The New Strong's Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible by James Strong, copyright 2010