Have you ever felt that God was cheating you, that He was holding back His blessings? Remember, this is how the devil attacked Eve in the garden. As she loitered in the place of temptation, the devil presented God as a liar and as One who was holding out on her when it came to His love and blessings (Genesis 3:1-6). Satan did the same to Asaph, who was a Levite and one of Israel’s prominent musicians. Asaph had experienced the Grace of God and was a righteous man. You may ask, “then what was his problem?” Here is a brief look at one of his hymns, Psalm 73.
1. Asaph's backsliding was one which affected his service and joy in the Lord.
"Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart." Asaph knew the God of Israel and served him; he was a saved man. There is a difference between being an apostate and a backslider. An apostate is one who departs from the faith (See Hebrews 6:1-9, and Romans 6:1-5; 14-23), but a backslider is one who has believed on the Savior and fails for a time to live up to what he has learned. He was shaken in his faith and, as a result, it was nearly eclipsed.
2. Asaph was part of the Israelite remnant, those who were of a pure heart; it is a fact that not all of Israel was saved (except, of course, at the very end the seven year tribulation period the whole nation will be saved [Romans 11:25-29, Zechariah 14:1-8]). Asaph wanted to make sure that his temptation to sin was his own problem. This is what the adverbs tell us in verse 1 "but as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped.” The righteous man may stumble but he does not lose his footing. He may fall seven times but he gets back up again. Why is this so? It is because the LORD is holding his hand.
Proverbs 24:16 speaks of this divine hand holding: “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity”. Asaph’s backsliding (from his viewpoint) was very close to forsaking God. Psalm 73:2, “but as for me, my feet came close to stumbling (natah)”. The Hebrew word for stumbling means to pitch forward, to stretch out (“My steps had almost slipped”). Later, in looking back on his envying the wicked and being discontented, he says, "When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you." (Psalm 73:21, 22).
Reader, are you in that state of mind right now? Do you compare yourself to the wicked or even to other Christians and it seems like they are getting along just fine while you are not? Others’ kids appear to be close to perfect and their parents imply this in their end of the year letters. The wicked seem to prosper when you have little. You serve God and still just get by financially. This distorted thinking has been a problem to the people of God throughout history. A quote from another psalm is fitting. The psalmist in Psalm 37:1-6 writes,
Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.3Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun (NIV)
And what about the Apostle Peter? Do you remember his backsliding? His love had failed, and he denied Christ and cursed God. His faith had not failed. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane prayed that his faith should not fail (Luke 22:31-34 NIV). He felt like he was such a failure so he went back to the only vocation he knew, fishing. But His Lord was going to restore him to ministry; this is the same Lord who had prayed for his faith. Luke 22:31-32 tells us the content of that prayer “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith my not fail; and you, when you once have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (NASB).
Now back to Psalm 73,where is the turning point of this outcry?
It lies in verses 16-19:
When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God, then I perceived their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!
If you are viewing your life through present circumstances or past failures, or if you feel cheated by God, then you need to come into His presence with thanksgiving and understand that the unsaved, though they are doing well now, will one day be forever cast into Hell. The Lord Jesus conquered the grave. He is coming again! Look at the changes that occurred in Asaph's present walk with God.
Yet 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. 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. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 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.