Psalm 73 – How Can God Know?
SummaryThe psalmist envies the prosperity of wicked people who seem to thrive, as though God doesn't know or doesn't care. But the pray-er recognizes that being a faithful child of God is more valuable than material wealth.
This psalm has been counted among the wisdom psalms because it wrestles with questions like those of the book of Job: Why do the wicked prosper? Why does God not act justly? Why bother to be good?
The psalm begins with a confession of faith, "Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart." The psalmist struggles to believe this, because experience sometimes makes it difficult (vv. 1-14). The wicked prosper, treat others arrogantly, are treated like celebrities because of their wealth, and think none of this matters to God. The pray-er comes near to losing faith because of this (vv. 2-3).
In the sanctuary, in worship and prayer, the psalmist recognizes that he or she has been wrong. What matters more than wealth and fame is keeping faith with God's people (v. 15) and holding fast to God and God's promises (vv. 23-26). Wealth is fleeting, lost in a moment (v. 19), but life in God is forever (v. 26). Finally, those who exploit others will be judged by God (v. 18), so people of faith can give up their envy and their anger over what seems like an unjust world (vv. 27-28).
The psalmist's questions about the justice and fairness of the world are real, but trying to figure it all out alone proves fruitless (v. 16)--probably now as well. The psalmist needs the community of God's people, gathered for worship and the mutual strengthening of their faith, to find his or her way back to what ultimately matters.