The Asaph Psalms
Psalm 73:1-28
Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.…

Here in the beginning of the third book of the Psalter we have eleven psalms which are grouped together as being Asaph's psalms. Those psalms have very much of a common character and a common style; they are the production of some oriental Bacon, of some Tacitus of grace. They are obscure if you will, they are oracular, they are sententious, they are occasionally, it must be admitted, sublime. And, first of all, Asaph's was no affected scepticism; Asaph was a real doubter. In a certain sense he may be looked upon as the St. Thomas of the Old Testament, but the doubt of St. Thomas, as we all know, was about a fact and about a dogma which underlay that fact — the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead — the doubt of Asaph was about the moral truth of the government of God, for the cause of his doubt about the goodness of God was the inequality of human society, the fatal injustice as it appears to some in the distribution of the good things of this life. It was the base and mean character of many of those who are the most tremendous winners in what seems to be the ignoble lottery sometimes of a successful life. These men did not repeatedly hear the summons of the grim sergeant, Death; they were not repeatedly dragged by chains; "there are no bands in their death;" that oppressive burden that lies on the rest of our suffering humanity — they seem for a time clean outside of it; they are not in trouble as other men. And then there comes the deterioration of character, the encompassing pride, being robed with violence; the fulfilment of the words of that fierce satire, "Their eyes stand out with fatness, they have more than their hearts can wish." There are hearts and hearts, and they have all, more than all, that hearts like theirs can wish for. Now, the means of removing Asaph's doubt we find to have been these four.

1. In the first place, there was his own spiritual life. If these haunting doubts about the goodness and the justice of God were real, if there was no good God in the heaven above, then his whole spiritual life was worthless. Well might he say in the thirteenth verse, if it were so, "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency."

2. And the second means of the removal of this doubt was the spiritual life of the children of God — "If I say I will speak thus, behold I should offend against the generation of Thy children" — he would be doing wrong to them, he would be breaking faith with the saints of God, who had lived this life upon earth and who had passed into the home beyond with this full faith.

3. Then a third means of removing this doubt we find in the closing part of the psalm (vers. 23-28). The spiritual life is also an eternal life, an eternal life in God and with God. Now, this psalm might almost be marked as the great psalm of the Hebrew "Summum Bonum, The Highest Good." We are told by St. that the ancient classical philosophy had worked out no less than two hundred and eighty-eight different views or solutions of the "Summum Bonum," the highest good of man. It was, we have been told on great authority, a sort of scholastic theology of the Pagans, but here is Asaph's view of the "Summum Bonum," hero is the view of all the saints of God. How nobly the psalm begins! The prophet had long been encompassed about with the shadows of darkness and doubt. At last he looks upward and he says, "And yet, after all, God is good to Israel, even to those who are of a clean heart"; and as the psalm begins so it ends: "It is good for me to draw nigh unto God." Take this in, take in the eternal life with God in the home above, take in that and no doubt will arise about the distribution of God's good things, and we shall say with the psalmist: "So foolish was I and ignorant, I was as a beast before Thee."

4. And then the fourth means was this — it was a revelation in the sanctuary: "When I thought upon this, it was too painful for me, until I went into the sanctuary of God." All of us who love the Psalter have critical friends who tell us not to be too mystical in our views, not to think of Christ or Heaven in the psalms; but when they comment upon this verse they begin to turn mystical and say, "Think of some inward sanctuary in your mind, think of some place where you may be alone with God"; to which I only reply, "My literal friend, you must be literal here at all events." The word unquestionably means the outward sanctuary of God, the visible sanctuary built up upon Mount Zion, the place upon which men walked with human feet, and listened with human ears. This was where Asaph learned to find the solution of his difficulty.

(A. Alexander.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: {A Psalm of Asaph.} Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

WEB: Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

Bad Men in Good Circumstances, and a Good Man in a Bad Temper
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