Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.
Asaph had made a study of wicked men and their works. And he found them in great peace and tranquility. There were no bonds in their death and their strength was firm. There were no troubles and no plagues; they bathed themselves in pride and violence; their eyes stood out in fatness: they had so much that they could not enjoy the totality of their riches. Their wish fell short of opportunities for more carousal.
And they were very wicked: their tongue wandered around the earth and even set itself against the God of heaven.
And they seemed to get away with it.
How different was his portion!
Waters of a full cup were wrung out for him: he was plagued all the day long. And he was chastened every morning.
Did God know? Was there knowledge with the Almighty?
However, he would not speak thus, for he was afraid that such would be an offense to the people of God!
And then he entered the sanctuary of God and God showed him the truth.
All the freedom, pleasure and abandon of the wicked were so many slippery places upon which the Lord had set them. They were sliding down into everlasting destruction.
Asaph shivered: How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors! As a dream when one awakest, Thou shalt despise their image.
All this instruction helped to concentrate all his desire on the living God.
This is a meditation about desire, longing, yearning for God.
That is Psalm 73. That is the heart of that psalm.
And what is necessary for knowledge of God?
Well, there are three things you must have in order to have knowledge of God.
First, there is revelation. And under that heading there are two heads: nature and the Bible.
Asaph had both.
The Gentiles had just the knowledge of nature: the voices of God.
Yes, nature is as a choir of voices that blend and charm you when listening. Color, shape, form, fragrance, substance, number, and a great order confront you in nature, and many are the books written about this concert of God.
The whole of it is overwhelming, but it cannot bring you the loving knowledge of God!
Second, in order to know God you must have the Bible. And Asapb did not only have the Bible, he wrotethe Bible! The Bible went through his entire being. He is one of the happy men who were mentioned, in Hebrews 1:1. They spoke the Word of God.
And what shall I say of that Word? The time would fail me. From Genesis to Revelation it paints a picture of Jesus Christ and He is the Countenance of God.
You know, God is so very far from us! How shall we know Him? And so, the Lord has given us His revelation in the Face of Jesus Christ. And when you desire to know the Triune God, you must look strongly at Jesus whose picture you have in the Bible. Looking strongly at Jesus, you receive the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ.” II Cor. 4:6.
But that is not enough. Or, rather, you do not receive that light of the knowledge of the glory of God, just by looking and reading in the Bible.
And, therefore, you must have the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ. There are unhappy mortals who have known the voice of God in nature, and in the Bible, and nevertheless are lost forever!
They never saw God in all His eternal wonders of grace and mercy. God in all His loveliness, goodness and beauty never charmed their hearts, souls and spirits.
In order to see God in all His glory you must have the Spirit of Christ in your heart.
And in the third place, you must have the grade of God, of Christ, and of that Spirit in your heart.
Oh, that grace of God!
It is the very fountain of all blessed knowledge of God!
Grace is beauty, attractiveness, and beauteous power. It transforms your heart and makes you lovely and attractive. Grace pours into you the beauty of the Godhead.
You know, by grace are ye saved, through faith! So, even faith is out of grace.
If you have all three: the Word of God, the Spirit of Christ, and the grace of God, you are a happy person.
And that is what Asaph had.
Then you look around you in this earth, and you say: there is none upon earth which I desire beside Thee!
The earth gives much.
There are earthly life, love of dear ones, food and drink of great deliciousness, money and possessions, name and place, and honor among men, beauty and singing and music, the look at the Universe above us with the glittering stars and planets.
And make no mistake: they are good in themselves. They are even necessary in order to exist here on earth. They are not sinful in themselves.
But here is the point: there is a hunger in Asaph which cannot be filled by the earth and the things of the earth. And he means to tell you: “If I must miss my God with all these things, then they do not satisfy me at all!”
Compared to communion with God, these things are a nothing and vanity. They simply cannot fill a certain need I have.
If necessary, we will cast all the things of this earth away in order to possess God.
Remember the martyrs: they literally did so in order to have God.
But how about heaven?
And here you have to excuse me, for I know so little of heaven.
However, that little is very charming. There are the angels and powers; the unspeakable things of which Paul told us; there are the harps of God and their music; there is the voice of angels and their singing; there are the souls of men made perfect; there are no sin, deceit, guilt or sickness; there are no sighing and crying. Oh, but heaven must be a charming abode!
But Asaph says that there is no one in heaven for him but God!
That is strong language. It means that if Asaph has to be in heaven without God, he would rather not be there!
Listen to him: “Whom have I in heaven but Thee?”
Oh, all that other beauty in heaven is good and glorious, but it is only glorious to Asaph, because God is there! That’s the point.
Allow me to put it this way: Heaven without God is no heaven!
Listen to a trio of God’s chosen saints:
Solomon, looking at all the beauty of this earth, says: Vanities of vanities, it is all vanity!
David, when thinking of the earth: “Dry, without water!”
Paul: “Loss and dung!”
Yes, dear reader, Asaph loved God very much. He reminds me of David when he composed the forty-second psalm: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”
The question arises: how did all this come about? What makes Asaph so exclusive?
Here is the answer: we are created after His image, after His likeness. We are created after Him. And that means that the water seeks the fountain. It means that there can be no real joy for such a creature unless we have Him.
If we have God, and if we know that He thinks on us, even though we may be in the midst of the flames of the stake, we are happy.
But the knowledge of God, which made Adam and Eve happy, is lost. Irretrievably lost.
We sinned. That’s all. That’s the end of everything. All that is left is hell for all eternity.
The deepest hell is Godforsakenness.
But thanks be to God, for He has opened another way.
And that other Way is Christ Jesus, our beloved Lord.
Now then, when God has sought you out, and entered your heart by His Word, Spirit and grace, you are blest.
Then the earth and all its treasures cannot charm you any more. Oh yes, we have our flesh with us, and it lusts after the things of the earth not only, but also after sin and corruption, but we crucify our flesh; we hate ourselves for Christ’s sake, and we mortify the deeds of the body.
Then we do not hunger for heaven for heaven’s sake. Oh no. We long for heaven for God’s sake.
To my mind there is no more beautiful sentence in the Bible than the Holland rendering of Psalm 42:3, “Mijne ziel dorst naar God, naar den levenden God: wanneer zal ik ingaan en voor Gods aangezicht verschijnen ?” (It is verse 2 in your English Bible.)
I have never been in heaven, but I know that in heaven every atom of every inhabitant is directed to the great white throne on which God is seated. All the issues of all the creatures in the new heaven and the new earth shall everlastingly be turned to Him!
I know that, because there is that urgency in me now.
You know the name of that urgency of that thrust?
It is this: eternal life! Read John 17:3.
For a little while Asaph wandered away from God, and became envious of the foolish. But eternal grace and mercy pitied him. It led him to God’s sanctuary. There he found wisdom: “But it is good for me to draw near to God!” Amen.