“For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.”
In all likelihood it is true that Asaph must have known a great deal of trouble, though we do not know much about Asaph the seer. He shared in the afflictions of David the king, and David was known to cry out, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all,” Psalm 34:19.
Certainly, we can point out the difficulties of God’s people in any day. Perhaps you can say now, “For all the day long have I been plagued.” You know what pain is like; you have experienced the anguish of suffering; you know the burning tears of grief; you wrestle with life’s problems alone and are sometimes afraid. Yes, many of you know this first hand.
Asaph, however, was not just expressing a fact, he was complaining. More correctly, he was sulking! Do you know how he got that way? He compared his life to that of others. Not just anyone else’s—he compared his life to that of the wicked. His wicked, unbelieving neighbors seemed to have an easier life than he did.
He speaks of them as “foolish” and “wicked,” verse 3. “Pride compasseth them as a chain and violence as a garment,” verse 4. They are “corrupt and speak wickedly,” verse 8. This leads them to say, “How doth God know, and is there knowledge in the most high?” verse 11.
Yet, these very same people seem to prosper. There are “no bands in their death, their strength is firm,” verse 4. “They are not in trouble as other men nor plagued as other men,” verse 5. “Their eyes stand out with fatness,” verse 7.
Start comparing, look over the fence, and you are bound to see others as much better off. “I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked,” verse 3.
Inevitably you will sulk.
Listen to Asaph: “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocency,” verse 13.
His sulking led to anger.
That anger was kindled by rebellion, rebellion against God Who sends rain and sunshine upon the wicked and the just.
If God loves His children, should not His children have it easiest? If God hates the wicked, should not they suffer all the plagues of His holy wrath? God has things mixed up. It is not fair. God has things backward.
Start comparing your place in life with the ungodly on merely human terms and you will sulk and become angry.
And that’s dangerous. “My feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped,” verse 2.
Asaph was led into the house of God and he saw things spiritually. He learned two truths which saved him.
First, the prosperity of the wicked is not God’s’ favor on them. It is judgment. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castest them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors . . . when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image,” verses 18-20. What appeared to be blessing was in actuality a terrible curse. Their riches, their health, their prosperity which God gave them became the occasion for their increase in sin and judgment.
Second, the afflictions of God’s people are good. “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart,” verse 1. That goodness of God includes the plagues He sends them all the day long. As prosperity destroys the wicked, so the hand of affliction saves His people.
A wiser Asaph wrote, “Nevertheless I am continually with thee, thou hast holden me by my right hand, thou shalt guide me with thy counsel and afterward receive me to glory,” verses 23, 24.
You see, Asaph went through a learning experience.
He looked at others: he sulked.
He reasoned humanly: he became angry.
He went to the house of God: he was overcome with shame.
He turned to his place in life and he said, “Lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works,” verses 27, 28.
Draw near to God!
God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Even in the plagues.