There are twelve psalms in our Bible written by the man Asaph, eleven of these being Psalms 73-83 and the other one being Psalm 50. Since eleven of these are found at the beginning of the third section of the Psalms, the Leviticus section, it is not surprising that this singer and seer is also the man of the sanctuary and that these eleven Psalms are indeed Sanctuary Psalms. We can see their significance in the words of Asaph in 73:17, "Until I went into the sanctuary of God, then understood I their end." Asaph had learned the great truth that coming into the sanctuary is a life-changing experience. The Psalm divides into three parts.
The Trials of the Saints 73:1-16
Asaph begins with a high note of praise, "Truly God is good to Israel". He had not always thought that way for he had felt that God allowed sinners to prosper while saints were made to suffer. The wicked were prospering while believers were plagued. The enigma of the wealth of the wicked and of the suffering of the saints had almost overcome him and he confessed, "My feet were almost gone. . .my steps had well nigh slipped.. for I was envious at the foolish." He considered the prosperity of the world in verse 3. He contemplated the pride of the world for he wrote, "pride compasseth them about as a chain." He envied the possessions of the world for "they have more than heart could wish." He saw that there were no pangs in their death and they were not plagued as other men.
After looking at the prosperity of the wicked he considered his own situation. He sank lower and lower and finally uttered the despondent cry, "Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain." Essentially he concluded that there was no point in living for God. His discouragement mounted as he considered his plagues and his pains. "All the day long have I been plagued and chastened every morning." The plagues were really the pedagogy of the Lord for this is the thought in the word "chasten" (paideuo in Greek) in the New Testament. It is the child training of the Father and He is doing it for our blessing. In Hebrews 12:5-13 we see three possible reactions on our part to His child training: We can despise it and become bitter; we can faint under it and become despondent or we can be exercised by it and thus be developed in our Christian experience. Asaph did not realize that the plagues and the pains were really designed to pull him into the sanctuary.
The Transformation in the Sanctuary 73:17-26
"Until I went into the sanctuary of God, then understood I their end". Why had he stayed away so long? Why had he not sought
the Lord earlier instead of allowing himself to think and talk like the world? From the vantage point of the sanctuary he saw their destiny and he understood their end. He saw their destruction and he saw their desolation. He saw the despising of their image. But he also saw his own portion from the standpoint of the sanctuary. No longer was he occupied with the pains and the plagues. He had been with God and he had been greatly altered. He was admonished in the sanctuary and his heart was greatly grieved that he had been so foolish and ignorant. He realized that he was accompanied in all his ways by the One Who had promised to hold him by his right hand. His portion became the enjoyment of the Divine Presence rather than the desire for the possessions of the world. He had a new anticipation for he said, "Thou wilt guide me with Thy counsel and afterward receive me to glory." And in the sanctuary, his affections were stirred for he wrote, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee. . . there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. "God is the Rock of my heart and my portion forever." A change in his appreciation of the One Who accompanied him; a change in his anticipation; a change in his affections. Again we ask as to why he stayed away so long.
The Triumph of Simple Faith 73:27-28
What would he conclude in view of the fact that he had almost been overcome by the failures in his thinking but was recovered in the sanctuary? "It is good for me to draw near to God." It almost seems like an understatement, doesnt it? He had learned great lessons in the sanctuary. He who had doubted Gods goodness now says that God is good to Israel. The pining is over. The sights have been readjusted. He has seen the dreaded destiny of the worldling from the perspective of the sanctuary. He has beheld the portion of the believer as seen by the One with Whom he communed in the holy place.
Surely we can relate to the recounting of his failure and recovery! Have we not shared his trials? Have we known experientially at least some of his triumphs? Do we know of the life changing entrances into the sanctuary? Can we also say, "It is good for me to draw near to God"? Hopefully, a constant drawing near will be our habit. "It is good for me to draw near to God." We also have an approach. In the Hebrew epistle, the epistle of Priesthood, we are told, literally, to come with freedom of speech, without reserve, to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace that is suitable and timely in order that we may be succored. He will come to our help in response to our cry.
"That I may declare all Thy works." This announcement is the result of his continually coming into the sanctuary. In Psalm 51 the Psalm of the Penitent, David says that after his restoration when his sin is taken away, that he will teach transgressors Gods ways and that sinners will be converted. In this Psalm of Asaph, the writer has not had a moral fall but he had had a mental and spiritual fall and after a great restoration he was going to tell to all around that he had been changed. We too will be changed when we go into the Sanctuary of God!