The Book of Psalms

Tuesday: A Paradigm Shift for Asaph


Theme: A Confession of God’s Goodness
In this week’s lessons we learn how the psalmist moves from doubt to faith in the goodness of God.
Scripture: Psalm 73:1-28
Psalm 73 is an example of faith honestly doubting what it does in fact believe. So it is not that kind of boastful doubting we so often hear in the conversation of proud people. Some people think it is clever to be able to raise questions the people of God have trouble answering, but that is not what the psalmist is doing. The proof of this is in the point from which he starts out in verse 1: “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” The next verses are going to record, as a matter of personal testimony, how Asaph was shaken from that fundamental assertion for a time. Nevertheless, the goodness of God is a truth, and for that reason Asaph begins by stating it, and finishes by stating it too.
In fact, this is the way the psalm moves forward. Marvin E. Tate in his commentary has a full-page diagram with arrows, showing how the psalm begins with the truth of verse 1, descends into personal doubt and turmoil (vv. 2-15), reaches a turning point (vv. 16, 17), then reascends to where the psalm started out (vv. 18-28).1 In other words, Asaph begins with “God is good” and ends with a similar testimony. J. J. Stewart Perowne says rightly, “There is no parade of doubt merely as doubt. He states first, and in the most natural way, the final conviction of his heart.”2
But Asaph did doubt! Having stated that “God is good” in verse 1, he also acknowledges that this was not always a firm conviction with him. Here he contrasts himself with God, saying, “But as for me…” God is good, pure and steadfast. But Asaph confesses his own lack of goodness, admits his personal defilement because of impure thoughts, and acknowledges that for a time at least his “feet had almost slipped” (v. 2).
1Marvin E. Tate, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 20, Psalms 51-100 (Dallas: Word, 1990), p. 234.
2J.J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 2, p. 8.
Study Questions:

Explain the difference between the clever questions of the proud and Asaph’s questions.
Where does Asaph begin his questioning?

Application: Do you believe God is good? List specific areas in which you have seen the goodness of God. How does this truth affect how you approach God with questions?

Study Questions
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