ASAPH CHANGES HIS TUNE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-15-87 7:30 p.m.
Our subject tonight is an exposition of a psalm, Psalm 73, and the message is entitled Asaph Changes His Tune. Asaph was the chief musician in the court and in the temple service under David.
· When you look at Psalm 50, it says, “A psalm of Asaph.”
· When you look at Psalm 73, it is entitled, “A psalm of Asaph.”
· When you look at Psalm 74, it is entitled “A Maschil of Asaph.”
· When you look at Psalm 75, it is “A psalm or song of Asaph.”
· When you look at Psalm 76, it is “A psalm or song of Asaph.”
· When you look at Psalm 77, it is “A psalm of Asaph.
· 78, “A Maschil of Asaph”; and that’s a long, long Psalm with seventy-two stanzas.
· When you look at 79, it is “A psalm of Asaph.”
· When you look at 80, it is “A psalm of Asaph.”
· When you look at 81, it is “A psalm of Asaph.”
· When you look at 82, it is “A psalm of Asaph.”
· When you look at 83, it is “A psalm of Asaph.”
Just shows how much of this inspired hymnology comes from the pen and heart and soul of this marvelous musician who sang and conducted under King David.
Now, in Psalm 73, our exposition tonight, Asaph is bleak and miserable. There’s no joy and no gladness in him, and he wrote this seventy-third Psalm in which he recorded the reasons for his misery [Psalm 73:2-16]. And what we find in the life and song and testimony of Asaph, you are going to find in your own heart and life somewhere, someday, some time, inevitably.
All right, to begin with, when he speaks of the source of his bleak misery, he says that he is envious of his neighbors who were rich, and who were as wicked as they were rich. He says, “As for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well-nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” [Psalm 73:2-3]. Number 5, “They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men” [Psalm 73:5] Verse 7, “Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish” [Psalm 73:7]. Number 12, “Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches” [Psalm 73:12]. They are so wealthy that you could see it in their eyes; they had more than anyone could ever want. They were proud and seemingly trouble-free. And they were not only rich, but they were arrogant; they scoffed at God, they led lives of ungodliness, and yet they wallowed in luxury and in licentiousness.
Now in the middle of his song he began to reflect on his own situation. All around him were these who were rich and godless. Then he began to look at himself, in verse 13, “Verily, verily, truly I have cleansed my heart in vain, and have washed my hands in innocency” [Psalm 73:13]. Verse 14, “For all the day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning” [Psalm 73:14]. He was trying to please God, he was trying to do what was right, yet riches and prosperity passed him by, and the wicked possessed what he wanted. Trying to understand the justice of such inequities was painful for him. In verse 16, “When I sought to know this, it was too painful for me” [Psalm 73:16].
We are like that. Why does God bless others and not us? We have problems with finance, and with health, and with business, and a thousand other things. If I were available, if I could be down here at the church, and invite the people of my own congregation to come and talk to me, you would be surprised how many have troubles: they’ve lost their jobs, they’ve lost their homes, they’ve lost their business, they are in hurt, and they struggle to make ends meet, and the excessive riches of some with never a care surround them. These that pass God by, pass the church by, pass Jesus by, sometimes openly scoffing at us who are religious, and they get away with it. That’s what Asaph found in his life.
Now, what did Asaph do with his trials? Verse 17, “I went into the sanctuary of God, and then I understood” [Psalm 73:17]. Concerning the rich and the wicked, in verses 18 and 19 and 20, “Surely God sets them in slippery places: they are cast down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when Thou awakest, Thou shalt despise their image” [Psalm 73:18-20]. Riches have the lifespan of a soap bubble; the end is inevitable destruction and desolation and death. How long do the richest people that you’ve ever read about enjoy their excessive wealth? For a moment, for a day; then they come to that inevitable time when in death they leave it all behind.
And to trust in wealth and to find the meaning of life in affluence is ultimately to fall into despair. Then it was that Asaph said placing his life in the hands of God brought him everlasting joy; and that is the passage I had you read: “You will hold me by Your right hand, You will guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee” [Psalm 73:23-25]. What beautiful, beautiful words!
Now, we’re going to look at him. Did Asaph’s circumstances change? Did he inherit a vast fortune, or did he discover a gold mine, or did he suddenly find himself excessively rich? Is that what happened to him? No. What happened to Asaph was, his perspective changed. He began to see things as God sees them. He learned that his difficulties came from taking his eyes off of God, and he began looking at himself, and he thought his problems could be solved by economic status. When he took his eyes off of God and looked at himself, he came to the conclusion that if he could be rich all of his problems would be solved. Life only blessed, he learned, when we take our eyes off of ourselves, and off of our circumstances, and place our trust in God.
The United States Declaration of Independence, remember, speaks of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Where do you find happiness? Do you find it in things, in circumstances? Do you find it in social acceptability and the endless rounds of partying and social activities? Do you find it in fame or success? We only find ultimate happiness and joy in looking past ourselves and past our circumstances, and looking to God. What kind of a life does God call happy? The Greek word in the New Testament is makarios, “happy, fortunate, blessed.” What kind of a life does God call makarios, happy, joyful, blessed? Who are the people that God congratulates? Now, I’m going to name them from the lips of our blessed Savior. In Matthew 5:3 He says, makarios, “Happy, blessed are the poor in spirit.” They have nothing except hope in God. They rely only on God’s grace; and there’s nothing else to commend them to the Lord; “poor in spirit.” In Matthew 5:4, God says, “These are makarios, happy, they that mourn.” What a mystery and what a contradiction, that you mourn to be happy. But these mourn over their sins, and their shortcomings, and confess them before God. They’re not proud or lifted up; they are humble in the presence of the Lord, and God says they are makarios, they are the “happy” ones. In verse 5, Matthew 5, He says, “The meek, the meek, the meek, these are the happy ones” [Matthew 5:5].
I want to describe, if I can, a scene. It’s in a place like the Reunion Arena, and it holds seventeen thousand people. And in the midst of a basketball game, there is a vicious, aggressive altercation between two of the players. And immediately, and immediately twenty-four of those players are on the floor, and three referees and several coaches; and they are in a melee down there and are viciously beating one another. And there are seventeen thousand fans that are on their feet applauding. They’ve never seen anything so exciting and so tumultuous and so aggressive in their lives. The score for aggression: seventeen thousand points; for meekness: zero. That’s humanity; that’s the world.
Our Lord was so different. They slapped Him, and He turned the other cheek [Matthew 5:39]. They plucked out His beard, pulled it off of His face, tore it from His skin [Isaiah 50:6]. They ridiculed Him [Matthew 27:29], accused Him falsely [Luke 23:2], finally, crucified Him [Matthew 27:32-50]. And He never said a word of condemnation or bitterness or reply [Isaiah 53:7]: meek and lowly [Matthew 26:67; Isaiah 50:6]. Great God, how do you be that way? Oh, it is so easy in me to arise. We’re not happy when we are aggressive, and resentful, and bitter, and full of hatred; that’s the way to be miserable beyond compare. Jesus said, God says, makarios, “happy, blessed are the meek” [Matthew 5:5].
Verse 6, “Happy are these that hunger and thirst after righteousness, seeking the things of God” [Matthew 5:6], love to go to church and listen to an exposition of this blessed Book; love to fellowship in the house of the Lord, singing His praises, bowing in prayer, just being together with God’s sainted family. Number 7, the merciful: “Blessed are the merciful, happy are the merciful” [Matthew 5:7].
Did you ever hear of the Hatfields and the McCoys and the feud in Kentucky, the mountain feud in Kentucky? The Hatfields and the McCoys. What happens is they did this, and there was a reply. And it grows, and it’s a blood feud; and they kill, and these kill, and there’s no end to it, absolutely no end. When you start living that kind of a life, a blow for a blow, a curse for a curse, it has no ultimate solution; you just live in a constant turmoil of bitterness and reprisal. You’ll do that in your house. You’ll do that in your home. You’ll do that with your wife. You’ll do that with your husband. You’ll do that with your children. You’ll do that in the business world. It is the most unhappy way to live that you could ever think for. Makarios, “Happy are those that forget it; turn your back on it, forgive those that despitefully use you and curse you” [Matthew 5:44].
Verse 8, “Blessed, happy are the pure in heart” [Matthew 5:8]. Out of the heart all the issues of life [Proverbs 4:23]. Looking to God, being a blessing to others. Number 9, “Blessed are the peacemakers” [Matthew 5:9], these that win others to Jesus, who bring others to God. And isn’t it strange, the only one that Jesus commented on is in verse 10? “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” [Matthew 5:11]. Isn’t that a strange thing? Isn’t that an amazing thing? Jesus would comment on just one of them; and that one, “Blessed are they that are persecuted, suffer for God’s sake, for Jesus’ sake” [Matthew 5:10]. As Paul would write it, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but to the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; the things which are not seen are eternal” [2 Corinthians 4:18]. Building our lives in God, looking to heaven; and in our hearts, being at peace with Him and a blessing to all who might ever know or love us.
You’re happy, you are blessed when you can be like that. Not envious, no matter what others may possess or what success they may achieve, God bless them. But as for me, keeping my eyes upon the Lord, loving Him, being in intercessory remembrance of all of these around me. Makarios, blessed, the new song of Asaph. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is nothing I desire on earth but to know Thee, to love Thee, and serve Thee” [Psalm 73:25]. Lord, that I could be like that.
Now we’re going to sing us a song. And while we sing the song, I’ll be standing right here. To give your heart to the Lord, or to come into the fellowship of God’s sweet family, or to answer any call of the Spirit in your heart, you come and give me your hand. “Pastor, this is God’s day, and God’s night, and God’s time, and God’s call for me; and I’m answering with my life.” Welcome, a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
ASAPH CHANGES HIS TUNE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Asaph’s bleak outlook
1. Looking at his
neighbors who are as wicked as they are rich
2. Wicked and
wealthy seem to get away with it
3. Asaph reflects
on his own situation
4. Why does God
bless others and not me?
1. Asaph went to
2. Asaph realizes
the rich and wicked have the lifespan of a soap bubble
What changed Asaph
2. Sees things as
God sees them
3. Look to God for
blessing and happiness