changing perspective

©2020 heidi martin | ask@lifefellowship.org

the right perspective

Perspective. It’s how you look at things. As a believer, our perspective should be different than the world’s. But too often, we get bogged down by seeing things through the eyes of our circumstances rather than through the lens of God’s perspective.

The Psalmist in chapter 73 gives us a candid view of what happens when we focus on the wrong things. But in comparison, Psalm 37 illustrates how we should focus on our circumstances. Today’s study will be comparing the two Psalms so we may learn how to have the perspective that God desires for each of us.

psalm 73

1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.

3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.

5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.

6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.

7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.

9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.

10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.

11 They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?”

psalm 73 continued

12 This is what the wicked are like– always carefree, they increase in wealth.

13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.

15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children.

16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me

17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.

19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!

20 As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.

21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,

22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

psalm 37

We will be going over the entire Psalm for the study, but for the notes, the psalm was too long to include in its entirety.

I find it interesting that the number of these two psalms mirror each other, and the theme of both Psalms is similar yet from two different perspectives, much like a mirror. Both Psalms are covering the same theme of the wicked vs. the good, but Psalm 73 has a temporal/horizontal view, while the Psalm 37 has a eternal/vertical view. Let’s begin by breaking down Psalm 73, then comparing it to different verses in Psalm 37.

3773 arrows

psalm 73:1

1 Surely God is good to Israel,

to those who are pure in heart.

This verse is the basis of Psalm 73. It is a truth the Psalmist knows, but as the Psalm unfolds, you will see how he wrestled with this concept.

psalm 73:2-3

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;

I had nearly lost my foothold.

3 For I envied the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

comparison

psalm 37:1

1 DO NOT fret because of evil men

or be envious of those who do wrong;

envy:

“a feeling of discontent and ill will because of another’s advantages, possessions, etc.; resentful dislike of another who has something that one desires.” “Envy” derives from the Latin word “invidere,” which means to “look askance upon,” as in “give someone the evil eye.” Its previous uses include “malice” and “spite.”

(biblethereapy.blogspot.com/2005/12/envy-vs-coveting.html)

The 73 Psalmist made the mistake of becoming envious of the wicked, while the writer in Psalm 37 warns against becoming envious. By becoming envious, the writer in Psalm 73 begins a downward spiral which led him to question God’s goodness and His justice. This envy bred discontent. It is very easy when we get our eyes off of the goodness of the Lord to grow discontent and question God.

Psalm 37 gives us further warning about being envious which leads to fretting. To fret is to grow anxious, to worry, to grow angry over circumstances.

psalm 37:7-8

7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when men succeed in their ways,

when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

do not fret–it leads only to evil.

Several years ago, I was studying the passage above and decided to look up the meaning of fret to get further clarification. What I learned rocked my world.

to fret:

to cause corrosion; gnaw into something: acids that fret at the strongest metals.

To fret is to corrode. While the above definition describes chemical fretting, it was a reminder to me that fretting over circumstances can cause corrosion in my own soul. It corrodes your joy, your attitude and your trust. It eats away at these things. No wonder fretting leads to evil! It is acidic, eating through and destroying everything it touches. Psalm 37 warns us of the danger of fretting. In fact, it warns us TWICE to not fret.

To fret or to envy is the crux of the matter in both Psalms. In Psalm 73, the Psalmist envies and frets; and we see the results. It was literally corroding his soul as we see in the definition of fretting.

In comparison, Psalm 37 warns us NOT to fret, but to be content and delight yourself in the Lord. We see a Psalmist who has a right perspective.

my notes:

psalm 73:4-14

4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.

5 They are free from the burdens common to man;

they are not plagued by human ills.

6 Therefore pride is their necklace;

they clothe themselves with violence.

7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;

the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

8 They scoff, and speak with malice;

in their arrogance they threaten oppression.

9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,

and their tongues take possession of the earth.

10 Therefore their people turn to them

and drink up waters in abundance.

11 They say, “How can God know?

Does the Most High have knowledge?”

12 This is what the wicked are like–

always carefree, they increase in wealth.

13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;

in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

14 All day long I have been plagued;

I have been punished every morning.

The Psalm 73 writer is focused on the horizontal, temporal, worldly perspective. As we see in the verses, there is a growing discontentment, a waning of faith–all because he was envious of those around Him rather than seeing things from God’s perspective. The writer of Psalm 73 is tunnel visioned on the apparent blessings of the wicked, but in Psalm 37 we see through the veneer of success the wicked have.

comparison: psalm 73:8-12 vs. psalm 37:12-15

psalm 73:8-12

8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.

9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.

10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.

11 They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?”

12 This is what the wicked are like– always carefree, they increase in wealth.

13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.

psalm 37:12-15

12 The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them;

13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.

15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.

In Psalm 37, the writer acknowledges what the evil do, but He sees their wickedness from God’s perspective. The Lord laughs at the schemes of the wicked because their day of judgment is coming.

comparison: psalm 73:7 vs. psalm 37:32-33

psalm 73:7

7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;

the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

psalm 37:32-33

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,

seeking their very lives;

33 but the Lord will not leave them in their power

or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

comparison: psalm 73:13-14 vs. psalm 37:16-17

psalm 73:13-14

13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;

in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

14 All day long I have been plagued;

I have been punished every morning.

psalm 37:16-17

16 Better the little that the righteous have

than the wealth of many wicked;

17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,

but the Lord upholds the righteous.

The Psalmist in 73 is so fixated on the temporal blessings of the wicked that he sees only their “blessings,” forgetting that temporary worldly wealth leads only to eternal wrath. Nothing they have accumulated will survive. In fact, their accumulated wealth is actually accumulating wrath.

But the Psalmist in 37 understands that it is better to have little and have God’s favor than to have the wealth of the wicked who will eventually be destroyed.

comparison: psalm 73:15 vs. psalm 37:7

psalm 73:15

15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”

I would have betrayed your children.

psalm 37:7a

7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him...

If we are to be honest with ourselves, all of us have struggled at different times with focusing on our circumstances, on others, etc. rather than on the Lord. Our thoughts lead us down a dangerous path, but the 73 Psalmist was wise enough to keep silent about his struggle and wrestle it out with God so that others would not stumble as well. Sometimes, the best thing we can do when we are struggling with our thoughts is to remain silent and talk to God alone. Both Psalms see the value of being still while they wrestle through with their thoughts.

a change of perspective

psalm 73:16-17

16 When I tried to understand all this,

it was oppressive to me

17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;

then I understood their final destiny.

Here is the turning point in Psalm 73, where the Psalmist begins to view life from an eternal perspective again.

my notes:

arrows

comparison: psalm 73:18-19
vs. psalm 37:9-10,35-36, 38

psalm 73:18-19

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;

you cast them down to ruin.

19 How suddenly are they destroyed,

completely swept away by terrors!

psalm 37:9-10, 35-36, 38

9 For evil men will be cut off,

but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more;

though you look for them, they will not be found.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man

flourishing like a green tree in its native soil,

36 but he soon passed away and was no more;

though I looked for him, he could not be found.

38 But all sinners will be destroyed;

the future of the wicked will be cut off.

As you can see, both Psalmists are now in agreement. Both have an eternal perspective.

comparison: psalm 73:21-22 vs. psalm 37:7-8

psalm 73:21-22

21 When my heart was grieved

and my spirit embittered,

22 I was senseless and ignorant;

I was a brute beast before you.

psalm 37:7-8

7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when men succeed in their ways,

when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;

do not fret–it leads only to evil.

As mentioned before, when we are fretting, worrying, growing angry about our circumstances or those around us, it can be corrosive to the soul. Psalm 73 gives a fitting description of what we can become when we have the wrong perspective.

comparison: psalm 73:23 vs. psalm 37:23-24

psalm 73:23

23 Yet I am always with you;

you hold me by my right hand.

psalm 37:23-24

23 If the Lord delights in a man’s way,

he makes his steps firm;

24 though he stumble, he will not fall,

for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

Notice how similar the wording is in these two Psalms. God never lets us go.

comparison: psalm 73:25 vs. psalm 37:4

psalm 73:25

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?

And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

psalm 37:4

4 Delight yourself in the Lord

and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Notice that desire is in both verses. And in both verses, the desire of our heart should be the Lord Himself.

comparison: psalm 73:26 vs. psalm 37:18, 29

psalm 73:26

26 My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.

psalm 37:18, 29

18 The days of the blameless are known to the Lord,

and their inheritance will endure forever.

29 the righteous will inherit the land

and dwell in it forever.

Our relationship with the Lord will endure forever. Our portion, our inheritance, is guaranteed forever. There’s that eternal perspective again.

comparison: psalm 73:28 vs psalm 37:39-40

psalm 73:28

28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.

I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;

I will tell of all your deeds.

psalm 37:39-40

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;

he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

because they take refuge in him.

Both Psalms end with the Lord being our refuge. We have to TAKE refuge in him and rest in his sovereignty. When we do take refuge in Him, we have peace, security, and hope.

my notes:

conclusion

colossians 3:1-2

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Focus on what God is doing rather than what the world is doing. Focus on the light rather than the darkness. Even better, BE THE LIGHT in the darkness.

something to ponder as you leave

Which perspective best describes you? Are you a Psalm 73 lady, or a Psalm 37 lady?

Let’s all resolve to have a heavenly, and eternal perspective.

my notes: