Day 2: Psalm 73
All of Psalm 73 is good. I recommend it. But this morning, I’ll have to just share highlights.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
(Psalm 73:25-28 ESV)
The first two lines of this passage are tattooed on my arm. When I really became a Christian about two-and-a-half years ago, the words of this Psalm sunk in for the first time. They became my declaration of faith – if I have God, I have all I need. He is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. And so the tattoo was my “stake stuck in the ground / marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul” (thank you, Mumford and Sons, for providing the soundtrack to my regeneration). Words I needed to be reminded of every. single. day. I probably should have tattooed them on my forehead.
I returned to this Psalm a few months ago to really study it in detail, and was blessed by some new insight. The Psalmist declares: “But for me it is good to be near God.” But here’s the thing: he has just told us that those who are far from God will perish. And we have seen from reading the entire Psalm that this Psalmist is no rockstar. He was “brutish and ignorant…like a beast toward [God]” (22) because he was “envious of the prosperity of the wicked” (3). So how can he declare with such confidence that he will be near God, and that it will be good and not terrible?
The answer is grace. And that is reason for rejoicing.
The Psalmist has entered the sanctuary of God (vs. 17). God’s dwelling place. And I think as he stood in God’s presence, aware of the atonement that occurred at the mercy seat, he became keenly aware of God’s judgment, and thus came face-to-face with God’s mercy.
But we do not enter a sanctuary to offer sacrifices for our sins. Instead, Jesus did so on our behalf.
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified…
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
(Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-22 ESV)
Because of what Christ’s death and resurrection, we can draw near to God, and it is good!
Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
(Ephesians 2:12-13 ESV)
I should be hopeless and without God, a stranger to the promise and inheritance guaranteed to those who are in Christ. And yet, I have been brought near by the blood of Jesus. Do I even need another source of joy? Isn’t this truth sufficient?
For me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.