January 31, 2010

Reflecting on Psalm 73

Posted in Musings at 8:57 pm by myrlinn

I’ve been thinking about Psalm 73 recently. The writer of this psalm struggles with a question many ask even till today:

  • The psalmist observes that the wicked, the violent, the arrogant enjoying health, wealth and success. 
  • And he asks: so what’s the point of being and doing “good” then?

I’m sure quite a few of us have noticed the same thing, how the undeserving seem to get all the rewards and recognition, while the humble and hardworking are either ignored or trampled on. In the workplace, for example, it very often happens that it’s not the most capable people who get promoted. It’s the people who are players, who are adept at playing the social game, who are manipulative.

And don’t we too, like the psalmist, ask ourselves why we continue to walk the straight and narrow when it’s obvious that it doesn’t often result in success?  How many of us have been tempted to use or have used the same manipulative “strategic” plays which we have seen work for others? We think: shouldn’t we “work smart” instead?

Or, if we don’t want to become like those people who would do anything to get ahead, do we just sit back and let our resentment fester instead? 

In Psalm 73, the writer offers a resolution. He says that when he turns to God, he finally understands the “final destiny” of the wicked (who will eventually be ruined, destroyed, swept away by terror). He concludes by asserting that the only refuge is God.

So are we to be comforted by the fact that the “wicked” will eventually be judged by God, and get their just desserts? Personally, I’d be wary of taking this line of thinking. It smacks of vengeful thinking, and we’ve seen in this world how vengeance just creates never-ending cycles of violence. It could also lead in judgmental thinking and self-righteousness, when judgement and righteousness belong to God and not “self”.

As I think through Psalm 73, I come to see it as talking about how what we observe and live through are just temporary, “fantasies”, illusions. We need to keep our focus on the eternal, and our lasting bond with the divine.  Then and only then will our envy, resentment and vengefulness melt away.

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