Day 21: May 24, 2017: No One and Nothing but God
Psalm 73:23-26: Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Envy is destructive to the soul. When we are envious of someone else we not only want what they have, but we also resent them for having it instead of us. Coupled with resentment, envy can also bring anger as we brood on the injustice of our lack and someone else’s fullness. Usually, beneath the envy-resentment-anger complex there lurks also a sense of inferiority. Since we do not have what others have, we may feel that we are less than them.
The author of Psalm 73 was remarkably honest about his envy of the wicked (v. 3) and how it almost led him to spiritual ruin (v. 2). He looked around and saw that the wicked enjoyed good health, were well fed, and seemed to lead trouble-free lives (v. 4-5). Though the wicked were filled with pride and violence, though they openly scoffed and threatened, though they acted as if they were lords of heaven and earth, and though they believed that God was not paying any attention to them (v. 6-11), they were “always at ease” and they “increased in riches” (v. 12). The psalmist wanted these good things – food, health, wealth, and freedom from troubles – for himself. But though he had kept his heart clean and washed his hands in innocence he suffered and did not enjoy the same prosperity as the wicked (v. 13-15). Therefore he very nearly concluded that his faith was “in vain” (v. 13).
Have you ever allowed envy to consume you in this way? Have you ever become convinced that God is unjust because another person enjoys health and well-being while you struggle through illness and weakness? Have you ever allowed desire for another person’s blessings or possessions to sidetrack your soul? Have you ever come near to cashing in your faith because those who pay no attention to Christ seem so much better off?
What kept the psalmist from completely slipping off the path of following God? Two realizations. First, after seeking God in the temple his horizon was expanded: he realized that although the wicked enjoyed prosperity at the moment, the day was coming when God would rise up to judge them and that none of their riches or pride would save them then (v. 16-20, 27). Second, and even more importantly, the psalmist realized that his desires were focused on the wrong things. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” This is the confession of one who has realized that there is no earthly treasure or comfort which can compare with God himself. Envy is destructive to the soul because it trains and focuses our desires upon the things of the world, rather than on God. It is a form of idolatry. But when we pursue God as the psalmist did (v. 17) our eyes will be opened to the reality that we can possess no greater treasure that God himself.
This, ultimately, is the driving force of intimacy with God: the ever-deepening realization that the living God himself is all we need; that our flesh and heart may fail, but that God is the strength of our heart and our portion forever (v. 26). When we realize that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in Christ (Col. 2:1-3) and that our lives are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3) then the temporary success of wicked people will appear to be of little consequence indeed. Who is there in heaven for us besides God himself? No one. What is there on earth that we could desire besides God? Nothing.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).
Take time now to concentrate all your desires on God himself. This prayer can help you get started. “Lord God, forgive me for committing the sin of envy. Forgive me for desiring the things of this world more than I desire you. I thank you that you have raised me up with Christ and given me new life in Him. O Lord, there is no one and nothing that compares with you. You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever. I long for you, and I pray that I will desire you more than anything else. Help me through your Spirit to seek after you, O Lord, for you are my all-in-all. In the name of Jesus, Amen.”