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Psalm 73 (NASB)

..........3 For I was envious of the [b]arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pains in their death, And their [c]body is fat. ................. ......................

12 Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth. ............................. .........................................

14 For I have been stricken all day long And [p]chastened every morning. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children. 16 When I pondered to understand this, It was [q]troublesome in my sight 17 Until I came into the [r]sanctuary of God; Then I perceived their end. 18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to [s]destruction.

The Psalm 73 author is frustrated and angry that the wicked and evil seem to live an easy life. The Psalm 73 author is wondering why he suffers so much with the challenges of walking with God but sees the wrongdoers live in prosperity.

Psalm 73:15 is a little strange. In Psalm 73:14, he is complaining that he walks with God, and faces challenges all day long which may be challenges of fighting off sinful temptations and/or the disciplining that he faces due to giving into said sinful temptations. However, if we continue to Psalm 73:15, he seems to worry about speaking out because it might harm the generation of God's children which is odd.

14 For I have been stricken all day long And [p]chastened every morning. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.

What exactly is the author saying in Psalm 73:15? What is wrong if he speaks out, and why would speaking out betray the generation of God's children?

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Out of frustration, the psalmist vents:

NIV Psalm 73:3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
...
12This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.

The inflection point of his venting occurs at

15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.

Meaning: If I go on like this and advocate the easy life of the wicked, I would be doing your descendants a disservice.

Now he drops his horizontal point of view and looks to God.

18 Surely you [God] place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.

He has turned to God's truth concerning the wicked and repented his earlier behavior.

21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before 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.

He ends it on a positive note on his dependency on God.

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Psalm 73 consists of essentially three parts:

  1. V2-14 - a lament about the prosperity of the wicked and the apparent pointlessness of remaining loyal to God, His covenant and walking the upright life. This is the human perspective.
  2. V15-17 - an important transition between the outer two sections of the psalm discussed below.
  3. V18-28 - a different perspective - God's perspective - what happens to the wicked - their ultimate fate - the prosperity of the wicked is only temporary (this life) but in the final judgement, justice will prevail.

The "Transition/Pivot"

The transition between the two major parts of this psalm is masterfully crafted and consists of three couplets:

  • V15 - The psalmist says (to himself) it is not good to speak like this out loud (ie to others) because it will discourage others and could cause them to loose faith and thus, "betrayed" (NIV), "offend" (KJV), "not been loyal" CEV), "been faithless" (JPS) to others of your people.
  • V16 - This is deeply troubling (ie, what is the solution?)
  • V17 - "till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. " - the solution to this problem lies in a different perspective of God and is portrayed in the sanctuary.

Verse 15 is important because it says that sometimes it is better to remain quiet with troublesome thoughts than use them to discourage others. That is, it is better to wait for God to reveal some things than allow things to be a stumbling block for others.

Barnes expresses it this way:

If I say, I will speak thus - If I should resolve to give expression to my feelings. If I should utter all that is passing in my mind and my heart. It is implied here that he had "not" given utterance to these thoughts, but had confined them to his own bosom. He knew how they might be regarded by others; how others might be led to feel as if no confidence was to be placed in God; how this might suggest thoughts to them which would not otherwise occur to them, and which would only tend to fill their minds with distress; how such thoughts might unsettle the foundations of their faith, their peace, their hope, and their joy.

It is useful that the psalmist only expresses these dark thoughts (in this psalm) when the solution to the paradox is revealed, ie, V18-28.

The Pulpit commentary says this:

Verse 15. - If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children; or, if I had said (Revised Version). If, when these feelings assailed me, and the lot of the ungodly man seemed to me much better than my own, I had resolved to speak out all my thoughts, and let them be generally known, then should I have dealt treacherously with (Revised Version) the generation of thy children. I should have deserted their cause; I should have hurt their feelings; I should have put a stumbling block in their way. Therefore, the psalmist implies, he said nothing - a reticence well worthy of imitation.

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