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Truly God is good to Israel.
It is to Israel that God is good. Without qualification God is good to Israel. The particle here has various translations involving emphasis. If it is Israel that is concerned, then it is the goodness of God that is concerned. You could thus with Martin Lloyd Jones put it, that God is always good to Israel. This relates closely to Romans 8, all things work together for good for those who love God, for the ''called according to His purpose''. And as to the latter phrase, is its sense not found also in Psalm 73, our present psalm, with the formulation that His goodness is "to such as are pure in heart".
Israel ? This word of promise refers here to the people under divine protection by covenant; the Jewish breach of their King not at this point being executed. As Isaiah 65:13-15 says, God will call His people by a new name - the Christian Church; but as may be seen from Galatians 6:16, this does nothing to remove the use of the ancient term for our new body. Indeed, it does nothing (Appendix A, infra), to remove that part of the promise of God which to Israel the nation, is unconditional, the land! and it is in that land, they are predicted yet to return to serve Him - Zechariah 12:10-12.
However, we return to the Psalmist. "As for me," says the frank confession of the Asaph, "my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped." Why! What strange situation is this, amidst the goodness of God ? or is he acknowledging a temporary tremble which led to the obscuring of the awareness of the goodness of God to his soul ? It appears so. And the cause ?
For I was envious at the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:3).Now there are times when the wicked, the boastful, the empty headed buffoons of this world, whether political or academic or commercial or industrial or cultural, appear to be entrenched, enthroned in greatness, expecting an everlasting destiny, the very children of greatness, after whom all the world goes ... to use the words of Revelation concerning the popularity of 'the beast'.
There is no Biblical hush about this topic; the prince of this age and his wares and ways are popular, so popular that Jesus Christ referred to him as the coming prince of the age, in whom He had no part (John 14:30). Never is it suggested that this world is a container vessel, equipped for maximal loading for the kingdom of heaven. Quite the contrary: it is initially equipped in man and matter, for such a possibility, like a vast new aircraft ready for the skies; but damaging political and industrial unrest ruins the craft, and a network of necessities is substituted for its splendid flight. In essence, at the negative side, that is the basis of the history of man.
Thus in this era, and a little before; but in our own pocket of history, there has seemed to be a vast belch of boasting, and to name three, resembling "the three unclean spirits like frogs, coming out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet" (Revelation 16:13): we have Freud, Marx and Darwin (and their neo-disciples, who are many, their entourage, their retinue, their accomplices). These follies grip the multitude like a fever, like a gambling lust which empties the pockets, leaving "truth fallen in the street" (Isaiah 59:14). They do indeed "speak oppression and revolt" (Psalm 73:13); and they speak a very great deal, through their devotees and their offspring, on radio, TV and from lecture podium.
But the cry continues, if a little more muted. Has he not plumbed the depths of the human mind ? Are we not modern, progressive and self-aware! How wonderful is our human knowledge of our own minds! Surely we are liberated from religion.
Thus, not unexpectedly, the Freudian theory is logically hopeless. If our minds are subject to unconscious drives that grip them, all unaware, so that we are unclean and coerced and conditioned: if this is our nature, how in the world, with no God, could you know it! Surely your conditioning would condition your theories as well! So much for the inventor of any such theories.
If man's origin and sickness mean he cannot know the truth, being subject to and prisoner of endless mental traumas and misconceptions and special pleadings, then neither of course could Freud have known that this is truly the case. His scheming, squirming substitute for a truth instrument could be no more trusted that that of anyone else.
Nor is this all. Jung showed the hopelessly unscientific nature of Freud in pointing out that there is no verifiable or even stateable and orderly interface between the alleged causes of human conduct and the highly specific effects, like opera singing or invention. It is just a matter of saying so, of myth and caprice and magic. Nothing is actually explained: mere assertion rules. Ineffective, ludicrously so, expensive and self-contradictory, this myth of Freud does not even grapple with its follies, an unscientific magic of myth and pretence: yet it is still revered enough, for is it not one more rebellion against God!
Actually, however, there is no real need for concern at Freud and co., for not only is their pretence exposed, if you bother to use your eyes, but they expose an area where the Bible logically and from of old has stolen the march on them by thousands of years. Yes, man has sinful and ridiculous and unreliable squirmings which result from rebellion against God; and he IS divorced from the actual truth, in vast numbers, through wilful follies... but God has in kindness to the world provided Jesus Christ, and this solves the logical problem of Freud, and did so thousands of years before he came.
When Christ came He showed, following and fulfilling the prophets, that God had come to earth to reveal, to remedy, to show the truth and to bring man back to it; for man is capable of knowing it, once he is healed and shown the holy by his own Maker. (Thus: "The knowledge of the holy is understanding ..." Proverbs 9:10.) As to Jung, the Bergson of psychiatry, with his creative libido or life or desire or vitality or life-force rolling down the ages, as we saw in Chapter 4 Part 1, he could not even satisfy his own criteria, demanding the perfect doctor for patient reference, but not being able to supply that demand, having no claim on Christ.
His perception at this point was magnificent; but his performance was horrible. He saw the need; but avoided its fulfilment, and hence, even in his own eyes, had to fail his patients. Further, as a good observer, he saw the need of absolute values for the patients, an unrelativised religion for the very nature of man; but he could not supply here either, for he had not received that true and absolute God whose is the functionality and capacity (not mere force, we saw, is sufficient), to create the whole creative massif of man, with his needs of authority and freedom, and the provision of them for those who will walk with the Lord, being thus neither despots, autocrats, autonomous, nor subservient sentenced victims of all-pervasive culture.
Seeing far further than Freud, Jung
still could not reach his own goals, meet his own specifications, far less
those of mankind. The speech of Almighty God is what he lacked; and the
place for it is where he appears not to have travelled. Flirting with vague
force-philosophies, he failed to find the unchanging God from whom force
derives, along with personality, freedom, responsibility, guilt and goodness
- and yes, crucially, along with pardon provided on the faith in the penalty-bearing
Christ. If Freud saw the negative, the reality of sin (though ludicrously
over-stylising it), then Jung saw the necessity of the perfect saviour,
though failing to gain him. If it is pathetic, it is however poignant,
for both of them were... themselves men, and in need.
Marx's theory that society was run by corrupt forces and was predictable in its future was likewise unverified; his thought that evil forces of a philosophic character were corrupting and imprisoning the race, and that they could be fought by removing God and instituting man in His place, has been shown false. His State did not dry up, as he forecast, but merely expanded its repressive measures to bid fair to make a record of repression for all history. Wrong ? his predictions were the exact opposite of the fact, and how could he predict the course of history - envisaged as potential powers becoming actual - if there were no law requiring this.
Yet if there were a law, then
how this without a lawgiver, for chance merely denies law! And if
men were conditioned by this and that force of society, how then
did Marx himself escape in order to tell it
'like it is' ? How could his theory, on his own basis, be correct ? Like Freud, he removed the rationality of his own system. Defeat is necessary, predictable and observable for godless systems.
The Psalmist, you recall, was feeling envious of the apparent prosperity of life of the wicked: we have considered some of them; and... need we be envious of that! As the Psalm indicates (v. 18 ff.):
Surely you set them in slippery places. you cast them down to destruction. Oh how they are brought to desolation as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors, as a dream when one awakes, so lord, when you awake, you shall despise their image.
Again, if men were made by mere manipulation of matter ('manipulation' - but not even that, for in this theory, there is no one to manipulate)... by mere interaction then, within a system, then of course by definition, they can only apprehend within the conditions of a component; cannot evacuate from either its limits or its constraints; cannot invade from beyond its thrall to see it as it is, for on this view, there is no beyond. Therefore, in this schema, there is no way in which a simply interactive part, embodied within a system as a component, can envisage a whole, cognise, construe and capture the system: for that is a different feature from mere action at a point. Hence Darwin could not possibly, on his own system, have known what the truth was, as with Marx, as with Freud. In the rigours of relativity, there is no absolute, so that it is absolutely impossible to know... even the rigours of relativity as the truth. The theory dies with the opening of the mouth, to declare it(*1).
As to 'theistic evolution', it is not merely idly blasphemous in attributing to God the movements within a system which uses trickery, treachery and force to 'advance' (this being the principle, and man on this basis coming to be as consequence), to elevate creation to the 'pinnacle' of man from the slimy depths... That is not all. It is not merely that this would implicate God in obliterative tantrums, as he lurched through this eccentric process of 'creation', receiving magnificent help from the brave citizenry below, who by striving and conniving, helped things along; for, instrumentally, we accept what we use (*2). Such a view therefore is mortally delusive.
Nor is theistic evolution less futile than any other such theoretical fantasy, without absolute creation 'thrown in': lacking as it does, the evidence of self-activated advance in design complexity, of progressive continuity of change. It is as ludicrous as anything else in the God-bypass area, in meeting the evidence of the Cambrian Age, that sudden apparent bursting forth of a large percentage of advanced creatures very near the first (on the theoretical basis in fashion); and of stolid non-transmutation in decidedly unadventurous fossils. Refusing to co-operate, they give the impression of being almost clandestine creationists.
The evidence chronically and almost callously, for evolution, runs in manifest contradiction, indeed, to the entire observation of decline and decay which is the only evidence available, relative to overall 'drift' in an established system.
This evolutionism, of whatever variety, then, is merely an added blasphemy and irrationality, in callow and ineffectual confrontation with God and His glory, and the evidence and logic jointly.
Creation and creator remain the sole possibility; and those of us who know Him, we are not therefore 'cast down'. Nor did the Psalmist long remain in that condition (Psalm 73:2-3,13-14). It is, as the Psalmist shows, wholly an error to be envious at the boastful. Their paths are indeed slippery, and the latest attack on and revolt from God comes and goes, and to use a slang Americanism, when it goes, it 'goes good'!
It is all madness, revolt and revolution, refusing God, evidence and logic alike. Every lust to replace God and find a system that works, to analyse our condition and remedy it without God has failed. The 1991 collapse of Communism is merely a routine treatment, one more example of what is intrinsically unworkable, always has been, and always will be.
They fail intellectually, as humanity invariably finds, when, rubbing its eyes, perhaps 50 years later, it sees its error. They fail in behaviour, when the 'Spock' generation becomes the 'shock ' generation, and the 'liberated' generation becomes the annihilated generation. They fail physically and morally when the generation needing no aid from God gains AIDS from man; when the enlightening liberators turn into Red Guards and the economic marvel becomes a request for grain, to avoid starvation, grain from the West... or for money, to avoid bankruptcy! Will man never learn! His brave new world, continually constructed (in mind) with morbid fascination, is neither brave nor new.
Sometimes these matters, then, weigh on the spirits of men; and the Psalmist is showing his suffering as the Psalm 73 proceeds from the first verse, a statement of conviction about the constant and continual goodness of God to His own people (He doesn't force people), to a statement of heaviness in verse 2.
But as for me, my feet were almost gone, he says,
admitting his envy at foolish people,
who momentarily and superficially had seemed fortunate in their gross prosperity.
Thus, temporarily blurred in spiritual vision, he suffers what you might
They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouths against the heavens and their tongue walks throughout the earth.Telling us of this, in verses 8-9, the Psalmist gives ground for his temporary cardiac arrest. Yes, his spiritual heart had almost seemed to stop beating, as he considered the utter grossness of the wallowing and vying, the follies and pride of the ungodly.
He is frank. While God is always good to Israel, we are to be spiritually defined. As Paul puts it,
"For He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but He is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit..." (Romans 2:28).
When spiritual blessing is concerned, reality is indispensable, and mere form is always inadequate.
Truly God is good to Israel to such as are pure in heart (Psalm 73:1).Temporarily stumbling at the prolonged exhibition of inequity and pride on the part of the ungodly, their tongues "striding throughout the earth" (verse 9), he lost, not the goodness of God which is always, but his awareness of it; and perhaps he received a discipline within his spirit for the foolishness of his wandering in spirit towards the mere sight of pretentious appearances, away from the fundamental and unvarying exhibitor of the glory of God. Why, human freedom to revolt and rebel against its Maker is one of the grand exhibitions both of the patience and grace, and of the ability of that God who is not only love, but truth; not binding His will on a coerced computer generation, but declaring it freely to mankind, made in His image!
He knows God and hence, despite the sinfulness of the human heart, since he has access to God, he has relief, not only logically from such contradictions as those of the atheist Freud, but experientially, from the confusion sin brings. He knows what his fault is, and is quick to acknowledge it. Oh that we might do the same! Let us not cover up, with that Nixon example before us of the ramifications of deceit! He lost his post, apparently for something which he did not even initiate, but merely prolonged through deceit.
The second step in cure was the analysis of the error. The Psalmist covers exactly what had misled him, and to some extent at least, why it has done so (vv. 4-9). He then exposes the sorrow and grief which is caused by the difficulty which led to the envy. Injustice and untruth stride in the earth with the insolent step of soldiers in uniform, amidst an oppressed people... "Their eyes bulge" (v.7).
Therefore his people return here, and waters of full cup are drained by them (v.10).He traces the follies which can come from intemperate and uncontrolled utterance, which, like a fever, may echo in the vaults of the soul (verse 11). But he is quick to identify the base of such thoughts: "Behold these are the ungodly".
It seems we should be more accustomed to use this label in these days, as in the days of old. The multicultural society, aspiring to its multicultural polis, with its multicultural rebellion against the supra-cultural truth, is only a verbal excuse for seeking to bury God, as they tried to bury Christ. Intolerant of Christianity because it speaks the truth, which they dare not acknowledge, they must simply be called the relativistic ungodly, the twentieth century centurions of infidelity who speak witheringly, who without reason speak witheringly of the truth, and simply cannot bear the truth, often closing even the media to its very declaration.
Nor are they unwilling to have insidious and defeated substitutes for it, while many fear to declare it and its Biblical consequences, lest they be disciplined by man; and what a vanity fair, this coherence of fraud and lies, this intolerant edge of the people of 'tolerance' becomes.
Thus the Psalmist (v.13) bewailed - and admits he did so - his restricted paths:
Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued and chastened every morning.Confronted by fraudulent and worthless lies, follies and injustice, he considers - with something of illicit self-pity and coagulated clots of anxiety - his case. He has to be brought up by God, chastened, he has to be purified; and there is high standard required of him by his God. Yet, as to the ungodly, they do not even touch such spiritual heights, and... go free!
Then he goes "into the sanctuary", seeks God and finds in Him the answer both emotionally and actually. The cure comes from Christ.
This Jehovah to whom every knee will bow (Psalm 72:14,17,5; Psalm 45, Isaiah 45:23, Philippians 2:10, Isaiah 48:16) already by His Spirit could deal with His people, for God does not change, and His salvation (Isaiah 51:6) is for ever; and Christ did not begin His work when He became man, but rather wrought in visible history what was His eternal prerogative from the power of the Father (John 17:5,24).
There, in the sanctuary, in the patterns of holiness, in the appointed and typical forms representing Christ and His salvation, the straying pilgrim gained insight and power, and found compassion for his soul (cf. Hebrews 10:1-21).
In verses 17-22, we see his restoration
to eternal awareness, his realisation that this proud pomp is a mere temporary
exhibition of treacherous betrayal of God, and that the outcome is not
in any doubt. It is like an unreal dream, for God will deal with it, as
with one leaving a dream, when he brings it all back to reality. Grieved
and vexed he had been, but now he renews his breathing in face of the fact
that truth needs no excuse. It simply is, and will manifest itself when
all the dreams of man are past; and it remains accessible in the Redeemer
now, amidst the travails of pilgrimage.
By faith he sees that his association with that God who is truly good to Israel is not broken; it is not fallen: he is... "continually with Thee" (verse 23).
Constant companionship reminds us of Christ's words: ''And lo I am with you every day, till the end of the Age'' (Matthew 28:20). But let us not be foolish. We are to preach and/or teach and testify, not merely cruise or continue. We are to act and be explicit in godly endeavours, not merely live morally: those who are ashamed of Him, of them He will be ashamed. Mute Christians are like dumb watchdogs, a contradiction in terms (Isaiah 56:10, Luke 9:26).
As servants - let us go forth - not sit down, in the service of the explicit Christ in an explicit way, so that the salt is not unsalted! Salt has service, and that is to retain its salty character, and make impact with its tang.
Thus placed, and knowing "Thou hast held me by my right hand", Asaph makes this ringing declaration of faith, not foundering but founded on its Founder:
Thou wilt guide me with Thy counsel and afterward receive me to glory (Psalm 73:24 - cf. I Peter 1:3-4).There is guidance, counsel, and glory; there is God, truth and companionship. "Thou hast held me by my right hand" (verse 23), so that there is protection and warmth, friendship and peace. It cannot be manufactured; it is not merely to be imagined. It is not a matter of mental stages and processes, and running to the pagan psychiatrist; it is a matter of self-discipline and faith and walking in the Spirit, and turning in repentance and faith to the Lord, acknowledging one's foolishness and drawing from Him His wisdom.
Future glory in Him is assured (verse 24). It is not merely hoped for, as with the power-impoverished and misled victims of Roman Catholicism. Naturally, all this leads to the recognition of the transcendent magnificence of God:
Whom have I in heaven but Thee ? And there is none on earth I desire but Thee. My flesh and my heart fail: but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever (verses 25-26).There is no competition when God is appreciated for what He is! ''I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Thy works'', he concludes, as we do. Let us do the declaring then, take the trust, and keep our tryst, early in the morning seeking Him, and not wandering in the weakness of the flesh.
Let this be a time of fearless confession, faithful performance, for the Christian, of visionary vigour and practical delight in the Lord; not one of spiritual mumps, dumps and disobedience; which carry their own grounds for chastening. Blessed is the one who seeks Him early (Proverbs 8:33-36, Psalm 57:2,8, 108:2). Let us do this as individuals ... in Church; for there is nothing befallen us which is too hard for the Lord (I Peter 4:12-14, 5:8-9). The fall which is to be avoided is the failure to attest the Lord in word and deed, in spirit within and in countenance without: Let the living laud the Lord, who is with us, continually. To praise the Lord is an objective act of attesting His infinite worth! (Cf. Revelation 5:12-13,4-5.)
Perhaps you will want to listen now to that Magnificat which tumbled with joy from the lips of the one chosen to bear the Messiah, like a refreshing stream thrusting down the hills. She was a recipient certainly of what is less (cf. Luke 11:27), and certainly as one who would share spiritually with all the "mothers" who do the will of God ( Matthew 12: 47-50): but here joy exemplifies what we may all feel, who know the Lord and have received the results of His spiritual passion.
*2 See for example, pp. 179 ff.,supra, concerning the confusion of the curse of judgment with the course of creation. Folly inherits shame and may not even know it.