Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost slipped…
Psalm 73 begins Book Three in the Psalms, a book which outlines quite a bit of trouble and suffering, while also affirming that God has been present, good, and faithful all along. This first opening Psalm reflects that theme within its own structure.
The psalm begins with a proverb, a wise and trustworthy saying—Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart—and then immediately introduces the “but”—But as for me, my feet had almost slipped…
From there, we’re given a whole long list of grievances. The tone almost sounds sarcastic:
“Oh yes, God! We know you are good to the pure in heart! I mean, my own heart was pure and all these horrible things happened to me. And there’s also these wicked, evil people who have no problems at all. But yes! Absolutely!”
But after unburdening himself of these complaints, the psalmist comes around—as the psalmists always do—with these most beautiful words of comfort:
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26)
I’m reminded of what Jesus said in the Beatitudes: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. If you notice who was gathered around Jesus when he said that, you’ll realize these people too were suffering, oppressed, more than likely all-too-aware that the evil people were winning and they, no matter how they sought after God, were unraveling in very tangible ways. Yet the psalmist clearly did see God, whatever his all-to-real trouble entailed. Even if he walked through a lifetime of dark valleys, God walked at his right hand. His flesh and heart did fail—but God was his portion forever.
Questions for reflection and discussion: What do you notice in this Psalm? It is a song of praise or of complaint, or both? What is the reward God is offering those who seek Him with a pure heart? How does that differ from the reward we want?