But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
Where are your eyes?
The psalm of Asaph
First, let us look at who Asaph was. Asaph was a Levite. When the tribes of Israel were settling in the new land, they were all given property to posses, except the tribe of the Levites, "because the Lord the God of Israel himself is their possession". They were to be ministers to the tribes and the other tribes were to pay their tithe (tenth) to them. They were to hold religious and political office in the Kingdom of Israel. He was listed by David in 1 Chronicles 6.39 as one of those chosen to be in charge of music in the House of the Lord after the Ark came to rest there. They were ministers of music. He is credited with writing the 50th and 73rd through 83rd Psalms. It was the events he witnessed in his ministry that brought about his writings in the 73rd Psalm.
He begins the Psalm by giving praise to the goodness of God to Israel, to those of a clean heart. Then he turns the light upon himself. How important it is for us to turn the searchlight of God on our own lives. He addresses his own state. He states his place as only he would know it. He continued in his ministering daily in the temple as was his position, but inside, something was wrong. His conviction, his diagnosis, and his prognosis are all found in this Psalm.
Allow me to take a moment to speak from the place of those ministering. We look up to and rely on those around us, upon whom God has placed this awesome burden to tend his flock. We see them sometimes as somewhat removed from the same cares and fears that we encounter. Let me assure you that is not the case. They face the same battles. They face the same cares. They face the same fears. They carry their cares and worries. We come to them carrying our own and they take a bit of them to relieve our load. That is added to the load they are already carrying. Is this an admonition to stop sharing your cares and asking for help and prayer? NO! If you were to ask those ministering is that was their wish, you would get that same answer. It is their blessing.
Here we find Asaph. He claims that his feet were almost gone and his steps had well nigh slipped. Something was taking the surety from his walk. I watch my 16 month old granddaughter walk about. She does great. She walks all over the house. She climbs the stairs to come see ‘Papaw’. She will climb up into my desk chair and sit, proud of her accomplishment. However, in the driveway, she will walk up the incline, but when it comes to walking down that same incline, she falters. She is afraid. She will even, at times, go back to crawling to come down the incline. If I take her out of my truck, from her car seat, and put her on the grass, she will wait until I am ready to walk, and hold up her hand. Once she has my hand, she will walk anywhere we go. Something about the incline or the grass takes away her confidence and surety. This is where we find Asaph. While his walk and ministry were one of surety, something happened to change that surety. What was different? What changed?
Jesus had miraculously fed five thousand men, and the additional women and children with five loaves and two small fish. After this he sent His disciples away in a ship when he went to the mountains to pray. The middle of the night finds the disciples in the midst of the sea, tossed by waves as the wind was contrary. Here Jesus comes to them walking on the water. They began crying out in fear. Jesus told them not to be afraid. Brash and impetuous Peter said, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” Jesus answers him simply, “Come.” Peter steps out of the boat and begins walking on the water toward Jesus. THEN he begins to notice the wind and waves. The wind was boisterous. It lashed against him violently. It drove the waves higher and harder. Peter began to be afraid and began to sink.
As long as Peter was focused on Jesus, he walked on the waters. The wind did not get more violent. The waves did not get higher. The storm did not rage harder. The difference was in Peters eyes. He took his eyes off of his goal and began to look at his opposition. He noticed the waves. He noticed the wind. He realized that it is not natural for a man to walk on water. It is not within the scope of human ability to walk on water.
Serving God and relying on his blessings is not natural. It is not within the normal scope of mankind. We are, by nature, solvers. We are taught as children to rely on our own wits and strength. It is part of growing up. Mom and Dad tell us that they will not always be nearby. They will not always be a breath away. There will be times when we must rely on no one but our own selves. It is normal. Depending on an unseen presence is outside the normal thought process of man.
Take your index finger of either hand and place it about six inches from your eyes. Focus on it. What do you notice? The finger becomes sharper and clearer. Behind the finger, everything else becomes blurred. If you focus long enough, the background becomes indistinguishable. It all melts together.
So it was with Peter. As he walked on the waves toward Jesus and kept his focus on Him, he was fine. It was not until he took his eyes off of his goal and began focusing on his difficulties and impossibilities, that he began to sink. Asaph was the same. While he ministered in the tabernacle, he saw the lives of those around him. He witnessed the prosperity of the wicked. He saw the fatness of the wicked. He observed them go about without care or trouble. He saw their strength as firm. He saw them cover themselves with violence without concern. He watched them as they challenged and cursed the heavens even.
Where are your eyes, Asaph?
Where are your eyes, Peter?
Where are your eyes?
When we focus on those around us, we will lose the surety of our walk. It was the reason for the weakness of the walk of Asaph. He could scarce minister for a God in whom his faith was shaken. He could not find that firm footing he knew in days past. The knowing of this was almost too much for him. It was too painful to think on such matters.
Years ago (1984,) I had a little white sporty car. There are two colors of cars that are nearly impossible to keep clean. They are white and black. It isn’t that they are any dirtier than other cars; it just shows up on them better. However, the test of whether my car was dirty or clean was the white under the dirt. It was not the mud caked on the car beside me. It was not the sparkle of the car on the other side. It was dirty or clean, based on the white it was. I could look at other dirty cars and excuse myself for not washing it, but that didn’t make my car clean.
You live your life. You look at your goal.
Asaph began looking at other people. He began comparing his life to other people. It is one thing to look at others and excuse your own sins because they are so much more evil and another entirely to look at others and lose your footing. Asaph didn’t look at ‘Joe the plumber’ and say, “I must be okay. I am not as bad as that guy.” Asaph was not envious of those he complained about. Peter was not jealous of the waves. They were both distracted by them.
It does not matter how Joe lives. You must “Save yourself’” from sin.
How did Asaph change his footing?
How did Peter change his footing?
Both returned their focus to the place it needed to be. Asaph said, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” Peter cried out, “Lord, save me.”
Get your eyes on Jesus. Turn the searchlight of His Word on your life. Measure up to His Word for you. Take your eyes off of those around you and serve God for yourself. Take your eyes off of the impossibilities and see the possible.
Where are your eyes?
Are you focusing on your problems? Are your eyes on the obstacles?
The Bible says that “for the joy that was set before him,” Jesus “endured the cross.” What joy was there in Calvary? What joy could there be to his humanity in his suffering and death?
It was because Jesus was looking beyond the cross to the other side of Calvary. His focus was on what would occur on the other side. On the past side of Calvary was separation from God. In Calvary was suffering and shame. However, on the other side there was reconciliation and joy.
On the other side of your problems is joy and elation. On the other side of your hurt is sweet victory. On the other side of your pain is glorious peace. Look beyond the pain. Look beyond the sorrow. Look beyond the problem.
Where are your eyes ?