Asaph’s Anguish Over Injustice

Asaph in the Psalms often expresses his frustration (with God) and mental anguish as he observes the prosperity of people who do evil and the suffering of the innocent. According to Psalm 73, Asaph’s perplexity over “the prosperity of the wicked” was such that his “feet had almost stumbled” (vs. 2-3). Has your perplexity over God’s apparent inaction ever led you to question His wisdom, goodness, power or even His existence?

Take for example the millions who were driven from their homes and tortured during the Holocaust; or the countless innocent children in places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., who have been killed or lost their parents in recent airstrikes; or the little ones who are diagnosed daily with terminal cancer or some other deadly disease and slowly die in the presence of their helpless parents. These realities are not easy to reconcile with the notion that an all-powerful and all-loving God is in control of the universe.

Asaph’s analysis of the problem of evil and his attempt to understand it seem fruitless. In his despair he acknowledges, “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task” (vs. 16). And yet later in the Psalm, Asaph confidently writes, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works” (vs. 27-28). Where did Asaph find a satisfactory answer to the questions that had nearly embittered his soul” (vs. 21)?

In the heart of his Psalm, after admitting his inability to grasp the problem of evil in the world, Asaph wrote, “But when I thought to understand this [the prosperity of the wicked], it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (vs. 16-17). Notice the cause-and-effect relationship between going into “the sanctuary of God” and Asaph understanding God’s wisdom in dealing with the problem of evil.

Asaph suggests that in the Hebrew sanctuary rituals he was given a window to understand better God’s work of putting the world right. Honestly searching for an answer to the problem of evil in our world, Asaph emerged into the light of triumphant faith by discerning the lessons God intended to teach Israel through the services of the sanctuary.

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