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Listen in as Todd discusses the temptation to envy the prosperity of the wicked. Psalm 73 shows how Asaph is tempted to covet what the wicked have. However, Asaph recognizes that abiding with God is infinitely greater. Be encouraged on how to avoid this temptation that still happens today.
Take Me to Church
See Who Again?
How to Shake It Off and Deal With Bad Blood
If you are a fan of the number one genre of music in the country, country music, you've heard the song "Crushin' It". According to a recent Twitter poll, folks who are on that little area of social media have said that is the anthem of the summer. "Crushin' It," by Brad Paisley. Some people say, "Kick the Dust Up," but then Luke Bryan is not a country artist, so how could that be the number one country song this summer? "Crushin' It," by Brad Paisley. It's a song where Brad talks about the fact he's not much of a success. In fact, he's making a little fun of himself.
This album where the song "Crushin' It" is the first release of the summer is off of his new 2015 summer album called Moonshine in the Trunk. Don't you love country music? What a great title for an album. His previous album, Wheelhouse, is the very first album Paisley had that did not have at least one number one come off of it. So poking a little bit of fun at himself, he starts this song, and he says, "I could sure use an attaboy or a little encouragement because I've not been doing so well lately. I'm professionally beginning to be a failure."
He says, "But the good news is, every week has a weekend; it has a Friday night. I may not be doing too well in my professional world, but give me a can of cold Bud Light and I will be crushin' it." In other words, "I can party with the best of 'em." Taking a little euphemism of, "Once I have a beer or two, I can drink it, slam it down, crush the can on my head, stomp it under my boot, and I am a party animal."
He goes on to say, "I'm not much of a success as a husband. My wife wants me to hang pictures; I drop them off of the ladder and she tells me I'm good for nothing. I say, 'Well, that would be true, except every week has a weekend. Come Friday night, if you want a margarita, just give me some tequila and ice, and I'll be crushin' it.'"
There it is. That's right. Then he goes on and says, "Not only that, I'm not very smart. I didn't do too well in college. I'm never going to be at the very top of any kind of intellectual ladder, but like the great George Strait, I know how to get unwound. So baby, I can crush it." It's a song where Paisley, in the lyrics, is saying, "Hey, man. My life is still good! In fact, it's probably better than yours because while you're successful at things the world says matter, I know how to party with the best of them, and I can get it done."
We're in the middle of a series called Lyrics. What we're doing is we're taking a look at songs you're going to hear all summer long. Last week we looked at a couple of Taylor Swift songs. We looked at "Shake it Off." We looked at "Bad Blood," about conflict and relationships. We looked at another lyric that would hopefully come rushing to your mind every time you heard those Taylor Swift songs.
If you think for a second that songs don't really penetrate into your heart, that you don't know the lyrics… My daughter just got married, so she has a new sister-in-law, a little 4-year-old named Kate. This is a picture of Kate riding along with her mom, who happened to be a Taylor Swift fan, I guess. She had her new album, 1989, on there blaring. Kate kind of picked it up, and there she is in her little car seat here in just a moment…
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
[End of video]
You may think it's just the music. "I just like the music." No. The lyrics do sink into us, and lyrics matter. Lyrics influence us. The things we hear and the things we ingest are the things that ultimately inform us. We're going to do a series later this summer called Head, Heart, and Hands, and we're going to show you how all three of those things are intimately intertwined.
There are all kinds of different messages out there. What I want to do this week is take this message embodied in the song "Crushin' It" and other anthems of, "Hey, man. If you're not over there partying with us, you're not getting it done right." In fact, if you're going to be out on a lake, you may not hear "Crushin' It," but you'll definitely hear somebody play "Redneck Yacht Club" this summer.
"That's right. You think your life is good? You ought to come on over with us to party cove." Take your Johnson, your Mercury, your Evinrude and throw us a line. Idle on up, and we'll have a big time! We're hittin' it in our Bermudas and our flip-flops and with our tank top tans. We pop our first top at 10:00 a.m.," the song says. "We know how to get it done. We are the people who know where the party is. You all who are stuck in your little mundane life of trying to be good little boys and girls stuck over there in church don't know where life is."
Now I like Craig Morgan. Craig has a lot of really great songs. Paisley writes a lot of songs, too, with some excellent messages, but the songs you're going to be hearing this summer are songs, a lot of times, that celebrate a life inconsistent with where God says you can find life. In fact, as I look back in my life, back in the 70s when I was first getting my freedom and had ability to drive around and go where I wanted, as a young man who had a license and a new bit of discretionary time and income and freedoms, I can remember one of the songs out there at that time was by a guy named Billy Joel. Do you remember this song?
Well, they showed you a statue, told you to pray
They built you a temple and locked you away
Aw, but they never told you the price that you pay
For things that you might have done
Only the good die young
Some of you guys hadn't been born for 20 years after that, but the great Billy Joel. "Only the Good Die Young." That song was really a song written about the fact that when Billy Joel (who is about 10 years older than me) was a child of the 60s, he realized girls were not paying any attention to him. Then he saw this group of guys from Liverpool come over here with mop-top hair start to be all the rage. He watched John and Ringo and Paul and George just sweep America off its feet, and he said, "Maybe I ought to join a band," so he did.
The very first gig Billy Joel ever got was in a church, a Catholic church. There was a girl he was very fond of. Her name was Virginia Callahan. Virginia would not pay a lick of attention to Billy Joel, but he said, "That night as we did a bunch of cover songs, I noticed Virginia Callahan never took her eyes off of me. Not just Virginia Callahan, but all kinds of girls. After that, the priest came up and gave me 15 bucks. Money. Women. I was hooked and all-in."
Now he went a long way from Virginia Callahan. He wrote a song called "Piano Man," and that moved him from Virginia Callahan up to Christie Brinkley (if you watch Billy Joel's story). Billy Joel, in this song, "Only the Good Die Young," let me just tell you what it says. He's writing about Virginia Callahan and the fact she was a good little Catholic girl who would not follow him in his little rocker-boy rebellious world. He says,
They showed you a statue, taught you to pray
They built you a temple and locked you away
Aw, but they never told you there's a price that you pay
Meaning, "You're dying over there, Virginia. Only the good die young. We're the ones who are crushin' it over here." Listen to this chorus. He says,
You might have heard I run with a dangerous crowd.
We ain't too pretty, we ain't too proud.
We might be laughing a bit too loud, but that never hurt no one.
So come on, Virginia, show me a sign
Send up a signal and I'll throw you a line
Same thing as in "Redneck Yacht Club." "Man, we'll throw you a line! Come on over and party with us!" Watch this.
That stained-glass curtain you're hiding behind
Never lets in the sun
Darlin' only the good die young.
Only the good die young.
Billy Joel is saying, "You don't know where life is trapped up in your little suppressed world of belief in God." This song that is constantly sung is not just one that is, if you will, mocking to us in general. The truth is, the reason these songs are out there celebrating that is because the world is out there saying to us (whether it's set to melody or not), "You're missing out. If you don't join over here with those who have found life outside the stained-glass curtain, you're missing out on life."
There is a lyric I want to spend some time on with you tonight. I hope every time you hear "Crushin' It" or "Redneck Yacht Club" or every time you're riding with your dad in the car and he puts on the 70s channel and you hear "Only the Good Die Young" (I don't know when you're going to hear these songs. "Crushin' It," you're going to hear), I want you to think of this song, this lyric, that came about 3,000 years ago.
Turn with me to Psalm 73, which was written by a guy named Asaph. What you need to know about Asaph is he was a director of worship, and Asaph is going to relate to you in this way. Every now and then, when you watch Paisley having a big time or others who are out there celebrating life that involves crushin' it in rebellion, you start to go, "I wonder if maybe I'm not missing out. I wonder if I really ought to join them. I wonder if I really ought to go and just stick my toe in the waters of rebellion."
This is not a new problem. Let me read to you this little statement by a guy. He wrote this as he watched and looked around his day and age. He said, "Foolish and wicked people sometimes have a great share of outward prosperity, greater than me. They seem to have the least share of troubles in this life, and they seem to have the greatest share of comforts.
Men who are rebels against God live without fear, yet they prosper. They get on well in the world. Wicked men spend their lives without much sickness and in the end, they end their life often without great pain while many godly persons scarcely know what health is and die with great sufferings. Often the wicked, they're not frightened either by the remembrance of their sins or the prospect of misery. They die without terror."
This guy is sitting there and he's recording what he is observing, this apparent life of no consequence. One of the verses I've quoted here a ton at Watermark over the years is a verse I share with you because I know how tempting this song is. I love Psalm 73 because I could've written this lyric. I can totally identify with Asaph. I can totally identify with people who listen to a song like "Only the Good Die Young" like I did when I was 15, 16, 17 years old. People who listen to songs like "Crushin' It" and go, "Maybe those guys are crushin' it. Maybe they're getting all out of life that life has to offer. Maybe I'm missing out."
That siren song of temptation often attacks my soul, as it always has. It's the ancient stumbling block of good men, and it's also a source of false assurance for the proud, that there seems to be no downside, at times, when you rebel. This verse in Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, " Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil."
Asaph is going to relate to this. He's a guy who wakes up in the morning, and in this lyric he's going to write for you in this psalm, you're going to find him get out of bed, he's going to make one quick statement to himself, and he's going to start to walk on his way to work. As he walks to work, he is being seduced by the lyric that life in rebellion against God is where the party is. It almost torques him to where he starts to teach that.
He says, "If I had done that, it would have been a terrible thing." Then he comes back and he comes to his senses. If I was going to lay out this psalm for you, I would do it this way. Psalm 73:1, you can just write down, "Truth." Psalm 73:2-14, write down, "Temptation." Psalm 73:15-18, "The test. What am I going to do with the temptation I just received?" Then from verse 21 to the end of the psalm, you have him anchoring down on what he ultimately is going to tell others: what truth really is. Let's see if we can't learn something.
Here's the truth statement. There are a lot of things out there we're going to see. There's a lot of song, if you will, that's going to woo us in the same way that when Odysseus, who was on his journey home, went by the island with the Sirens, the three beautiful women whose song was irresistible to all who sailed by. Every captain of every vessel who ever got near that island would hear that song, and irresistibly was drawn into that little cove where there was a hidden reef that decimated many a ship.
Bodies and ships were wrecked all through there. Men drowned and died because they would sail where they knew they shouldn't sail. Even though there was word there was a dangerous reef there that couldn't be seen, they would go because the song was so seductive. What allowed Odysseus to never make his men take the ship there is he had them fill their ears with wax so they could not hear the song. He said, "But I want to hear it. I want to know of its power. I want to know of its beauty. I want to live to tell about it."
They said, "You can't." He said, "Here's what you have to do: You have to tie me to the mast, and no matter what I say, no matter how much I threaten you, no matter what I intimidate you with, do not unleash me. No matter how much I beg you to turn the vessel toward that island, reject my counsel until we are well out of earshot where you can't see the island. Don't listen to me as I get seduced by the lyric that destroys men." What saved Odysseus was he was tied to the mast.
In effect, that's exactly the way this psalm starts. Asaph says, "Truly…" or surely. You can count on it. Write this down. "…God is good. God is good to his people, to those who are pure in heart." What he's going to do is start his day by saying, "God is good. He can be trusted. He is just. Sin has its wage. God makes no mistake."
It is a fact, "It is a blessed man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, who doesn't stand in the path of sinners, who doesn't sit in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on that law, he meditates day and night. He (that guy), will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season.
When the heat comes, its leaves will not wither. Whatever he does, he will prosper. But the wicked are not so. They will be like the chaff which the wind drives away. The wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor the sinner in the assembly of the righteous, but the Lord knows the way of his righteous ones."
That's Psalm 1. It's another lyric that was written by another musician who is trying to say, "Listen. I know the song of the world will seduce you, but bank on this." Before he started his day, that is where Asaph went. There are many mysteries in the world, and I think there is no greater mystery than the fact there are wicked people who prosper, who seem to never acknowledge God, who live their lives in defiance of everything he says, and they still seem to experience what it is God holds out only for those who love him.
That song is the stumbling block. That life is the temptation that wrecks many a good man, and it gives many a wicked man false assurance. I like what one man said a long time ago. He said, "Whatever may or not be true about some mysteries or inscrutable things, there are certainties somewhere," and you'd better find out what is certain. It is a mystery how people who don't know God can prosper as if God is for them.
It seems contrary to what would be the way of a just God, that men like Job who are righteous and blameless, who fear God and shun evil, suffer immensely and people like the Kardashians do nothing but get more and more famous, rich, and celebrated. If you don't anchor your heart in what is true and tie yourself to a mast where you say, "Truly (as you sail into the storm that is this taunting prosperity of the wicked), if you are not anchored in truth, you will be blown here and there."
Asaph starts by saying what every good king says every morning. Psalm 101, another psalm of David, starts by saying, "I will sing of lovingkindness and justice. To You, O LORD, I will sing praises [to you forever]." It's a good way to start every day, because you're going to run into some inscrutable things, some mysteries, and if you're not anchored in the truth that God is good, his way can be trusted, he is just, sin has its wage, make no mistake. You will be blown here and there.
I made a note to myself as I was reading this a long time ago. I said, "Whenever you're trying to understand what you do not know, it is good to start with and stand firm on what you do know." Here's what I know. I know God is good. I know following him and trusting him even when it doesn't seem like there's any immediate benefit to that is the way of life. I know disobeying him always has a consequence. I know his Word alone is profitable to teach me, to correct me, to reprove me, to train me in righteousness. I know it's a trustworthy statement worthy of full acceptance.
In 30-plus years of following Jesus, there has never been one time I have done what he's asked me to do where I looked back and said, "I shouldn't have done that." You need to bank your heart on what you know is true, because here's what's coming. When you walk out into that world and when you venture into the lyric of this life were there are many songs sung different ways, you're going to see things.
Because you, in and of yourself, are not somebody who is intrinsically good, but your flesh is fallen, your flesh longs to rebel against God because you are a descendant of a rebel, because the way of the world has a current that runs away from him, because the Enemy is a thief and a liar who comes to steal, kill, and destroy, if you're not anchored in that, it will be trouble for you. He said in verse 2, "…God is good… But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling."
God is never going to be tempted by evil. God refuses to even consider it because of who he is. But you and I, not only will we consider it, often times we'll imbibe of it. "…my feet came close to stumbling," he says. "My steps had almost slipped." Why? Because "I was envious of the arrogant. I looked at the prosperity of the wicked." That's what it says. "As I saw the prosperity of the wicked, it really jacked with me."
It's almost like Asaph had to walk by a pool party at the Wynn in Las Vegas to get to work, where it looked like there was all kinds of fun going on. He said, "No. I will not go there. I've made a covenant with my eyes, like Job. I'm not going to dive in with them even though there is music and parties and celebration and they are crushin' it." He said no. "Although," he said, "I'm beginning to move that way and be sucked that direction." By the way, this is always what happens. Make a note.
This is why the lyrics you listen to really matter. When you go back to the very first time man left God, you go to the garden of Eden. It says, "Eve, when she was there, saw the fruit of the tree was good for food. It was a delight to the eyes and it was desirable to make her wise." She saw, she coveted, and she took. When you go to Joshua 7 and God has the Israelites plunder Jericho, he says, "Don't touch anything in Jericho. Everything in Jericho is under the ban." We find one individual took some things there and it caused great trouble in all of Israel.
As Joshua is rooting that out, he finally found the problem was a guy named Achan. In Joshua 7, verse 21, he comes to Achan and he says, "Achan, what have you done? Why did you do this?" Achan's response was, "When I saw the beautiful coat from Shinar (or from Babylon), when I saw the two hundred shekels of silver, when I saw the bar of gold that weighed fifty shekels, I coveted it and I took it." We see, we covet, and we partake.
Asaph is saying, "It looks to me like the wicked are not suffering. The word for prosperity here in verse 3 where it says, "…as I saw the prosperity of the wicked," is a word that is very familiar to you. It's the word shalom. It's a word that isn't just like, "Hey, they're having a good week," it's the word God said, "Everybody who knows me and follows me, it will go well with them. They will experience peace." It means perfect provision, fullness of satisfaction, the ultimate place in life.
Shalom is what identifies the kingdom of God and people who know him and walk with him. It is supposed to be the fruit of a relationship with God. Asaph is saying, "I see the wicked experiencing…the word he uses…shalom. "Shalom" to a Jew is like "aloha" to a Hawaiian. They say it when they come and when they go, except it's much more than that. It is a way of saying, "Peace to you. May my interaction with you bring you great blessing. When you leave, may your life be filled with wellness and blessing." Shalom.
Asaph is saying, "What's up with that? That's what's going on over there in party cove!" Verse 4: "For there are no pains in their death, and their body is fat. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like mankind. Therefore, pride is their necklace; the garment of violence covers them." They go their own way. They do whatever they want to do. They're very Machiavellian. Their ends justify their means because they have no fear of God and no fear of man. They are Darwinistic in their behavior. They are abusive in their living.
I think about my friend Jim Wimberley who works here at Watermark with me. Jim was a part of the executive staff of a Fortune 500 company before he came on staff at Watermark. There was a time in this particular company when they were pursuing a multi-million dollar contract they had been working on for some time.
One day, the CEO of the company called Jim and a few other executive leaders in and said, "We got the contract. Our shareholders are going to be thrilled. Our board is going to be thrilled. Our lives are going to take a step up as individuals they want to continue to compensate." Jim's response was, "Well, praise the Lord!" and the CEO says, "What did you just say?"
Jim says, "I said, 'Praise the Lord.'" He said, "Don't you praise the Lord! You praise me! You praise the executive vice president of marketing! He and I are the ones who worked this deal. He and I are the ones who went out there on the road. He and I are the ones who took people to dinner. He and I are the ones who made the presentation. Don't you praise your Lord! You praise me! I'm the one who's going to give you your bonus this year, not your Lord."
In other words, "Grace has nothing to do with my education, my place in life, the favor in business I receive." What is says in Deuteronomy is a mockery, "I'm the man." "…pride is their necklace…" the Scripture says. Whatever it takes to get the deal done, they will do it. It seems all they do is get another deal, a promotion, maybe, to a bigger company.
Verse 7: "Their eye bulges from fatness; the imaginations of their heart run riot. They mock and wickedly speak of oppression; they speak from on high. They have set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue parades through the earth. Therefore, his people return to this place, and the waters of abundance are drunk by them."
They watch what happens in party cove. At first, they don't go there, but the people in party cove get more women, more fame, more fun, and eventually they take their Johnson, their Mercury, or their Evinrude and idle on up. They start crushin' it with them. Asaph is saying, "I wonder if I'm not in the wrong stream."
Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever known anybody like that, who would never grace the doors of a place of worship and it just seems to really work out well for them? The guys who really threw down in college and, to your knowledge, never really experienced any consequence of that? There was no STD, there was no girl who was pregnant, there was no sadness. They cheated through school, got better grades, got a good job.
In their jobs, they were unethical. They fudged on their expense accounts. They went out and partied like a madman. They used wine, women, and song to get different deals. They ended up getting married to a gal who is not only good-looking but comes from a well-funded family. He's not even faithful to her, and he brags about the fact his business trips involve a lot more than just business. His kids are great athletes. They're smart. You're just trying to make your way, and you go, "What's up with that?"
We all know people who have experienced the consequence of rebellion, too. We've seen people who can't control the party and the addiction ruins them. We see people who are exposed in their rebellion, and others leave them. But here's what's so amazing about us. Even though that might be the norm, all we have to do is see a few people win the lottery and we start to wonder if that's not where we should invest our dollars. Right?
We never go to Vegas and think about all the people who have lost millions of dollars to build those places, keep those lights on. We never talk about the folks that what happened in Vegas didn't stay in Vegas, but it ruined every part of them. We hear about the people who went out there and had a big time and they talk about it like you're a fool if you don't jump on the plane with them the next time.
We talk about the person who was in some convenience store and threw out a few bucks and won the lottery, picked five numbers and another number that made them the winner of the mega-millions, and we start to go, "I think that, maybe, is a good way to plan financially for my future," like that's the norm. Rebels never like to sing songs of sorrow. They want to test you with their merriment and all of their victories, and we're foolish enough to believe it.
Asaph is saying, "I only see the parts of the movie where there are avarice and lust and indulgence and celebration and success, and I wonder if I'm doing the right thing by seeking God." This is what's happening inside the mind of the number-one worship leader of Israel. Now here's what's important: It's happening in his mind. It's what he's seeing. It's the lyric of the world he lives in that is taunting him. "They say, 'How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?'"
I mentioned a guy named Voltaire last week, and his mindset and the way he lived his life in rebellion against the idea there was a God that you, in any way, needed to be accountable to. Voltaire said many things, but one of his most famous quotes is, he mocked people who pray over battle. He said, "It is said that God is always on the side of the big battalions." In other words, the people who are praying and telling you they won because they pray to their God, it just so happens, coincidentally, they have more people. He said, "It's not prayer that makes a difference. It's being the biggest, baddest army."
One of his students, a man who lived during the French Revolution (the Revolution was a revelation of God and the evolution of the reasoning of man), was a guy by the name of Napoleon, who tried to establish himself on the face of the earth. Napoleon took Voltaire's statement and would use it to incentivize and embolden his armies. Before they would go to battle, Napoleon would say to his troops, often, "Whose side is God on?" and they would repeat back to him, "The army with the biggest artillery!"
Napoleon let them do that because he always knew they were the larger force. They were, even on June 18, 1815, when they came up against the Seventh Coalition led by the Duke of Wellington where Napoleon had 2,000 more men, 3,000 more cavalry, and 100 more cannons. But that particular day, Voltaire's theory and France's taunt did not work, and Napoleon met his waterloo.
Here's the problem: we don't hear much about Waterloo, we hear about how Napoleon ruled the earth. Yes, now we look back at Waterloo, but everybody would say, "Napoleon has it going on!" They would say, "How does God know? God doesn't know what we're doing. Is there really knowledge of the Most High? What a mockery."
Verse 12: "Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain…" Asaph starts to say. "…I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence. For I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning." Have you ever been tempted like that?
I can remember as I look back at times, a lot of my friends would head down to Cancun or to Panama City Beach and they would say, "Hey, Todd. 'Girls Gone Wild' isn't just a video, man. You can live it!" They would come back seemingly unscathed. At times, I would lay there and I would think, "Man, I wonder if I'm really missing out." That's what Asaph goes through. I can write this song. I can relate to the temptation of lyrics that say, "You want to really crush it? The way to crush it is in rebellion against God."
The prosperity of the wicked is not evidence that they will forever escape judgment. The prosperity of the wicked is, rather, evidence they do not belong to the Lord. Why do I say that? Proverbs, chapter 3, verse 12 says, "For whom the LORD loves he reproves…" When you watch street urchins or kids who don't have parents, they can live in the street and do whatever they want. They have no curfew.
They can eat whatever they want, go wherever they want, but the reason they're never rebuked for what they do or the reason they're never told to come home is because they don't have a home. They don't have a father who loves them and cares for them. You can be sure they are accountable, still, to the God who created them. No matter how much they want to suppress the truth of who he is that is burned inside their heart, there is a day when they will give an account for their soul. (But I get ahead of myself).
Asaph says at this particular moment, "If I had spoken while I was in this dark place being overwhelmed by the lyric and rebellion of the lie that is this world… Verse 15: "If I had said, 'I will speak thus,' behold. I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.""I'd have been a bad worship leader. I'd have been a terrible teacher." "When I pondered to understand this [all I just observed about the wicked] , it was troublesome in my sight," Asaph says.
In verse 17, there's a pivot. He said, "I'm at the moment of testing right here, where I'm going to make a decision about what I'm going to do with the temptation I just received." In fact, really what's going on in Psalm 73:2-15 is the taunt of the Enemy that says, "You see that? That looks good for food, doesn't it? Delightful to the eyes." Its desire is to make you a very famous person. TMZ, People magazine, Entertainment Tonight, everything Hollywood pushes at you. But there's a pivot point that's coming in the midst of this testing. Look what Asaph does.
In verse 17, it says, "…until I came into the sanctuary of God, then I perceived their end." It says something happens when he walked into the sanctuary. I told you what Asaph was. He was the primary leader of worship for the nation of Israel. As he got done walking on his way to the Temple Mount, when he got to the Temple Mount he was reminded. There was clarity that had come to him. What is it that Asaph saw that changed what he was about to do?
The answer is, when he got to the Temple Mount, he was that much closer to some of the sensory involvement of what happened at the temple. He saw the altar. He saw the guilt offerings and the sin offerings and he smelled the aroma of the burnt offerings that went up. He was reminded that God is holy, there is a wage for sin, and God is, for a moment in his forbearance, overlooking the wickedness of people through different systems of repentance until such a time as perfect provision should come.
Let me tell you what should happen when you come to a place like this, or in the morning you slip on your necklace and you see this. Because when most people see this, we think, "Oh, how he loves us!" When Jesus was asked how much God loves us, he opened his arms and he said, "This is how much God loves you." While the cross is an expression of God's love, it is not primarily an expression of God's love. The cross exists not because God is loving; the cross exists because God is just.
The sacrificial system on the Temple Mount Asaph smelled and saw and went toward doesn't exist because God is loving. It exists because God is just. "Todd, what do you mean?" I'll tell you what I mean. I mean Romans 3:23-26. Romans 3:23 is a very familiar verse. It says, "…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" But it goes on from there and it says, "We have been justified."
These sinners, who fall short of the glory of God, are "…justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation…" In other words, an appropriate sacrifice. What was a guilt offering? What was a sin offering? It was an unblemished ram that had done nothing wrong that was sacrificed so God would be, in that moment, aware of your repentance and acknowledgement of your sin and in his forbearance, for a season, would accept that as an expression of your need for substitutionary atonement.
It says, Jesus was "…displayed publicly by God as a propitiation in his blood through faith.""This was to demonstrate [not his love but] His righteousness because in the forbearance of God, He passed over the sins that were previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."
Asaph thought, "The wicked, it looks like they're getting away with it," but let me tell you something. They're not getting away with it. The reason God hasn't consumed all the land is because there are some righteous in the land, as later it is written in 2 Peter, chapter 3: "God is not slow, as some count slowness, but he is patient toward you, wishing that none would perish, but that all might be reconciled to him."
Asaph was reminded that God is a God who is righteous and will not long overlook sin. He says, "Surely you set them in slippery places; you cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form."
A lot of you who don't know who Billy Joel is certainly wouldn't know who Richard Pryor is, but let me say this about Richard Pryor. Richard Pryor was kind of a combination of Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan and Brian Regan and Will Ferrell all rolled up into one. Richard Pryor was one of the leading comedians of our day. He made over 40 comedic movies and albums. He was rolling in the dough.
He was born in Peoria, Illinois, to a prostitute (His father was a pimp. His mother was a prostitute). He grew up in a very dysfunctional home. Richard, longing for attention, found that by being silly he could find attention from other people. He wanted nothing more than to be loved, but as he developed his comedic skills to get some attention, it began to give him more and more attention until all of a sudden, he started to find some real life there.
Richard Pryor went on to become one of the most famous individuals in our entire country, surpassing even his idol Bill Cosby, at the time. Richard Pryor, at the height of his rebellion, used to do this to Robert Altman (who one of his writers and a pretty outstanding comedian on his own front). He would call Robert Altman and say, "Come over to my house," and Altman would come on over.
He said Pryor always had his cars out front (multiple ones), Rolls Royces and different sports cars (multiple sports cars) in his driveway there in the Beverly Hills area. He would say, "Hey, Robert, the door is unlocked, come on in." When he would walk in, there would be an unclad Richard Pryor sitting on the couch with several unclad women of different nationalities all around him (just Richard and the ladies) with a big pile of cocaine in front of him, and Altman would think, "I am just invited to party cove."
He said, "He did this to me a number of times. I'd walk in and I would start to take my coat off, and he would say, 'What are you doing?'" He said, "Well, you called me to come over," and he would say, "Yeah, baby, just to incentivize you. This is what greatness looks like. Go get to work and earn you some," and send him out. That was Richard Pryor circa late 70s, actually 80s, when he actually started to get riotous.
In 1995, though, there's a different Richard Pryor. Here's a picture of him in People magazine. He has MS now. He had third-degree burns over much of his body that happened in a freebasing cocaine incident, which he first put out as "Just an accident that happened." He told the truth a little bit later and said what happened was, "In my drug-induced state, filled with hatred for my life and sadness because of personal events, I dumped Cognac all over my body and lit it trying to get rid of the pain and numb myself."
Seven or so marriages later, Richard Pryor, in this little interview supposedly said, "The laughter of the wicked is short." Asaph says, "Surely you put them in a slippery place. They are like in a dream." What's a dream? A dream is something that seems extremely real. In your dreams, your heart can race with fear or your body can react with extreme pleasure because it's convinced it is living in reality.
But all of a sudden you wake up. All of a sudden, you're feeling around and you go, "That horrifying thing didn't just happen. That great moment of eroticism I was living in isn't real." What he's saying is the wicked are going to wake up, but they're going to wake up to a nightmare; that which they suppressed in unrighteousness is true.
"O Lord, when aroused, You will despise their form." Verse 21: He says (This is truth), "When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant. I was like a beast before You.""When I listened to the wrong lyric about where you really crush it, and as I started to observe the way of the riotous, I was beginning to be like a beast."
What's a beast? A beast is something compelled by its flesh. It's not informed by reason, enlightenment, or instruction. There is no revelation that will change it unless there is a bit put in its mouth and a bridle. A beast will go where it wants to go when it wants to go somewhere. He says, "That's what I was like when I was listening to the wrong song."
"Nevertheless [now, Lord] I am continually with You. You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth." In other words, what Asaph says at this particular moment is, "God, when I see you for who you really are in all your glory and all your delight, there is nothing on earth that compares to you."
It's really interesting. When you think about what heaven is like and you ask a kid, "What do you think heaven is going to be like?" kids will always say, "Well, it's going to have lots of ice cream, lots of candy. There's going to be a Toys-R-Us that's continually unlocked. I won't have to put toys away. I can just get a new one out."
They will go on and on talking about sweet foods and sweet drinks and unrestricted fun, and you look at them as a wise adult and you say, "Oh, heaven is so much better than cake and ice cream," because by now you know cake and ice cream doesn't long satisfy. What's really interesting is, if you have too small a view of God as an adult, all that changes is your cake and ice cream.
When you imagine what heaven is like, too many people think, "Well, I'll tell you what heaven is going to be like. I'm going to get some of the fame and I'm going to get some of the things I didn't get here on earth. He's building me a great mansion that will really make me happy." No. That's not what heaven is. Heaven is a place where there is nothing that keeps you from a full understanding and awareness of the goodness and glory of God. When you see God in all his beauty, there is nothing we have ever seen on earth that beside him you would desire.
That is why if your image of heaven involves 70 virgins you can delight yourself with forever, you have a perverted, small god who is not worthy of your life. The God of the Scriptures is a God who says, "When you see me, nothing you would see on earth…Robert Altman, Richard Pryor, Muhammad…would ever, in the slightest way, be attractive you in light of who I am. I am your God. I am your satisfaction."
Asaph focused on that. Asaph saw the goodness of that. Asaph said, I'm going to set my mind on the things above, not on things on the earth. He says, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.""That's why I will not lean on my own understanding. I will not follow that which seems right to me, but I will, in all my ways, follow you and you will make my path straight." "For, behold, those who are far from You will perish. You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You."
In verse 2 of this particular lyric, this psalm, he said, "But as for me, I began to move away, but then my heart was centered when I saw the beauty of God, what righteousness and holiness looks like." "But as for me, [now I know] the nearness of God is my good. I have made the Lord GOD my [continual] refuge, that I may tell of all Your works."
There's an old statement, "The new is in the old, concealed, and the old is in the new, revealed," talking about the Old Testament and the New Testament. What you're going to find out is in the New Testament, everything you see in the Old, at some level, is going to be expounded upon, developed, and revealed. I want to read to you a few verses out of Ephesians, and I want you to see if Paul did not know the lyrics of Asaph.
Where Asaph said, "The wicked, they're enjoying a dream, but they're going to wake up to an awful reality." What Paul is going to say is, "You know reality. You know there is a God. You know there was a cross." It's interesting. Asaph started his entire psalm, this entire lyric, by saying, "This is true. Surely God is good."
When Paul was writing in Ephesians 6 about how you're going to stand firm against the Devil and his schemes, he tells you, among other things, to put on the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth. He says, "Shod your feet with the pure gospel of peace." What is the gospel? The gospel is that God, who is a God of wrath and judgment, has made peace with you through the sacrifice of his Son. That's the gospel.
You stand firm in the fact God is a holy, wrathful God who, in order to display his righteousness, found an appropriate, eternally perfect lamb, and he poured out his wrath on him, that all who acknowledge they are wicked before God could find rest there. That's not for the Kardashians. That's for me, and you stand firm in the fact that what you have found is amazing grace. Paul says, "In light of what Jesus has done on the cross, in light of what has happened in the Holy of Holies, in God's very plan…"
Ephesians 5:1 says, "Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." Where does that come from? Sounds just like Psalm 73. "But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints, and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks."
There are certain lyrics… We're not going to be able to avoid "Crushin' it" this summer. We're not going to be able to avoid "Redneck Yacht Club" at the lake. You don't have to slap down 10 bucks, though, to go see it. You don't have to miss your favorite show that's going to propagate rebellion against God as being a good thing. Do not be deceived. Bad company will corrupt good morals. Asaph couldn't avoid certain lyrics, but he was quick to be still in the sanctuary and meditate on truth. That's how he stayed and maintained a life of worship.
Paul is saying, "Don't, yourself, partake in silly talk or course jesting, but rather giving of thanks." "For this you know with certainty that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore, do not be partakers with them…""Don't see their life, don't covet their celebration because you will partake of it."
A little bit earlier, Paul says, "This is how I can go through great seasons of distress. The secret of me being satisfied in periods of want while the wicked are doing amazingly is because what is true and right and pure and lovely, whatever is of good repute, if anything is excellent and worthy of praise, I let my mind dwell on these things." Paul is saying, "You should do that too, or you will find yourself following the lyric that wrecks you on the reef of the Sirens."
He says in verse 6, "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore, do not be partakers with them; for you were formally darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord. Walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them…"
You give testimony. "I used to be at party cove. Let me tell you the truth about what happens there." It's not all wine and song. I have been there when Richard Pryor was freebasing his cocaine. I know what that is like. "…expose them, for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light." Jesus says, "There is going to be light shined on all men."
Look at verse 14. "For this reason, it says, 'Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'" Isaiah 53 tells you who is crushin' it. In Isaiah 53, there is an amazing little lyric and it goes like this. Verse 5: "He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities." Verse 10: "But the LORD was pleased to crush him, putting Him to grief."
Do you want to know what crushin' it is? Crushin' it is the cross where God crushed his anger and he found it satisfied when a holy, righteous Lamb was slaughtered for you and me as a public display of his righteousness. Awake, and don't be given fully to do evil because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly. There is a holy God who is just, who demands sin has its wage.
In his pouring out his wrath on the cross, he has made a way for you and me. If we will turn to him and find shelter in the cross and awake from the delusion that rebellion against God is not something we should think is no act of grace, he will give you grace, for grace has come. Righteousness has been revealed. That's the lyric of Psalm 73 and Ephesians 5. It's the lyric you would do well to pay attention to because you want to know a God who crushes it.
Who knows how to give you true shalom, not in some fleeting moment, in some diluted drug-induced state or some fit of fleshly pleasure, but eternally, when one day he abolishes all that is sin and rebellion and you see him and you know him fully as you are fully known. Nothing you desire on earth will even be a shadow in the light of him. But you have to come, and you have to be careful what lyrics you listen to. Who your worship leader is really matters. How you lead others in worship matters as well. Let's pray.
Father, I pray first of all we can take advantage of what we've seen Asaph model, that you are a God who is fully aware of the sirens in this world and the way they seduce us. You have been tempted by those same sirens in every way we have been, yet without sin. So we can come to you and we can say, "Lord, this doesn't make sense to me," but I pray as we try and figure out unspeakable mysteries and things that are confusing to our finite minds that we would strap ourselves to the truth that you are a God who does judge sin.
You've done it once with a flood, you've done it again with a cross, and you're going to do it again, finally. You tell us the reason you haven't wrapped up this whole thing in your end-time program is because you're patient toward men, wishing that none should perish but that all should come to repentance. I pray if there are any in this room who have not yet awakened from their sleep they would do it now and they would come running to that cross where you were crushin' it, crushin' him, so that we might be healed.
Father, would you forgive us at times because we don't set our minds on the things above but rather on the things of the world, that we think there is life apart from you. I thank you you're not bothered by the temptation but you are quick to call us to truth, that you give us the ability by that truth to pass the test and to live in a wicked world in a way others would say, "You must know something I don't know" because you're able to stand against the current of rebellion and do it with joy and gladness.
Father, we know we will stand firm as we remember the cross and the gospel, as we set our minds on things that are pure, right, true, and lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise. I pray we would spur each other on as worship leaders this week, remembering these things. That we would be wise to not listen to the wrong lyrics but meditate on this one by Asaph and others like it for the glory of Christ, our good, and the good of all who would hear us sings songs that are true. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.
God bless you. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.