Now I Understand

Psalm 73

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 73

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Gordon Churchyard

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Jesus said, "Make sure that your valuable things are in *heaven". (Matthew 6:20) (*Heaven is the home of God.)

Psalm 73

  (This is) a psalm of *Asaph.

v1   I am sure that God is good to (the people of) Israel,
  to the people whose hearts are clean.

v2   But (this is what happened) to me.
  My feet nearly *slipped and I almost fell over.

v3   Some people had made themselves important.
  Because I was angry, I wanted the things they had.
  I saw that *godless people had plenty!

v4   And so their bodies are fat (and *healthy).
  Even when they die, they feel no pain.

v5   They do not have trouble *like other people
  or the difficulties that hit everyone else.

v6   So they, (the *godless), wear their *pride *like a *necklace.
  The bad things that they do, they wear them *like clothes.

v7   Their eyes look out from fat faces.
  Their hearts are full of *pride.

v8   They laugh (at people) and say bad things (about them).
  In their *pride they talk about *oppressing people.

v9   The mouths (of the *godless) say that the skies belong to them.
  And their *tongues demand the earth.

v10   So his (Godís) people turn to them.
  They drink everything from them (the *godless).

v11   And they (Godís people) ask, "How can God know?"
  And (they ask) "Does the *Most High see everything?"

v12   This, then, is what *godless people (say and do).
  They have no trouble and plenty of money!

v13   I was sure that I had made my heart clean
  for no good purpose!
  Also, I had washed my hands
  to show that I had done nothing wrong (for no reason)!

v14   I had trouble all day
  and it started to hurt me every morning!

v15  If I had said, "I will agree (with what the *godless say)";
  then I would have let down all your children.

v16   When I thought about this,
  it was so hard for me (to understand).

v17   Then I went into the house of God.
  That was when I understood what would happen to them (the *godless).

v18   (Then) I was sure that you would put them
  in a place where they would *slip!
  You would throw them down and destroy them.

v19   It will take just a moment to destroy them!
  Great *fear will sweep them away completely.

v20   It will be *like when you wake up from a dream.
  *Lord, when you get up, you will forget that they were there!

v21   When my heart hurt me and my stomach was painful...

v22   ...I was *stupid and I knew nothing.
  I was as an angry animal with you!

v23   But really I was always with you.
  (Now) you hold me by my right hand.

v24   What you say to me will be my guide.
  And then you will take me to *glory.

v25   I know nobody in *heaven except you.
  And, with you, there is nothing (else) on earth that I want.

v26   My heart and my body may fail,
  but God will always make me strong.
  He is all that I will ever need.

v27   I am sure that people far from you will die.
  You will destroy everybody that does not obey you.

v28   But it is good for me to be near to God.
  I have made the master and *LORD my safe place.
  I will tell (people) about the good things that you do.

The Story of Psalm 73

This is a psalm by *Asaph, or one that somebody wrote for him or his music group. You can read about *Asaph at the end of this psalm.

The *psalmist had a problem. Bad people had plenty of money and things. Good people did not. Why? Would it be better for him to be bad? Then he went into Godís house. There he understood that bad people would die, but good people would always live with God!

In this psalm, we have translated "bad people" as "*godless". This meant:

   before 500 BC, people who were not *Israelites

   after 500 BC, people who did not obey God and fought against him; it did not matter who they were

BC means years Before Christ came to live on the earth. About 500 BC was when many *Israelites returned home from the *exile. They came from Babylon.

So the *psalmist starts with what he had learned: God is good to the people whose hearts are clean.

What Psalm 73 means

The psalm is in three parts. They all start with the same word in *Hebrew: ak. It means "surely". We have translated it "I am sure" in verse 1 and "I was sure" in verses 13 and 18.

Verses 1 Ė 12: The *psalmist (maybe *Asaph) starts with what he thinks is true. "God is good to Israel", verse 1. He then says whom he means by Israel. It is not everyone that lives in that land. It is only those "whose hearts are clean". This means the people that love and obey God. There are other people in Israel that do not love and obey God. He calls these "the *godless", verse 3. The *godless had plenty of money and things. God did not seem to *punish them. This made *Asaph angry! He also wanted plenty of things. He almost stopped loving and obeying God. That is what "my feet nearly *slipped and I almost fell over" means, verse 2. The important words are "nearly" and "almost". God did not let the *psalmist fall. God was with the *psalmist, even if the *psalmist did not believe it.

Then *Asaph tells us more about the *godless:

   they have plenty to eat and drink so they are fat (or *healthy), verse 4

   when they die they do not have a lot of pain like some people, verse 4

   they do not have trouble *like most people, verse 5

   they make everyone see that they think that they are important, verse 6 (*necklace and clothes are what people see)

   they are *proud (which means they think that they are important), verse 7 and they *oppress people (or are not kind to them), verse 8

   they say that everything in *heaven and earth belongs to them, verse 9

All this makes "his people turn to them", verse 10. The *Hebrew Bible does not say who "his people" are, or "them". Many Bible students think that it means this: Godís people (whose hearts are clean) want to be *like the *godless. They want this so that they too can have plenty of money and things. They "drink everything", verse 10, or "do everything the *godless do". Then they ask each other if God knows what they have done, verse 11. The answer is God does know because he is with his people.

Some Bible students think that it is the *godless that ask the questions in verse 11. The *Hebrew Bible only reads "they". But the answer is the same: God knows about them also! This part of the psalm finishes with "the *godless have no trouble and plenty of money", verse 12.

Verses 13 Ė 17: Now *Asaph tells us his thoughts. He "almost fell over", verse 2, but he did not really fall over. As he says in verse 23, "I was always with you (God)". But he did want what the *godless had. We say that they "*tempted" him. He even wrote in verse 13 that "his heart was clean for no good purpose". This means that it was a waste of time being a good *Israelite! But he did not *slip and fall over, verse 2, for several reasons:

   God was always with him, verse 23

   when the *godless *tempted him, he felt bad, verse 14

   he would have hurt the good *Israelites (or "let them down"), verse 15

   he wanted to understand why it happened, verse 16

So he went to the house of God. Maybe this was the *temple in Jerusalem. We know *Asaph went there, 2 Chronicles 5:12. Maybe it was another house of God. It does not matter where it was, or when. The *psalmist saw what would happen to the *godless. He tells us in the last part of the psalm.

Verses 18 Ė 28: God would surprise the *godless, verses 18-20 and 27. In a moment, God would destroy them. One minute they would be there, the next minute they would not! It would be *like a dream. When you wake up, it has gone, verse 20. The verse says that it is God that wakes up to find them gone. It is true for Godís people also.

The *psalmist was sorry, verses 21-22. He knew nothing! He was *stupid! He was *like a wild animal! His heart (thoughts) and his stomach (body) had hurt him, but it was all his fault! (Fault means "doing wrong".) God was with him all the time and that was the most important thing in life, verses 23-26. Look at what he wrote about it:

   God would hold his hand and be his guide, verses 23-24

   God would take him to *glory, verse 24

   God would give him everything on earth he needed, verses 25-26

   God would make him strong, verse 26

Christians believe that "take me to *glory" in verse 24 means "take me to *heaven". This is because only God has *real *glory and Godís home is *heaven. The word "*glory" means "something that shines very much".

So the *psalmist made God his "safe place", verse 28. Another word for "safe place" is "*refuge". It is a place where you can find shelter. In a storm, a shelter will keep the wind and rain off you. In the storms of life (the bad things that happen) God will keep you safe. This is what the *psalmist believed. It is better to be "near to God" than to have plenty of money and things. In a moment they will all be gone, but God will always be with us!

Something to do

1.  Read Psalm 37. Does it teach the same things as Psalm 73? Psalm 37 is in Book 2 of "The Psalms of David".

2.  When you see bad people have a lot of money and things, do not get angry. Go to a quiet place and talk to God about it. Listen for his answer. It may come:

   through a Bible verse

   from a Christian friend

   from something you see

Then tell other people that God is good!

3.  Read about Asaph, below.

Who was Asaph?

We can read about Asaph in two books of the *Old Testament, Chronicles and Nehemiah. From them we learn 4 things about Asaph:

   his father was Berechiah (1 Chronicles 6:39)

   he was a music leader (1 Chronicles 15:17 ... this verse also calls Heman and Ethan music leaders)

   he was a *seer (2 Chronicles 29:30) ... a *seer can "see what will happen", it is another word for "*prophet"

   he lived at the same time as King David (Nehemiah 12:46)

In 1 Chronicles 25: 1 - 2 we read this:

v1  David and the leaders of the army made these people separate. They were the sons of Asaph, the sons of Heman and the sons of Jeduthun. Their job was to *prophesy. They had to make music with *harps, *lyres and *cymbals.

v2  Here is a list of the men that did this work. From the sons of Asaph (there are) Jaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah and Asarelah. Asaph told the sons of Asaph what to do. Asaph *prophesied with help from the king.

"To *prophesy" means "to tell people what God thinks and what he is going to do". They did this with music. Maybe this means that they sang what they *prophesied.

Asaph was the leader of "the sons of Asaph". They were his family. When he died the family continued to do this work. For many centuries they were "the sons of Asaph". It became the name of a music group. Ezra 3:10 tells us that they sang when they built the *temple in Jerusalem again. This was 500 years after Asaph died! Maybe the family wrote a book of psalms called "Psalms of the Sons of Asaph". We do not know. But, when the *Israelites made our Book of Psalms, they put into it some of the Psalms of Asaph. Bible students think that Asaph made a book of psalms, and some (or all?) of them are in our Book of Psalms. They are Psalm 50 (in Book 2 of "The Psalms of David") and Psalms 73-83 (here in Book 3).

The psalms from Asaphís book do this:

   they describe the world round us in a clear way

   they tells us that God cares for people

   they make what has happened teach us things

   they tell us that God is very great

   they are good *poetry (poetry is using words in a beautiful way)

Word List

Adonai ~ *Lord or master; (or better, my *Lord or my master) in *Hebrew.

Asaph ~ look in the Introduction.

covenant ~ two people have agreed what each should do (here, God and his people). Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the covenant.

cymbals ~ you hit two of them together to make a loud noise.

exile ~ away from your own country.

fear ~ what you feel when you are afraid.

glory ~ something that shines very much, maybe *heaven: God has glory because his *righteousness shines from inside him.

godless ~ people that do not obey God, and that fight against him.

harp ~ you can make music with it.

healthy ~ having good health.

heaven ~ the home of God.

Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke when they wrote the Psalms of David.

holy ~ very, very good; only God is really holy, the land where he lives with his people is also holy because he is there.

Israelite ~ a *Jewish person (see Jew).

Jehovah ~ how some languages say *Yahweh, one of the names of God in *Hebrew.

Jew ~ someone who was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.

Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything to do with a *Jew.

like ~ another word for "as".

Lord ~ a name for God; it means he has authority, or "master"; *Adonai in *Hebrew. Look also at *LORD below.

LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. It is the *covenant name of God. In *Hebrew it is *Yahweh or *Jehovah. Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the names of God.

lyre ~ you can make music with it.

Most High ~ a name for God.

necklace ~ something pretty to wear round your neck.

Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible; the *holy things that the writers wrote before Christís birth.

oppress ~ when you are not kind to people, we say that you are oppressing them.

poetry ~ using words in a special (often very beautiful) way.

pride ~ what you feel when you think that you are important.

prophesy ~ tell people what God thinks and will do.

prophet ~ someone that says what God thinks and will do.

proud people ~ people that think that they are very important.

psalmist ~ the person that wrote a psalm (or psalms).

punish ~ hurt someone because they have not obeyed the rules.

real ~ proper.

refuge ~ a place where you can hide and be safe.

righteous ~ very good (only God is really righteous). God says that the people that love and obey him are righteous. Sometimes we say that they are "the righteous", meaning "righteous people". Look after Psalm 5 in Book 1 of The Psalms of David for more about the word "righteous".

righteousness ~ what you have when you are *righteous.

seer ~ another word for *prophet.

slip ~ nearly fall over (as on oil or on ice).

stupid ~ opposite of clever.

temple ~ a place where people meet to *worship God.

tempted ~ someone asked you to do something wrong.

tongue ~ the part of our mouth that we talk with.

worship ~ tell someone that they are very great and that you love them.

Yahweh ~ the *covenant name for God. Most Bibles translate it *LORD with 4 capital letters. It means something *like "I am" or "always alive".

 

© 2001-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words).

January 2002

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