Many thanks to guest preacher Andrew Bain who invited us last Sunday (Mother’s Day) to consider our attitude to the prosperity of the ungodly in the world. In Psalm 73 Asaph expresses at length his bitter envy of ungodly prosperous people and he cries out to the Lord at this extreme injustice. Then midway through the Psalm he takes the time to visit God’s sanctuary (probably the temple, to pray and read God’s word). There he realises how seriously skewed was this envy and this cry of injustice! “I finally understood the destiny of the wicked” (v17). “I realised that my heart was bitter….I was foolish and ignorant” (v21-22). In the sanctuary Asaph gains renewed confidence in the goodness of God, and realises that it is the ungodly, not himself, who are on the “slippery slope” to ruin.
What a strange coincidence (God-incidence!) that this Psalm was explored on Mother’s Day, a day when some of the “unfair” aspects of motherhood are supposedly remedied, with gifts and much attention and thanks being showered on mothers. The world has been shouting at us for some time that motherhood is unfair, that our biology has put women at a disadvantage in a society where prosperity and material gain is the ultimate good (and god!). When we compare our opportunites with those of most men in the developed world, it can seem unfair that women must put their career and their bank balance on hold in order to bear children (in considerable agony). . . and then stay home with them, doing daily repetitive tasks which, though extremely valuable, are deigned unimportant in the eyes of the world. Even the alternative seems unfair: we put the children in day care, head back to work and then, exhausted, enjoy very little of our life as we juggle a thousand demands on our time and attention. We may even get to the point of envying non-Christian women, who sleep in on Sundays and don’t have to add church commitments, bible reading and prayer to their already full diaries! How unfair is it that women often must battle loneliness when at home with little ones, and again at the other end of life, lonely, widowed and apparently forgotten? How unfair is it that some women who want children have been deprived the opportunity, while the ungodly despise and dispose of their unborn children in great numbers?
So what do we do when these bitter thoughts creep in, settle down and discourage us? Like Asaph we need to turn to God. As Christians, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, He lives in us, yet we must take the time to “tune in” to God’s voice. The “sanctuary” is a place we must go to daily, as we turn away from the voices and attitudes of the world, and tune into God’s voice in His word and through prayer. Paul challenges us in the book of Romans: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2). As we tune into God’s voice, in His word, the Spirit helps us understand and see things from a right perspective. God reminds us that the world we live in does not hold correct opinions about heavenly realities: who is King, who is in charge, what is right and wrong, and the ultimate purpose of mankind! God reminds us of the riches we have in Christ, which far surpass anything we could aspire to own or achieve in this “unfair” world. Let’s turn to God and restore our confidence in his goodness. He sent His own son, Jesus, to face extreme injustice, nailed to a cross for the sins of those who were his enemies (us!) and because of this we can draw close to God. Yet I still belong to You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but You? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever. (Psalm 73)