The Doubter’s Guide to the Goodness of God
The book of Psalms is the soundtrack of the Bible. If you want to understand origins go to Genesis. If you want to know more about the law you can read Exodus or Leviticus. (Warning: this is where most “Read through the Bible” plans break down). For an early history of the nation of Israel check out first and second Kings and Chronicles. The major and minor prophets provide insights into the coming Messiah whose birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection are recorded in the gospels. See Acts for an explanation of the exponential growth of the early church. For robust theology read the epistles of Paul. And if you want to see how history ends study Revelation.
But if you want the soundtrack to the whole thing: read the psalms.
In the psalms you’re not going to find rose colored glasses, happy-clappy enthusiasm, Sunday School perfect attendance pins, or a doubt-free faith. They are gut level honest, shockingly real, and abrasively authentic. But they will point you to the place of praise.
The psalms offer a broken road that leads to the foot of the throne of God. Many of them start in darker hues of what could easily be described as personal depression and then escalate to corporate worship. That’s certainly the flight pattern of Psalm 73.
The seventy-third psalm is written by Asaph, a man chosen by David to be a part of an elite team of worship leaders (1 Chron. 6:39). Asaph’s skill set him apart and he eventually garnered a following, students who became known as the “sons of Asaph.” He was kind of an Old Testament equivalent of Chris Tomlin.
But he almost left the faith. The prosperity of the wicked made him reconsider the goodness of God. But if you read his account of the good life of unrighteous people it’s not hard to see how much he had lost perspective. He laments that they have no pain in death (73:4), never have troubles (73:5) , and are always at ease (73:12). This is clearly an exaggerated view at best. He’s so envious he glamorizes their lifestyle, assumes they are perfectly happy in the present, and figures they will be forever more.
He admits “his steps nearly slipped” (73:2). He thinks to himself “in vain have I kept my heart clean” (73:13). This is scandalously transparent. If your worship pastor was equally honest with the congregation this Sunday there would likely be a deacon’s meeting after the service to determine an exit strategy. But Asaph eventually headed into God’s sanctuary and got a little perspective (73:17).
Asaph’s dark night of the soul ends when he considers life from the vantage point of eternity. The psalm begins with a confession and ends with an invitation. The idea of goodness bookends the psalm, beginning with “surely God is good” (73:1) and ending with “the nearness of God is my good” (73:28).
The good God who created all things offers us maximum flourishing in knowing Him and walking in His ways. Even with all his doubts, his wondering and his wandering, Asaph clung to the promise that God was always with him—literally holding onto his right hand (73:23). If you find yourself in Asaph’s shoes, I hope you will also follow in Asaph’s steps leading straight to the goodness of God.