Occupy: Sachar Street

Asaph had a problem.

In Psalm 73, the famous worship leader and songwriter was on the emotional edge, one tiny step from falling off into a sea of apathy and despair. His problem? The wickedly wealthy were profiting off the poor and God was letting it happen. “Whatever happened to the promise that the pure in heart would be blessed?” he asked. His whole mindset started changing. He went from following the Lord and His ways to being envious of the wealthy and their prosperity.

As he rode his bicycle through their neighborhoods on his way to work he would look at their big houses with wrought iron fences and call boxes, marble driveways and vibrant flowerbeds. He would look up to heaven and despair. “These people make a thousand dollars a day while I make a thousand a year!” He thought,  surely they are doing more than well — they have no problems at all! Their kids go to private schools and make all-star teams. The wives buy Rodeo Drive. The guys have a boat, a weekend sports car, and probably one heck of an awesome man cave. But poor little Asaph? What does he have?

Occupy Sachar Street! (sachar means “marketplace” in Hebrew) His sentiment probably reflects this bit of poetry:

I’ve seen the orphans afflicted
And the widows evicted
And the wicked applauded with glee
O Lord, where is Your justice
In defending Your righteous?
Why her, why him, why me?

As he ponders these seemingly unrighteous allowances of the Lord, he looks upon his own life and conduct. In Psalm 73:13 the musician reaches his lowest point. He basically says, “What good is it to follow the Lord when these people don’t and still get blessed? I’ve been faithful and all I have is a bike and minimum wage!” If the Lord is good to those who follow Him — nay, if the Lord is good at ALL — why do the wicked eat rib eye and the pure in heart porridge? Maybe all this effort was worthless.

Asaph reaches his workplace. Being a worship leader, the troubled soul comes to the tabernacle. He probably ties up his bike to an acacia tree or something. Don’t want his only transportation getting away! One of his first steps is to wash his hands and wash the dirt off his feet. Shoot, he probably needs a bath at this point. A fancy car nearly sideswiped him a few blocks back. The gold-plated chariot forced him onto the muddy side and now he looked and smelled like he felt. “Curse the wealthy! Why can’t I be like them? Why?” He wonders. His heart walked ten steps behind him as he moped into the outer court. He bowed his head in prayer like he had a thousand times before and… and… AND…… he finally got it. He finally understood. He finally had his answer. It didn’t come from a mighty thunder. No, that would have been too much for the poor lad. Instead, it came in the form of a gentle whisper. Or so I imagine.

“Why don’t I want to be like the wickedly wealthy?” he asks himself. Because they are standing on a slippery slope — subject to sudden ruin and plagued by worry and fear. One fire destroys their possessions. One bad bite of steak and they choke. One foul word and their wife walks away with half their stuff. After all, dear soul, the bigger they come, the harder they fall. Do you want to be like them, Asaph? Their wealth is fleeting. Soon their house may be up for sale — a short sale — and their sports car taken by two men in a tow truck. Do you want to worry about that, Asaph?

“I’ve been looking at this all wrong,” the stunned minstrel says. “The external stuff will fade away. But what’s inside will determine whether one is truly happy.” Asaph was looking at the external measure of every wickedly wealthy person. He saw the stuff but missed the spirit. How senseless was his gripe! What he had in God was worth more than a big house and sports car and tricked out man cave. What did he have? A relationship. “I am always with you,” he says to the Lord; “you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory.

“Whom have I but you? My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Relationships — they will last. The one with God paramount above all. He keeps a heart happy. He satisfies a soul. When we look only at the external, we become selfish and lose our proper orientation. We get mad and protest and cry foul. We hold God responsible for this outrage and, gulp, may even decide to give up on doing good. After all, what good does doing good really do? But when we focus on the heart — and hear God speaking on the heart level — we find happiness. Will the bank still keep calling? Probably. They may even call a tow truck to take your bike. But even if so, listen to Asaph when he speaks. Learn from his mistake. And make the Sovereign LORD your refuge.

Be God’s.

— John