The psalmist envies the prosperity of wicked people who seem to thrive, as though God doesn’t know or doesn’t care. But the pray-er recognizes that being a faithful child of God is more valuable than material wealth.
This psalmA psalm is a song of praise. In the Old Testament 150 psalms comprise the psalter, although some of the psalms are laments and thanksgivings. In the New Testament early Christians gathered to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. More has been counted among the wisdomWisdom encompasses the qualities of experience, knowledge, and good judgment. The Old Testament book of Proverbs, which sometimes invokes a Woman as the personification of Wisdom, is a collection of aphorisms and moral teachings. Along with other biblical passages, it teaches, "The fear of the... More psalms because it wrestles with questions like those of the book of Job: Why do the wicked prosper? Why does God not act justly? Why bother to be good?
The psalm begins with a confession of faith, “Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart.” The psalmist struggles to believe this, because experience sometimes makes it difficult (vv. 1-14). The wicked prosper, treat others arrogantly, are treated like celebrities because of their wealth, and think none of this matters to God. The pray-er comes near to losing faith because of this (vv. 2-3).
In the sanctuaryA sanctuary is the consecrated area around the altar of a church or temple. It also means a place of safety where one can flee for protection. In the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, God is referred to as a sanctuary, a refuge from... More, in worship and prayer, the psalmist recognizes that he or she has been wrong. What matters more than wealth and fame is keeping faith with God’s people (v. 15) and holding fast to God and God’s promises (vv. 23-26). Wealth is fleeting, lost in a moment (v. 19), but life in God is forever (v. 26). Finally, those who exploit others will be judged by God (v. 18), so people of faith can give up their envy and their anger over what seems like an unjust world (vv. 27-28).
The psalmist’s questions about the justice and fairness of the world are real, but trying to figure it all out alone proves fruitless (v. 16)–probably now as well. The psalmist needs the community of God’s people, gathered for worship and the mutual strengthening of their faith, to find his or her way back to what ultimately matters.