Beast Mode and The Prosperity of the Wicked

Text: Psalm 73:1-28

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” —Psalm 73:26

“Beast mode” is a popular phrase used in sports when a player is dominating the competition. It’s also used to describe a person who is becoming tougher or more persistent in order to accomplish a specific goal or challenge. But when Asaph kicked into “beast mode” in the 73rd Psalm, it had a completely different meaning. This kind of bestial condition is something you might not want to slip into.

Have you ever found yourself frustrated—even angry—at the prosperity of the wicked? It can be quite difficult to navigate your emotions when the evil around you seems to flourish unremittingly. What we do with those passions can essentially make us or break us in terms of spiritual health. We see this unfolding in Psalm 73 as Asaph considers the path of “arrogant” scoffers who “strut through the earth” with no regard for God and His authority.

Asaph confesses that when he observed the pride, violence, folly, and malice of these evildoers, and how “loftily they threaten oppression,” it almost made him stumble. “My steps had nearly slipped,” he says after looking enviously upon their prosperity without liability. Why do God’s people suffer while these insolents seem to escape any retribution?

In his weariness to understand this, the psalmist finds himself slipping into his own sort of spiritual “beast mode.” His soul is getting bitter. He confesses to God in verse 22 that in harboring these bitter thoughts, “I was like a beast toward you.” When Asaph fails to see things in light of eternity, he is self-described as a brute beast that is always looking down toward the ground—meaning his focus was down and in, rather than up and out.

It’s at this slippery intersection of pride and humility, envy and gratitude, anger and mercy that Asaph begins to yield his heart in submission to grace. There is a shift in the last six verses of this psalm in which he deliberately turns his attention away from the behavior of the evildoers as well as his own circumstances, and becomes fixated on the attributes of His God. Thus he pens these words…

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73:26-28)

Consider this, beloved: The next time you find yourself in this kind of “beast mode”—envying the prosperity of the wicked, remember that this is a slippery place for your soul. Like Asaph, shift your focus from the temporal to the eternal. Don’t let bitterness take root. Stop looking down and in, and start looking up and out. Believe that you will indeed “look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!” (Psalm 27:13). Let Him become your strength as you refocus on your all-important mission to “tell of all His works” in a broken and fallen world. Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, thank you for your words of life. Help us to navigate through the passions of spiritual ‘beast mode’ when our flesh and heart may fail. Holy Spirit, reveal those slippery places of bitterness when we become consumed with the progression of evil and have taken our eyes off of the goodness and nearness of our Lord. Be our refuge in times such as this. We pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for personal reflection, small group discussion, or dinner table conversations:

  1. What unfairness or injustice do you see in your day-to-day life? Whom do you envy most, and what do you envy about him or her? Who are some of the most prosperous people in the public eye?
  2. What dilemma did the author of this psalm face? (Psalm 73:1-3) What characterizes the wicked and why do the wicked take pride in themselves? (Psalm 73:4-12)
  3. What attitude do wicked people have toward God? (73:11) When did the psalm writer understand that the prosperity of the wicked didn’t matter? (73:17) What did God reveal to the psalm writer about the wicked? (73:18-19)
  4. With what vow did the author conclude his psalm? (73:28) How can we have God’s perspective when we feel confused or upset about the way our world is?
  5. How can you help yourself remember that God is in control the next time you get frustrated with the unfairness you see around you?

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