We all have moments when we just "envy" the other guy a little bit, don't we? As hard as we try to resist the green-eyed beast we call "jealousy", it rears its ugly head and we are seeing things through eyes of envy and self-defeat. It is an age-old problem, indeed. Did you ever stop to consider just how blessed you are, even if you don't possess all the luxuries the other guy seems to possess?
21-24 When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence. I'm still in your presence, but you've taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then you bless me. 25-28 You're all I want in heaven! You're all I want on earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful. Look! Those who left you are falling apart! Deserters, they'll never be heard from again. But I'm in the very presence of God—oh, how refreshing it is! I've made Lord God my home. God, I'm telling the world what you do! (Psalm 73:21-28 The Message)
Our writer had one of those moments of self-pity. The shadows of deepening depression engulfing him as he stopped to consider the "people at the top" - those we'd say "made it". They live pampered lives - styling the latest fashions, sporting the newest fads and trends, not a care in the whole wide world. Yet, he describes several characteristics of these individuals which tell us a great deal:
- They use words to kill. They have a huge outward show of importance, elegance, and sophistication - yet their words betray the emptiness of their hearts and the lack of connection within their spirit to anything outside of their own motives.
- They are full of hot air. They talk big, but really have little substance.
- They get away with everything. He sees the riches amassing and thinks God must be looking the other way. In dealings of the everyday business, they succeed - honest or not. They just don't "play by the rules" and it has seemingly "worked" for them.
Oh, how easy it becomes to envy those who seem to have it made, huh? Yet, if we stop to consider the true "emptiness" of their lives, we might just turn that envy into pity - not for ourselves, but for them! A little later, he says, "When I tried to figure it out, all I got was a splitting headache!" This stuff just doesn't make sense to one who serves God! We see the wicked exceedingly at ease in their success and the righteous facing struggles. It is easy to get confused about who is really blessed, huh?
Take the message in context. Our writer tells us of the conundrum we all face - understanding how the wicked succeed and the righteous struggle. He seeks to help us unravel this mystery by changing our perspective - how we view the success of the wicked and the blessing of the righteous. As one struggling with envy, we are described as "dumb oxen" in the presence of the Almighty God. What do oxen do? They pull! What does envy do? It pulls us! Does it pull us closer to God, or farther away?
I daresay, it pulls us in the opposite direction than God would have us to travel! In the presence of God, we find ourselves undone. As we change perspectives - seeing the success of the wicked through the eyes of God - we see things we never really saw before. Things like the abuse of power, the painful inflicting of wounds with words, or the insincerity of their heart. Then we feel the hand of God - taking us gently, guiding us closer to him. There we find something the wicked don't have - foundation!
We might envy the "glamour" of the wicked - the glitz, the showy pretense - but we've got something they don't possess. We have rock-firm foundation - the presence of God in our lives. It may not seem like much at first, but when we let that sink in, really beginning to settle our minds, bring stability to our emotions, and to strengthen our resolve to live pure lives, we begin to display "fine-linen" attire that far "out-styles" the trendy clothes of the wicked! We find the words of our lips to be far more "elegant" and "uplifting" than those of the "big talking". We may not always "get away" with stuff, but we are made stronger by what God encounters.
Truly, like the psalmist, we can say, "We are in the presence of God - how refreshing it is!"