Psalm 73 - Truly God is good to Israel
This is my son Isaac's favorite Psalm.
v1 - Israel is a corporate matter of God's people. Pure in heart is an individual matter to God.  "Truly good" means that it may not seem to be good at the time, but truly it was good (Rom 8:28-32).
v2 I wasn't going anywhere and almost was falling. This may be backsliding, going backward, or it could be just not advancing. (Heb 6:11-12; 12:12-15). This state is not as bad as being cold or lukewarm (Rev 3:15-16).
v3 - This is how it began. I became darkened in my thoughts. I started to envy those that were rich, that seemed to be having a good time (Ps 37:1-2).
v4 - "belly was full" is literally "body was fat".
v5 - Lit. "They are not in trouble as mortal men, neither with mankind are they plagued."
This is a facade (v20).
v6 - "Therefore has pride encircled them" means that because of their seeming freedom from troubles, they were captivated by pride. This is why the Lord cannot allow his people to be free from troubles (2 Cor 12:6-10).

I believe that the 2nd 1/2 of v6 literally says, "A thorny covering of violence is to them." As thorns are a fallen form of self-defense, the meaning is that if anyone tries to reprove them, they violently attack him rather than accept the rebuke. This is due to pride.

This 2nd 1/2 of v6 is usually translated "A garment of violence covers them." I do not agree that the Hebrew word "sheeth" means garment. With different vowels it commonly means thorns (i.e. Isa 5:6; 7:23-25, etc.). The only other place where the word is translated "garment" is Prov. 7:10 "And behold, there met him a woman in the garment of a harlot, and subtle of heart." I believe this would be more literally translated, "And behold a woman to meet him, a thorny harlot, and subtle of heart." "Thorny" may mean that she speaks verbal barbs or is impudent. Neither LXX, nor the Aramaic translated the word here in Ps 73:6 as "garment", however the Aramaic translated the same word in Prov 7:10 as "garment". I think the word "garment" is just a guess, used because it sounds like other verses.
v7 - Their moral and spiritual sight is affected by their having so much materially and socially (Rev 3:17-18; Rom 11:8-10; Ps 69:22-23; Matt 6:21).
v8 - Oppressing and speaking esoterically often go together.
v9 - Their speaking dominates the popular culture or the popular religious culture.
v10 - Lit. "Therefore His people return here and waters of fullness are wrung out to them."
I think the meaning of this verse is that when the Lord's people start to return to Him, these high-speaking ones wring all the money out of them and keep it for themselves. This indicates that these high speakers are religious leaders. Because their speaking seems high and prevails through all the land (v9), when God's people return, they naturally come to these leaders for guidance, and they get wrung out.

The words of this verse are similar to Judges 6:38 where the words for "water", "full" and "wrung out" are also used. However I don't see any connection.
v11 - They don't deny that God exists, but deny that He is concerned with minor human affairs. They say this in their heart to suppress the speaking of their conscience when they fleece God's returning people in v10.
v12 - Lit. 'Behold, these are the wicked, and they prosper in the world. They heap up riches.'
This is a concluding statement about them.
v13 - I think the world at this time was in an economic boom. Everyone seemed to be enjoying a party except for Asaph and those few like him who followed the Lord with a pure heart.

If the reward of a godly life is prosperity in this world, then surely we have cleansed our thoughts and doings in vain (1 Cor 15:19).

A prophet weeps while others are laughing. - Warren W. Wiersbe
v14 - lit. and all day long I am stricken and my reproof for the mornings.
ref Rom 8:36; Ps 44:17-25
v15 - "all of" is literally "the generation of"
v16 - lit. it was a grievous task in my eyes.
Up to this point, this Psalm is hard and heavy. Starting from the next verse the Psalm becomes lighter and enjoyable.

It is good to ask these hard questions of God. Ask Him about His judgments that do not seem right, or about why things do not seem to be going according as His word has said. We should have it settled in our heart that God's word is true, and God is righteous. When we see things that seem to contradict either of these, we should not just cover them over, but formulate the question specifically and rationally and ask it to the Lord (Psalm 5:3).
v17 - lit. sanctuaries of God
We can think about something a lot by ourselves and become mentally exhausted and deceive ourselves (Luke 11:33-36).  Part of the reason Asaph could not see was because there was in him some envy of the rich (v3; Matt 6:21-24).

But in the church we see. I find that during church meetings, the Lord often answers my questions that seem hard to me, often while a brother is speaking on an unrelated subject, or when  we discuss them in a small group meeting or afterwards. It becomes simple. I feel like a beast (v22), totally unspiritual,  for so misunderstanding it before (Eph 3:18).
vv18-19 - When there is an economic boom, suddenly the bubble bursts  (1 Thes 5:2-4).
v20 - Lit. As a dream from which one awakes, Lord, in Your rising up, You shall despise their images.
The Lord despises facades, hypocrisy. Having lots of money allows one to put up a false front.
I believe that this verse refers to the Lord's 1st coming, when He arose out of the tribe of Judah (Heb 7:14-15; cf Job 17:8) and despised the hypocrisy of the religious and political leaders (Zech 11:4,8; Matt 23:27-28; Mk 12:14-15; Lk 12:1-2).
v21 - It is wonderful to have our conscience pricked in the church meetings. If we are not meeting regularly with other Christians we will miss much of this convicting light. (Heb 3:12-13; 10:24-25; 1 Cor 14:23-26)

For "reins" see note on Psalm 16:7.
v22 - To consider material prosperity as the sign of blessing from the Lord is to be a beast with the Lord, to have no understanding. But it is good to be with the Lord, even when we are a beast. A "beast" here does not mean an evil or violent person like a lion, but a person incapable of understanding God's ways, like a cow (Ps 32:9).
v23 - I have something far, far better than riches in the world or a life without troubles. I have the Lord's presence. Even when I was foolish like a beast, the Lord was always with me. Though He allows me to fall, He is always holding my right hand (Ps 37:23-24).
v24 - I have the Lord's counsel by which He Himself intimately leads me (Isa 9:6; Ps 25:8-12; 32:8-10).
"Then" is literally, "and afterward.
After a life in the Lord's presence, upheld by the Lord, and guided by the Lord, He will take me to glory! (Rom 2:6-10; 5:1-2; 8:18-21; 9:4, 22-24; 15:7; 1 Cor 2:7-10; 15:39-43; 2 Cor 3:17-18; 4:17; Eph 5:27; Phil 3:21; Col 3:4; 1 Thes 2:12; 1 Tim 3:16; 2 Tim 2:10; Heb 2:10; 1 Pet 1:7; 5:1-4, 10; Rev 21:10-11)
v25 - What are riches and prosperity compared to knowing God? They are nothing. This is to be pure in heart (v1).
v26 - This is my son's favorite verse.
"God is ... my portion forever. - In spite of all the follies and sins of the past and present we may have God's constant presence; and in Him we can have all and more than all that the godless find in their wealth. God in heaven; God in the pathway of daily life; God in the heart - this is blessedness" - F.B. Meyer, Choice Notes on the Psalms
v27 - To love money is to go a whoring from God. This is so serious. We must guard our heart.
v28 - The conclusion is that it is best for me to draw near to God, trust Him and declare His works.
"in the gates of Zion" comes from LXX. The verse is not preserved in DSS.

-copyright Steve Miller 2008
written 10/16/2008
update 4/15/2010