Psalm 73: 21 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22 I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward you. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me with honor.
This is such a powerful passage for me this morning. First, the psalmist writes, “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart…” For much of this psalm the writer has been documenting his observation that the world around him, the world where God rules, is unjust and unfair. Good people suffer injustice and oppression. Evil people succeed, prosper, thrive. This is not the way it’s supposed to be!
In v.21 the writer describes himself as “embittered”, meaning bitter/cynical. In fact, it is his “soul” which is embittered. He’s twisted up in the deepest part of his being. But then he writes “I was pricked in heart”. What’s at the root of this bitterness/cynicism of soul? His heart is broken. He’s suffered a deep emotional wound and is manifesting his pain as anger – lashing out at others and at God.
Man, do I resonate with this psalm. I know what it is to be deeply hurt and to respond in unhealthy ways. To lash out at people and even at God. My pain can also manifest as indifference as I shut down emotionally, raise the drawbridge of spirit, and retreat into my own dark thoughts. Then the enemy has a field day filling my mind and heart with lies that feed the dysfunction.
“I was like a brute beast toward you”.
The thing about a brute beast is its stubbornness and violent nature. It cannot be controlled. Rather than doing meaningful work and being fruitful, the brute beast wreaks havoc and destruction. It strays from its master. Rebellious. Obstinate. A brute beast is of no use at all to his master. That’s me sometimes. Yet, how does God respond?
v.23 “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.”
Wow. Despite the psalmist acting out, wreaking havoc, rebelling against God and man – God the Father never leaves him. God is present throughout, holding his “right hand”. The right hand is the one which guides, leads. “You guide me with your counsel”. While the psalmist is acting out, God the Father is gently calling him back. Soothing him. Holding onto him. Leading him back to the fold of God’s flock. Never does God reject him. Never is his place as one of God’s own in jeopardy.
“Afterward, you will receive me with honor.”
After what? After his rebellion. After the storm raging in his soul passes. When the psalmist finally comes to his senses, when the venom of his pain is finally exhausted, God is there. And not just ready to receive him, but to receive him “with honor”. Not as one under probation. Not as one who sits in the corner with his dunce hat on. Not as one who returns under a cloud of suspicion, but “with honor”. He will be fully restored and given his rightful place as God’s own child.
What amazing grace this is. Thank you God for the mercy you pour out when we are at our worst. Restore us unto you that we might have life eternal. Amen.