A Psalm of Asaph.
1 Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm.
5 They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.
6 Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment.
7 Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish.
8 They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily.
9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth.
10 Therefore his people return here, and waters of a full cup are drained by them.
11 And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches.
13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children.
16 When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me—
17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.
18 Surely You set them in slippery places; you cast them down to destruction.
19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors.
20 As a dream when one awakes, so, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image.
21 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was vexed in my mind.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.
24 You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
26 My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.
28 But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works.
This psalm gives me a picture of two building contractors. One of them follows all the rules. He takes no shortcuts to save money at the expense of safety or durability. He lays the foundation and waits for the inspection. He sets the frame and waits for another inspection. He does the wiring and plumbing then waits for another inspection. Then comes insulation, inspection, roofing, inspection, finish work, and final inspection. Any concerns from the inspector is addressed and re-inspected.
Then there is another contractor. He cheats. He skips inspections. He bribes. He finishes the house in half the time, makes twice the profit and moves on to the next project. They go on like this for years. The righteous builder is making just enough to get by, while the wicked builder is becoming a millionaire. The righteous builder is even starting to lose business to the other builder because he is able to undercut the bid for jobs.
The good builder begins to wonder why he is trying so hard to do right when it doesn’t seem to matter, but then it happens. Faulty wiring causes a house to burn. Faulty plumbing causes pipes to leak, wood to rot, and mold to grow. Words like liability and criminal negligence start flying through courtrooms. Bribes are discovered and investigated. Not only the bad contractor, but everyone who threw in with him lose everything and go to prison. The righteous contractor has a flood of business from both the repairs of the faulty projects but also any new construction.
No one ever really “gets away” with anything, and righteousness is never a wasted effort.