“Until I went into the sanctuary of God” – Psalm 73:17a
For the first sixteen verses of the Psalm 73, David surveys the world around him and is ready to give up on God. Things aren’t working out how he would orchestrate them. The ungodly are prospering while the godly face difficulty. Following God seems to be in vain. But then David comes into God’s presence. When he does so, nothing changes, and yet everything changes. None of David’s circumstances are altered, but David’s attitude before and after could not be more different.
David’s honest example in this Psalm expresses the battle of all God’s people. Are we going to use the world around us to understand God or are we going to start with God and interpret everything else through the lens of who he is? Like looking through opposite ends of a telescope, these two approaches lead to dramatically different views of both God and the world.
Consider the Israelite spies in Numbers 13. God has brought his people to the very edge of the land he has promised to give them, and twelve men are chosen to scout it out. All twelve see the same land, the same people, and the same crops. Yet when they return they see the whole situation very differently. Ten, with the eyes of flesh, see tall walls and strong men and encourage God’s people to fear. Two, with the eyes of faith, see their God against whose promises nothing can prevail, and they implore the people to trust.
Peter faces the same challenge when invited to walk on water: Will he look at Jesus or the rolling waves (Matthew 14)? Adam and Eve have to decide between the words God has given them and the fruit which the serpent points out and looks so good (Genesis 3). All the saints of old have had to fight for faith and against unbelief: Noah, Abraham, Joshua, Ruth, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Paul, and the disciples when they saw their savior on a cross, just to name a few.
And so must you and I. When we allow God to be examined in light of the events of earth, we will always find him lacking. Our human wisdom just isn’t up to the task. However, when we begin with God — his character, his promises, and his past faithfulness —we find the world makes a lot more sense no matter what the circumstances.
So, enter into his sanctuary. Orient yourself toward his reality. Immerse yourself in his revelation through the scriptures. Seek him in prayer. In his presence there is peace that passes understanding, hope that will never disappoint, and fullness of joy. As you start a new day, a new week, a new semester, start with God and join with David in confidently declaring, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:28).