One of my all-time favorite passages in the Bible is Psalm 73:25-26, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
As a young and even middle-aged believer, I thought these two verses expressed my love for Jesus better than I ever could. As I matured, I realized I probably didn’t love God to that degree, but I was so busy raising our family that I didn’t give those thoughts more than a casual nod, even knowing God knew my heart and thoughts before I even knew them.
After our middle son was killed in a car accident, I knew with certainty and was whole-heartedly willing to admit,“I have someone in heaven I love with all my heart besides God. And there is something I desire here on earth more than God. My son, and I want him back.” I don’t want to sin in my heart toward God, but I believe it is more pleasing to God to be honest with ourselves and Him than it is to have an appearance of godliness but have hearts that are far from Him.
I recently picked up my new favorite devotional, Morning and Evening, by Charles Spurgeon – my favorite for decades was My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers, but I needed something else after the tragedy. Anyway, I just opened it up, not picking any certain date, began to read and was captivated by the opening verse, Psalm 73:23, “Nevertheless I am continually with You.” O, my goodness, what a beautiful, encouraging truth – that we are continually with God.
So, I got my Bible out and looked up the verse, then continued reading after it and found my all-time favorite verse followed the verse quoted in my devotional. I don’t know if anyone else is like this, but I do this all the time – I seem to compartmentalize verses like I’ve had to learn to compartmentalize my emotions – I only see the verse I’m looking for, or the one that applies to the situation I’m seeking counsel for, and I don’t see all the verses around it, the context of it. I’ve done this with Psalm 73.
I love the verse about God being our portion. And I have a newly discovered “favorite” just before it in verses 21 and 22, “When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.” This passage became a “favorite” when I was needing words to express my grief.
But I don’t remember reading the verses above verses 25-26 before our tragedy, and I don’t remember reading the verses following 21 and 22 after our tragedy.
So tonight, I’ve discovered a new favorite passage – the verses in between my other favorites, verses 23 and 24: “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory.”
How absolutely wonderful. I don’t have words to describe how amazing that is – that we are continually with God.
We never leave His thoughts, His heart, His presence.
Psalm 73 begins as a prayer of confession by Asaph; he confesses that he is guilty of envy of the “arrogant” and their seeming lack of woes. In verse 13 he says, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; For I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning.” This is the context of verses 21 and 22, that he was sinning in his heart toward other people and against God. Immediately following his pronouncement that he is like a beast before God, comes the word we all love to hear when we find in ourselves the need to confess our sin to God:
In spite of our sin, our wayward thoughts, our hurtful actions, the pain we might carry because of other’s hurtful comments or actions, the anger in our hearts toward God for not fulfilling our desires……………..but Spurgeon says it so much better than I can in the July 29th morning devotion:
“Nevertheless – as if, in spite of all the foolishness and ignorance that Asaph had just been confessing to God, it was still completely true and certain that he was saved and accepted, and that the blessing of God’s constant presence was undoubtedly his. Fully aware of his own lost condition and of the deceitfulness and vileness of his own nature, in a glorious outburst of faith the psalmist could still sing, Nevertheless I am continually with You.”
Believer, when you are forced to enter into Asaph’s confessions and acknowledgment, say his words with this simple addition: ‘Nevertheless, since I belong to Christ, I am continually with God!’ You are continually on God’s mind, and He is always thinking of your for your good. You are continually before His eye – the eye of the Lord never sleeps, but is perpetually watching over your welfare. You are continually in His hand, so that no one will be able to pluck you from it. You are continually on His heart, worn over it as a memorial, like the high priest carried the names of the twelve tribes over his heart forever.
You always think of me, O God! The heart of your love continually yearns for me. You are always working things out for my good. You have set me as a seal on your arm (Song of Solomon 8:6). Your love is as strong as death; many waters cannot quench it, neither can the floods drown it (Song of Solomon 8:7). Surprising grace! You see me in Christ – and though I am abhorrent in myself, you see me as wearing Christ’s garments, washed in His blood. And so I stand accepted in Your presence, continually in Your favor – continually with You.
Here is comfort for the tried and afflicted soul. When you are vexed with the tempest inside, look at the calm outside. Nevertheless – oh, say it in your heart and take the peace it gives: Nevertheless I am continually with You.”
“……as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.” Psalm 73:28