I Saw – Asaph’s Vision

The human eye with the faculty of vision is an incredible gift, defying evolutionary explanations and enabling humanity to experience the beauty and wonder of creation. It makes possible the observation and the learning which results from it. It opens vistas of imagination provided by the thrill of reading. The blessings of vision are so numerous that they are difficult to detail. The human eye is an amazing organ, from cornea and lens, to the macula and the 120 million rods and 6 million cones which inhabit your retina. Then there are the pathways to the brain which enable us to “see” and interpret the image which has been projected. The eye is so finely tuned that it can distinguish between hundreds of colors; it is so well designed that it can recognize facial distinctions of thousands of people. Add to that the fact that God has given us a written Word for us to read and through which we find salvation, and we cannot thank God enough for the gift of vision.

But vision can also have its downsides. There is a man in the Old Testament who experienced just such a low tide in his spirit due to what he saw. “I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps 73:3). Asaph was just about to throw in the towel, hang up his Bible bag, send in his letter of resignation to the local assembly, and practice the ultimate in social distancing for the remainder of his days. His steps were “well-nigh” to slipping. What he saw threw him into a tailspin of grief and despondency. The injustice, the prosperity of those who were profiting from others, the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and the silence of heaven all coalesced to deluge his soul with a sense of hopelessness.

As we look at the injustice around us, the double standard for the elite and the average citizen, the lack of logic in so much of what we are told to do and not to do, it is understandable that we are confused, despondent, and even angry at times. 

But being upset over conditions does not have to lead to pessimism and despondency. G.K. Chesterton highlighted this when he said, “There is a world of difference between sorrow and pessimism. Sorrow is founded on the value of something, and pessimism upon the value of nothing. In terms of hope for the future, this makes all the difference.”

Asaph experienced the triad of sorrow, perplexity, and despondency. He did, however, turn the corner and rise above the mood that had overwhelmed him like an enshrouding prison. It was the sanctuary experience that made all the difference. When he got alone with God, when his “vision” rose above the visible to the unseen, when his values took their standard from the sanctuary, suddenly all changed. Earthly prosperity and fame faded into insignificance. The temporal and eternal resumed the proper balance in his thinking. Once again, God ascended the throne of his heart and proud, orgulous humanity receded.

So marked was the reversal in Asaph’s thinking, that he burst forth with one of the most exalted paeans of praise found in the psalter. Its truth has been a bedrock for believers down through the ages. “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever” (vv 25, 26).

You do not have to look far to see the injustice, the double standards, the meaningless, and often illogical demands being made upon everyone. Day by day, goals change; weekly, extensions are made to “temporary” guidelines. What we see can cause that dark cloud to descend upon us with amazing rapidity. We do not live in a world that is fair; just trace the life of Paul the Apostle, the martyrs, or chiefest of all, our Lord Jesus Christ.

But we have an invitation which is staggering in its implications. Millennia back, God warned Aaron that he could not come at will into the Holiest “that he die not” (Lev 16:2). But you and I are told that we have an entrance into the holiest and can come with confidence at any time (Heb 10:19-22). It is only in the sanctuary that balance can be attained, and vision can be adjusted. For hearts that are “failing” amidst the current circumstances, try a dose of Asaph’s medicine: “God is the strength of my heart.”

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