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Forbidden Questions

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
January 24, 2024 12:00 am

Forbidden Questions

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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January 24, 2024 12:00 am

Habakkuk cried out deep, disheartening questions to God, as did David, Job, and even Moses. But the most difficult questions came from the lips of Israel's head worship leader, Asaph. Not surprisingly, his cry -- as well as God's reply -- resonates like no other. Access all of the resources and lessons in this series:


So Asaph is tallying up life and he says it's malice and depression for the godly and it's a carefree, prosperous, trouble-free life for the ungodly. Explain this conundrum to the church in the Sudan. Our office received a phone call a few weeks ago from one of our shepherds graduates back in the Sudan calling on his cell phone, you can hear gunfire in the background as he hides out of harm's way with another pastor in the basement of a building. Do you ever look at the news reports or maybe even your own life and have serious questions about what you see?

Here's what I mean by that. Why does evil seem to win? Why do the wicked seem to get their way while the righteous are suppressed?

Why do many unbelievers seem to have a better and more comfortable life than some believers? These are the questions many of us have but few of us ask these questions out loud. In Psalm 73 Asaph asked them and that's our theme today here on Wisdom for the Heart. Stay with us because Stephen Davey is going to take an honest look at what he calls forbidden questions.

Here's Stephen with this important message. Well, how do you handle the struggles of the believer and the successes of the unbeliever? Where do you file away intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, the fact that sinners seem to get away with everything and Christians never do catch a break?

Let's tonight put some questions out on the table. They would be forbidden questions or at least you wouldn't say them out loud. You wouldn't bring them to church and you wouldn't mention them at a prayer meeting. I doubt anybody would have the nerve to ask people to pray for them because they're struggling with the fact that Christianity has made their life miserable. That might be cause for discipline or a visit from the care pastor or something like that. What if that kind of admission though, what if somebody admitted that they were really struggling with Christianity because of their neighbor's new car or better job? What if that admission came from an elder or a deacon? What if it came from the pastor of music ministries, the guy in charge of leading the choir? What if the guy in charge of music, you know, for the nation of Israel was the one who said, I'm thinking of quitting because wicked people have it so much better than me.

Turn to Psalm 73 quickly, okay? While you're turning, let me introduce you to the music minister of Israel. His name was Asaph. He was actually one of three chief musicians appointed by David to lead the choral services of the nation in the sanctuary. The church today effectively follows a precedent that goes back to Old Testament days with amazing choirs and orchestral sections. Asaph was directing the choir in fact when the ark was brought into Jerusalem by King David. The choir was nearly 300 people. The sons of Asaph formed a sacred musical guild in Israel.

They gave voice lessons, music lessons, and all kinds of instruments and they taught, really, they taught a generation of musicians and worshipers. Asaph was one of the leaders of it all, composing, singing, arranging, leading. And I say all of that at the outset because you might think of Asaph as the last person on the planet who would come out with a list of forbidden questions, saying things like he's about to say publicly. If you're going to think these things, keep them inside.

You'd never turn them into a song. But in the providence of God's grace for you and me down through the ages, this grocery list of daring questions does not come from one of the gatekeepers, doesn't come from one of the blacksmiths, it doesn't come from one of the farmers in Israel, it comes from one of the spiritual leaders who is willing to reveal his own struggle, his own battle with crushing, despairing doubt. He begins in verse 1 with what we'll call a proper declaration. Look at verse 1. Truly, God is good to Israel to those who are pure in heart.

Now, that's true. By the way, the idea of being pure in heart is not that you're sinless or perfect. In fact, it doesn't have to do with perfection, it has to do with connection to the covenant. The pure in heart were the people of God. They were those cleansed by their faith in God's atoning sacrificial system. You today are pure in heart for Jesus Christ has cleansed the state of your sinfulness.

You're living by faith, you're depending on the mercy and grace of God. That public declaration is accurate. It's true.

He's not being cynical. Then he moves to this public admission. Notice verse 2.

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. Can you imagine that coming out in the testimony meeting? Somebody gets up and says, I know God's purposes and covenants are good, but I almost blew it.

Everybody's awake now. Wait a second. What did he say, honey? Was that Asaph?

Yes, that was Asaph. What did he say? He said he almost stumbled and fell.

Why? Asaph will launch into the revelation of what we'll call his private battle. In other words, he's kept all this to himself until after he comes out of the dark tunnel of doubt and confusion and he shares it with us. He moves from making a public admission to giving the details to what we could call his private confusion. And what I want to do for our study is simply rewrite his comments into the form of questions. These would be forbidden statements and they're certainly daring questions, forbidden questions.

He internally struggled with it. He was willing to share. And I'm grateful because most of us have probably wondered the same questions ourselves. There are 12 of them. So on your mark, get set, here we go.

Number one, the first question is this. Why do unbelievers have a better life than me? Verse 3.

For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Now his feet are slipping. He's sliding away from his commitment to the Lord.

Why? Because he struggles with the disciplines of the Christian life. Because he's worked long days and doesn't have time to hardly open his Bible or Torah or whatever because there's so much stress at the job or because he has a list of these unspoken prayer requests. Now that's how we would put it in the prayer meeting. Asaph just cuts right to it. My feet were slipping because I was envious of the pagan who had more than I did.

Everybody's awake now. This is the honest admission of one pastor's struggle in the 1800s by the name of F.B. Meyer, personal friend of D.O.

Moody. He's a wonderful author. He said on one occasion, he wrote in his journal and I quote, Lord, why is your hand of blessing always on the other person? You've never thought that, have you? Of course you have.

Asaph adds though, it's worse than that. They're unbelievers and your hand of blessing seems to be on them. Why do they have a better life than me? Well, Asaph, we need you to fill in the blanks because you really have to define this idea of prosperity. What do you mean by a better life? And the clues arrive in the form of more questions.

Secondly, we'll put it this way. Why do unbelievers seem to have less struggles in life? Verse four, they have no pangs until death, literally no fetters. They have no chains that seem to weigh them down. They don't seem to have the struggles I do. Spurgeon wrote on this text, they just seem to glide into eternity and it doesn't seem fair.

They have no pangs until death. Another question follows rather quickly. Number three, why do unbelievers enjoy better health than me?

I mean, he's just asking questions we might have thought. Why do they have better health than me? Look at the last part of verse four. Their bodies are fat and sleek. It doesn't sound all that healthy. Their bodies are fat and sleek.

Sounds like he's describing sea lions, right? That's nothing to envy. The idea of fat, being fat in the Old Testament is a metaphor for being blessed, being blessed. How many of you think you're too blessed? Don't raise your hand.

Don't point either, okay? What Asaph is saying here is that their physical bodies, their physical health is blessed. The Hebrew word is tam, meaning they have good health. It seems like then they glide into eternity with good health until they die. They're healthy. Asaph is saying, Lord, why is it that the unbeliever could get a good report from the doctor and the godly person gets one bad report after another?

Here's a fourth question. Why do ungodly people seem to have a trouble-free life? Verse five. They are not in trouble as others are. They are not stricken like the rest of mankind.

In other words, the ungodly just seem unencumbered. They seem to live carefree lives. The television shows are the ones that really kind of make it, you know, the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Why aren't there television shows on the lifestyles of the rich and faithful? Be a good one.

Why not? Why is it that the unbeliever grabs all the attention and seems to have a trouble-free life and my life, Asaph says, goes from one trouble to the next? I'm never free from troubles. Why do the ungodly seem to have trouble-free lives and all I have is trouble? Here's something else that Asaph internally struggled with. It's question number five.

I'll put it this way. Why aren't arrogant pagans revealed for who they really are? Look at verse six. Therefore, pride is their necklace. Violence covers them as a garment. Look, he says, they leave behind them a trail of violence.

They are scheming, flawless people. They wear pride like a necklace. By the way, the reference to a necklace here is significant in that necklaces in ancient days were tokens of dignity and status. Men typically wore them. You may remember in Genesis chapter 41 when Pharaoh promoted Joseph to being second in command over the entire Egyptian empire, he gave him a golden necklace. And Joseph wore that.

It told everybody who he was and what his status was in life. Asaph is kind of wondering out loud and he knows he's not supposed to, but he does and I'm glad he does. Why is it the people who live for themselves violently clawing over others to get to the top of the ladder? Why don't they get caught? And why don't other people discern that they're really out for themselves? These people just show off their status.

Question number six. Why do wicked people get away with absolutely everything? Look at verse seven. Their eyes swell out through fatness. Their hearts overflow with follies.

Your translation may read, their imaginations run riot. They scoff and they speak with malice. Loftly they threaten oppression.

Did you notice? Their eyes swell out through fatness. One Hebrew translator puts it this way, their bright little eyes gleam maliciously out of fat puffy cheeks. Malicious. Evil. They threaten oppression.

So Asaph is tallying up life and he says it's malice and depression for the godly and it's a carefree, prosperous, trouble-free life for the ungodly. People who deserve to be punished aren't and people who don't deserve to be punished are. The wicked do whatever they want to do, whatever their evil imaginations can come up with it and they get away with it. In fact, they get a public following while the godly are punished or marginalized or persecuted for doing good. Explain this in another culture like to the underground church in China. Explain this conundrum to the church in the Sudan.

Our office received a phone call a few weeks ago from one of our shepherd's graduates back in the Sudan calling on his cell phone for prayer. You can hear gunfire in the background as he hides out of harm's way with another pastor in the basement of a building. Explain that Asaph Christ. Why do wicked people get away with their evil and the godly suffer? We're only halfway through the list.

Number seven. Why are sinners allowed to blaspheme without being silenced? Look at verse nine. They set their mouths against the heavens and their tongues struts through the earth.

You can just see this, can't you? In their arrogance, they slander the god of heaven and they just strut like peacocks with their tongues in full plumage, full color. And they assume that because God does nothing to them, God will never do anything to them.

In fact, there's probably not even a God. They are, Spurgeon wrote on this, like tall chimneys vomiting out dirty smoke. How come they can blaspheme and not be silenced? Several years ago, the News and Observer ran an article featuring the Tar Heel of the week.

It's always a little scary. They featured an unconverted clergyman. There are a lot of them out there. Bishop John Shelby spawns his name in his 80s, still writing his poisonous heresies that undercut the core of Christian doctrine. Over the course of his career, I have read him suggest the Apostle Paul was a homosexual, that the virgin birth is a myth and even unnecessary.

In fact, in one of his books entitled Living in Sin, he said the problem is that the church has a moral code that's a holdover from the Middle Ages, which is where I'd like to send him, if I could. The article praising him took a half page out of the newspaper, a half page out of the News and Disturber, as we say it. So I called the News and Observer a couple of days ago and I asked them, got a lady on the phone? And I said, how much would it cost me if I took a half page and defended the scriptures as from the true and living God? And she said, will you hold for a moment, please?

I said, okay. I held for a moment, listened to some song right out of the hymnal. Finally got to another lady, evidently in the religion section, polite lady. And I said, look, I'm just curious, not going to do it necessarily, but I'm curious, how much would it cost to get a half page of the newspaper to talk about the purity of scripture and the gospel? And she said, well, do you want to put that in the worship section? I said, not really. I would be in the middle of other church comments and they don't believe the gospel either.

I said, I'd like to be in the front section, maybe right inside the front page. She said, well, I could see she was just calculating away. She said, that'll be about $5,000. So shall we take an offering? $5,000.

I thanked her. I thought, you know what? They gave this unbelieving clergyman free space, free advertisement to drag our Lord through the mud effectively and we would have to pay 5,000 to say something good about them. Listen, if you were God, wouldn't you daily run the front page of every newspaper in every city? It'd just be standard stuff and it'd be one new revelation of who you are and the truth of the gospel, right? No one would ever have to prove it. You don't make mistakes.

It's ready to print. Well, if God isn't going to make any public statements apart from his word, Asaph says, why does he allow blasphemers inside front page advertisement to blaspheme? Why doesn't he silence them?

Question number eight. How come wicked people get standing ovations? Look at verse 10. Therefore, his people turn back to them and find no fault in them.

You could render it the waters of a full cup are drained by them. But what he's saying here is that the admirers of these wicked people keep coming back to them. They just keep coming back. The famous, one author wrote, the popular, the powerful draw a crowd and people assume they know what they're talking about on anything they choose to talk about because they're famous and popular and powerful. Have you noticed that? The more famous a person is, the more infallible they are on any given topic.

Henry Ford being asked marital advice by reporters, you know, what makes a good marriage while most insiders knew he kept a mistress. This is the mystery to me of a photograph I saw on the AP news on my cell phone. That's really the only news I get. And it was a picture where young women were standing outside a police station screaming for a signature from Justin Bieber who's just been booked for drunk driving. Why would you scream for his signature? Hello?

Is anybody home up there? Why does that happen? Asaph writes, they keep turning back to him, a reference to the unbeliever. They keep coming back. The admiring, adoring public literally, Asaph uses the metaphor, drink in their words, that is they drain the cup of water offered to them by evil people. People just lap it up. It's like they can't get enough. Asaph says, I'm tired of that. I'm slipping because of it. Just look at the winners of the Lifetime Achievement Awards, an award ceremony for, quote, a lifetime of contribution for enriching American culture.

The winners in just the past few years included Michael Douglas, Shirley McLean, Al Pacino, and this year's winner, Jane Fonda, for enriching American culture. See, Asaph is really bothered with the fact that standing ovations and awards and screaming, adoring crowds are following godless people over a cliff. God, why do you let that happen? And the godly people who really do enrich their culture are ridiculed and mocked.

It's just about too much for Asaph. Question number nine, why doesn't God vindicate himself through some kind of judgment? Verse 11, and they say, how can God know? Is there knowledge in the most high? That is, God doesn't know anything.

He's not clued in. And what happens to these people who defy God openly? What does God know? Look at verse 12.

Behold, these are the wicked, always at ease. They increase in riches. Here's what happens. They get promoted.

They get a little more. I just summarized Asaph's description of the ungodly at this point, and they are unaffected, untroubled, unbothered, unaccountable, unrestrained, undisciplined, unsilenced, and unholy. Now, after saying all of that, Asaph is about to tell us what really bothers him.

Okay? Question number 10, why didn't my purity pay off? Verse 13, all in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.

Wow. You don't say that in church. My pursuit of purity and godliness never brought in a payday. It hasn't been worth it.

It's been in vain. Can you imagine somebody saying, hey, church, godliness doesn't pay. Sin is worth it.

Have you ever wondered? And speaking of sins, question number 11, why am I convicted of sin when the wicked never slow down? Look at verse 14. For all the day long, I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. Now, Asaph could be referring to either being stricken and rebuked by people or being rebuked and convicted by the Lord, which seems to be his intention because he ties this into a reference to every morning. He's saying every day I get out of bed and it isn't long before I'm convicted by God about something. I mean, here I am trying to do the right thing, and every day the Lord convicts me of sin and rebukes my spirit, and all around me are people who openly sin and don't have a care in the world.

Why does God pick on me? Question number 12. And how am I supposed to carry this load of frustration and doubt in silence? Notice verse 15. If I had said, I will speak thus. I'm going to speak this in the congregation. I would have betrayed the generation of your children. In other words, I'm the music director, for crying out loud.

I can't come out with this. If I bear my soul and I share my doubts, I'm going to influence a generation of young worshipers. And there is some truth to that, by the way. Those who are older in here in the faith need to be careful with what you say and how you lead the younger lambs in the faith, right?

Asaph says, I can't tell anybody. I'm fed up, I'm frustrated, but I can't go to anybody, and it's really hard keeping up appearances as I lead the choirs of Israel. That's quite a testimony, isn't it? John Henry Jowett, an outstanding educator, pastor, who served in England 200 years ago, once admitted in a letter to a friend.

Let me quote this paragraph. He writes to his friend and says, I wish you would not think I'm such a saint. You seem to imagine that I have no ups and downs, but just a level and lofty stretch of spiritual attainment with unbroken joy and balance.

By no means, exclamation point. I am often perfectly wretched, and everything appears most murky. I often feel as though my spiritual life has just begun, and that I am just now in the beginning stages. But I can usually trace these miserable seasons to some personal cause, and the first thing to do is attend to that cause, which is exactly what Asaph is about to do. Because rather than slip away, he's going to slip inside the sanctuary of God and receive a most interesting answer from the Lord. Do you ever have the kind of questions Asaph had?

If so, I sure hope you join us next time. Yes, Asaph had what Stephen has called forbidden questions. But as Psalm 73 continues, Asaph comes to a turning point, and Stephen will address that on our next broadcast. By the way, if you ever miss a broadcast, but have access to the internet, you can listen from your computer. We post each lesson online at I hope you'll do that, and I hope you'll be with us next time to discover more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-24 00:27:12 / 2024-01-24 00:36:25 / 9

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