What does Psalm 73:15 mean?
ESV: If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
NIV: If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children.
NASB: If I had said, 'I will speak this way,' Behold, I would have betrayed the generation of Your children.
CSB: If I had decided to say these things aloud, I would have betrayed your people.
NLT: If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people.
KJV: If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.
The prior verses (Psalm 73:4–14) have a melodramatic, almost over-emotional tone. This is deliberate and done for at least two reasons. It emphasizes the depth of the pain this problem brings and highlights the main points of angst. Suffering is difficult enough to endure. When we see examples of those who are evil, even hateful, who yet have earthly success, it's natural to feel bitterness (Psalm 73:13).
Moving into the last part of this psalm, Asaph clearly notes that those cynical, defeated attitudes are not right. They may be natural temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13), but they aren't in line with the truth. Looking at the whole of God's truth, Asaph could remind himself that he ought to know better. If he agreed that God was unfair, he would betray the younger generation of God's people. If he abandoned the faith after leading worship in the temple, what message would his defection convey to them? Similarly, those who teach and preach God's Word need to set a consistent example of faith other believers can follow.
In his first letter to Timothy, a young pastor, the apostle Paul instructed: "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12). The apostle Paul led a disciplined life of faith so he would not become disqualified to receive a reward after preaching to others (1 Corinthians 9:26–27).
This perspective does not change the natural pain and anger Asaph felt. Nor does it explain why some particular person is allowed to succeed despite their sin (Psalm 73:16). This right view merely gives Asaph—and us—reason to continue to trust in God. This kind of self-discipline is hard but worthwhile.
Psalm 73:15–28 gives a fitting resolution to Asaph's complaint (Psalm 73:2–3). He was disturbed by the contrast between the seemingly prosperous wicked and the difficulties of the righteous. Many today feel the same conflict. An eternal perspective gave the answer he needed to those hard examples. In short, wickedness does come with risks, and earthly life is not all there is to our existence. Even in the context of the natural world, evil invites negative consequences and disaster. In eternity, judgment on godlessness is absolutely guaranteed.
Seeing godless people thrive, even as they hatefully mock God, while believers suffer, leads many people to a crisis of faith. This was the case for Asaph. Using exaggerated imagery, he complains to the Lord that it seems as if evil people have easy lives, while godly people suffer. Further reflection reminds Asaph that sin does lead to consequences, both in this life and the next. He confesses his sins of bitterness and resolves to trust God more deeply.
This psalm is the first in a collection which corresponds to Leviticus and the overall theme of worship. Asaph, who wrote Psalm 73, confesses that seeing prosperity among wicked people brought him bitterness and envy. That nearly caused him to lose trust in God. Carefully considering God and His eternal truth led Asaph to a stronger faith. Job chapter 21, in which trial-laden Job also complains about the success of some wicked people, mentions many of the same ideas as Psalm 73.
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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