When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny. — Psalm 73:16–17
Psalm 73 opens up Book Three of Psalms. Psalmist Asaph asked the quintessential question of why the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer — a question many of us have asked as well.
In the first part of the psalm, Asaph explained how difficult it is to see through the illusion we call life. He admitted to almost falling for the ruse himself — that too often it seems that living a life of righteousness is purposeless and that crime pays. Asaph went so far as to affirm that if he told the people of all the injustices that he had perceived and all the bad people living a carefree life, the entire nation of Israel would have turned away from God. The illusion is so convincing! However, ultimately, Asaph was able to perceive the truth. He wrote, “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.”
What did Asaph discover that laid his doubts to rest?
The Jewish sages explain that either by way of divine inspiration or by learning from the priests in the Temple, Asaph discovered some important lessons. One, he foresaw the final destiny of the evil ones, namely some of Israel’s worst enemies such as Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, and Titus. He observed how God allowed the wicked to prosper only to lead them to their ultimate doom. Another perspective Asaph gained was the ultimate destiny of the righteous who suffer. He broadened his narrow vision of life in the here-and-now to include a perception of the afterlife where ultimate reward is meted out and justice is served.
A third paradigm shift that Asaph adapted was the final destiny of this world. Until the End Time and the beginning of the messianic era, we won’t be able to fully understand God’s ways. But in the end, all the loose ends will come together and everything will become crystal clear. We will all look back at what seemed like an unfair world and understand how God’s workings were perfect, just, and kind.
Have you ever watched a movie and left before the end? If you did, you might walk away thinking that the innocent man was the villain or that the world would indeed be destroyed. It’s the end of the movie that clarifies the entire show.
In all three perspectives that Asaph gained, the key was to broaden one’s vision to include the end of the story. We need to remember that we live in the middle of the story. Have faith and hold on – all will be clear in the end.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President