“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, to tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73:28, NIV)
Psalm 73 is a journey from doubt, frustration, and bewilderment to praise, and tranquility in the presence of God. The Psalm traces the thoughts and feelings of a person who is “about to lose it,” to a person who is once again sure-footed and confident in the refuge of God. The value in getting to know Psalm 73 is two fold: one, it gives voice to many of our own frustrations in life, and two, it helps us to find a path where those troubling feelings can be healed.
The first sixteen verses of Psalm 73 detail the bitterness of the Psalmist. The Psalmist looses heart by looking upon the world, its prosperity, and seeming lack of turmoil. The Psalmist expects God to “fix” life, but God seems far away. The wicked prosper, while the righteous seem to flounder. Is it better to be counted among the wicked than the righteous?
That is….until the Psalmist “enters the sanctuary of God” (Psalm 73:17). It is here, in the sanctuary, that the Psalmist regains trust and hope in God. The remainder of the Psalm is a testimony and remembrance of how the Lord has been faithful to the Psalmist. The Psalm ends, not in frustration, but in a calm assurance that it is indeed “good to be near God.”
What happens in the sanctuary of the Lord? Why is it here that the Psalmist experiences such an attitude change. Might it be that here, in the sanctuary of the Lord, there is praise and worship of God, remembrance of all of God's wonderful acts, the fellowship of others who are of like-mind? Surely all of those and more! The sanctuary of God is a place where God dwells, a place where we, as a community, come together to focus on God and what he has done.
So, what does this mean for us? Certainly, all of us feel “down” from time to time and lose our focus on God's care for us. When this happens, we need to have our minds “reset.” As the Psalmist points out, the place to have our mind renewed is “in the sanctuary of God,” or in Christian terms, “the assembly of believers where God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).
But here is the challenge for us: each one of us has to do our part to be a witness to the Lord, to actively participate in worship, and an be an agent of his grace and mercy in the fellowship. If we “forsake the assembly,” or expect others to do “all the encouraging” then the body is diminished in its power to encourage others (see Hebrews 10:24-25). To the extent we are able, all of us must pull together to lift up the Lord in the sanctuary, to testify to his work in our lives, and to let others know “that for me, it is good to be near God.”