Many psalms encapsulate a journey. Psalm 73 charts a path through some difficult terrain. The psalmist travels into the pit of doubt and despair as he observes the prosperity of those who want nothing to do with God. He then claws his way out of the pit and crawls into the sanctuary. His encounter with God in the temple is a fork in the road of sorts. It is there that he is granted clarity and hope. As he walks out of the temple, he looks back over his season of bitterness and doubt and recognizes something incredible about God’s loyalty.
I want you to see this journey in the text and in particular the hinge upon which the text turns. Here are a few portions that capture the flow of the Psalm.
Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked….All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
When my soul was embittered, when I was grieved in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
My favorite word in this entire psalm is “nevertheless.” The whole mood of the psalm shifts from despair to hope with this word. It is the gospel hinge of this text. It is a word of triumph and grace that overwhelms all the junk that precedes it. It is glorious that God allows us to speak such a word in the face of our stumbling and sin. When the the Psalmist utters this word he is acknowledging that that God will never leave him but will stick with him through any darkness and doubt.
“Nevertheless” is a word that needs to make its way into our vocabulary. We defy despair and affirm hope when we utter it over our failures. When we speak it we affirm that God is devoted to being with us precisely in our most shameful moments. This word belongs in the slums of our lives. It should never be far behind the actions we want so desperately to stay hidden.
I lost my temper and sinned against my family again…nevertheless. I cannot feel God, He seems to have disappeared…nevertheless. I fell into my old addiction and feel trapped again….nevertheless. I am full of envy because my neighbor is better off than me…nevertheless. I have been failing in my prayer life and have not been disciplined in reading the Bible…nevertheless. I have questioned your existence lately…nevertheless. I have been like a beast in my rebellion and sin against you God…nevertheless.
Grace and loyalty means that God stays even when we leave. It means that he is faithful when we are faithless. It means that he stays true to his promise when we doubt its validity. To declare “nevertheless” over your shameful moments is to proclaim that God is unfailing in his loyal love.