Until I Entered The Sanctuary Of God

The Spirit of the Lord, moving in and through worship, can turn deep mourning into soulful dancing.

When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood….
Psalm 73:16-17a (NIV)

UNTIL I ENTERED THE SANCTUARY OF GOD
A Worship Devotional

As a worship leader and songwriter, I often find myself deeply identifying with the musicians and lyricists mentioned in Scripture.

When reading Psalm 73, I find myself identifying with no contributor to Israel’s songbook more than Asaph.

Psalm 73 is a lyrical triptych if you will. A triptych is a hinged painting of three panels that illuminates, through visual art and storytelling, an altar of encounter in a sacred space.

In the first half of the Psalm, the left panel if you will, a pained Asaph gets deeply honest with God. Even the opening words can be heard as coming from a pained heart and an aching mind.

“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold” (Psalm 73:1-2).

Asaph goes on to express what seems to be an unchecked envy for the prosperity of the wicked – their freedom from common human burdens (v. 5) and their always, never-ending, always confounding, wealth-driven, carefree life (v. 12).

When reading this left panel of the Psalm, the lyrics seem destined to affirm the utter uselessness of devoted living and purity of heart.

We can imagine hot tears rolling down Asaph’s cheeks as he writes the words we translate,

“All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.”

Then, it happens. A single verse that forms the center panel of our triptych, and holds the two halves of the Psalm together, emerges.

“When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood…” (v. 16-17).

I end the verse here because all that follows is what is truly understood by Asaph after his sanctuary word. A moment spent in a space of worship – be it physical or musical or liturgical or prayerful – completely turns Asaph’s attitude to one of adoration and praise.

Then, the right pane of our Psalm triptych unfolds and completes the picture that Asaph’s opening grief might have left unfinished.

The Spirit of the Lord, moving in and through worship, can turn deep mourning into soulful dancing.

“Surely you place them on slippery ground…,” “yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand,” “you guide me with your counsel,” “afterward you will take me into glory,” “whom have in heaven but you… and earth has nothing I desire besides you,” “my flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” “but as for me, it is good to be near God,” “I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds” (excerpts from vv. 18-28).

The moment of worship is the moment of healing, of reorientation, of focus, of clarity, and of intimacy.

When your picture begins in grief, find the sanctuary of God that most helps you, renews you, and strengthens you. Then, the completion of the picture begun in your life can end in a deeper praise than you have ever known before.

Prayer

Spirit of God, my heart has known the grief, the envy, and the hopelessness that marks the first half of Asaph’s psalm. My fragile spirit has failed me, and my mind has lingered, many times, on my pain rather than my hope.

Today, lead me to the sanctuary of meeting that is ours to share, and lift me, guide me, to the renewed song of hope that You sing over me.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Dan +

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[Photo by james-wainscoat on Unsplash]

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