Psalm 73:1-17 shows that the righteous man severely misjudged the reality of his situation for a time until God revealed the truth. This trap can catch any of us. The wicked appear to prosper only if we consider merely what appears on the surface.
What God reveals to the psalmist is that the people he envies may appear to gain the whole world, but in reality, they are lacking something of immeasurably greater value. Through prayer and meditation, the psalmist is able to grasp this, and through God's revelation, he returns to a better emotional and spiritual state.
However, while in that anguished state, he sincerely assumed God was plaguing and punishing him every morning (verse 14). There are times when that may indeed be the case, and we might need a firm spanking because we may have repeatedly committed a sin and need to be brought up short. But we must not allow this to be our only conclusion, as the Bible frequently shows that, in the case of God's children, most trials are not given as punishment.
As a trial continues, a Christian tends to reason that, if he were not sinning, he would not be going through this experience. He therefore has a strong tendency to recall scriptures that say something similar to, “Therefore you shall be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Verses of this sort become our guide to correct the stressful condition. It is at this point that, all too often, we make a significant mistake, assuming that we are being punished.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eleven): Paradox, Continued
The psalmist, Asaph, mentions pride directly, as well as boasting among men and speaking loftily, arrogantly against the very God of heaven, as evidence of the driving force of the wicked person's life. Pride and wickedness fit together like hand and glove—so much so that he describes pride as the wicked person's ornament, as if it were displayed as a necklace.
In short, pride identifies the wicked; evil people are always proud. They scoff at God's Word, speak against Him, and gossip against fellow man. What we see on the outside is evil attitude and conduct, but what is motivating from the inside is pride. The proud person offends against God by self-exaltation, and he offends others by haughty preoccupation with himself, leading him to rudeness, impatience, and gossip. And all the while, he ignores the instruction from God that would correct him.
All of this is based on a vain delusion of grandeur that, if allowed, can lead to what God prophesies in Obadiah 2-4, 18:
"Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be greatly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; you who say in your heart, 'Who will bring me down to the ground?' Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down," says the LORD. . . . "The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame; but the house of Esau shall be stubble; they shall kindle them and devour them, and no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau. For the LORD has spoken."
He pronounces this against the nation of Edom, but it could be pronounced in principle against anyone who comes to believe and act as though he is invulnerable by ignoring the reality of God and the consequences of sin.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and Human Pride
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Psalms 73:1: