Tuesday, December 9, 2008

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Hip-Pocket Materials: Psalm 73

It’s always a good idea to have a few standby topics in your hip pocket for when you don’t have much time to prepare. Psalm 73 is one of my favorite “hip pocket” texts for group devotionals. It’s nicely set up to generate great open discussion about some penetrating issues.

Read the whole Psalm together, but here are some suggestions on where to focus your discussion time.

The first half (vv. 1-14) describes a man frustrated with how the wicked seem to prosper while the righteous struggle. It opens with how the author’s feet had “almost slipped,” and culminates with:

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. (vv.13-14)
  • Questions: Have your feet ever “almost slipped” in this way? Can you associate with the Psalmist’s feeling of exasperation with this kind of injustice?

Then the Psalmist pivots, and brings up an crucial point:

If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed your children. (v.15)

  • Questions: Have you caught yourself bemoaning your circumstances against the success of people who don’t seem to deserve it? How does this kind of complaining “betray” the children of God?

When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God;then I understood their final destiny. (vv.16-17)

  • Question: How can entering the “sanctuary of God” alter your perspective on questions of injustice? (Job is a great example here.)

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. (vv. 21-22)

  • Questions: What kind of mindset is the Psalmist describing here? Has this ever been your mindset? What brought it on?

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. (v.28)

  • Questions: How would you describe the Psalmist's outlook at the end of the Psalm? How was he able to move from his bitterness to this new attitude? (Hint: Go back to v.17 and following ...)

Spend a few minutes in Psalm 73 yourself, and let God lead you through some vital issues of the heart: discontenment, bitterness, complaining ... as well as joy, trust and the eternal perspective. Then consider how you might be able to use this as a baseline from which to lead your small group through some of the same issues.

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