Beastly Christians

volume 18, number 47, November 21, 2019

“. . . I was like a beast before Thee.” -Psalm 73:22

Perhaps you know a professing Christian who is acting beastly. Maybe that explains you at this present time. I have known people who have given every evidence of strong, Biblical faith, who were very faithful in walking with the Lord, sharing the gospel with people, who reared their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and who yet departed from the faith, and for a period of time, acted in a decidedly beastly fashion. What shall we say about such people? Did they lose their salvation? Did they commit the unpardonable sin? Were they never saved in the first place? This is pretty frightening stuff. What about you? Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? 

What does the Psalmist mean by the phrase, “I was like a beast before Thee”? Psalm 73 is a classic Biblical passage on the age old question, “Why do the wicked prosper?” He begins his Psalm by laying out his complaint, verses 1-9. He is quick to say that God is good to His people Israel, to those who are pure in heart, who love Him and seek to serve Him, verse 1. But then he very honestly tells us his situation (I am paraphrasing), “As far as I am concerned, as I survey the situation, I have come very close to stumbling, falling away from the faith altogether,” verse 2. 

In verses 3-9 he tells us precisely why he finds himself in this precarious and dreadful thought process. The wicked are prospering, they die without pain, they are fat, having plenty to eat. They don’t have any major problems. All seems to go very well for them. Consequently they wear their pride like a necklace. They want everyone to see how well they have it. Graphically he tells us that their eye bulges with fatness and their imaginations of grandeur run riot over everything. They mock and speak wickedly of oppressing people. They are rebellious against God and their speech of vileness is on parade for all the world to see. They act as though they have no concerns about their behavior. They seem to be getting away with blasphemy, injustice, and elitism. 

In verses 10-14 he tells us the result this is having on those who are wicked and prospering. In their abundance of resources they forget that God sees everything and that they all face the judgment of God for their actions and speech. This, he says, summarizes the attitude of the wicked. They are living in luxury and ease. This is working very negatively on his heart and mind. 
In verses 15-20 the Psalmist begins to figure out the situation. He realizes that he cannot keep thinking and speaking this way because this will cause other believers to stumble and fall into the same sin of whining and complaining about how well wicked people seem to be doing. But in verse 16 the light comes on in his mind. “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God. Then I perceived their end.” As he moved toward God, as he entered the holy place of communion with the true and living God, then he gained the Biblical perspective. They are in slippery places. Moses says that their feet will slip in due time (Deut.32:35). In fact God placed them there because of their rebellion against Him. They would soon go down to destruction. When the Lord decides to move on them, they will then receive the full measure of His wrath reserved for all who do not obey the gospel of God in the coming Messiah. 

But the Psalmist is still not finished, verses 21-24. He seems to be going back to his original complaint in the beginning of the Psalm. His bitterness of heart is like a knife plunged into his kidneys. Consequently he has lost his way. He is not thinking clearly. He is allowing all manner of lies to inundate his soul. He is like a beast before God. This term “beast” can mean at least two things. He was stupid, unable to think or reason like any animal (Psalm 49:20, Ecclesiastes 3:18), and thus unable to act in the proper way. Or it can be that he was like the strong bulls of Bashan which encircled David and then the Lord Jesus, like ravening and roaring lions which rip their prey apart and then consume their flesh (Psalm 22:12,13). On the one hand to act beastly is to be stupid, dull of mind, to think in a decidedly unbiblical fashion. On the other hand, it is to act in a vicious, murderous manner. 
So, let’s get back to your situation or of others you have known. Are you a true Christian if you have fallen grievously into sin? Are you a “born again” Christian if you once walked with Christ but presently have turned completely away from serving Him?

There is hope for you, my friend. There is hope for those you know who are now in this condition. Note what the Psalmist says in the following verses, “Nevertheless I am continually with Thee, Thou hast taken hold of my right hand. With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me and afterward receive me to glory,” (verses 23,24). Even though he has been a beast before God, the Psalmist nonetheless is confident that the Lord is still with him and that His great Savior will take him to glory in due time. And he comes to the glorious and necessary conclusion that he has no one else to trust, no one else to turn to in his dismay and beastly behavior. He is delighting only in the Lord of glory. 

But how does he know he still belongs to God? How can you be sure of this? The answer, my friend, is found in 1 John 3:18-20, “Little children, let us not love with word or tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our hearts before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.” The true believer is not one who never sins. Rather he is one who, when he sins, finds the convicting work of the Holy Spirit judging him, condemning him. Now this is not a condemnation of hell, for Christ has already born hell for him, but it is a genuine, heartfelt awareness of sin and folly. The false professor never has true Biblical conviction or repentance. He may feel badly because he was caught in sin or because he is suffering the consequences of his sin, but the bad feelings never amount to the devastation a true believer experiences when he can say, “Against Thee, and Thee only have I sinned,” (Psalm 51:4).

So, if you have fallen away from the faith, if you know others who have turned away from following Christ, who have acted beastly in throwing away the truth they have known, who have been cruel and hateful toward loved ones; but who nonetheless have returned to the Lord through a deep work in the conviction of sin, resulting in repentance and restitution (in the Bible restitution always is connected with money, paying back those from whom we have stolen or harmed) then they, you, are able to proclaim, “Nevertheless I am continually with Thee, Thou hast taken hold of my right hand. With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me and afterward receive me to glory.”  

The true believer, one who has been born again by the Spirit and who has the life of God in his soul, will know that those who are far from the Lord will perish, but he will also know that the nearness of God is his good. And because he has made the Lord God his refuge, he is able and willing to tell everyone who will listen of His mighty works, verses 27,28.  

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