Aristotle said that a plot is a unified action with a beginning, middle and an end. One of the central principles of plot is transformation. Stories rarely end where they begin. Change, growth and development are the essence of good storytelling.
Simply put, the songwriter of Psalm 73 is telling the story of a transformed life.
The transformation takes place in three scenes:
Opening Scene (vv. 2-3; 13-16) –“Truthful Angst”. The story’s opening scene presents a person with a heart-wrenching struggle. The major conflict of the story, as we have seen, is the collision of the theological setting and his raw experience. The lengthy description of the “arrogant-wicked” character shows his preoccupation with them. The songwriter has studied them; he has observed their every move it seems. Moreover, he has appears to have been able to discern their motives. Apparently, he has allowed his untamed imagination to fill in the blanks. His angst has made him unrealistic in his assessment of both the wicked and himself. Of course in truth, the wicked are no more unaffected by humanly struggles as he is affected.
In the first scene the songwriter paints an honest, albeit messy, portrait of himself as he wrestles together truth and life. There is however a glimmer of hope in the first scene as he instinctively realizes that to think and speak in these angst-ridden ways is to betray the truth. He keeps in his mind the legacy he will leave with his words and actions (v. 15).
Middle Scene (vv. 17-24) – “The Divine Encounter”. The middle scene presents the climax of the story bringing the resolution to his conflict but not in the way one might have expected. After attempting, to the point of exhaustion, to understand his conflict with this mind, for some reason he enters God’s sanctuary. In the sanctuary he meets God and his life is transformed by it. In a moment of divine encounter his blurry vision is cleared. With a glimpse of God, he sees reality as it really is. He perceives both the end of the wicked and the vindication of the righteous. And perhaps as profound, he gains perspective on his own life.
I find two points here powerful. First, the opening scene’s Truth Angst is not considered “sin” or “evil” or “wrong”. It maybe “brutish”, “ignorant” and “beast-like”, but nevertheless in this state he sees that God was with him the whole time. The songwriter realizes that in the midst of that dark place of his life God was walking him through. Second, it is important to note that nothing in the writer’s circumstances has changed. His divine encounter transformed him, not the external reality around him. But it is this perspectival transformation that makes all the difference. He sees his life, you might say, God-trospectively.
Final Scene (vv. 25-28) – “A God-ward Preoccupation”. The final scene presents the aftermath of the climax. And here we have some of the most intense language in the Bible: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (vv. 25-26). The songwriter becomes totally enraptured by God. The songwriter’s divine encounter has left him spellbound, infatuated, and gripped. But that’s not all. Lest we think of him as fixated and immobilized, he concludes the song with a newfound mission. A God-ward preoccupation is ultimately a vocation.
This story is not, however, a “once in a life time journey” one takes. But, rather, is meant to show the rhythm of life lived as one in relationship with God.
The plot gives us our third characteristic:
Characteristic Three: A real relationship with God is characterized by transformations: a God-centric life on mission.