Asaph goes on to acknowledge that God is his strength and portion (v. 26) and that God is his refuge (v. 28). But it is his exuberant proclamation in verse 25 that stands out: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”
The sanctuary and the ministry of the attending priests communicated God’s favor toward and fellowship with undeserving sinners. All this is captured in the Aaronic benediction in Numbers 6:22–27:
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
The Lord bless you and keep you,
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
God’s favor and fellowship is man’s greatest treasure because it answers our greatest problems: the wrath of God and separation from Him because of our sin. The world outside the sanctuary testifies to God’s present wrath and coming judgment. But the sanctuary of God offers present reconciliation and the promise of a new creation with unbroken fellowship with the Creator. The sanctuary puts life outside the sanctuary in perspective. It didn’t necessarily change the outward circumstances of God’s people, but it reminded them of His covenant faithfulness toward them. The teaching of the New Testament is that everything associated with the sanctuary of God, be it in the tabernacle or temple, finds its fulfillment in the mediatorial work of Christ (see John 1:14–18; Rom. 5:10–21; Eph. 2:11–22; Heb. 9:11–14; 10:19–22; 1 Peter 2:4–5). Faith in Christ attaches us to a reality that transcends our present circumstances. But our present circumstances matter to Him, and God is at work within those circumstances for our ultimate good. The riches of God’s grace in Christ are the lens through which we should view everything we experience in this fallen world. This seems to be Paul’s point in Philippians 4:12–13:
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
For many Christians, this passage is a life verse and a source of motivation. The takeaway is that Christ strengthens Christians to accomplish great things and overcome great obstacles. But the primary point that Paul is making is that Christ strengthens him in every situation (whether he overcomes it or not) to be content in that situation without anxiety or the fear that he has been abandoned.
Tough times, especially tough financial times, can be daunting, to say the least. Therefore, Christians should be careful in the counsel that they offer their brothers and sisters in those situations. There is not always an easy or foreseeable solution. We don’t want to hand them clichés or tell them to look for whatever lesson that the Lord is trying to teach them. Like the Heidelberg Catechism, we should point them to the person and finished work of Christ and call one another to trust God’s sovereign and sure purposes. There is nothing that separates them from the love of God or that negates anything purchased by the blood of Christ. Let us close with the words of Peter:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials. (1 Peter 1:3–6)