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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

"(3) For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked...(13) All in vain have I kept my heart clean...(16,17) But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end...(19) how they are destroyed in a moment...(20) like a dream when one awakes...(28) for me it is good to be near God."
- Psalm 73:3, 16, 17, 19, 20, 28

You may or may not (for plenty of good reasons) remember the movie Requiem for a Dream that was based on the novel with the same title. It's a controversial and brutally honest story about human ambition and addictions. The story follows multiple characters and their personal pursuit of their hope-filled dreams. Tragically, their means to make their dreams reality slowly imprison them, and their dreams are put to death by the reality of their disillusioned lives. This gritty and depressing story ends with each character defeated by their dreams and left helpless by their reality.

Psalm 73 depicts a similar story, yet it gives the all-important lens to distinguish a nebulous dream from the firmness of reality. The Psalmist is struggling with the problem of evil. He sees it all around him and its rather prestigious aura. Those who embrace evil "are not stricken like the rest of mankind" but are "fat and sleek." Who is not envious of such a life? Yet, those with such a life think they have no need of the knowledge and wisdom of the creator God. They mock such a thought, and the Psalmist is left to question his pursuit of holiness. The desire to be the people of God can seem seems empty compared to the prestige of evil. Is the pursuit of God done in vain? Is holiness really emptiness? In light of the progress of the world, the struggle and temptation of envy is real.

This struggle weakens the Psalmist like the burden of a seemingly unsolvable problem. Ready to throw up his hands and give up the struggle, he goes into the temple ﹘ and everything is turned upside down. The Temple of God, where heaven and earth meet, and God rightfully rules and dwells with man over all creation in perfect harmony, grants the Psalmist a picture of the culmination of all things. Evil and its prestige, the world's fatness and sleekness, humanity and its unharmed happy progress are all a dream. He experiences the requiem for a dream. It will all end so quickly that it's like "phantoms." This embrace of evil and ambition for the world is a disillusioned dream that ironically imprisons those that fall for it. Defeat and helplessness are all that remain. The temple is the death for that dream.

The Psalmist is shaken out of this envious dream state and is restored to the hope of temple life--a life where God and man are reconciled together, and creation itself is restored by the confrontation and defeat of evil. He must turn to the temple in his struggle. How much more do we have to discern the phantom-like dream of the present evil age? We have our King who inaugurated His kingdom in His life, death, and resurrection. When we embrace Christ crucified, we are looking to the temple like the Psalmist. Christ crucified is the beginning of the cosmic renewal of all things. This is why Revelation portrays the Lamb that was slain at the center of its theological vision. It is this slain Lamb that that is able to open and complete God's redemptive purposes. This purpose is beautifully depicted throughout Revelation, but comes to its fruition in chapter 21: "Then I saw a new heaven and new earth...and the sea was no more...Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people." The death for the dream occurs as we look to our crucified Lord who faces and deals with evil, and reconciles the Creator and creation.

Does evil and the seeming progression of the world's desires have an increasing influence on you? Is it slowly changing your ambition for that which is "fat and sleek"? Is it making holiness look empty? The struggle is real, because evil will look prestigious and God's rule will be questioned. We must look to our crucified Lord, embrace His redemptive plan, live among His new creation people, and re-enter the world with the discernment of evil's end. Prayer and fasting are necessary elements to struggle well. It puts us in a position to see the enviable world as it truly is: a phantom-like dream. Let's pray and fast together so that we experience anew the requiem for a dream and the reality of the coming new creation. "It is good to be near God."

Jon Yeager
Ministry Fellow at Yale