When Asaph entered the sanctuary, he saw the throne of God, and then he saw his heart.
Remember that day when Jesus told Simon to put out into the deep waters and let down their nets for a catch of fish? Simon Peter answered Jesus, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5, ESV). Peter was tired. He was also disbelieving, lacking faith in Christ. What happened next? Luke wrote that after they threw the nets into the water, they caught a large number of fish. Their nets were breaking with all of the fish. They had to call other fishermen to come and help them. After that incident, Simon Peter “fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Luke 5:8, ESV).
That’s what happens when we see God in His holiness. We begin to see ourselves in our sinfulness (Isa. 6:1-6). After Asaph entered the sanctuary, he saw himself. He confessed in v. 22, “I was brutish . . . toward you” (ESV). “Brutish and ignorant” are metaphors of a “beast.” “Brutish” here is from wlam, from alam, “to be tongue-tied . . . be dumb, put to silence” (Strong). Have you faced a silent cow, or a silent dog, or a silent cat? It looks tongue-tied, silent, and ignorant about your ways. This is the picture here of Asaph. He called himself, “ignorant,” which is an interesting word. It is a compound of the verb, “know,” and a particle which negates the meaning of the verb, “know.” And so Asaph was saying literally, “I was NOT knowing before you, Lord.” “I did not know, Lord.”
There’s an old story of a man who was walking at night, and saw another man searching for something near a lamp post. Approaching, he asked the man what he was looking for, and the man, without looking up, replied, “My watch”. The first man asked, “Well, precisely where were you standing when you dropped it?” “Over there somewhere.” Incredulous, the first man said, “Well then sir, why are you looking for it here?” “Because sir, the light is better here!” (www.sermoncentral.com. Accessed July 17, 2009)
Like that man, Asaph was looking at the wrong place. He didn’t know where to look. Asaph seemed to be saying, “I was ignorant, Lord, about your judgment of the wicked. I did not realize that You will still vindicate your people.” He was ignorant until he entered the sanctuary of God.