Weds 28 September - Psalm 49
1 Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
2 both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
4 I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:
5 Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
6 those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?
7 No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
8 the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
9 so that they should live on forever
and not see decay.
10 For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.
11 Their tombs will remain their houses forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.
12 People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
14 They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.
15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
he will surely take me to himself.
16 Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
when the splendour of their houses increases;
17 for they will take nothing with them when they die,
their splendour will not descend with them.
18 Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
and people praise you when you prosper—
19 they will join those who have gone before them,
who will never again see the light of life.
20 People who have wealth but lack understanding
are like the beasts that perish.
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Meditation on Psalm 49
This is a different style of psalm from others. Matthew Henry introduces this psalm in these words:
‘This psalm is a sermon, and so is the next. In most of the psalms we have the penman praying or praising; in these we have him preaching; and it is our duty, in singing psalms, to teach and admonish ourselves and one another.’
David Kuzik, in his introduction to this psalm, writes: ‘There are four kinds of riches. There are riches in what you have, riches in what you do, riches in what you know and riches in what you are – riches of character. The psalmist spoke of those who are only rich in the first way – the least important kind of wealth.’
And yet, money is talked about as a life and death situation.
Put the two quotes above together and we have a message from the psalmist in relation to money – those who have and those who wish they had.
- INTRODUCTORY MESSAGE Verses 1-4
This is a message ‘to all peoples’; ‘to all who live in this world.’
This is reminiscent of some of the prophets in their messages.
e.g. 1 Kings 22:24 This is Micaiah’s message to Ahab, king of Israel, as to whether Ahab should go into battle against Ramoth Gilead: “If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.”
Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!”
Isaiah 34:1: Isaiah is giving his judgments against the nations. He says, “Come near, you nations and listen; pay attention you peoples! Let the earth hear and all that is in it, the world and all that comes out of it.”
Micah 1:1: ‘The word of the LORD came to Micah … hear you peoples, all of you, listen earth and all who live in it, that the Sovereign LORD may bear witness against you, the LORD from His holy temple.’
This is not a word to a particular group of people or to any individuals. It is a word from the LORD for ALL peoples – ‘both low and high, rich and poor alike’.
The psalmist isn’t about to lead in praise or prayer, as is usual in the majority of psalms. He is about to teach based on his meditation. This becomes more like sayings from the books of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes. He is about to explain a ‘riddle’ in song as he plays the harp.
- WHERE IS MY TRUST? Verses 5-9
Money, including lack of it, is being talked about around the world as nations come to terms with the ‘rise in the cost of living’. We have just heard about the government’s policies to bring the country out of the present situation. Will it work? We will have to wait and see.
One thing we do know is that nations are in trouble financially for a number of reasons and people are living in fear of ‘the what next’.
The psalmist declares that his trust doesn’t depend on the ‘money in the bank’ - verse 5.
He knows that he is surrounded by those who ‘trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches.’
The problem isn’t the fact such people had money. No, it’s the fact that they ‘trusted and boasted of their great riches.’
There are biblical examples of those who were wealthy – e.g. Abraham and David – but they didn’t trust or boast in their riches because they trusted in the LORD.
Come forward to the ministry of Jesus and read again the parable He told when confronted with the question from someone in the crowd. Luke 12:13-21
The punch line is “this is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but who is not rich toward God.”
Money cannot buy the redemption of a life – ‘no payment is ever enough.’
‘The redemption of a soul is costly’ looks forward to the redemption that we have in Christ, who died and shed His blood so that we might be redeemed by Him and for him.
Voltaire, a French atheist and enemy of Christianity, was very popular and this made him very wealthy. But when he came to die, it is reported that he cried to his doctor in pained desperation. He said, “I will give you half of all I possess if you will give me six months more of life.”
But he died in despair.
Abba released a song in 1976, the title of which was ‘Money, Money, Money’.
Here is the first verse and chorus:
I work all night; I work all day to pay the bills I have to pay
Ain't it sad?
And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me. That's too bad
In my dreams I have a plan. If I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn't have to work at all, I'd fool around and have a ball
Money, money, money, Must be funny In the rich man's world
Money, money, money, Always sunny In the rich man's world
Aha! All the things I could do If I had a little money
It's a rich man's world.
Has much changed since 1976?
People often misquote Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:10. He didn’t say that money is the root of all evil. He said ‘the love of money is the root of all evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.’
God bless those He has blessed with money. O God, help them to use it wisely and for your glory and the extension of your kingdom.
Our prayer is, Lord, help me to trust in you, knowing that you will never let me down.
- NO NEED TO FEAR DEATH Verses 9-15
The psalmist reminds us that we will all die.
We know today that Jesus is coming back for His bride, His redeemed people from their graves but also those who are still alive when He comes.
The psalmist then gives us his words of wisdom as he challenges us to think about death.
He focuses on ‘the foolish and senseless’ as they face death.
We may all leave our ‘wealth to others’, whether family, friends or missions but the foolish and senseless will spend much of their wealth on their tombs. They want to make it like home. But, like homes, decay sets in if not looked after. So, too, will our bodies decay. There is no other way – we are no better off than the animals.
David Kusik says: The psalmist paints a ghastly picture. A man Is buried like an animal and death consumes his material body. Of their once-beautiful bodies, their beauty shall be consumed in the grave.’
BUT… the psalmist makes us pause and consider our own situation as a child of God as he refers to ‘the upright’. It’s as if their beauty will remain so that when Jesus comes and the dead in Christ will rise first and their decayed body will become their resurrection body and we will be ‘caught up to meet the Lord in the air, to be forever with the Lord.’
He’s not finished yet in his encouragement to the people of God. Here is the promise of the resurrection of the saints. Dwell on this for a while: ‘But God will redeem me from the realms of the dead; He will surely take me to Himself.’
- A SOLEMN CONCLUSION Verses 16-20
The psalmist draws all the threads of what he has said into his conclusion as he ends this teaching session. Those who are wealthy, in spite of their riches and wealth, cannot take any of it with them.
Trapp says, ‘money is the monarch of this world but not of the next.’
This is what the psalmist means when he says ‘they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendour will not descend with them.’
Those who have no thought of God in this life will, as the psalmist says, ‘never again see the light of life’
We conclude with words of Jesus, “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?”