Devotional · Hymns · Old Testament · Psalms

Psalms for Psome – Ps 49 – B

My wife and I are reading through the Psalms in our evening reading and occasionally a nugget of the Psalms jumps out of the page. Don’t you love it when, after years of reading the “Old Book” passages become alive, reinforcing old teachings or simply warming your heart.

This is the book of Psalms, and it is rich.

I pray I can communicate a portion of the blessing we receive from this wonderful book.

Psalm 49

5    Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
6 those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?
7 Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
8 for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
9 that he should live on forever
and never see the pit.

The psalmist starts out with the topic of fear, yet not his fear of death, but of those who trust in their riches. During his description of his fear he introduces the universality of death. All die. Rich and poor alike. Yet in the reflection of the psalmist, he centers in on the difference between the rich and poor in death. This comparison between the rich and poor is carried on throughout the psalm. Our standing in life, whether we are rich or poor, influences us in relation the death. Our standing in life creates an environment that fosters certain attitudes during our life regarding our eventual death.

Verse 5 begins with the poor asking himself why he is experiencing fear in relation to the sins of others. The rich cheat and steal, perform iniquity with abandon and the poor man experiences this abuse, for the rich man has the power! Surprisingly the abuse is not the focus though, for the poor speaks of fear in troubling times. Can you identify with the poor man?

On a personal note, it seems obvious that in our day, fear is not simply a by-product of the rich man abusing the poor, but is actually a vehicle to influence the poor to gain power over them. It seems troubling times are ever present with us, dangers continually nipping at our heals. A continual state of fear is bubbling up in our society. For the believer, how are we to relate to this?

We must understand that for the psalmist, his wisdom brings to us the truth that death is the great equalizer. We all die, and the rich have no advantage.

Verse 7 is central. The psalmist continues the theme of how money (or possessions) impact a mans relation to his death. The passage hearkens back to the law in Exodus 21:30

If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him.

This ransom speaks of paying a price that a crime requires in order to make restitution, or to balance the books due to some injustice. We often think of ransom in relation to a kidnapping, yet this is not the intended message.

The context of the Exodus passage above is that some rich man owns an ox that is known for hurting others, yet does not keep it secure, allowing the ox to gore again. If the ox kills the victim, the owner shall suffer a like sentence. He shall be put to death. Justice is harsh!

Yet the law of God allows an opportunity for the victim’s family to accept payment from the ox owner as a ransom, providing an alternate outcome for the owner. He gets to live! This ransom of the owners life is accomplished with money, whatever amount the victim’s family decides. The psalmist hearkens back to this passage with his reference to ransom, and flatly states in verse 7, there is no ransom that may be paid for the life of a man,. You may think that this is a contradiction, but consider.

The passage in Exodus did not rescue him from death, but simply delayed the eventual time of death. He will still die.

That is the very point of Psalm 49. Everyone will die, and the rich have no advantage over the poor. Money is useless when death comes knocking.

The psalmist continues with the theme of cost, and brings together the two types of men in this psalm. Money cannot ransom the rich man, nor redeem the poor man. The currency required to ransom or redeem a man’s life cannot be carnal possessions of an earthly value system. This is the stock of idolatry! To be trusting in earthly goods is not an equally good choice when compared with trusting in God, but but an affront, an insult to the Lord. Earthly goods cannot ransom a rich man, and the poor man cannot be redeemed with things under heaven.

1 Peter 1:18-19

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

This portion of Psalm 49 provides the conclusion that no one shall live forever, that all will see the grave. The author speaks of the desires of the rich man who would live on this earth forever, avoiding the death that is universal.

Some who obviously have no knowledge of this psalm speak of living on earth forever. This desire is becoming mainstream news in our very lives. (Don’t get me going on the trustworthiness of news headlines, but take it for what it is worth!)

The psalm stands. We all die! Face it and prepare. Run to the One who has provided the “currency” that pleases God for the redemption of each man’s soul. His blood is the precious “coin” that provides the ransom/redemption that rich and poor alike need.

Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

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