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Psalm 49 - God Redeems Souls

INTRODUCTION: The author of this Psalm is unknown, but some of the literary style is similar to THAT OF the Proverbs. The psalm contains observations of the goals of those who trust in wealth and achievement, and the utter futility of that perception as a worthy life. There is encouragement for those who trust in the LORD, especially when it is hard to understand why the ungodly seem to enjoy wealth and comfort in their lives. The psalmist concludes that it is far better to set our affections on the eternal promises rather than the transitory pleasures of a fleeting mortal existence.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the World English Bible.


Psalm 49 "1 [For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by the sons of Korah.] Hear this, all you peoples. Listen, all you inhabitants of the world, 2 both low and high, rich and poor together. 3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom. My heart shall utter understanding. 4 I will incline my ear to a proverb. I will open my riddle on the harp."

COMMENTS: This message was not reserved for Israel alone, but was to be heard by all people around the world. Words that are poetic or that are set to music are often much easier to call to mind when they are applicable to our thoughts on a related theme. All around the world there are mixtures of the rich and the poor within various language and societal groups, as this has continued to be so from the writing of the psalm down to our present age. If the psalmist has our attention, he will now proceed to unfold the rest of his message.


Psalm 49 "5 Why should I fear in the days of evil, when iniquity at my heels surrounds me? 6 Those who trust in their wealth, and boast in the multitude of their riches - 7 none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give God a ransom for him. 8 For the redemption of their life is costly, no payment is ever enough, 9 That he should live on forever, that he should not see corruption. 10 For he sees that wise men die; likewise the fool and the senseless perish, and leave their wealth to others. 11 Their inward thought is that their houses will endure forever, and their dwelling places to all generations. They name their lands after themselves. 12 But man, despite his riches, doesn't endure. He is like the animals that perish."

COMMENTS: Those who have placed their trust in the Living God must wait until they will no longer be in the days of evil in this life where many around them are hostile to the LORD and to his word. The ungodly person thinks that his prosperity is evidence that he has no need of reliance on God, and may even mock that there is no reason to believe God exists. But despite the volume of riches anyone may possess, there is no price they can offer for the redemption of their own soul, or for that of another, to bring them into eternal life and to save them from a death with finality. They should see that the wise and the fool alike eventually die, and any riches in this material world that a person has will all be left for someone else upon their death. Though a rich man may even name lands after himself, his death will have no more reward for him than that of the death of an animal. Proverbs 23 "4 Don't weary yourself to be rich. In your wisdom, show restraint. 5 Why do you set your eyes on that which is not? For it certainly sprouts wings like an eagle and flies in the sky." Jeremiah 9 "23 Thus says Yahweh, Don't let the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, don't let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 but let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am Yahweh who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, says Yahweh."


Psalm 49 "13 This is the destiny of those who are foolish, and of those who approve their sayings. Selah. 14 They are appointed as a flock for Sheol. Death shall be their shepherd. The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning. Their beauty shall decay in Sheol, far from their mansion. 15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah."

COMMENTS: Those who are foolish enough to believe that there is nothing more important than wealth and honor in this life, and those who agree with that concept and would hope to likewise achieve the same, will together face the same end. They will go to the place of permanent separation from the creator God, and those who have trusted God for righteousness will move into a position far superior to anything experienced in the mortal world. God will redeem from the power of death and Sheol those who belong to him. Proverbs 23 "17 Don't let your heart envy sinners; but rather fear Yahweh all the day long. 18 Indeed surely there is a future hope, and your hope will not be cut off."


Psalm 49 "16 Don't be afraid when a man is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased. 17 For when he dies he shall carry nothing away. His glory shall not descend after him. 18 Though while he lived he blessed his soul - and men praise you when you do well for yourself - 19 he shall go to the generation of his fathers. They shall never see the light. 20 A man who has riches without understanding, is like the animals that perish."

COMMENTS: Therefore, Christian, do not have any fear about your own reward when you see others who continue to increase in the goods of this life while they give no glory to the LORD. When they die absolutely none of their riches or honor will descend with them to their final place where they will have no joy. Even though there is much praise given to the successful people in the eyes of the world, they will go as so many before them, to a place where they will never see the light of life and the glory of the LORD. Those who have riches without the understanding of the true light of life will be like an animal that perishes.

Other passages agree that without laying up treasure in heaven, death brings an empty end to life because nothing of this world transfers. But even if all seems lost in this life, the LORD is still just to those who love him. Job 1 "20 Then Job arose, and tore his robe, and shaved his head, and fell down on the ground, and worshipped. 21 He said, "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be the name of Yahweh." 22 In all this, Job did not sin, nor charge God with wrongdoing." This was by no means easy for Job, and later passages in his book show he had the greatest struggle when others charged that he was being punished for sin against the LORD. But at the end of the story he was approved of God, and even offered sacrifice for his erroneous counselors as directed by the LORD. Jesus used a parable to address this subject of worthless trust in the wealth of the world. Luke 12 "16 He spoke a parable to them, saying, "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth abundantly. 17 He reasoned within himself, saying, 'What will I do, because I don't have room to store my crops?' 18 He said, 'This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns, and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 I will tell my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink, be merry."' 20 "But God said to him, 'You foolish one, tonight your soul is required of you. The things which you have prepared - whose will they be?' 21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.""

The Apostle Paul knew that there are times when Christians need encouragement to hold tightly to their faith. 1 Timothy 6 "6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can't carry anything out. 8 But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows." The scribe in this next passage was given a difficult choice when the Lord indicated there was no material comforts offered for those who follow him. Matthew 8 "19 A scribe came, and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." 20 Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.""

--- Reflections in prayer ---

Studying this psalm has been a good reminder to me Lord of the constant need I have to set my affections back on eternity. I thank you Lord, that you have redeemed my soul from the ultimate destruction that awaits those who reject your grace and mercy. I often struggle with the lure of material possessions, and I need your Spirit within me to bring Scripture to mind to help me resist any foolish pursuit. May I use all that you have blessed me with in material possessions in a manner that will honor you. I also want to have compassion toward others who are drawn away from your word by the desire for wealth and recognition, so I might be used of you to encourage them to consider the far greater reward of serving the one who provides eternal life. For me and for other Christians we must remember that riches are of no real value if we are not rich toward God. Thank you Lord for giving me the gift that remains with me after my mortal death. Amen and amen.

Published 18 April 2013