Psalms 1 - 50by Mike Raiter
The book of Hebrews gives a summary of life in saying: ″People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment″ (Hebrews 9:27). Of course, there is much more to our time on earth than waiting for death and judgment, but this highlights the importance of giving serious thought to the fact-and implication-of these two great realities. Or, in the words of Psalm 49: ″People, despite their wealth, do not endure″ (v. 12).
To read Psalm 49 is to enter the world of the wisdom books like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The psalm is addressed to the rich who have placed false security in their wealth. It is true that, under the old covenant, one of the marks of God's blessing was material wealth. This has changed under the new covenant, where God's blessings are primarily spiritual. But it is also true that wealth was never a guarantee of membership in God's kingdom. Indeed, as we have seen in the psalms, God regularly used the term ″the poor″ to describe His people (e.g. 37:14).
Psalm 49 proclaims the path of salvation from death. We are told that a human life is so precious that all the money in the world cannot ransom it from the grave (vv. 7-9). What price, then, can be paid to ransom someone from death, and who can pay that price? The question posed by Psalm 49 is answered by the gospel. God has redeemed us, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, ″but with the precious blood of Christ″ (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Then the psalm brings a word of warning to those who trust in themselves, and an encouragement to the righteous. The rich are like sheep who follow their shepherd-Death-all the way to the grave (Psalm 49:14). However, those who trust in the Lord can confidently say: ″God will redeem me from the realm of the dead, he will surely take me to himself″ (v. 15).
Psalm 49 is one of the clearest proofs we have that believers under the old covenant believed that after death they would live and be with their Lord. We who have put our trust in Jesus have an even greater certainty, because of our ″living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead″ (1 Peter 1:3).
How can we be tempted to envy the rich? Why is it that having riches sometimes blinds people from seeing spiritual realities?
The Bible suggests that it is wise to remember the reality of death (see 1 Timothy 6:6-10). How can we remind others of this truth appropriately and sensitively?