July 31st 2020 – Psalm 49

"To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

Hear this, all peoples!
    Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
both low and high,
    rich and poor together!
My mouth shall speak wisdom;
    the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
I will incline my ear to a proverb;
    I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.

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

10 For he sees that even the wise die;
    the fool and the stupid alike must perish
    and leave their wealth to others.
11 Their graves are their homes forever,
    their dwelling places to all generations,
    though they called lands by their own names.
12 Man in his pomp will not remain;
    he is like the beasts that perish.

13 This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
    yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah
14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
    death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
    Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
    for he will receive me. Selah

16 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
    when the glory of his house increases.
17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
    his glory will not go down after him.
18 For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
    —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
19 his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
    who will never again see light.
20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish."

Psalm 49

It is one of the remarkable and enriching experiences in reading the Psalms that we encounter so many different subjects within their compass. In this Psalm we find something different in atmosphere, in emphasis, and in message. There are no battles with enemies here, but rather a knotty problem to wrestle with, and a divine illumination given through the Psalmist, throwing light on dark places of human experience. It is a Wisdom Song, designed 'to give an answer to one of the very old, recurring riddles of life'. It has affinity therefore to what we sometimes call the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament, books like Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes. The problem, or mystery, has arisen from the Psalmist's own personal circumstances: he has wrestled with it, and light has broken through, and for him it has been solved. And now he discloses the thoughts and insights which have enabled him to achieve a balanced state of mind. The problem has to do with an experience of oppression which he has suffered at the hands of the wealthy. They have lorded it over him, and his heart has been filled with fear, bitterness, resentment and envy. And he tells us how he has succeeded in overcoming these things, and getting through to a place of victory. Such is the thesis of the Psalm.