August 2nd 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

What is manifestly clear is that in any ultimate sense neither management nor unions - nor government - have the answer to the question of fair conditions in industry (this is not to say, of course, that every honourable effort should not be made to make them as fair as possible). But the Psalmist has an answer, and his message is the message of Christ: 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth...but...treasures in heaven' (Matthew 6:19, 20). The Psalmist has been taught of God to look at all these things from the standpoint of eternity and immortality. This is where true riches lie. In the second stanza of the Psalm (13-20) he looks at what follows man's earthly end. The metaphor in 14 is a remarkable one: the 'grave' (Sheol) is represented as a great fold into which flocks are driven. 'Death' is the shepherd of that dark and dim realm - and what a contrast to the Good Shepherd and the still waters of righteousness! The 'But God' in 15 underlines the reality of divine grace and the victory of faith. The contrast is complete: there are two kinds of life, life in which death has the final say, and life in which God has the final say. And if a man has the assurance that God will take care of him after his death, then he is rich, with the only wealth that matters. This is what God has said to him and this is the message he is intent on proclaiming to all who will hear.