A Message for All: Chapter 49
Psalm 49 seems to echo, in great part, the ideals of Ecclesiastes, that life is fleeting and all is “in vain”. Here, the chapter opens up with a call for everyone to consider, in great detail, wisdom. And unlike many of his other writings, David is not speaking specifically to Israel here.
Furthermore, he stresses that this message is not simply for a specific class of people. Both the rich and the poor need to hear it. It appeals to all, is applicable to all, and none will escape it.
From One Who Knows
“Wisdom” and “understanding” are both terms used to signify something learned through experience. Some things you can read in a book and have “head knowledge” of the thing, but when you actually go through something, you’re much more inclined to be able to speak from a place of knowledge depth that simply doesn’t come from reading a book or sitting in on a class or watching a video.
The term “dark saying”, in verse four, is translated in the Septuagint as “riddle”. In both, it seems to allude to that which is hard to understand. He has turned his understanding into something he can turn into music. Any musician can certainly understand this!
No Need To Fear, Except…
Verse five is plain in speaking to the fact that when bad things happen, why should he fear? There is a kind of “backup” knowledge that God is our ever-present defender, and as such, leaves us no room for fear.
However, those that trust their riches, or worse still, are prideful of it, will not be able to do a thing in the world against death and the grave. And there’s no way to pay a ransom to save another soul from God’s wrath, should it come to that.
There is only ONE redemption. If a body dies unredeemed, there is no more hope to be had. It’s truly “over”. That should be the only fear that drives us and makes us want to push harder and pray harder. Not just for ourselves, but for our family and friends, while there’s time.
No Corruption for Those That Live Forever
It would be easy to be prideful about all the things of life if a body were to live forever. But the truth is, they don’t. Yes, you can cheat the worm for a while with embalming, but even a lead coffin doesn’t leave much to do with the dead inside.
Even the most beautiful, the wealthiest, and yes, even the wisest, cannot live forever. So corruption will come. And when it does, all that he had, save for the wisdom in his own brain, will be left to others. Their houses and land, they’ll be left to someone else, passed down through generations, and some will even be named after their own.
Still, riches or not, honor and wisdom or not, reverence or not, when someone passes, as far as those left behind are concerned, they are just “gone”.
What Is the Worth of a Soul?
Those who spend the better portion of their lives saving up and putting away are often said to be “worth” such and such when they pass away. As if it’s a great thing that they were able to leave so much behind.
But what of their soul? What of salvation? What of a Godly heritage left behind that their children and grandchildren will be able to draw from? And why no mention of that?
Because it is a fearful thing, indeed, to fall into the hands of a Living God. When day breaks on the other side of eternity for those who have died in Jesus, great joy awaits! But if a person focuses only on the wealth and sustenance they can leave behind, they’ll know nothing of it if that’s all they cared about.
Redeemed From the Grave!
For those who know Jesus, there is great joy in understanding that the power of the grave, and all that it steals of this mortal body and earthly treasures, is consumed in victory! It is celebrated even by those left behind. But why?
Because when we leave behind the knowledge that we were born again, sealed into salvation according to His Plan, we leave our loved ones with the understanding that death is not “goodbye”, it’s rather, “see you later”. We will meet again. And we will know as we are known.
There’s no reason to be afraid of someone else’s wealth or financial well-being because they certainly aren’t going to take it with him. You’ve probably heard the saying that you’ve never seen a u-haul pulling a trailer, and David basically says the same thing in this chapter.
For those that think they “have arrived” by becoming rich may or may not understand that all they have…the very best of their lives…is nothing BUT this life. And even though David might not have understood the afterlife fully and completely, he still knew that the afterlife, for someone who loves and boasts in riches, would have to be something very dark. And he closes out the chapter by reminding us again, the world’s honor means nothing in the world to come.
God’s Judgement: Chapter 50
The idea of sacrifices in the Bible is a common one. But it’s also a common thing that God doesn’t care for sacrifices offered by those who are completely alienated from Him in all other ways. He desires mercy, and not sacrifice. And He wants more than just your hands…He wants your heart.
We can see from the first parts of this chapter that there will be a great summoning and a great judgment as God gathers His people. But here’s a little spoiler alert: He’s looking for relationship. Not religion.
Not All Sacrifices are Relational
Even in the very first sacrifices, God respects one and not the other. This was long before there were ever any laws to adhere to, so we can’t chalk it up to that. What we do know is what God said to Cain about his offering:
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin sieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.Genesis 4:7
A simple decision to “do what is right” is not something worthy of acceptance in God’s eyes. We don’t know exactly what it was about Cain’s sacrifice that God would not respect, but it was enough that Cain’s jealousy enraged him to the point of murder!
Fair Judgment of Righteousness
While God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), He IS a respecter of sacrifices…of praise…of worship…and of a heart fully devoted to Him. THAT is why Jesus had this to say:
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.Matthew 7:22-23
The book of Luke records it this way:
Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.Luke 13:26-28
No, God will judge with a righteous judgment and many who thought their good works and sacrifices were enough, will be thrust out.
Rituals are not Sacrifices
There is a righteous sacrifice that we all must give. However, God is not interested in sheer rituals full of emptiness. He has no use for nor takes any pleasure in ceremonies that are strictly of a religious nature. This allowed people the opportunity to excuse their sin, but their hearts certainly weren’t in it.
Sacrifices should be closely linked to the covenant, i.e. relationship, that people have with God personally. A sacrifice was to be proof of the covenant/relationship. Instead, people were trying to CREATE that covenant THROUGH their sacrifice. As if saved by “works” and not faith.
They Already Belong to God
It’s obvious that God doesn’t need sacrifices, because they all belong to Him anyway!
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mind. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.Psalm 50:10-12
If God “needed” an animal or bird, there would be nothing stopping Him from taking one at his discretion. After all, it’s not our sacrifices that sustain Him.
Beyond Mere Ritual
More important to God than simply rituals of a strictly religious nature are thinks like trust in Him, a heart that is thankful, and a life that illustrates the obedience that lives in a believer’s heart. And the reward for such a sacrifice?
“I will deliver thee” (Psalm 50:15)
Just going through the motions won’t cut it. Going to church every time the doors are open is great. Tithing to the penny is necessary. Singing along with the worship team is exhilarating. But if you’re doing all of those things and aren’t thankful – truly thankful – in your heart, then you’re not even in the ballpark.
Wickedness Has Its Reward Too
The “wicked” referred to in this Psalm are the Israelites who were rebellious. But in their rebelliousness, they continue to speak of His covenants and commandments as if they meant something to them. And this is so important for us today!
If rebellion is considered wickedness, we MUST study to show ourselves approved, and rightly divide the Word of God. Are we constantly speaking about God as if we know Him? If we are, our hearts should reflect that or we simply will be labeled rebellious.
We must enter into the covenant through obedience and sacrifice. Because ritual, vainglorious attempts to earn the favor of God will not work.
Seeing thou hatest instruction, and casteth my words behind thee.Psalm 50:17
Declarations Are Empty
If we believe that simply saying something makes it so, we might not be rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Especially if we “hate” the instructions and words. In David’s day, this would have been the laws and the prophecies received.
In our day, it is the doctrine of Jesus and the disciples and apostles that went on to preach the Gospel after Jesus’ ascension. Many people go about their days thinking their “Sunday service” is enough. But God has rebuked people before for mere lip service and ritual affection. He’s seen it before, and it’s not new to Him.
A Heart Check
I’m pretty sure no jury of peers would condemn a professing Christian for outright hatred or hostility. We can candy-coat the outside and still be like a white-washed tomb, full of dead men’s bones, as Jesus said in rebuke of the Pharisee’s nature.
However, there are many who cast his Words away, discard the distasteful doctrines that lead to salvation, and continue to speak highly of Him and the sacrifices you offer that make you look good.
We’ve all been there! We’ve all made a mockery of God in some way. Which is why His mercy and grace are always necessary. Sometimes daily! Praise God that repentance leads us all back to the feet of Jesus and all that He has for us as we TRULY live for Him!
What parts of these two chapters stood out most to you? In looking back over these Psalms, it’s nice to find a refreshing, don’t you think? A check in our spirit that can renew us to a right standing with Jesus in every way. I pray you found something in them that touched you.
Lord Jesus, make us ever mindful of Your desire for our lives! Keep us focused on what You want and less concerned with what our flesh desires. We know that you want all our hearts, our obedience, our righteousness. Give us a burning desire to always know Your Word, to hide it in our hearts, and to allow You to bring it to our remembrance as necessary. And we’ll never fail to give you all the glory and the praise and the honor. In Jesus’ mighty Name, Amen!