Psalms 46-50 No man can ransom another or give to God the price of his life

From Psalms 46-50

19 Psalms Fragment

This is the first of the Psalms we will look at from the Sons of Korah. The Psalm itself indicates they used it to instruct people in what is important in life.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

1 Hear this, all peoples! Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,

2 both low and high, rich and poor together!

3 My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.

4 I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre. (Ps 49.1-4)

They make the call to all peoples of the world.

We would be right to include ourselves in this call.

They are presenting their instruction, not merely by words of command or in a book. The wisdom they present is meant to be made alive in music and song.

5 Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,

6 those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?

7 Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life,

8 for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice,

9 that he should live on forever and never see the pit. (Ps 49.5-9)

What would it cost to ensure that a person could live forever?

Some try to accumulate as much wealth as they can in this life by sin and wrongdoing. But what does it matter because no man can ransom another. Only God can make up the cost and he looks on at the vain attempts of man.

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. (Ps 49.10-12)

I’m wondering if at this point their listeners want to continue listening to their song. ‘Hey all you people, all your striving for wealth will not avail you. Your going to perish anyhow.’ Yet some people persist.

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 (Ps 49.13-15)

The Sons of Korah compare those who seek after the wealth of this world with the upright. The first have foolish confidence in their way of life and in the wealth they seek. They are comforted by those who approve of their actions.

Yet the upright will eventually rule over them because God will ransom them from the power of death and receive them into his everlasting kingdom.

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. (Ps 49.16-20)

So their listeners are urged not to be fearful when someone becomes rich and they don’t. Because when they die, they will have nothing. Their earthly glory will not continue. The Sons leave it unsaid the destiny of God’s people will be different. God will raise them to life, they will be glorified.

Story of Jesus

Jesus also encouraged his listeners with the same message.

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers7—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ” (Lk 16.19-31)

He alludes of course at the end to his own resurrection.

He also points out the destiny of those who believe in God and trust in him regardless of whether they are rich or poor.

Don’t worry about pursuing wealth even though it may make you comfortable now. Instead seek God and the blessings he alone can give.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.