Lord, I remain aware of my mortality and of my total need for You.
Read PSALM 49
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
1 Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
2 both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
4 I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:
5 Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
6 those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?
7 No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
8 the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
9 so that they should live on forever
and not see decay.
10 For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.
11 Their tombs will remain their houses[b] forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had[c] named lands after themselves.
12 People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.[d]
14 They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
far from their princely mansions.
15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
he will surely take me to himself.
16 Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
when the splendor of their houses increases;
17 for they will take nothing with them when they die,
their splendor will not descend with them.
18 Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
and people praise you when you prosper—
19 they will join those who have gone before them,
who will never again see the light of life.
20 People who have wealth but lack understanding
are like the beasts that perish.
a Psalm 49:1 In Hebrew texts 49:1-20 is numbered 49:2-21.
b Psalm 49:11 Septuagint and Syriac; Hebrew In their thoughts their houses will remain
c Psalm 49:11 Or generations, / for they have
d Psalm 49:13 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here and at the end of verse 15.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Thank the Lord that “in his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).
Seats in the countryside often display a plaque, naming someone in whose memory relatives have given the bench, and I usually utter a word of thanks. In New Zealand, many towns and natural landmarks have been given the names of prominent Europeans. In another country I came across the statue of a prominent citizen, erected by the man himself! These are attempts to perpetuate the names of certain individuals—and all are brought under scrutiny by today’s psalm, which reminds us, in the words of Walter Brueggemann, that “death is the great leveler” (Message of the Psalms, 108).
The “rich and poor alike” are addressed (2), as both come to the same end. We are encouraged neither to “fear” when ill-treated by “those who trust in their wealth” (5,6) nor to “be overawed” by ostentation (16). We could paraphrase verse 17 in the words of the old adage, “there are no pockets in a shroud.” God’s words to the rich man in Jesus’ parable are similarly blunt: “You fool!” (Luke 12:20). In a comment on verse 11, Willem Van Gemeren wrote that “apart from archaeologists few people are interested in the tombs of the rich” (F. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 369). The truth is that, for many of us on a global scale, we are “the rich.”
In the darkness of this psalm, two verses shine like shafts of light, illuminating the work of Christ centuries later. Verse 7 simply states that it is impossible for the rich to buy off death, but Christians inevitably associate the word “ransom” with Jesus’ death. Verse 15 is as startling as its opening two words; it is, quoting Brueggemann again, “an evangelical statement of the power of God… an assertion which changes everything” (Message of the Psalms, 110). Christ has redeemed us by paying the impossible ransom.
If money talks, what does it say to you? How do you reply?
Lord, Your people request in earnest that You never allow the accumulation of money and earthly goods to short-circuit our walk with You.