Paul preached on Psalm 49, a psalm which has a lot to say to the believer but also a worry to the unbeliever. It shows a need to focus on what is important – that which is eternal. The psalm, unlike the majority of psalms, was not written to be sung but it more akin to Ecclesiastes in its style of wisdom literature. Its audience are the inhabitants of the world, it applies to everyone. The nation of Israel contained believers and non-believers – as in the church today. In verse 4 we see that it is going to be made clear what is not obvious: ‘I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.’
There are two themes in the psalm:
- The mortality of man
- The value of the soul.
No-one would deny, unless the Lord comes again, we will all die. Many people seek to leave their mark on the world. It gives some people a sense of meaning. They think their name will endure forever. It gives some sense of immortality. ‘Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names.’ (v. 11). This is not the only way to seek immortality. Architects want to leave behind a bridge, politicians all want to be fondly remembered with a mention in the history books or a plaque. The hopelessness in this psalm is highlighted in verse 14: ‘Like sheep 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.’ The majority of people in our country would say death is the end.
The Bible tells us Adam and Eve were intended to live forever. Only when they sinned, death came into the world. Many generations later we sin and we die. Yet we have not got used to the idea of death. By focusing on the immortality of earth, they have eternal death.
The Value of the Soul:
‘But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me.’ (v. 15). It doesn’t matter how rich we become, no-one can redeem his brother or himself. The rich may spend their money on health and diet to stay alive but there is no amount of money that can save us from death. No amount of money can buy you out of hell or into heaven.
The Lord Jesus Christ laid His glory aside. He was the Lord of the universe yet He took humanity. He was born into a carpenter’s family, in an unfashionable town in a conquered country. He lived a humble life among sinners. He offered His life on a cross as a ransom. He took the wrath of God on Himself for our sins. For the first time ever He faced separation from His Father. The redemption of the soul is costly.
How can we apply this psalm? There is hope for a sinner. God says today is the day of salvation. The redemption of the soul is costly but there is no cost to you. Repentance and belief bring you into the family of God. The Lord Jesus Christ says, ‘In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.’ (John 14:2) Arrangements will be made for you. If God is calling you today, don’t trifle with Him.
This psalm is an encouragement to look heaven-ward. Don’t worry what others do well. Some invest everything in the here and now, your investments are long term. Don’t lose your focus.
Psalm 73 begins, ‘Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.’ Don’t lose your focus on the things which are important. ‘I went into the sanctuary of God, then I understood their end.’ (Psalm 73:17).
Those who live for Christ, make an investment you make now. Offer praise from your heart, give thanks every day that your soul has been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ. God will receive you, ‘But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me.’ (Psalm 49:15). Death for the Christian is to be received by God for His glory into heaven. Be thankful.