A Reflection on Psalm 49
- Psalm 49 can be called a wisdom psalm, offering instruction to man rather than worship to God (vv. 1-4). Its theme of the futility of worldliness is summed up in the refrain (vv. 12 and 20): “Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beast that perish.”It also brings out into the open the assurance of victory over death. The great “BUT GOD…”in verse 15 is one of the mountaintops of the Old Testament hope—that is ultimately fulfilled in Christ through his incarnation, death and resurrection. One thing we learn from this psalm as well as other psalms is that the gaze of the psalmist—the pray-er—moves from what is happening around him to God above. And that should be happening to us regularly, as we carve out our time to intentionally connect with God in the midst of our busy lives: focusing on God first in order to have the right perspective on life.
- The psalmist begins by noting the reality of living under fear of men: “why should I fear in times of trouble; when the iniquity of those who cheat me surround me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?”(vv. 5-6) He is troubled by what he sees around him. He has been cheated; he has felt so powerless before the wealthy and the powerful. But he does not fully succumb to the temptations of wealth, power or fear of men. He exclaims, “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”(vv.7-9). His perspective on life is not confined to here and now and to horizontal relationships. His perspective on life is high and wide. He thinks before God and under the reality of God; he also thinks about the end of this life and the judgment that is to come. His focus is on God and primarily on relationship with God. He sees a sin problem before the holy God and the judgment that is coming upon all people—the rich and the poor, the wise and the fool, the young and the old.
- The psalmist offers a clear message to all peoples: Unless you humble yourself before God, you will die in sin and “is like the beasts that perish” (vv. 12, 20). Those of you who live without the fear of God will have “foolish confidence” and at the end of your life, you will have “death” as your shepherd (vv. 14-15). Those of you who live with the fear of God will have deep confidence in God—even before the rich and the powerful of this world. The psalmist admonishes, “Be not afraid, when a man becomes rich, when the glory of his house increases.” As followers of Jesus, we are not to fear men; we are to fear God and God alone. Yes, we respect people. Yes, we love people, but we don’t entrust our lives to them as we would to God. We fear God and we trust God. When we have that faith in God, when we have our focus on God first, we will have peace and confidence we need in this world.
So many of us struggle with anxiety and fear of men. We are so consumed by glory of men instead of glory of God. Jesus warns us, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44) May our hearts to focus on God first day by day and moment by moment, as we read through the psalms.
This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:
|Monday: Psalm 46||☐||Thursday: Psalm 49||☐|
|Tuesday: Psalm 47||☐||Friday: Psalm 50||☐|
|Wednesday: Psalm 48||☐||Saturday: Psalm 51||☐|
Bible Column & Reading Plan by Rev. Chang Soo Lee
Mississauga Camps Lead Pastor