The psalms in today’s reading is chock full of great stuff, so let’s dive right in…
Wealth is vanity (Psalm 49) — One of the most deceiving things that Satan has devised to allure mankind from God has been the lie that wealth is important, makes you important, is powerful, and makes you powerful — possibly even immortal. This psalms reminds us, like parts of Ecclesiastes and the Sermon on the Mount, that wealth is temporary and can never buy the most important things. We know this; we know the platitudes, “Money won’t buy time,” “The best things in life are free,” “You can’t buy happiness,” “You can’t buy love,” and others. But still the allure is there. Remember:
“For he sees that even wise men die; The stupid and the senseless alike perish And leave their wealth to others. Their inner thought is that their houses are forever And their dwelling places to all generations; They have called their lands after their own names. But man in his pomp will not endure; He is like the beasts that perish. This is the way of those who are foolish, And of those after them who approve their words. Selah. As sheep they are appointed for Sheol; Death shall be their shepherd; And the upright shall rule over them in the morning, And their form shall be for Sheol to consume So that they have no habitation.” Psalms 49:10-14, NAS95.
The redemption of his soul is costly (Psalm 49:8) — This verse is part of the larger encouragement to not place trust in money, but it shifts over to the spiritual aspect of the larger question with Gospel connections.
“No man can by any means redeem his brother Or give to God a ransom for him– For the redemption of his soul is costly, And he should cease trying forever– That he should live on eternally, That he should not undergo decay.” Psalms 49:7-9, NAS95.
There is no man who can redeem his brother, provide a ransom for him. Redemption is costly indeed! And buying “life”, so that one doesn’t undergo decay, living forever? Impossible! And that’s why, “Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me (my emphasis, obviously).” John 14:6, NAS95. Only Jesus can redeem and ransom His “brothers” (Heb. 2:14-18) and their souls. Only Jesus can provide the way to eternal life, resurrection, and hope — in His cross, the high cost of our souls. Apart from Jesus, there is no buying any stairway to Heaven (sorry, Led Zeppelin); no one has enough money.
What do you give to the God who has everything? (Psalm 50:10) — This whole section, vv. 7-15, is wonderfully enlightening. What God really, really wants is thanks and the honor due to our Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Protector, and Father. Though certainly the gifts we may offer will demonstrate our thanks and show the honor in which we hold God, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills; He owns the hills — and oceans, the trees of all the forests, mountain ranges of every continent and island, precious metals of a million mines, and the sun, moon, planets, and stars to boot! What gifts can we offer Him that He can’t just take, because it already belongs to Him? But before you go away thinking that there’s nothing we can give to God that He doesn’t already own, there is one thing — your free-will thanks, praise, love, and obedience.
What right have you to tell of My statutes? (Psalm 50:16) — This may seem a little strange on the face of it. Why would someone who is disobeying the Lord try to tell others of God’s statutes? Yet people do it — a lot. There’s plenty of ministers who are deliberately turning their backs on God’s word, God’s patterns, and God’s ways who still want to function as ministers of the Gospel. “What right have you to tell of My statutes?” There are “Christians” who are negligently living “below standard”, while . “What right have you to tell of My statutes?” And there are completely worldly people who want to attempt to manipulate godly folks by trying to quote Scripture (a la Satan, Matt. 4:6). “What right have you to tell of My statutes?”
You thought that I was just like you (Psalm 50:21) — This is part of the larger section of Psalm 50 that we just spoke about. But this verse was too good to pass up. I think it is the reason that sometimes people “go off the rails”; they think God is like them. “I can do this because, I think it’s OK; God will too.” “I can do this, because God will never see or know; you can hide from Him and keep secrets from Him.” “I don’t believe in Hell; God could never do something like that to us.” And on and on the assumptions go. God says,
“These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.” Psalms 50:21-23, NAS95.
Every kind of forgiveness for every kind of sin (Psalm 51) — This psalm deserves a book all it’s own, so I’ll try to restrain myself. This psalm contains every Hebrew word for sin — and every Hebrew word for forgiveness, too. There’s just something real comforting here: every sin we can sin can be forgiven. It’s also a psalm that is said to have been written by David after Nathan the prophet came to him to convict him about his many sins in connection with Bathsheba, and it contains such wonderful confession and teaching about obtaining forgiveness from the God we’ve sinned against. One of the interesting tidbits to be found in the original language here is in the first word of v. 10, “create”. It is a word that refers to something only God can do, you only see it used in reference to what God does. It is not like the word “make” or other similar words that are used in reference to what man does — take already created stuff and manufacture something. Create takes nothing and produces something. And David asks God to “create” in him a clean heart. Not a clean heart manufactured by man, bestowing “absolution” like in a sacrament, or a psychologist telling us that we’re “really OK”; but a clean heart created by God, real forgiveness that only God can grant. And all obtained not by works but grace based on a contrite heart.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.