Psalm 49

The truths of the Bible call for universal heeding. The mysteries will repay all study. Natural men, in their best state, are immeasurably inferior to the people of God.

1, 2. "Hear this, all you people; give ear, all you inhabitants of the world; both low and high, rich and poor, together."

The revelation of God alike concerns the whole family of man. Wherever man lives, he lives defiled by sin, and justly exposed to wrath. As the malady is one, so too is the remedy. All need it; to all it is proclaimed in the Gospel. What madness can be greater than to close our ears to the precious tidings! The low are raised by it; the high are stripped of their lofty looks. The rich are ennobled by it with the true riches; the poor obtain the true treasure.

3, 4. "My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding. I will incline my ear to a parable; I will open my dark saying upon the harp."

The treasures of true wisdom are folded up in God's Word. There He, who is the wise, the all wise, the only wise, declares His mind and will. The Bible student will read, and will declare. His heart will meditate, but not concerning foolish trifles. Solid truths will be the food of his thoughts. He will diligently listen to the mysteries of redemption, shadowed out in great variety of images; and his melody will be concerning hidden wonders.

5. "There is no need to fear when times of trouble come, when enemies are surrounding me."

Countless are the exhortations to the believer never to give place to fear. His constant response should be, I will trust and not be afraid. Days of evil will often overshadow him; reminiscences of past iniquity may leave impressions on the mind, deep as the prints of the heels upon a soft or sandy path. In this there may be ground of humiliation, but there is no cause for misapprehension. The covenant of peace stands sure, and never can be broken. The reconciliation is forever made; the promise will be realized; goodness and mercy shall follow him all the days of his life, and he shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

6, 7, 8, 9. "Those who trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; (for the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceases forever;) that he should still live forever, and not see corruption."

The riches of this world are eagerly sought by natural men. They delight in the enjoyments which are thus purchased, and the homage and adulation which are thus won. It is their pleasure to magnify themselves in their apparent distinction above their fellows. But what is their real value when viewed in spiritual light? They are light as chaff—they are worthless as the vilest dross. How can riches deliver a sinner from the grasp of death? How can they prolong his days on earth, or raise from the corruption of the grave?

Shall earthly riches be presented to God as an equivalent for the forfeited soul—shall they be offered as a redeeming price? Is there satisfaction in them to the outraged attributes of God? Can they avail to mitigate merited wrath? The very thought is folly. Man in the utmost grandeur of outward possession is utterly without avail to redeem his brother.

A glorious parenthesis is here inserted. It casts a ray of joy over a saddening truth. It speaks of redemption, and tells us that it requires vast price. Here the blessed Gospel brightly shines. We bless our dying Jesus, our curse-removing Lord, our death-enduring Substitute, that He has accomplished redemption. It was bought by a precious price—even by the price of His own blood—which had infinite efficacy because of His essential deity. It out-valued all the silver and the gold which earth ever produced. It outweighed all treasures. By it every attribute of God is satisfied, and magnified, and glorified. Let us, also, be satisfied with it. This ransom has no need of gradual progress. By the one death of Jesus it is forever secured. It needs no repetition. By His one offering once made, He has perfected forever those who are sanctified.

10. "For He sees that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others."

It is an obvious fact, compelling universal acquiescence, that mental faculties cannot secure length of days. Men of the shrewdest intellect move onward to the grave. By their side men lie who are least endowed. Alike they might have been enriched with large abundance of this world's wealth. But their feeble hands cannot retain the grasp. They cannot take their treasure with them. Other inheritors must succeed and count the riches as their own.

11. "Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names."

They seem to dream of earthly immortality. They imagine perpetuity of their names. They inscribe their titles on their stately homes, or on their wide possessions.

12, 13. "Nevertheless, man being in honor abides not; he is like the beasts that perish. This their way is their folly; yet their posterity approve their sayings."

As riches are no protection from the grave, neither do honors bring deliverance. Titles may be grand, distinctions may be brilliant, yet the possessors soon lie low. Mortality is common to them, even as it is to all the herds of animal creation. Their forgetfulness of short-lived continuance is justly termed their folly. But it is incredible, that their descendants tread the same senseless path. They are not instructed by the ignorance of their predecessors—they rather commend their seeming wisdom.

14. "Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling."

The titled and the wealthy worldlings do not have stronger tenure of life than the flocks of the meadows. Death claims them as its prey, and feeds upon their lifeless bodies—from their stately halls they must be carried to mingle with corruption. The morning of the resurrection comes—then the poor believer, however scorned in his passage through life, shall shine in manifested superiority, and shall put on the beautiful robes of everlasting glory.

15. "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for He shall receive me."

The believer knows his foundation of perpetual joy. It is true that his body must taste corruption, and lie for a little season in the grave; but he knows that God who has redeemed his soul, by the precious blood of His dearly-beloved Son, will also soon raise his body from the transient tenure of the grave. The redeemed soul shall again inhabit a redeemed body. The blessed consummation shall be complete. The glorified body and the glorified soul shall constitute the glorified man. Thus perfect he shall be upraised to the palace of the King of kings, and shall reign in those bright realms into which death shall never enter.

16, 17, 18, 19, 20. "So don't be dismayed when the wicked grow rich, and their homes become ever more splendid. For when they die, they carry nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave. In this life they consider themselves fortunate, and the world loudly applauds their success. But they will die like all others before them and never again see the light of day. People who boast of their wealth don't understand that they will die like the animals."

Established truths are here repeated. The believer is exhorted to keep his faith from wavering, when he sees prosperity gilding the path of the worldling. The brevity of all mortal condition should check all temptation to be staggered by its prosperity. Worldlings may hold dazzling superabundance; but how long can they call these things their own? They must leave all behind; they can carry nothing with them. Their prosperity might excite adulation and the homage of fellow-mortals. But departure must take place—even to eternal wretchedness—even to blackness of darkness forever. The cause of this misery is the lack of saving knowledge. There is ignorance of self, of sin, of God, of Christ, of redemption, of salvation. O Lord, open our eyes, give us understanding to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.