Theme: An Appeal to Be Wise
In this week’s lessons we learn about the foolishness of trusting in riches, and instead are told to trust in God, who alone is able to redeem our souls.
Scripture: Psalm 49:1-20
In this stage in the history of biblical revelation it would be too much to suggest that the psalmist anticipated the redemption of sinners by the death of Jesus Christ, as the New Testament presents it, for example, in Romans 3:22-24 (“There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”), or in 1 Peter 1:18, 19 (“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”). Nevertheless, “redeem” is exactly the right word to use in this context.
We must remember that “redeem” is a commercial term, meaning “to buy,” “buy out” or “buy a slave so that he or she need never again return to the marketplace).” Spiritually, it refers to God’s work in buying us out of sin’s marketplace and setting us free. But who can do that? No one but God. The psalmist has already pointed out that no mere human being can redeem another person from death (v. 7). But this is precisely what God does. He redeems the lives of those who trust him rather than riches (v. 15). In this verse “he” and “me” strike a personal note, causing one commentator to write wisely, “We leave the world either with God or with nothing.”9
This leads naturally to the appeal to be wise that ends the psalm (vv. 16-20), telling us not to be overawed by those who have riches or to trust our soul’s eternal destiny to wealth. Why? We say, “You can’t take it with you.” The psalmist says, “He will take nothing with him when he dies.”
Do you trust Jesus as your Redeemer, or are you trusting your wealth? Now is the time to get your priorities straight, for you will be in no frame of mind to do it when you’re dying. One of the old preachers was called to speak to a dying old miser who wanted him to pray for his soul but was unwilling to take his hand as he did so. They talked about the afterlife, and when the preacher asked him pointedly what he was actually trusting at that moment, the miser confessed that (even as he seemed to be breathing his last) under the bed clothes his hands were clutching the keys to his storage cabinet of treasures. He feared that his money would be taken from him when he died. It was why he would not take the preacher’s hand.10
Don’t be foolish. Relax your grip on passing treasures, and place your hand in the hand of Jesus, who died to save you from your sin.
9Murdoch Campbell, From Grace to Glory: Meditations on the Book of Psalms (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1970), p. 93.
10C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1b, Psalms 27-57 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 379.
What does it mean to redeem, and what is the spiritual significance of the term?
Verse 7 reads, “No man can redeem the life of another…” How is the Lord Jesus Christ alone able to do that?
Application: When we see or hear of an unbeliever’s worldly success, what do we need to remind ourselves in order to approach life from a godly perspective?