a nugget of the Psalms jumps out of the page. Don’t you love it when, after years of reading the Old Book passages become alive, reinforcing old teachings or simply warming your heart.
This is the book of Psalms, and it is rich.
16 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him.
18 For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
—and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
19 his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
who will never again see light.
20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.
Our Psalmist returns to the initial concern of the saint – Fear of the wealthy. The psalmist gives us the conclusion of his thoughts, and the solution to the fear of the saint. Consider the inevitable end of those you fear.
This solution is a recurring theme in the Word, and I usually think of Psalm 73:17 when this topic comes up. I look forward to studying that psalm when we get there, but let us remain in Psalm 49 for our time together.
Notice that the psalmist refers to the possessions the rich trust in, the accumulation of goods that seem to reinforce the wisdom of his choice to trust in them. Not only does the appearance of his accumulated wealth reinforce his philosophy of idolatry, but he also counts himself blessed.
In the midst of this final portion of Psalm 49, the psalmist makes a sideways comment of receiving praise when you do well for yourself. Might this be a comparison of the rich man’s accumulated earthly wealth, with the saints accumulation of good works? Also kindly notice that the rich man convinces himself of his blessedness, where the saint receives praise, presumably from outside of himself, from others.
Yet the end is certain. We all know it, for when we attend a funeral of a friend or relative, their possessions are left behind; it is only the person who has departed, alone and separated from that which they may have trusted in.
How different for the saint, for though the saint cannot see his God, and that he is not physically with his Savior, (though we have the blessed Spirit of God to comfort us), when we pass away, we will enter into the presence of the One whom we trust.
How upside down is our experience on this earth, in that appearance and truth so often seem to conflict. It looks like the wealthy have all the cards, all the influence, all the abilities and rights, all the strength and power. Yes it certainly appears to be so, yet as we listen to the Psalmist, we can step back, get a bigger picture and realize we live in an upside down world.
The rich man who trusts in his possessions, who had the power over others in this life, his very soul has a set destination that will be lightless. Lightless.
As mentioned in a previous post, we all are deserving of a darkness, for we tend to be attracted to darkness. Consider John’s testimony in his gospel
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.
We tend to hide in the darkness because of our own works. John speaks of our admitting to the wickedness of our own works in the very response we have to light. We seek to hide from exposure, because we know of the evil of our deeds. We seek darkness, and if we pile up possessions to hide the light from us, we may get what we want, a darkness as a settled state for our lives.
Note that John speaks of those who come to the light. It is those who do what is true. This is an amazing passage, for when considered with Psalm 49:19, the correlation is spot on. Those who trust in idols, their possessions and things, their wealth and riches, commit iniquity over others in order to feed their idol. Those who worship an idol do not do what is true. They do what they can. The idolater may have somewhat of a moral code he follows, may appear to be upright in his community, yet if push comes to shove, what does he do? If he were to consider our Psalm, at the very least he may gain some understanding and begin to do what is true, right and good. He may start to see light.
The Psalmist ends our passage with a final concluding statement
Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish
Understanding. Understanding from the Psalmist. We need this understanding the Psalmist provides. A clear view of our end, of a correct view of the universality of death to provide us relief from fear, guidance to truth and light for our lives.
Don’t be like the beast that simply exists, only to perish, only to end in darkness. Trust in the God who sent His Son to ransom your soul. He has provided the currency to redeem your soul and supply you light for this dark world.