On Sunday, June 7, we (FBC Baton Rouge) began another summer of teaching through the book of Psalms. We’ve been working through the Psalms for 12 weeks each summer, and this year we will be studying Psalms 49-60. This is both an enjoyable and challenging task, as the Psalms expose for us the raw nature of human emotion in the context of trials, sin, repentance, worship, confession, friendship, and obedience to God. Each Psalm reflects in its own way just how so many Christian believers feel and think when we consider our relationship with God and the world in which we live. The book of Psalms can help us understand how to worship God properly, even in the midst of difficulty and trouble, as the poetic words guide us to a deeper understanding of God’s grace and sovereignty.
Each week, I will use this space to recap a little of the message that was given the previous Sunday, and then a short prayer guide to help us pray through the Psalms together. I pray that this will not only be helpful for you personally, but that it will also contribute to the fellowship and unity of our church family as we are praying for the same things, for ourselves and for each other.
Psalm 49 – Thou My Best Thought
No amount of worldly gain can prevent the certainty of death. (v.5-9)
While there are a number of ways we can gain and leverage our wealth and accomplishments for our own benefit and comfort, or we can use them to support and advance the spread of the gospel message, there is nothing that our earthly gains will do for us when we face the certainty of death. The Psalmist reminds us in v. 5-9 that death comes to all (wise, foolish, stupid), and there is nothing that any man can pay to ransom his own life or the life of another. What would you pay to God to save yourself from death? Would you even have enough to give to him? The Psalmist tells us that our lives are costly and we don’t have the sufficient funds to pay the ransom ourselves. The warning here is to be cautious that our worldly goods do not lead us to believe that we’ve attained a pardon from the grave.
Our only hope of rescue from eternal death is the mercy of God. (v.10-15)
Because the reality of death is something we can ALL be certain of, we must then deal with the weight of that reality in a reasonable way; and I would say in the only way that gives us any kind of hope. Since we do not have the resources to ransom ourselves from death, we must look outside of ourselves to someone else. The man who does not understand the desperation of his own need for redemption, will die just as certainly as the beasts of the field, yet with the sins of arrogance and ignorance in his heart. This kind of death is not just a physical one, but one that leads to shame and suffering after we die. If we spend our lives accumulating wealth for ourselves and for our own security, the full terror of Sheol awaits. But, there is good news in the face of certain death. This good news is that God ransoms people from Sheol and the certainty of eternal death (v.15). By his mercy and grace, God saves sinners (Ephesians 2:4-6), as we trust in Jesus Christ, because that is exactly what Jesus came to do (Mark 10:45). The result of the ransom payment that Jesus makes on our behalf to make us children of God is rejoicing, praise, and honor of God’s mercy. The result is the glorification of a merciful and gracious God.
While mankind was made for glory, there is glory in only 1 house – the house of the living God. (v.16-20) The man who pursues wealth and prosperity in this world is seeking his own glory, and he will come to find that the glory he had in this life will NOT follow him to the grave. His glory does not “go down with him” (v.17), and he leaves his wealth and his possession to others. Therefore, he has no glory nor does he have any leverage with God. All he has is himself and whatever he trusted in while he lived. Apart from faith in God, there is only shame. But for those who trust in God, and who believe in Jesus Christ as their all-sufficient ransom from eternal death (1 Peter 1:18-19), they will receive glory. They will experience the glory of God in all its fullness, and they will be satisfied (Psalm 17:15, 73:24). This is our great hope in Jesus Christ.
There is so much temptation and often doubt associated with such high and lofty truths. We can easily be distracted by the things of this world, or we can grow fearful that others are acquiring much material gain and using their wealth to influence those around them. While this has always happened and will continue to happen in this world until Jesus returns, the people of God do not lose heart nor do we fret and worry over the worldly accomplishments of others. We set our hearts and minds on Christ, who is our hope. He is the highest, greatest , and most gloriously beautiful thought that any of us could entertain or conceive. He is our BEST thought.
So how do we pray through the wisdom and promises of Psalm 49?
- Start with who God is. He is the all-wise, always present Lord and King, apart from whom we have no wisdom or understanding of truth. Praise God for who he is.
- Pray for your own heart, that you will be able to recognize when you are tempted to pursue worldly wealth and pleasures for the sake of your own satisfaction and comfort.
- Ask God to give you strength and faith to trust in him rather than in the things of this world. Recall the hope you have in the gospel and confess to God your need for his redemption.
- Surrender to God any self-sufficiency that has taken root in hour heart, which has given you a false assurance of your standing before God. Remember that your worldly gains have not actually gained you anything with God. Death is certain and you cannot prevent it.
- Thank God for Jesus Christ, your ransom payment and redeemer of your soul. Praise God that Jesus Christ has ransomed you from Sheol and given you hope beyond the grave. Think about Jesus, and all the ways that he is (right now!) working in your life to make you holy.
- Pray for wisdom as you seek to live for God’s glory and not your own. Ask God to help you to develop contentment in your heart concerning the pursuits of this world, so that you do not chase after “things” to justify your life, but rather be content in having Christ and the life that gives to those who trust him.