Wisdom for the entire World
Wealth and material things can secure your life
Trusting in material things brings death
Who can redeem our lives? Jesus
[Can we get a trumpet to be blown before I start.] Hear ye! Hear ye! Those words immediately cause one to sit up and take notice don’t they? Such are the opening words of Psalm 49. The psalm begins by calling all people to listen to wisdom: Hear this, all you people, listen, all who live in this world, both high and low, rich and poor alike, My mouth will speak words of wisdom…(Ps 49:1-3a).
The message that the Psalmist has is a message for all people. In fact, this is the only time in the psalms that all people are addressed and told to listen. It may even be the only time all the people of the world are told to listen to a bit of wisdom that is forth coming. In the Bible, there are plenty of calls to the world to praise God: Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples (Psalm 117:1). There are plenty of words telling the nations that God is angry at sin: Come near, you nations, and listen; pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it! The Lord is angry with all nations; his wrath is upon all…(Isa 34:1). There are even large sections of prophetic judgment addressed to the world at large proclaiming that God is coming: Hear, O peoples, all of you, listen, O earth and all who are in it, that the Sovereign Lord may witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple (Mic 1:2). But a command to listen and learn wisdom – I couldn’t find another. This may be the only one in the Bible. Even if there were a few other places, the relative rarity of such commands would impress upon us the importance of such wisdom and understanding. It must be highly important and extremely valuable.
In these first verses, the psalmist incorporates everyone into his call to learn. “Regardless of race and nation” this message is for each and every person. “Regardless of [one’s] position in life, [his or her] wealth or poverty” no one is exempt from the teaching that is coming. And here, in verses 7-9 is the crux of the psalmists teaching, “No man can redeem this life of another, or give to God a ransom for him, the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough that he should live on forever and not see decay (Psalm 49: 7-9). Simply put, “Your life is so valuable that you could never pay the cost to gain eternal life.” If you trust in wealth to settle your account with God or man, you will be sadly disappointed. For money, gold, silver or paper is worthless compared to your body and soul in the eyes of God.
Then as now, there is a crazy belief that wealth can allow one to live on forever or that wealth can solve the major problems of life. The wealthy trust in their wealth to get them out of one predicament or lawsuit and to assuage their inner longings, while the poor look covetously at the deceitfulness of wealth and assume that dollar signs, or gold or silver, new cars, homes or stuff like it will solve their needs if only they could get more of it. But all of these assumptions and beliefs are really just symptoms of a deep problem. They all suggest the presence of sin and the denial of God’s as Lord. Each of these symptoms is evidence of a denial of God and his ability to meet our needs and his role as being our sole provider. And when our lives deny God his rightful position, the Letter to the Romans tells us that our minds become depraved and filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed…arrogance, and boastfulness (Rom 1:29-30).
To look to wealth as a security from death or even the struggles of everyday life is non-sense. To think that material blessings can secure an eternal destiny is utter insanity. And the psalmist wants the world to know and believe that trusting in anything other than God for the redemption of one’s life is truly an indication that one has denied God and is refusing to worship him. And the result of such foolish actions and beliefs serve to deliver a person to one place and one place alone: death. Verses 10, 12 and following declare, For all can see that wise men die, the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others…man, despite his riches, does not endure, he is like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. Like sheep they are destined for the grave and death will feed on them… (Psa 49:10, 12-14a). And verse 17 reminds all people that the rich will take nothing with them when they die..[for] a man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish (Ps 49:17a, 20).
When it comes to redeeming one’s life from God’s wrath and anger at our refusal to acknowledge his glory and majesty and bow our knees in worship every hour of every day, there is nothing that we can provide that will atone for our life. There is nothing we can give to redeem ourselves from the hands of God. There is nothing that we have in this physical universe that can be used to purchase immortality.
When it comes to God and sin, wrath and judgment and the recovery of the eternal life we were created to inherit, there is nothing we can offer from our own stores of wealth, in fact there isn’t any thing we can offer from the created world to get life back. Offerings of stuff aren’t valuable enough to redeem us, I mean, if wealth can’t save our lives from death, then why would any commodity – corn, grain, cotton, precious metal, utility or anything be able to save. Living sacrifices or animals aren’t satisfactory, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Heb. 10:4) much less to pay for the life of a sinner. These things are transitory and pass on from this world; they have no lasting value. God’s justice is awaiting every person and the bounty it will take to secure a declaration of innocence, redemption, is beyond our comprehension. The legal fees are immense.
Since this is true, is there any hope for humanity to regain eternal life? Is there a ransom that can be paid to redeem a person from the sins of this life and welcome them into God’s eternal life? First, let us turn to our psalm because he has words for the entire world to listen, learn and apply. In verse 15, after speaking about the fate of all who trust in themselves, the psalmist declares but God will redeem my life from the grave, he will surely take me to himself (Psa 49:15).
The only hope humanity has of being saved from the grave rests in God. He alone can save. He alone has the wealth and resources needed to pay the cost of our redemption. He alone is the strong enough to bear the weight of God’s wrath and restore us to righteousness and life. God alone can stand in our stead and secure our future since we have nothing to offer.
But God does have someone to offer. Hear these words again and let them sink in: But God will redeem my life from the grace; he will surely take me to himself (Psalm 49:15). This is a promise. Not only will God redeem me, purchase me from death and declare me innocent and righteous, but he will also take me to himself. He will bring you and me into the great Kingdom of Heaven, to a house with many rooms. It will be glorious and wonderful. Just imagine how wonderful it will be. If the greatest mansions in the world, aren’t valuable enough to secure you life from God, then what must your room in heaven be like? How rich it must be.
So what does God have to offer that can secure your life and mine? Simply put: Himself, via his son. Romans 1:3-4 testifies to this Son in these words, regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. And 2Cor. 5:21 adds, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus perfectly human in order to suffer for humanity, but also perfectly divine in order to be a pleasing, holy, perfect and without blemish sacrifice and to have all the resources available in order to ransom the life of humanity. He is the one who was valuable enough to pay the cost for our redemption.
The book of Hebrews contains wonderful passages that encapsulate these lessons. First Hebrews 2 proclaims that Jesus, in order to identify with the other children of God, that is you and me and all who believe in the name of Jesus,
Since [we], the children have flesh and blood, he [Jesus] too shared in [our] humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:14-17) He is the redeemer.
Furthermore, our Jesus is such a high priest [who] meets our need — one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. (Heb. 7:23-28)
In Jesus’ life and death, he bore God’s wrath toward sin in order to (1Th. 1:10) rescue us from the coming wrath. For John 5:24 ¶ “
I tell you the truth, whoever hears [Christ’s] word and believes him who sent [Jesus] has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
Family of God, we have a need for a redeemer, one who can rescue us from sin and judgment and pay the price for the restoration of life and his name is Jesus. He [is] called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6) for he alone can work the wonders of God and ransom human life, set the captives free and dress us new in sparkling white. Let us thank our Lord and remember that in this message true wisdom exists for the world.
 WBC: OT Psalm 49 Comment vs. 1-3, vol. 19, pg. 358.