For the director of music. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. 1 Hear this, all you nations. Listen, all you who live in this world. 2 Listen, people, whether you are ordinary or important. Listen, people, whether you are rich or poor. 3 My mouth will speak wise words. What I think about in my heart will give you understanding. 4 I will pay attention to a proverb. I will explain my riddle as I play the harp. 5 Why should I be afraid when trouble comes? Why should I fear when sinners are all around me? They are the kind of people who want to take advantage of me. 6 They trust in their wealth. They brag about how rich they are. 7 No one can pay for the life of anyone else. No one can give God what that would cost. 8 The price for a life is very high. No payment is ever enough. 9 No one can pay enough to live forever and not rot in the grave. 10 Everyone can see that even wise people die. People who are foolish and who have no sense also pass away. All of them leave their wealth to others. 11 Their tombs will remain their houses forever. Their graves will be their homes for all time to come. Naming lands after themselves won’t help either. 12 Even though people may be very rich, they don’t live on and on. They are like the animals. They die. 13 That’s what happens to those who trust in themselves. It also happens to their followers, who agree with what they say. 14 They are like sheep and will end up in the grave. Death will be their shepherd. But when honest people come to power, a new day will dawn. The bodies of sinners will waste away in the grave. They will end up far away from their princely houses. 15 But God will save me from the place of the dead. He will certainly take me to himself. 16 Don’t get too upset when other people become rich. Don’t be troubled when they become more and more wealthy. 17 They won’t take anything with them when they die. Their riches won’t go down to the grave with them. 18 While they lived, they believed they were blessed. People praised them when things were going well for them. 19 But they will die, like their people of long ago. They will never again see the light of life. 20 People who have riches but don’t understand are like the animals. They die.
The Psalmist warns us that he is in the mood for some profound proclamations – his topic is death and that fact that it is the ultimate ‘leveler.’ Some people pride themselves on the wealth they have, the wealth they have created; this Psalmist reflects on that kind of person very soberly. We take the universal principle behind this Psalm to mind, a wise thought, worth remembering – notice though that here, like most of the Bible, Jesus peeks through the gaps.
Verse 7 to 9 the Psalmist uses the concept of ransom to illustrate the inescapable reality of death. Verse 15 the Psalmist clarifies his firm trust in God to defend and rescue, even from the grave. Language elsewhere in the psalm makes other minor hints at Jesus, our ransom, our rescue, our leveler.
Life can sometimes be a blunt experience, perhaps even today you might be experiencing the harsh edges of death in the form of a sick friend or passing relative. Be encouraged! Jesus, goes before us, Jesus sets the boundaries, Jesus did the impossible, Jesus paid our ransom and we will be rescued!
Lord, thank you for the promise of life eternal. Thank you for the unstopping reminder that you, Jesus, have gone before us and that nothing can stop us from being with you! Amen.
Written by Sam Stewart