As I was reading Psalm 49 and Psalm 50, I was struck by their evangelistic nature. Now, by that I do not mean that there is an overt appeal to faith in Jesus, but I do mean that there is a clear evangelistic tone to these two psalms. This article will be about Psalm 49, which preaches the gospel by warning about the futility of trusting in earthly wealth. Let’s examine this psalm.
The believer is given the charge to warn ALL THE INHABITANTS OF THE WORLD (v. 1).
“Be warned, all people!” “Hear this, ALL PEOPLES!”
What could this message of warning be that warrants proclamation to all peoples? It is obvious that only a message THAT APPLIES TO ALL PEOPLE would be PROCLAIMED TO ALL PEOPLE. So, then – HARK! What is this message, this urgent, universal message?
The message is this: We are all destined for the grave and then we will be judged by God for our sin. This is the universal message that necessitates the gospel, and this is the message of Psalm 49.
You must know that wealth and riches, fame and power, castles and cars are fleeting and will do you no good on the day of your death. Your grave hurtles toward you at 60 seconds a minute and there is nothing that you can do to slow death’s advance.
Do you acquire wisdom? “. . . even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish (49:10).” (See also Romans 1:14)
Do you trust in your wealth and boast in the abundance of your riches? No matter your money, you will “leave your wealth to others and your grave will be your home forever (49:10-11).”
For “in your pomp, you will not remain,” for “you are like the beasts who perish (49:12).” Sheol is your destination, whoever you are. If you are reading these words, your appointment with death awaits.
The psalm is hauntingly reminiscent of Ecclesiastes, where “all is vanity,” but this is the message that must be proclaimed by the Lord’s witnesses (Acts 1:8) to warn those who are perishing: “Forsake your wealth and your grand houses, and receive the only ransom that God has provided that will redeem your life (Mark 10:45; Romans 3:24).”
Notice that “those who have foolish confidence (49:13)” are “like sheep, appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd and their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell (49:14).” These are enamored with wealth and fascinated with power and possessions (49:16), but they refuse to acknowledge that they are but chaff and dust and that, “when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down after him (49:17).” “His soul will never again see light (49:19).”
This message to be proclaimed to “all the inhabitants of the world” is a dark message of warning. All people must know the truth, that “no man can ransom another” and no one has enough wealth “to give God the price of his life (49:7).” (See also Matthew 18:24ff) No matter who you are, if you are now drawing breath, you are destined for judgment. This is the bad news, and it is news you must hear and heed.
But there is GOOD NEWS veiled in the words of this psalm. Read carefully 49:5, where the psalmist sees no reason to fear: “Why should I fear in times of trouble?” This is evidence that the Lord makes a distinction between His people and those who foolishly and defiantly trust in their wealth. For while those who refuse to heed the warning will surely perish and their graves will be their homes forever, those who tremble at the warning of judgment and repent will not fear in times of trouble (49:5), but God will ransom their souls from the power of Sheol and will receive them (49:15).
Will you heed the warning and repent, or will you refuse God’s redemption and perish? Your call.
SDG rmb 3/19/2020