Psalm 49

Psalms 49 Devotions
by Pastor Mark Hudson


          Psalm 49 is a wisdom Psalm as you can easily see in v. 3, “my mouth will speak wisdom” and v. 4, “I will incline my ear to a proverb; I will solve my riddle . . . .”  In fact it reads almost like a proverb.  So the feel of this Psalm is a hybrid between Psalms and Proverbs. 

          This Psalm could be titled `this world’s empty glory’ as Derek Kidner titles it.  He shows this outline; 1-4 To all Men Everywhere; 5-9 Brief Triumph; 10-12 Total Loss; 13-15 The Great Divide; 16-20 The Great Illusion.  Craigie has a simplier outline: 1-4 introduction; 5-12 wisdom concerning fearing the wealthy and 13-20 the folly of confidence in wealth are the main sections ending in the similar yet not identical refrain.

          In the introduction, the Psalmist pleads with everyone to listen to him (v. 2).  Then the first main heading follows.  Our fear of the wealthy meet with these truths: no wealth will help in the day of their death (v.7-8) and death comes to all and they leave their wealth to others (v. 10), and though the rich may live in mansions now and name their property after them, the grave is the home that lasts much, much longer.  For the rich who trust in their wealth, they are not much different than a beast that perishes.

          The Psalmist addresses our fear of the wealthy in v. 5 when he asks, “Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches? vs. 5-6.  The writer admits to his fear while at the same time eschewing those same feelings.  He knows that those who reject God and make riches their goal in life are headed for disaster.  Yet, he struggles with his fear. 

          In the next section (vs. 13-20) the folly of confidence in wealth is exposed.  And this is a rather easy task.  This confidence in wealth is called “foolish confidence” in v. 13.  Think of that term as you look at beautiful homes, new expensive cars, or exclusive trips the wealthy enjoy. It is foolish to trust in wealth.  Foolish.  So the person who does trust in wealth is a fool.  While the wealthy may look enviable, they are “sheep appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd” v. 14.  Death shall be their shepherd?  They are like sheep appointed for sheol?  That is not the way we think about the wealthy.

          When you read those verses, instead of envying the rich, one almost feels pity.  One almost thanks God for a moderate income.  And yet, compared to the world’s standards, we can be called wealthy.  On the wise to foolish continuum, where are you?  What do you crave, what do you want, and how do you want to be perceived?  

          “Be not afraid when a man becomes rich. . . v. 16 because the poor are not given the same rights as the rich in many cases. The rich can bully, exploit, cheat, and rob and may seemingly get away with it.  But notice the next verses.  “For when he dies he will carry nothing away; his glory will not go down with him.”  If you look at a wealthy man at his death and wonder, “How much did he leave?”  The answer is always, “All of it.”  Remember the drumbeat of Psalm 49, “Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

          Keep repeating the phrase we find in 49:12 and 20: “Man in his pomp (will not remain or yet without understanding) is like he beasts that perish.’  I would ask yourself this: do you think of heaven or hell much? Do you spend any time reflecting on hell?  You should.  When a famous person dies that has displayed a secular and ungodly life, I wonder what happens as soon as they die.  If they are indeed ungodly what a terrible moment their death will be.  We never hear from them but what if we did?  What would they say? 

          “Man in his pomp” is a phrase to consider.  The Bible does not condemn wealth but does condemn trusting in riches at the expense of trusting God.  “Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish” is a phrase to reflect on and repeat often.  To the man in his pomp, you almost want to ask, “Is that all you have: pomp?”  Pomp?

          No one disdained the world’s values like our Lord Jesus.  He did not need the best camel, the best farm, or the best clothes.  But he spoke often about money and the corrosive influence the love of money can have on your life.   Despise your own love of money.  Reject your secret passion for money. 

          So, who has first place in your life?  What do you really value and treasure?  Christ must have that place alone.  If He does not you are like the beasts that perish.  And how horrible that will be when you heard the gospel so often.