No-one can redeem the life of another Psalm 49

Psalm 49 is different from most of the Psalms we have looked at so far. It is not a song of praise or thanksgiving. Nor is it a prayer. Instead it is much more similar to parts of the book of Proverbs and the Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament like Ecclesiastes and Job. It uses poetry to reveal wisdom from God.
1 Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world,
2 both low and high, rich and poor alike:
3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
4 I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle:

This riddle, this message of wisdom declares the mystery that faith in God is more important than wealth or riches.
5 Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me—
6 those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

Even when he is oppressed by rich and wicked people, the Psalm writer knows he is safe in God’s hands. The truth is that death the great leveller will come to everybody one day. Those who have put their trust in money will die just as much as the wise who are trusting in God. And then into eternity all the wealth the rich have spent their lives accumulating will count for absolutely nothing.

10 For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.
11 Their tombs will remain their houses for ever, their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had named lands after themselves.
12 People, despite their wealth, do not endure; they are like the beasts that perish.
People who have put their trust in their wealth die just like the animals in the fields. You may have seen the film on television last week, “All the money in the world” about the kidnapping of the grandson of the billionaire John Paul Getty, the richest man in the world,. After Getty died two people were talking on a bus. “How much did he leave?” one asked. The other replied, “Everything”.
It’s true what they say, “you can’t take it with you.” Wealth and possessions only last for this life. After that, we all face death.
13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
14 They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions.

But the Psalm writer reveals that his hope is not in wealth or possessions. His hope is in God alone and he is certain God will not let him down.

15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.

The Psalm writer is not impressed by the wealth of others. There are things which seem to be important in this life, which so many people chase after. But big houses and lots of money and possessions are ultimately worthless. The Psalm writer will not be lured into joining the rat-race. There is no point. Instead he puts his trust in God.

16 Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendour of their houses increases;
17 for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendour will not descend with them.
18 Though while they live they count themselves blessed— and people praise you when you prosper—
19 they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life.

All the money in the world is of no use to anybody when they are dead. Those who put their trust in money and possessions will never see the light of life again. The fool goes to a lost eternity. The wisdom in Psalm 49 is the same central message as Jesus’s parable of the rich fool who was prospering and tore down his barns to build bigger barns to store all his grain in.
Luke 12 . 19 And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ ”
20 ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
You can’t take it with you. So the Psalm ends, 20 People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish.
No better than the wild animals. But the future of those who put their trust in God is altogether different. Back to verse 14
(The rich fools) are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd
(but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).

There is a different destiny waiting for those who live upright lives and put their trust in God.
15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.

God will take his upright and faithful servants to himself. This was David’s hope at the end of Psalm 23
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
So all human beings have a choice. To chase after money, which will ultimately lead them nowhere. Or to pursue God. There is the wisdom the Psalm writer shares with us all.
But did you notice in the middle there another thread of wisdom which points prophetically to the wonderful way of salvation God will provide. The Psalmist knows that money cannot rescue anyone from death.
7 No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—
8 the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—
9 so that they should live on for ever and not see decay.

The Psalm writer is absolutely correct. All the money in the world cannot redeem a person or bring them everlasting life. The ransom for a life would be too high. Jesus said exactly the same thing.
Matthew 16 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
So what would be a sufficient ransom? What can anyone give in exchange for a soul?
Jesus said in Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
All the money in the world would not be sufficient to pay the ransom for a single life and rescue a person from death. But the life of Jesus Christ the Son of God would be sufficient. Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for many. We have seen before how that saying by Jesus echoes the prophecies of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53
Isaiah 53 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
On the cross, Jesus became a sin-offering for us. Jesus has paid the ransom for our sins. The first letter of Peter spells it out.
1 Peter 1 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
We rejoice, because we know that no amount of money could have paid the price for our sins. But Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, paid the ultimate price and laid down his life for us.
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
Guilty, vile, and helpless, we; Spotless Lamb of God was He:
Full atonement—can it be? Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
So the wisdom in Psalm 49 makes it clear. Death is the ultimate statistic – one out of one die. Death comes to everybody – but we face a choice. There is death without hope, or there is death which is full of hope. Die like the beasts, or die with understanding and wisdom and faith in God. And the Psalm poses a prophetic question when it reminds us that no amount of money would be enough to redeem the life of a sinner.
7 No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—
8 the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—
9 so that they should live on for ever and not see decay.
Thanks be to God – Jesus has paid the price for us!

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