Those who fear God live! — Psalm 49

Those who fear God live! — Psalm 49
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 2, 2017

Wikipedia relates that “‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the ‘inalienable rights’ which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created to protect.” The writers, the signers, and those who fought for our freedoms believed passionately in these inalienable rights for all people. At the core of this belief was their reasoning that God created mankind for more than servitude and it came from the notion that even nations ruled by kings should fear God.

Today’s America has taken the notion of personal freedom to the extreme that it is a free ticket to do any ungodly or immoral act and excuse it as a personal right. They would do well to remember the spiritual law involved that you reap what you sow in life. The Psalmist here teaches us that those who fear God live; let’s discover what he says about this…

READ: Psalm 49

Many in our day think they can rewrite the laws of God to fit their particular perversion in order to excuse it as sin. The Psalmist reminds us that…

I. Those who fear God listen to godly wisdom! (Vv. 1-6)

Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike: My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding. I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle: Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me–those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

1. Sometimes it is hard to gain the attention of those you are speaking to and so sometimes you have to do something to shake people up so they will listen. The Psalmist does that here by including everyone in his pronouncement: “Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike”. He tells them by a command of sorts to “hear” and to “listen”. The first refers to actually intelligently understanding what is being spoken to those who are willing to be taught by the words he is speaking! The second refers to giving an ear or to someone who harkens to the sound of his voice like one would to a herald or a town crier who goes about saying “hear ye, hear ye!” or like a child who listens to the voice of their mother calling them home. Notice that the Psalmist’s announcement is for “all you peoples…who live in the world…both low and high, rich and poor alike”. Why should anyone listen to him? “My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.” There are few things or folks worth listening to in this world of fake news and made up headlines or exaggeration. Yet he would “turn [his] ear to a proverb; with the harp [he would] expound my riddle”. It is like Jesus who told and taught his disciples “many things in parables”. (Matthew 13:3 NIV) Like Benjamin Franklin with Poor Richard’s Almanac or Thomas Paine’s Common Sense who both used humor and pity sayings to teach deeper truths, the Psalmist does this as well. He begins, like any good orator, with a question: “Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me–those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?” He expected an answer probably in the form of question itself; more than likely: “How in the world could you not fear evil days, wicked deceivers, or the ultra rich?” For the Jews of his day only those who were well off could scoff at these things, certainly not a common person! The Psalmist wanted his listeners to know that those who fear God listen to godly wisdom!

EXAMPLE: Benjamin Franklin wrote that “Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” But he also had a deep faith in a Creator who gave all things. He was not a believer per se but a Deist, someone who believed in a higher power. Later in life he held stronger views on God and especially Jesus and confessed his faith, contrary to what many theists and atheists would have you believe about Franklin. He would write, “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” The Psalmist knew this several thousands of years before Franklin. He understood that those who fear God listen to godly wisdom!

One of the attractions that drew people from all over the world to America was that you could become whatever you could in America through shear hard work and tenacity. However, far too many have forgotten where their lives come from. The Psalmist teaches us that…

II. Those who fear God remember where their lives come from! (Vv. 7-13)

No man can redeem the 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. For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. But 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. Selah

1. With his very next words, the Psalmist writes such an important lesson that the world today would do well to heed it. “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him”. Is this true? For the Hebrew of this era it was and it is why Jesus’ teaching was so astonishing because everyone knew “the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–that he should live on forever and not see decay”. These words were never forgotten by the Jews and so when Jesus came and taught one could live forever through faith in him, it was astounding! Perhaps we have forgotten life is costly. This is why the framers of the Declaration of Independence included the phrase “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. It establishes three inalienable rights which the Declaration states that have been given or endowed to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created by the same God to protect. Life is costly and yet things are not as costly, “For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others.” What you so dearly hold on to right now and think so precious probably will be sold in a garage sale, trucked away to the Salvation Army, or dumped in the trash! In fact, even those who are wealthy, famous, or powerful in this life will soon learn that “Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves.” What good news then is that while “the ransom for a life is costly” Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”! (Matthew 20:28 NIV) You see the Psalmist knew what a lot of folks forget, namely dead is dead and once you are dead you are the same as all other dead folks! That “man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish.” He is not teaching about how you or your pets end up eternally but rather more like the morose teachings of Ecclesiastes who lamented, “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 3:19 NIV) “This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.” However, the tacit implication is that those who fear God remember where their lives come from!

EXAMPLE: If you look at many of our coins you will see the inscription, “In God We Trust”. The phrase appears to have originated in “The Star-Spangled Banner”, written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. The fourth stanza states, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust.’” The Reverend M. R. Watkinson, in a letter dated November 13, 1861, petitioned the Treasury Department to add a statement recognizing “Almighty God in some form in our coins” in order to “relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism”. It wasn’t until the Civil War that one and two cent coins were inscribed. In 1865 Congress passed legislation to place the motto on all gold and silver coins. However on the 50th anniversary of the motto in 2006 Congressed affirmed “In God We Trust” as the United States of America’s national motto. Those who fear God remember where their lives come from!

In America we have problem with death. Unlike past generations who realized life was short, often took care of the elderly themselves, and where people often did not live past their sixties because of illness, war, and poor health conditions. The Psalmist reminds us that…

III. Those who fear God realize they are destined to die! (Vv. 14-20)

Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. Selah Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him. Though while he lived he counted himself blessed– and men praise you when you prosper–he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life. A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

1. We all face death and just “Like sheep [we] are destined for the grave, and death will feed on [us]”!  There is tremendous good news in the Psalmist’s message however, “The upright will rule over [the rich, powerful, or famous] in the morning”! In other words when God comes to finally judge the living and the dead while “their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions”, ours won’t and it will be like a fresh new dawn! The Psalmist was well aware that indeed “God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.” He had full confidence in God who loved him. Here dear little child of God is where we are to never forget those wondrous and amazing words of Jesus when he promised, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3 NIV) So, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.” As one old preacher stated, “We are all lay on the same level in the grave, unless we stand with Jesus!” And sadly, “Though while he lived he counted himself blessed– and men praise you when you prosper–he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life.” But not those who trust in God instead. Remember Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV) and do not forget the words he told the weeping Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV) Dead is dead unless you know God in Jesus but “A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.”  Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!

EXAMPLE: Unlike past generations where people celebrated death and those who had died by annually setting aside a time to remember them; today we have such a problem with the idea of dying we make roadside pagan shrines to the dead hoping they somehow realize that we now care. But dead is dead. It may be a means to assuage our own guilt and fear of dying. However, the godly person has absolutely no fear of death because we know our destination because of the one we have trusted in. Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!

Conclusion:
Those who fear God listen to godly wisdom! Those who fear God remember where their lives come from! Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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