Americans are among the most wealthy people on earth. They’re also the most indebted. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by financial concerns, this psalm’s for you.
It begins with a call for all earth’s inhabitants to listen to its wisdom:
Hear this, all peoples!
Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
both low and high,
rich and poor together!
My mouth shall speak wisdom;
the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
I will incline my ear to a proverb;
I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre (1-4, ESV).
The psalmist calls all people of the earth, plebeian and patrician, wealthy and impoverished, to hear what he has to say. His mouth speaks wisdom and his heart understands when he meditates on God’s words. He will convey his knowledge in the form of this song.
God’s word is not a riddle that only the most wise or most educated can understand. Even a common person can understand the Bible and make sense of the world in the light of God’s word.
We all struggle with finding meaning in life from time to time. Financial adversity or other struggles cause fear and doubt. Birthdays, especially big-O birthdays, can make us wonder if our life or work has any meaning or lasting value. The answer to these riddles is in the wisdom of God’s word.
The psalmist goes on to ask why his troubles should make him afraid:
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?
Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
that he should live on forever
and never see the pit (5-9, ESV).
Why should any believer fear those who trust in their own wealth? No one can ransom another or pay God the price of a life. No human can redeem another from the pit, and no one lives forever.
For he sees that even the wise die;
the fool and the stupid alike must perish
and leave their wealth to others.
Their graves are their homes forever,
their dwelling places to all generations,
though they called lands by their own names.
Man in his pomp will not remain;
he is like the beasts that perish (10-12, ESV).
The well educated mental genius will die just as surely as the ignorant mentally deficient person. Any material possessions anyone has accumulated will go to others. Even if a man becomes so influential that a nation bears his name, he will still die just as surely as a rabbit in the woods.
The unbelievers has no future, but the believer’s future is secure:
This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah
Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me. Selah (13-15, ESV)
The boastful are like sheep guided by the death shepherd. The upright will rule them in the morning. Unbelievers have no place to dwell. But God redeems believers from death. If you believe in Jesus, he ransoms and receives your soul. Pause and consider!
Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him.
For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
—and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
who will never again see light.
Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish (16-20, ESV).
Don’t worry about the wealthy person who troubles you. Even if he becomes fabulously wealthy by writing trash or gains good farmland through deception, he’s not taking any of that with him when he dies. He may congratulate himself now on being blessed by God (and we all receive praise when we do well), but his eternal soul will not see the light of life. The person without biblical understanding perishes like an animal.
But those who believe in Christ live forever in his light. Our life has meaning now and for eternity. All that we do is part of God’s grand plan and he will work it for our good.
If you feel burdened by debt in any way, if you feel surrounded by those who cheat you or boast in their wealth, this psalm’s for you. Actually, if you’re experiencing any kind of trouble, this psalm’s for you. If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation, you needn’t worry about the problems of this life or fear the future. In Christ, your soul is secure. He has already ransomed it. What a Savior!