This Psalm teaches us to admonish ourselves and one another. It seeks to convince the men of this world of their sin and folly in setting their hearts upon the things of this world. Let it persuade them to seek the things of a better world. It also comforts the people of God, in reference to their own troubles and the grief that arises from the prosperity of the wicked. Why should I fear in times of trouble?
There is no fear in love Sometimes we fear for ourselves. We may languish in our sorrow. Shall we be able to go on? What about tomorrow? Love God and there will be No room for fear To love is to trust To experience Him near. The future may be very uncertain We may cry out in our need But perfect love casts out fear He who has led us, will continue to lead. He has not bought us so far To leave us here now. Can we really forget What He has done for us, somehow? Our faith is encouraged When we consider what He has done O how thankful we are That He sent His precious Son. Let us fling open the windows and doors To receive the fullness of His love. Love is like light, let our rooms be aflood With His power from above. Let us take time today to be With Him whom we adore; To the blessed love of God May we be more fully open than ever before. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Psalm 49 – Why Should I Fear in Times of Trouble?
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. 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.
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. 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.
God will ransom my soul
But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah 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.
Henry says – The Psalmist writes concerning the vanity of the world and its insufficiency to make us happy. We seldom meet with an introduction more solemn than this. For there is no truth of a more undoubted certainty, nor of greater weight and importance.
(Ps. 49:1, 2): Hear this, all you people. Hear, all you people, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the world. For this doctrine is not peculiar to those who are blessed with divine revelation. All men may know, and therefore let all men consider, that their riches will not profit them in the day of death. Both low and high, both rich and poor, must come together, to hear the Word of God.
Lay them out in doing good
Cause those who are high and rich in the world hear of the vanity of their worldly possessions and not be proud of them. Let them not be secure in the enjoyment of them, but lay them out in doing good. Let those who are poor and low hear this and be content with their little, and not envy those that have an abundance. Poor people are as much in danger from an inordinate desire towards the wealth of the world as rich people from an inordinate delight in it.
(Ps. 49:3): My mouth shall speak of wisdom. What he had to say was true and good. It is wisdom and understanding and will make them wise and intelligent who receive it and submit to it. Not trivial but weighty. It was what he had himself digested. What his mouth spoke was the meditation of his heart (as Ps. 19:14; 45:1).
God had put it into his mind and was fully convinced of the truth of. He who speaks from their own hearts are most likely to reach the hearts of their hearers. (Ps. 49:4): I will incline my ear to a parable. It is called a parable, not because it is figurative and obscure, but because it is a wise conversation and very instructive. He was taught it by the Spirit of God and did not speak of himself. Those who undertake to teach others must first learn themselves.
Preach to ourselves
He would not expect others to attend to that which he himself did not attend to. Where God gives the tongue of the learned He first wakens the ear to hear as the learned, Isa. 50:4. He promises to make the matter as plain and as affective as he could: I will open my dark saying upon the harp. What he learned for himself he would not conceal or confine to himself, but would communicate, for the benefit of others.
Some did not understood it, it was a riddle to them. For the sake of those who did not, he would open this dark saying, and make it so plain that it may be understood. Others understood it well enough, but they were not moved by it, it never affected them. For their sake he would open it up upon the harp, to try and win them.
He begins with the application of it to himself, which is the right method in which to treat Divine things. We must first preach to ourselves before we undertake to instruct others. Those who do not trust in their worldly wealth, experience the benefit and comfort of a holy gracious security. (Ps. 49:6) Why should I fear their fear? (Isa. 8:12), the fears of worldly people. “Why should I be afraid of them? Why should I fear in the days of trouble and persecution? Even when they endeavour to trip me up and surround me with their mischievous attempts? Why should I be afraid of those whose power lies in their wealth?
Children of God are truly happy
I will not fear their power, for it cannot enable them to ruin me.” The great men of the world will not appear at all formidable when we consider what little stead their wealth will stand them in. The days of old age and death are the days of evil, Eccl. 12:1. In the day of judgment the iniquity of our heels (or of our steps, our past sins) will encompass us and be set in order before us. Every work will be brought into judgment, with every secret thing, and everyone of us must give account of himself.
In these days worldly, wicked people will be afraid. There is nothing more dreadful to those who have set their hearts upon the world, than to think of leaving it. Death to them is the king of terrors, because, after death, comes the judgment. Then their sins will surround them. But why should a good man fear death, when he has God with him? Ps. 23:4. When his iniquities encompass him, he sees them all pardoned, his conscience is purified and pacified. Even in the judgment-day, when the hearts of others fail them for fear, he can lift up his head with joy, Luke 21:26, 28. The children of God are truly happy in this, above the most prosperous of the children of this world. They are well guarded against the terrors of death and the judgment to come.
Set not your heart upon it
It is taken that worldly people, whose portion is in this life, have wealth and a multitude of riches (Ps. 49:6). Houses and lands of inheritance, which they call their own, Ps. 49:11. God often gives abundance of the good things of this world to bad men who live in contempt of Him and rebellion against Him. So it therefore follows that they are not the best things in themselves (for then God would give most of them to his best friends). They are not the best things for us. For those being marked for ruin, are to be ripened for it by their prosperity, Prov. 1:32.
A man may have abundance of the wealth of this world and be made better by it. His heart may be enlarged in love, thankfulness and obedience, and may do good with it which will be fruit abounding to his account. Therefore it is not men’s having riches that makes them worldly, but their setting their hearts upon them as the best thing. They have a confidence in their riches: They trust in their wealth (Ps. 49:6). They depend upon it as their portion and happiness, and expect that it will supply them with all good, and that they need nothing else, no even God Himself.
Do not take pride in your riches
Their gold is their hope (Job 31:24), and so it becomes their God. Thus our Saviour explains the difficulty of the salvation of rich people (Mark 10:24): How hard is it for those that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! See 1 Tim. 6:17. They take a pride in their riches: They boast in the multitude of them. They take them as if they were sure tokens of God’s favour and certain proofs of their own ingenuity and industry (my might, and the power of my hand, have gotten me this wealth). It is as if they made them truly great and happy, and more excellent than their neighbours.
They boast that they have all they need (Ps. 10:3) and can set all the world at defiance (I sit as a queen, and shall be a lady forever). Therefore they call their lands after their own names, hoping thereby to perpetuate their memory. If their lands do retain the names by which they called them, it is but a poor honour for they often change their names when they change their owners.
They flatter themselves with an expectation of the continuation of their worldly possessions. (Ps. 49:11): Their inward thought is that their houses shall continue forever, and with this thought they please themselves. Are not all thoughts inward? Yes, but it intimates that this thought is deeply rooted in their minds and carefully lodged in the innermost recesses of their hearts. A godly man has thoughts of the world, but they are his outward thoughts. His inward thought is reserved for God and heavenly things. But a worldly man has only some floating foreign thoughts of the things of God, while his fixed thought, his inward thought, is about the world.
The world passes away
This lies nearest to his heart, and is upon the throne there. There it is industriously concealed. If they cannot persuade themselves that they shall continue forever, yet they are so foolish as to think their houses shall. What good will that do them when they shall be no longer theirs? For the world passes away. All things are devoured by the teeth of time.
(Ps. 49:13) Their way is their folly. The way of worldliness is a very foolish way. Those who lay up their treasure on earth and set their affections on things below, act contrary to right reason and to their true interest. God Himself pronounced him a fool who thought his goods were laid up for many years, and that they would be a portion for his soul, Luke 12:19, 20. The love of the world is a disease that runs in the blood. Men have it instinctively, until the grace of God cures it.
With all their wealth they cannot save the life of the dearest friend they have in the world. Nor can it purchase a reprieve for him when he is under the arrest of death (Ps. 49:7-9): None of them can by any means redeem his brother. One man’s estate cannot be the ransom of another man’s life. God does not value it, it is of no account with Him. The true value of things is as they stand in His book. The Lord of our brother’s life is the Lord of our estate, and He may take both if He pleases and therefore one cannot be ransomed for another.
We must all die
We cannot bribe death, that our brother should still live, much less that he should live forever. All must die and return to the dust. What folly is it to trust in that which will not so much as give us one hours respite from the sentence of death whether it be upon a parent, a child, or friend. Life, when it is going, cannot be arrested, and when it is gone it cannot be recalled, by any human art, or worldly price.
But this looks further, to the eternal redemption which was to be wrought out by the Messiah, whom the Old-testament saints had an eye to as the Redeemer. Everlasting life is a jewel of too great a value to be purchased by the wealth of this world. We are not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, 1 Pet. 1:18, 19. Ps. 49:8, 9 can be expressly applied to Christ: “The redemption of the soul shall be precious, shall be highly prized. It shall cost very dearly but, being once wrought, it shall never need to be repeated, Heb. 9:25, 26; 10:12.
He (that is, the Redeemer) shall yet live forever, and shall not see corruption. He shall rise again before He sees corruption, and then shall live for evermore,” Rev. 1:18. Christ did that for us which all the riches of the world could not do. So therefore may He be dearer to us than any worldly things. Christ did for us what a brother or friend, could not do for us. Therefore those who love father or brother more than Him are not worthy of Him. With all their wealth, worldly people cannot secure themselves from the stroke of death. They see it and it vexes him, that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, Ps. 49:10.
Their death is their deliverance
Therefore he cannot but expect that it will, at length, come his own turn. He cannot find any encouragement to hope that he himself shall continue forever. Some rich people are wise, but they cannot out-wit death, nor evade its stroke, with all their art and management. Others are fools and brutish. Though they do no good, yet perhaps do no great hurt in the world. But that shall not excuse them. They shall perish, and be taken away by death, as well as the wise who did mischief with their craft.
The godly die, and their death is their deliverance. The wicked perish, and their death is their destruction. They leave their wealth to others. It cannot serve to procure them a reprieve. That is a frivolous plea, though once it served a turn (Jer. 41:8), Do not slay us, for we have treasures in the field. They cannot carry it away with them, but must leave it behind them. Who will enjoy it when they have left it? They must leave it to others, but to whom they do not know, perhaps to a fool (Eccl. 2:19), perhaps to an enemy.
Just as their wealth will not stand them in good stead in a dying hour, so neither will their honour. (Ps. 49:12): Man, being in honour, does not abide. His honour does not continue, it is a fleeting shadow. This world is an inn, in which his stay is so short that he can scarcely be said to get a night’s lodging in it. He is like the beasts that perish, that is, he must certainly die as the beasts.
Where is thy sting?
Their condition on the other side of death will be very miserable. The world they dote upon will not only not save them from death, but will sink them so much the lower into hell. (Ps. 49:14): Like sheep they are laid in the grave. Their prosperity fed them like sheep for the slaughter (Hos. 4:16), and then death comes, and shuts them up in the grave like fat sheep in a fold, to be brought forth to the day of wrath, Job 21:30.
Multitudes of them, like flocks of sheep dead of some disease, are thrown into the grave, and there death shall feed on them, the second death, the worm that never dies, Job 24:20. Their own guilty consciences, like so many vultures, shall be continually preying upon them, with, Son, remember, Luke 16:25. Death insults and triumphs over them. While a saint can ask proudly of Death, Where is thy sting? Death will ask the proud sinner, Where is your wealth, your pomp? and the more he was fattened with prosperity the more sweetly will death feed on him.
In the morning of the resurrection, when all who sleep in the dust shall awake (Dan. 12:2), the upright shall have dominion over them. They shall be advanced to the highest dignity and honour. Yet the sinner shall be filled with everlasting shame and contempt. When the rich man in hell begged that Lazarus might bring him a drop of water to cool his tongue, he acknowledged that the upright man had dominion over him. The foolish virgins also deferred to the dominion of the wise, that they lay much at their mercy, when the begged, Give us of your oil.
The tables will be turned
Let this comfort us in reference to the oppressions with which the upright are now often groaning under, and the dominion which the wicked have over them. The day is coming when the tables will be turned (Est. 9:1) and the upright will have the dominion. Let us now judge of things as they will appear at that day. What will become of all the beauty of the wicked? That shall all be consumed in the grave. All that they valued and for which others caressed and admired them, was borrowed. It was paint and varnish.
Why should good people be afraid of death? There is no cause for that fear if they have such a happy prospect as David has of a comfortable state on the other side of death, Ps. 49:15. He had shown (Ps. 49:14) how miserable the dead are that die in their sins. Yet how blessed the dead are who die in the Lord. Whatever distinction there is of men’s outward condition in life, makes none at death. The rich and poor meet in the grave. But the distinction of men’s spiritual state, though, in this life makes a small difference, yet at and after death, it makes a very great one.
It is immaterial and immortal
Now he is comforted, and you are tormented. The righteous has hope in death, so has David here hope in God concerning his soul. The child of God has a believing hope of his soul’s redemption from the grave. He further hopes for a reception into glory which forms the great support and joy in their dying hour. They hope that God will redeem their souls from the power of the grave. This includes the preserving of the soul from going to the grave with the body. The grave has power over the body, by virtue of the sentence (Gen. 3:19), and it is cruel enough in executing that power (Song 8:6).
Their beauty shall consume, the grave (or hell) being a habitation to everyone of them. And what beauty can be there where there is nothing but the blackness of darkness forever? But is has no such power over the soul. It has power to silence, imprison and consume the body. But the soul then moves, acts and converses, more freely than ever (Rev. 6:9, 10). It is immaterial and immortal. When death breaks the dark lantern, it does not extinguish the candle that was within it. This is the reuniting of the soul and body at the resurrection.
In time it shall be redeemed
The soul is often subjected to and put under the life. It falls under the power of the grave for a time, but in time shall be redeemed from it. For mortality shall be swallowed up of life. The God of life, who was its Creator at the beginning, can and will be its Redeemer at the end. The soul shall be saved from eternal ruin: “God shall redeem my soul from the sheol of hell (Ps. 49:15). This is the wrath to come, that pit of destruction into which the wicked shall be thrown,” Ps. 49:14. It is a great comfort to dying saints that they shall not be hurt by the second death (Rev. 2:11). Therefore the first death has no sting and the grave no victory.
He will receive them to Himself. He redeems their souls, that He may receive them. Ps. 31:5 Into Your hands I commit My spirit, for You have redeemed it. He will receive them into His favour. He will admit them into His kingdom, into the mansions that He has prepared for them (John 14:2, 3), those everlasting habitations, Luke 16:9.
They should not be afraid of the prosperity and power of wicked people in this world. This prosperity and power has often been the envy and grief and terror of the righteous. Yet all things considered, there is no reason for.
The Psalmist supposes that the temptation to envy the prosperity of sinners is very strong. That with their wealth and interest they will run down religion and religious people. That they will be found to be the truly, happy people. He supposes that they are made rich, and so are enabled to give law to everyone around them and have everything at their command.
What blesses our souls?
Pecuniae obediunt omnes et omnia—Every person and every thing obey the commanding influence of money. When the glory of their house increases greatly, it naturally makes men haughty and insolent, Ps. 49:16. They may seem very at ease and secure in themselves and in their own minds (Ps. 49:18): In his life-time he blessed his soul, that is, he thought himself a very happy man, because he prospered in the world. He blessed his soul, as that rich fool did who said to his soul, “Soul, be at ease, do not be disturbed with the cares and fears of the world. And do not be disturbed by the rebukes of conscience. All is well, and will be well forever.”
It is of great consequence to consider what it is that blesses our souls. What is it that makes us think well of ourselves. Believers bless themselves in the God of truth (Isa. 65:16) and think themselves happy if He be theirs. Carnal people bless themselves in the wealth of the world, and think themselves happy if they have abundance of that. There are many whose precious souls lie under God’s curse, and yet they bless themselves. They applaud that which in themselves, God condemns. They speak peace to themselves when God denounces war against them. Yet this is not all, for they have a good reputation among their neighbours: “Men will applaud you, as having done well for yourself in building such an estate and family.”
He would not listen to the Word of God
This is the feeling of most the people of this world, that those who do the best for themselves are those who do the most for their bodies. They heap up riches whilst at the same time doing nothing for the soul or eternity. And so they bless the wicked, whom the Lord abhors, Ps. 10:3. If men were our judges, it would be to our wisdom to seek their good opinion. But what good will it do to be approved of men if God condemn us? Only in securing your eternal welfare shall you be praised, if not by men, yet by God, which will be to your everlasting honour.”
In the other world they will be infinitely the worse for all their abuses of the wealth and prosperity they enjoyed in this world. (Ps. 49:19): The soul shall go to the generation of his fathers, his worldly wicked fathers, whose sayings he approved of and whose steps he trod in. His fathers who would not listen to the Word of God, Zech. 1:4. He shall go to be there where they are that shall never see light, shall never have the least glimpse of comfort and joy, being condemned to utter darkness.
Do not be afraid then of the pomp and power of wicked people. The end of the man if he is not wise and good, will be miserable. If he does not understand, he is to be pitied rather than envied. A fool, a wicked man, in honour, is really as despicable an animal as any under the sun. He is like the beasts that perish (Ps. 49:20). It is better to be a beast than to be a man who makes himself like a beast.
They shall go out renewed
We ought to overcome this temptation by looking forward to the end of prosperous sinners (Ps. 73:17): “Think what they will be in the other world, and you will see no cause to envy them, what they are and have in this world.”
In the other world they will not be the better for all the wealth and prosperity they are now so fond of. It is a miserable portion, which will not last as long as they will. (Ps. 49:17): When he dies it is taken for granted that he goes into another world. He shall carry nothing with him of all that he has been heaping up on earth. The greatest and wealthiest cannot therefore be the happiest. Naked they came into this world and naked they shall go out of it.
Yet there are those who can say, through grace, they came into this world corrupt and sinful and spiritually naked. Yet they go out renewed, sanctified and well clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Those who are rich in the graces and comforts of the Spirit have something which, when they die, they shall carry away with them. It is something which death cannot strip them of. In fact death will be the improvement of it. But, as for worldly possessions, we brought nothing into the world (what we have we had from others). So it is certain that we shall carry nothing out, but leave it to others, 1 Tim. 6:7.
Grace is that glory
The carnal of this world shall descend, but their glory, that which they counted on and gloried in, shall not descend after them. It shall not lessen the disgrace of death and the grave or alleviate them in the judgment, or abate the torments of hell. Grace is that glory that will ascend with us, but no earthly glory will descend after us.
Men in honour who understand, who know and do their duty and are conscientious of it, are as children of the Most High. But men in honour who do not understand are proud, sensual and oppressive like beasts. They shall perish, like the beasts. Let prosperous sinners therefore be fearful for themselves, but do not let the suffering saints be afraid of them.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Prayer for the Day
Father, I come to You. Thank You for Your Word that instructs me. I pray that I would not be secure in the enjoyment of worldly riches, but lay them out in doing good. Help me be content with what I have and never envy those who have an abundance of it.
Awaken my ear to hear as the learned. What I learn for myself cause me not to confine to myself, but communicate it for the benefit of others. May I always be moved by Your Word and instruction. May I be one who experiences the benefit and comfort of a holy gracious security. I shall not fear what the worldy fear. Even in the days of trouble and persecution I shall not be afraid for I know that they are powerless to ruin me.
Remind me that every work will be brought into judgment, with every secret thing, and everyone of us must give account of himself. Yet cause me to not fear death, for I have You with me.
When my sins encompass me, thank You that in Christ they are all pardoned, my conscience may be purified and pacified. Even on judgment-day, I can lift up my head with joy. I am well guarded against the terrors of death and the judgment to come.
With what wealth I have may I be made the better for it. May my heart be enlarged in love, thankfulness and obedience, and may I do good with it, which will be fruit abounding in my account.
May my inward thought be continually reserved for You and heavenly things. Thank You that Christ did that for me which all the riches of the world cannot do. So may He be dearer to me than any worldly thing.
Remind me often
Remind me often that ‘this world is an inn, in which our stay is so short that we can scarcely be said to get a night’s lodging in it’. Though we may now groan under the dominion of the wicked, yet the day is coming when the tables will be turned and the upright will have the dominion.
Therefore I shall not fear for on the other side of death I shall be blessed, for I shall die in the Lord. Thank You for the believing hope of my soul’s redemption from the grave. I know that You will redeem my soul from the power of the grave. You redeem my soul that You may receive me into Your favour. You will admit me into Your kingdom, into the mansion that You have prepared for me. Let me never envy the prosperity of sinners.
May I bless myself in the God of truth and consider myself truly happy if You be mine and I be Yours. Through grace, I came into this world corrupt, sinful and spiritually naked. Yet I thank You that I shall go out renewed, sanctified and well clothed with the righteousness of Christ. May I be rich in the graces and comforts of the Spirit and so have something which, when I die, I shall be carried away with.
May I be considered as a person of honour who understands and knows and does my duty and is conscientious of it. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.