A Proverb in a Song: part 7

“A brother can surely not redeem a man;

he cannot give to God his ransom.

For precious is the redemption of their life

And he will fail forever.

That he should live again forever,

That he should not see the grave.”

(Psalm 49:8-10 {Psalm 49:7-9 in English Bibles})


The first great truth of this proverb is set before us in these three verses.  And in doing so, he again addresses the question of why the believer does not fear his oppressors.  And the truth is this—it is impossible for a man to redeem himself or to redeem another from their sins.  Sin earns for us a debit against God that we cannot pay for ourselves, and as sinners, we cannot pay for anyone else.  Oh, what a sorry state we are in as we live and breathe in this world.  We are born sinners and condemned to die.  No matter how hard we work or labor, there is nothing we can do within our own strength to better that lot for ourselves or even on behalf of another. 

The great theologian of the medieval church, Anselm, put forward this same dilemma; reminding us that it is we as mankind who need a savior, yet it is only God (who needs no saving) that can save us.  He who needs saving must be saved by him who needs no saving himself.  Christ owed nothing to God as he had no sin debit—we owed everything and then some.  It is only through the saving work of Christ that we can know redemption—it is only because Christ paid the debit we owed—that I personally owed!—that you or I can have the hope and promise of eternal life.

And this was a truth that was understood long before the coming of Jesus.  The sons of Korah are clearly saying just that—man cannot redeem his brother any more than he can redeem himself—the debit owed as a result of sin is just too high.  Powerful words from ones who knew what it meant to have God give them a second chance, as God did not destroy the sons of Korah in Korah’s rebellion.

Beloved, do not despair the grave, for the one who has offered you redemption has already been there and has risen!  There is nothing to fear because our big brother has gone there first.  Yet, loved ones, never miss the importance of this great truth, because it is a truth that the world largely does not and cannot understand.  It is impossible for you or I to earn our own deliverance—no matter how many good and noble things we might do.  At the same time, there is hope from despair in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Cling to him and always point the way to him before a watching world that does not comprehend this truth.

About preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

Posted on May 24, 2008, in Expositions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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