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A Proverb in Song: part 15

“Man is in his splendor, yet he does not understand;

he has become the same as beasts which are silenced.”

(Psalm 49:21 {Psalm 49:20 in English Bibles})


  The psalmist brings this parable in song to a close with these words.  Man in all his splendor—his creations, his art, his architecture, his music, his culture, etc…–will pass into dust—will be silenced by the grave.  There is no amount of accolades that will ever begin to impress God, nor any praise of men that will mitigate the pains of hell—apart from a relationship with Christ, all is forever lost.  To the believer, this is a truth that we know all too well.  To the unbeliever, this is a riddle.  They cannot understand why God would not simply welcome all kind and good people into his eternal abode, and that is because they do not understand sin and the enmity that sin creates in the heart of man toward a righteous and holy God.  They do not understand that they cannot impress God by their actions, for their actions are corrupt and tainted by sin.  They do not understand that apart from the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit, they are decayed and wretched corpses, hideous in the sight of God.  They do not understand the price paid by Christ to redeem a people to himself and that the only way to the Father is through the Son.  Oh, to them this is a mystery.  How they need to hear parables like this.  Why, beloved, do we stand assured even in the face of adversity?  Because we know to whom we belong, and eternity has a place in it for us that has been reserved since before time began.  A mystery to the unbeliever, perhaps, but to those of us who have been saved—it is the power of God that has given us life!

Like the beasts of the field, in death, the mouths of the pompous will be silenced.  As dirt is piled over their corpse, their souls will be bragging no more, for they will then understand the awful truth which they chose to ignore in this life—Christ is King and judge and as such will crush his enemies and cast them into eternal torment as the just and righteous punishment for their sin.  What a contrast there is indeed!  Eternal glory or eternal agony—there is no middle ground.  Yet, how often do we listen to those who speak to their own doom in terms of God, yet fail to take a stand for the truth?  Beloved, take the advice of this psalmist and share the mystery of salvation with them.  If they reject it, neither of you are any worse off—you have not lost your salvation and they remain on the pathway to damnation.  But if they hear and listen, then you have gained a brother and sister—sit back and watch what God will do in their lives as he breathes new life into them.  What a blessed work we have been given to do—how sad it is that we are seldom zealous to do it.

Beloved, never lose sight of your purpose in life—to glorify God with the aim of enjoying him forever.  The question that I ask you is whether you are enjoying him now?  If God is worth enjoying for eternity, he is worth enjoying now in this life, yet how often do our lifestyles communicate to those around us that we are truly enjoying God.  Many in the world look upon us and see us as gloomy, depressed people, burdened by laws and obligations.  They do not understand that the reason we grieve sin is because it separates us from that which we love the most.  They do not understand that the law is a blessing to us that teaches how we may enjoy our God better.  All they see are long faces and people who often live a life that is inconsistent with what we profess.  They do not see our joy that finds its source in God.  Beloved, I ask you again, if your aim is to enjoy God forever, how does your life communicate to others that you are enjoying him now?  Does your life convey to a watching world that Jesus is sweeter and more precious to you than all of the riches of this world, or does your lifestyle suggest to the world that religion is a burden to be avoided?

I think of my blessed Redeemer,

I think of him all the day long;

I sing, for I cannot be silent;

His love is the theme of my song.

Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

Redeemed through his infinite mercy,

His child, and forever, I am.

-Fanny Crosby


A Proverb in a Song, part 14

“For his soul will bless his life,

and he will praise you when you are good to yourself;

he will enter into the generation of his fathers,

he will not see light eternally.”

(Psalm 49:19-20 {Psalm 49:18-19 in English Bibles})


Darkness.  Darkness was over the face of the deep before God revealed his Shekinah Glory over creation.  After the fall of man, darkness was in the world until God revealed his Shekinah Glory in his Son.  Indeed, God has shown light in various places and at various times, revealing himself in his Word to us through the prophets who wrote the Old Testament, but the fullness of his revelation had to wait until the coming of his Son—the fullness of God revealed in flesh. Apart from God and apart from his presence there is no light in the world—there can be.  And those who reject God in this life—those who seek after idols of their own making and never submit to God’s Son as their Lord and Savior—are destined for a place of darkness and gloom (Jude 13) where the fire is never quenched, the worm does not die (Mark 9:48), and the torture does not end (Matthew 19:34-35).  It is a place filled with the sounds of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28).  Oh, beloved, eternal damnation awaits those who flee from God.

Yet, while the sounds of weeping and gnashing of teeth form the song of Hell, the sound of tens of thousands of angels and all creation form the background to the song of praise that will fill eternal glory.  Oh , what a contrast there is.  We may not receive the accolades that the pagans receive in this life, but how wonderful is the promise that we have been given for eternity.  And, oh, beloved, how much longer eternity is than even hundreds of years on this earth.  What a wonderful thing we have been promised and that we have to look forward to!

But how is it that we know whether that person walking down the street is really an person destined for damnation or just a life in whom God has yet to work?  And how is it that you can tell whether it is you that God intends to use to witness to this person?  That is—until you share the gospel with them—until you try and tell them of all the wonders of God—until you, like this psalmist, share the truth with all who would hear?  Oh, dear friends, so often we assume that God will work through someone else.  The question that you should be asking God every day is, “why not me, Lord, why not work through me?”

A willing spirit, a thankful heart,

Dear Lord, to me will you impart,

That the truth of Jesus I may share,

To those who walk this world without a care.


Shekinah is derived from the Hebrew word !k;v’ (shakan), which means “to dwell”—it is the glory of God dwelling with his people, symbolized by the tabernacle and the temple and made perfect in the coming of Christ.

A Proverb in a Song: part 13

“Do not fear that a man should gain riches,

for the glory of his house becomes great,

because he will not take any of it on his death,

his glory will not go down after him.”

(Psalm 49:17-18 {Psalm 16-17 in English Bibles})


You may feel that, after the psalmist has reached the climax of his message, he is going back over the same ground again, perhaps for emphasis.  But do not miss the implications of this statement.  Essentially, the psalmist is looking around at the world and recognizing a fact that believers have noticed for years and years—how is it that the wicked are so often the ones who get wealthy and famous in this world?  With that in mind, he is saying, fear not—for no matter how much wealth they may accumulate and no matter how much fame and glory they may achieve, it is all for naught.  It will die with them.  No matter how you translate “Sheol” in the previous passage, the results are the same once you arrive here—at the grave or in eternal torment, your glory will do you no good—your reputation will not follow you beyond this world.

Yet, do not think that the psalmist is only thinking in negative terms, because he communicates a profound truth if you read between the lines.  The faithful do not concern themselves with earthly glory, but, rather, their glory is God himself!  Thus, not only will God preserve his own through the grave, bringing them into eternal paradise and not judgment, but the glory of the faithful will remain with them—what is more, it will increase!  For in death, we are brought into the presence of God himself, no longer separated by sin from being able to recognize the glory of our God and King!  What a wonderful promise, what a wonderful gift!

The problem is that for many believers, their glory is not found in God alone, but they have become tempted by the culture we live in to seek after the perishable things of this world.  Oh, how often our eyes become turned away from the source of all true riches.  We become burdened by bills to pay, desires to have this or that, and wishes to give our families all the things that our neighbors are giving to their families.  We say, wouldn’t life be so much better if we had this or that…  Yet, one thing leads to the next and we end up on a pathway that leads to seeking after the things of this world with our energies, rather than devoting ourselves to seeking after God and His glory. 

Loved ones, do not fall into that trap.  The things of this world are perishable and will pass away.  They will slip from your hands just as easily as water through your fingers.  And in death, you will take none of it with you.  Yet, beloved, here is the hope that we may glory in—seek after God and his glory and not only will it enrich and bless your life in immeasurable ways here on earth, but you will take it with you—and not only that, if your glory is God in this world, dear friends, how much more will you enjoy that glory in the next!!!  Oh, loved ones, what a wonder of God’s grace!  Beloved, find your joy and your treasure and your glory in God and it will never perish and those things will follow you from this life into the next.

O the deep, deep love of Jesus!

Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free;

Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me.

Underneath me, all around me,

Is the current of thy love;

Leading onward, leading homeward,

To thy glorious rest above.

-Samuel Trevor Francis

A Proverb in a Song: part 12

“Like sheep, they are directed toward Sheol,

death shall shepherd them,

and the upright one shall tread upon them through the morning.

Their rock images shall be destroyed in Sheol from His lofty abode.

Nevertheless, God will redeem my life from the hand of Sheol,

For He will take me—Selah!”

(Psalm 49:15-16 {Psalm 14-15 in English Bibles})


Here we have reached the climax of the psalm.  Though the wicked will be led to the grave and their idols will be destroyed, God will redeem His people—preserving them through the grave.  Beloved, if anyone ever tells you that the Old Testament is devoid of the Gospel, do point them to passages like this, for oh, these remind us of the richness of the promise that the Old Testament saints understood.  They may not have known the name or the timing of the one who would come as the Messiah, but they trusted and believed in his coming, and through faith in the promise they found life.

Bet let us not miss the deep truths contained within these verses.  First of all, notice the language of those who are entrenched in sin—these are led or directed toward Sheol.  The language of the verse is clear, the end to which their pathway leads is no accident—it is to the grave and into judgment.  Indeed, the psalmist says, death will be their shepherd.  Death is the first and primary result of sin—not just physical death but spiritual death as well.  When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they did not die physically that day, but lived many years after that.  Yet, they immediately died in a spiritual sense—they were immediately cut off with their relationship with God, the source of their life in the first place (was it not God who breathed life into them?).  Thus, without a relationship with a new shepherd, all men and women are bound to the old shepherd, death and are being led like sheep to Sheol.

So what is this Sheol place?  There have been many suggestions, but the most common two are either that Sheol is simply the grave or that Sheol is some sort of underworld place akin to Hades or Hell—the Greek translation of the Old Testament often renders this Hebrew word as either “inferno” or “Hades.”  The one thing that everyone agrees on is that this is the place to which the dead go.  In most cases, I think that we must allow context to provide us with the most natural reading of the text.  In most cases, I am more inclined to simply translate this as “the grave,” understanding that it is to the grave that our bodies go even though our spirits either enter into torment or into Christ’s presence immediately upon death.  I translate it this way also remembering that the great promise that we have is not simply that our spirits will go into Christ’s presence, but that our bodies will be raised as well (not left to the grave to eternally rot), but will be bodily resurrected at the second coming of Christ. 

Yet, in the context of this psalm, it does not seem unrealistic to translate “Sheol” as “Hades” or “Hell.”  The psalmist is speaking of eternal judgment as a result of sin and he is speaking how God will raise him up and not abandon him to such judgment.  That seems to imply that he is employing this idea of Sheol to convey a deeper, spiritual truth—one dealing with eternal torment, not just the corruption of decomposing in the grave. 

So what does it mean when the psalmist says the upright shall tread upon them in the morning?  There are two ways to explain this.  The first is in terms of a literal treading on the dirt that covers the grave.  This does not much help to explain the language of doing so in the morning, apart from the morning being a fresh part of the day, often associated with life.  The better option is to recognize this as a reminder that in the final judgment, Jesus has promised to share some of his authority in terms of destroying his enemies with believers.  In Psalm 2:9 we are given the picture of Jesus being given the rod by which he will break the nations; in Revelation 2:26-27 that same imagery is applied toward believers who have overcome the things of the earth in faith.  The principle is simple, what God gives the Son, the son gives to his bride.  And, in part, we have already engaged in doing just that through the proclamation of the gospel, but that which is in part now, will be brought to fullness at the time of the second coming.

And finally, not only will the sinners enter Sheol in judgment, but the idols that they worship (their rock images) will be destroyed in Sheol as well.  There are two levels by which this clause can be understood.  The first would be the simplest reading of the text to reflect the idea that while God is eternal, the creations of man will pass away over time.  These images that they worship are nothing more than the works of their hands—they are not immortal gods that they bow to but rock images—and will perish over time.  On a secondary level, there are times when false religions seem to act with some degree of power, and when we see such, we should always remember that these religions find their power in demonic sources.  Yet, even the demons will face God’s eternal wrath and are reserved for the torments of Hell right along with those who worship them.  Beloved, the lake of fire will be filled with all of God’s enemies—human and otherwise.

With all of this before us—the great pronouncement of condemnation upon all those who do not serve God in faith—the psalmist lets out a cry of confident joy.  He is saying, though you who serve false gods will be destroyed with those gods, I will be redeemed and preserved by my God, who lives forever.  The grave will not keep me—Hell has no claim on me—I belong to the King of Kings and he will not let me perish with his enemies!  And all we can say to that is Amen and Amen—and once again, I say, Amen!

Beloved, live, act, and sing with confidence, because you have been redeemed!  You and I will spend an eternity with our God and King while those who worship false idols or demons will spend an eternity with their gods in torment—what is there not to rejoice over.  At the same time, with such a message of good news, why do we not do like this psalmist and boldly proclaim it to all that we meet!  Oh, what words of wisdom are brought to us in this parable in song.

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;

Redeemed through his infinite mercy,

His child, and forever, I am.

Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;

Redeemed through his infinite mercy,

His child, and forever, I am.

-Fanny Crosby

A Proverb in Song: part 11

“This is the pathway of the fool toward them,

and after them, they take pleasure with their mouths—Selah!”

(Psalm 49:14 {Psalm 49:13})


This verse ties in very closely with the verses that precede it.  The psalmist is speaking of those who brag in their own works and abilities and how the path of those who do so leads swiftly toward the grave.  There is no eternal hope for those who rely in themselves.  With this in mind, the psalmist arrives at this verse and declares that such a road is the pathway that fools travel.  Indeed, to trust in that which is soon headed for destruction when you seek eternity is nothing short of a fool’s errand.  Yet, the psalmist makes another profound observation.  Even as those who brag on themselves are headed for the grave, there are others who take pleasure in cheering them along.  How it is that those headed for destruction cheer one another along—those heading for the fires of Hell do so with grand celebration in this world.

Oh, beloved, how vain and arrogant the world is!  How they refuse to submit to the truth of God’s word even in the face of immanent death!  And how often they encourage others in their sins.  How the old proverb is true that misery loves company.  Sinners do not wish to go to destruction alone, thus they wish to take others with them.  How many have fallen for the lie of the promise of fleeting pleasure and have neglected everlasting joy that can only be found in Christ.  What a task we have before us, to proclaim as does this psalmist, the truth of God’s word to a dying world. 

One final note on the word, “Selah.”  We really have no idea what the word means, though it is likely a musical term of some sort or another.  Some have suggested that it is used much like we would say, “Amen” at the end of a hymn.  Whatever the word means, it does seem to break up psalms at points or to at least cause us a reason for pause.  In the context of this psalm, it gives a chance for this last statement to sink in to our hearts.  And remembering that this psalm is addressed to the world, it is meant to cause the unbeliever to stop and then be ready to pay close attention to what is to come next—and indeed, the following two verses contain the great contrast between the believer and the unbeliever, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.  For now, let us pray for those which we care about whose path is marked by the fool and whose lips praise the fool in his folly.  Let us pray for them and be a witness to them of the truth of the salvation that is in Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ alone.

A Proverb in a Song: part 10

“Mankind in splendor will not last a night,

he is like the beasts, which are destroyed.”

(Psalm 49:13 {Psalm 49:12 in English Bibles})


Oh, what an important Biblical theme that we have stumbled across in this verse!  The things of this earth are passing away (1 John 2:17); the works of men are like grass and flowers of the field, quickly burned up in the summer sun (James 1:11), and indeed, even the most glorious things that men have placed their names will fall to the dust (1 Peter 1:24).  How true are the words of Isaiah that Peter is drawing from:

The grass withers and the flower falls,

But the word of God will stand up forever.

(Isaiah 40:8)

How quick we are to place our hopes in the things of this world.  How swiftly we are awed by the feats of man’s glory.  People build skyscrapers to demonstrate their engineering prowess, but what is a skyscraper compared to the great mountains of the earth.  People build complex computer chips to manage large amounts of information, but what are even the greatest computer chips in comparison to the human brain?  People build complex factories to manufacture items, but even the most complex factory is simple in comparison to a living cell?  Man designs submarines to explore the depths of the ocean, but what of those creatures that live in those depths in the first place?  The most magnificent creation that we can conjure is nothing in comparison to the creation of God.  He has made things such—in their complexity, majesty, and organization—that we could never dream of creating an equal.  And…let us never forget…God created ex-nihilo.  We are dependant on what God has already made to make whatever it is that we wish to make.  Oh, the arrogance of men who point to their own constructions and gloat.

Beloved, the psalmist is making this point very clear—if what we do is not done for the glory of God, it has no lasting value.  We all end up in the grave and our creations—though they may live generations beyond us—will pass away as well.  Though the ancient Mayan pyramids may still stand, no one knows the names of their architects.  Your immortality can only be granted by God; it will never come as a result of the works of your hand.  How vain it is to seek our glory elsewhere.

A Proverb in a Song: part 9

“Their graves are their everlasting homes—

tabernacles from generation to generation;

they proclaim loudly by their own name over the land.”

(Psalm 49:12 {Psalm 49:11 in English})


Not only will all face death—both the wise and the foolish, great and small, but apart from God, there is none who can escape the grave.  No matter who you are or what you have done, the grave awaits all as a final home.  There are none—save Jesus—who have entered the grave and risen from it, thus where else but Jesus can one find hope?  You would not trust your car to a mechanic who had never lifted the hood; you would not trust yourself to a heart surgeon who had never performed a successful operation; why would you trust your eternal soul to one who never left the grave?  Jesus left the grave and promised his followers that he would bring us through the grave as well—that sounds like a pretty safe bet, but oh, how many would deny Him and seek their own pathway only to their own destruction.

There is some discussion as to the meaning of the final clause in this verse.  It is a Hebrew idiom that is often translated as speaking of how people name lands after themselves in their vanity, yet still find themselves buried in those same lands.  Regardless of how you understand the idiom, there certainly is an ironic link here between these lands and the graves wherein the people will make their final homes.  Yet, I think that there may be something more going on with this verse.  The language of proclaiming (or speaking boldly) in one’s own name is also used of the activity of God (Exodus 34:5-7).  In this passage, God is essentially invoking his own name to give force to what it is that he is going to say next—specifically in context, it is a statement about his sovereignty.  God does not proclaim by his name very often, but when he does, we should take notice, because it is adding force to what he is about to say next.  It is as if God is couching the force of the next statement in the very nature of his being.  If we take this, then and apply it back to our verse, we may also interpret this, then, as the unbeliever essentially seeking to make a bad imitation of God.  They seek to pronounce their authority by their own name upon the land, yet the land will still consume them in the end.

How easy it is to become arrogant and to begin to think of ourselves in terms of our own authority, power and might.  But, beloved, how short-lived our influence is.  In the scope of eternity, only one person has made a difference, and that person is Jesus Christ.  How silly and foolish it is for us to seek to pronounce things by our own names when we cannot order the events of today, let alone, tomorrow.  How foolish and arrogant we become before the eyes of God when we trust in our own might and not in the might of Him who formed us and who called us from before the creation of the world.

A Proverb in a Song: part 8

“For he sees that the wise will die together with the stupid and foolish ones;

and they will leave behind their strength to others.”

(Psalm 49:11 {Psalm 49:10})


The psalmist continues to build his case—not only can a man not redeem himself or another man in terms of eternal matters before God, but he cannot even build his own legacy up in this life in such a way that he will live on forever.  The wise and the foolish will both die and be put into the ground.  The professor with the PhD and the homeless man with a third grade education will find equality in the grave.  The Nobel Prize recipient and the “snake-oil” salesman will both be laid to rest in the dirt.  Oh, how the grave is the great equalizer in the eyes of the world!  Not only that—but your power, your wealth, your might, your empire, etc… will be left to others to abuse, misuse, and squander as they see fit.  What a depressing cycle it is for those who do not have a relationship with Christ Jesus!

How often we become obsessed with what kind of legacy we will leave behind when we move from this world into the next.  How will we be remembered?  What will our great grandchildren say of us?  What will future generations say of our contributions to the generation in which we lived?  But beloved, these are the concerns of the world—they should not bear heavily upon your soul.  Why is this?  First, we are held firmly in the hand of a sovereign and wonderful God who will bring about his plans in this world without compromise and without question.  Secondly, life is not about me or about my plans or about my accomplishments; it is about Christ.  Thus, all the next generation needs to remember about you is whether or not you were faithful in pointing them in the direction of the one who really matters—pointing faithfully to Christ.  Loved ones—right there is the answer to all of our questions about tomorrow and finding satisfaction in the work of today.  Did you point faithfully to Christ?  Did you live a life that clearly communicated the truth of Christ’s preeminence?  Were others drawn to Christ because of your faithful witness?  Beloved, if the answer to these questions is, “yes,” then your life was a resounding success—little else matters.

All to Jesus, I surrender,

All to Him I freely give,

I will ever love and trust Him,

In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,

All to Thee, my blessed Savior,

I surrender all.

-Judson Van deVenter

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.

A Proverb in a Song: part 6

“Why should I fear the day of evil?

Iniquity is the very footprint of those who surround me—

Those who trust upon their own strength,

And boast of abundant riches!”

(Psalm 49:6-7 {Psalm 49:5-6 in English Bibles})


And now the Psalmist sets the question before us.  How is it that those who believe in God can walk without fear in the presence of Great evil?  How is it that when they are surrounded by men of iniquity, they can stand confident in their God?  Thus, with this in mind, the rest of the psalm is aimed at reasoning through this question and setting the answer before an unbelieving world. 

What I find particularly interesting is the interplay between these two verses.  Verse 6 (Hebrew) begins with the question of fearing in the day of evil and ends with a definition of what the day of evil happens to be, namely the time when his foes surround him—implying the idea of their seeking to crush him.  Literally, the psalmist writes that Iniquity is the “heel” of those who surround him—it is what defines them firstly, but also, it implies malicious intent—particularly in the context of the verb bb;s’ (savav), which means, “to surround.”

As the psalmist moves to verse 7 (Hebrew), he provides a definition of those whose footprint is iniquity—of those whose very life is defined by sin.  And the psalmist lists two attributes:  they rely on their own strength and they praise (or boast in) wealth.  Sadly, that sounds like much of our American culture today?  In America, we idealize the “self-made-man” and the man who can “stand alone” against the world.  Oh, how this mindset is so alien to the Biblical mindset!  How we are not a people who stand alone against the world, but who stand united not only with other believers in the body of Christ but also with Christ himself as our King and Lord.  We are not self-made men and women, but are God-made, and, oh, how I thank God that this is the case!

Beloved, if you are swayed by the world to adopt their views of what makes a man great and strong, you will be led into pride and iniquity.  In addition, if you are relying on your own strength, from where do you find comfort and peace when you are surrounded and overwhelmed by the enemy.  If your strength is in your riches or in your strength, you will be defeated and sink in to fear—and oh, how far that is from where the heart of the believer is to be—how far indeed.  Believer, cling to Christ and find your hope and strength in him and in him alone and call others to do the same.

A Proverb in a Song: part 5

“I will stretch out my ear to a proverb,

I will open a riddle with a lyre.”

(Psalm 49:5 {Psalm 49:4 in English Bibles})


And what will be the riddle that this proverb is to solve?  The question is posed in the very next verses, and asks the question that many of us have asked at some point or another—a question that the watching world asks of us as well.  How is it, it may be said, that believers can face such persecution and oppression from outside, yet still maintain their hope.  Though we know that the answer is and can only be God, oh, how this is a great riddle to the unbeliever.

So beloved, hear the psalmist’s song of freedom, lifted up to the tune of the lyre.  Hear him sing of God’s glory and deliverance not only from oppressors, but from the oppression of the grave itself!  And be encouraged, for it is this God who has made such a promise to all who love him and come to him through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ.  It is us, beloved, it is us, who will one day sing with this psalmist of the finished plans of God, looking back from beyond the grave, over all that God has done for his people—for you and for me—and praising him for his remarkable faithfulness in times of trouble and great joy.  Oh, our God is great and wonderful, faithful beyond the ages—what a privilege and what a joy it is, to sing his endless praises!

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,

Freely bestowed on all who believe!

You that are longing to see His face,

Will you this moment His grace receive?

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.

-Julia Johnston

A Proverb in a Song: part 4

“My mouth shall speak wisdoms;

the meditation of my heart is understanding.”

(Psalm 49:4 {Psalm 49:3 in English Bibles})


And now that the psalmist has called peoples from across the planet to heed the words of his lips, he addresses them specifically.  He is saying, listen here, you people of the earth and I will provide true wisdom for your ears!  In addition, the psalmist clarifies the importance of what he is going to say by pointing out that the meditation of his heart—that which he is about to speak—will give them understanding.  Oh, beloved, how deep a truth this is for us—wisdom and understanding come from no other place but from God and is conveyed to us through his Word.  How often do we seek to forge our own understandings?  How often do we reject the plain teachings of scripture because we cannot comprehend what is being revealed?  How often do we submit the scriptures to our own understanding rather than submitting our understanding to the scriptures?

Now, you will note something unusual about the translation that I have rendered with respect to the word “wisdom.”  In English and in Hebrew, the word wisdom is normally used as a collective noun, simply meaning that whether you speak one piece of wisdom or twenty, it is still referred to as “wisdom” and not “wisdoms.”  Yet, in this verse, the psalmist has pluralized this word.  What is significant about this is that the plural form of wisdom only occurs in four places in the Hebrew Bible—once here, and three times in the book of Proverbs (1:20, 9:1, 24:7).  This provides a connection to what it is that the psalmist is going to communicate in the following verse—the wisdom that he is about to espouse is a proverb to be heard by all the nations of the earth.

Finally, it is worth noting that the Hebrew word for meditation, tWgh’ (haguth), is derived from the Hebrew verb, hg”h’ (hagah), which means, “to growl.”  The imagery is   reflective of the way that traditional Hebrew students of God’s word would mutter softly as they were immersed in their study of the scriptures.  This intense concentration, accompanied by the quiet muttering as they studied, was reminiscent of an animal quietly growling as they were focused steadfastly on their prey.  This being said, it is worth posing the question, in our busy and hectic world, do we ever make the time to study God’s word so intently that we do not permit distractions to encroach on that time?  Sadly, I think that answer for most of us is no. 

Beloved, hear the words of wisdom that will come from the depth of this psalmist’s soul.  They will bring understanding to our hearts.  But do not only hear his words, hear what he communicates to us by his life.  He is a man who has spent time growling over scripture—so deeply focused on the study of God’s word that outside distractions are cast aside totally.  And as a result of this devotion to God’s word, wisdom pours from his lips.  Friends, if you want wisdom, James reminds us that we are to pray for it and that God will give it in abundance (James 1:5-8)—and this comes through trial (James 1:2-4).  Yet, if you want to nurture and mature wisdom, you must immerse yourself in the undistracted study of God’s word.  That means we must be deliberate about making such time—indeed, that is a challenge in our modern, fast-paced culture, but oh, how wonderful the benefits of such time are!

A Proverb in a Song: part 3

“As well as the sons of Adam—even the sons of man—

together, both the rich and the needy.”

(Psalm 49:3 {Psalm 49:2 in English Bibles})


If you have been reading along with this psalm in your favorite Bible translation, you will quickly notice that there is some disparity between the language above and how most translators translate the first portion of this verse.  Most will translate this as “both low and high” or something very similar to that.  Essentially, what they are doing is taking the language of the “sons of Adam” and “the sons of man” and treating them idiomatically to reflect the idea of highborn and lowborn people of various estates, which would also make the first half of the verse parallel to the second.

Yet, I am not convinced that this is what the psalmist is seeking to do.  As we talked in the previous verse, this psalm is not written to Israelites alone, but it is directed to all people of all nations.  With that in mind, it seems to me that the psalmist is using language that is as broad as possible to refer to people from every tribe and nation.  The psalmist uses the very specific language of the Sons of Adam, which of course is all of mankind, and then he uses generic language that again refers to all people.  The idea here being that all people without exclusion are called to listen to the words of wisdom he is about to write—given as emphasis of what he proclaims in the previous verse.

Yes, beloved, as we said earlier, the Gospel is for all people of all time.  There is no one—man, woman, or child—that the words of scripture do not apply to.  The question is, if we understand this and agree with this, why do we not share the truth of God’s word with more people in our lives?  Why do we back down at the first sign of challenge and fail to stand for what we know to be the truth?  Oh, beloved, let us sound the alarms and preach from the rooftops—let us proclaim to the sons of Adam—indeed to all the children of the earth—that Jesus Christ is Lord and that salvation is found in his name and in his name alone!

A Proverb in a Song: part 2

“Hear this, all ye peoples!

Listen carefully, all who dwell in the world!”

(Psalm 49:2 {Psalm 49:1 in English Bibles})


Notice to whom this psalm is written.  All too often we only think of the scriptures in terms of being written for God’s people, yet, this psalm is addressing all people of world!  Oh, what an important reminder this is that the oracles of God are to be shared with all of creation—young and old, rich and poor, far and near.  The gospel is for every culture and race and the truth of God is suitable for all.

How often we adopt the attitude, when dialoguing with non-believers, do we back down from holding to this great truth.  We adopt the attitude of our culture which says, “Let me believe what I want to believe and I will let you believe what you want to believe…”  It makes people uncomfortable when you hold fast to the position that the truth of scripture is the only truth and all other things that masquerade as truth have their origins in the pits of Hell.  It does not sound very “tolerant” to say that, does it?  Yet, is light tolerant of the darkness?  Indeed, not!  Light casts darkness away!

We live in a world where people have preferred darkness to light (John 3:19), for in the darkness, the sins of men remain hidden.  Light exposes sin for what it is and light hurts the eyes when it is seen for the first time, yet, beloved, light is where we belong, for God is light.  And as we are in the light, we then must, by necessity, reflect the light of His glory into the world and the world will largely reject us—not for who we are, but for whose light we shine.  Beloved, do not be shy about shining your light amongst men and women, the truth of scripture is for all mankind—without qualification or exception.  Truth is truth, regardless of the circumstances.  So shout to the world, with this psalmist, that they would hear the truth of God’s wonderful revelation!

I will tell the wondrous story,

How my lost estate to save,

In His boundless love and mercy,

He the ransom freely gave.

Sing, O sing of my Redeemer!

With His blood he purchased me;

On the cross he sealed my pardon,

Paid the debit and made me free.

-Philip Bliss

A Proverb in a Song: part 1

“To the Director: From the Sons of Korah, a Psalm”

(Psalm 49:1 {Superscript in English Bibles})


While David is most well known for his psalm writing, the sons of Korah provide another block of psalms, 11 in all, that were used for worship with God’s people.  Korah was the Great-grandson of Levi, from whom the Priests would be drawn.  More importantly, Korah was the son of Izhar, who was the brother of Amram.  And while Amram is not an overly familiar name to us, his two sons are quite familiar: Aaron and Moses. 

Yet, the story of Korah is not one of the happiest in scripture.  Numbers 16 records how Korah rose up in rebellion against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, seeking more prominence in the leadership of Israel.  Korah, Dathan, and Abiram allowed their pride to consume them and they rejected the authority that God had placed over them.  In punishment, God opened up the earth to swallow up these men, their immediate families, and those who directly followed them—in all, 250 people died that day.  What is worse, on the next day, the grumbling of the people against Moses increased and God sent a plague (a gruesome disease afflicted by God), which destroyed 14,700 more people who were rising up against Moses.  In the New Testament, Jude will cite the rebellion of Korah as a sign of God’s faithfulness to bring judgment upon false teachers and those “for whom the dark gloom of eternity has been kept.”  Hard words of Korah, indeed.

Yet, the sons of Korah were not destroyed in their father’s rebellion (Numbers 26:11)!  By God’s abundant grace, he spared them that they might learn from their father’s error and know the glory of God.  In turn, the Sons of Korah, would eventually be assigned by David and Samuel as those who would guard the entrance to the Tabernacle (1 Chronicles 9:19).  In addition, it would be given to the Sons of Korah to make the flat cakes of bread used for meal offerings (1 Chronicles 9:31).  What is more, eleven psalms would be written by these Sons of Korah for use in the worship of God’s people.

How often we expect the sons of the father to bear guilt with him, and that is the natural way in which nature works.  God has established a standard by which this happens in the natural order of things (Exodus 34:7).  At the same time, this psalm is a psalm about redemption and being kept from being swallowed by Sheol (something that these sons knew all about as Korah had been swallowed up by the earth himself).  It is a reminder to us that while sin has a natural tendency to wear down and destroy, God redeems.  Oh, what a wonderful God we have that would take the sons of a man who wreaked such havoc within the people of Israel and use them for his praise throughout the generations!  Oh, if he is willing to work like this in the lives of the Sons of Korah, what he may even be willing to do with a wretch like me!

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see!

-John Newton