# 179 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 49. Why is death such an unpopular subject?

Often one hears the rather strange question after some wealthy person has died: “How much did he leave?” and the obvious answer is, “Everything!”

No matter how poor, how rich, how uneducated or how intellectual one is, “death is the great equalizer”! None of us can avoid it. So, why not prepare ourselves for it? But this is not a new thought. The psalmist who wrote Psalm 49 understood it 3000 years ago.

So, what does he say about death?

It mainly concerns those who consider that God is irrelevant to the whole process of life and death. About those depending rather on their own wisdom and wealth, and so he writes:

10 For all can see that the wise die,
    that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
    leaving their wealth to others.
11 Their tombs will remain their housesforever,
    their dwellings for endless generations,
    though they hadnamed lands after themselves.

12 People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
    they are like the beasts that perish.

13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
    and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
14 They are like sheep and are destined to die;
    death will be their shepherd…
Their forms will decay in the grave,
    far from their princely mansions…
16 Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
    when the splendour of their houses increases;
17 for they will take nothing with them when they die,
    their splendour will not descend with them.
18 Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
    and people praise you when you prosper—
19 they will join those who have gone before them,
    who will never again see the light of life.

20 People who have wealth but lack understanding
    are like the beasts that perish.

It is interesting that the author does not talk about people who are necessarily very “bad” people. He doesn’t mention people whose sins are murder, adultery, stealing, lies, idolatry, etc. Rather, their problem is trusting in themselves, in their own so-called wisdom, or in their riches!

Considering the latter, he says about those who trust in their wealth
    and boast of their great riches…
No one can redeem the life of another
    or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
    no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
    and not see decay.

In other words, no one can buy their way into life after death!

But it is not all bleak. Let us go back to something a bit more positive, and that is the last verse of Psalm 48 which states:

 14 Yes, this is our God, our great God forever.
He will lead us onward until the end,
through all time, beyond death,
and into eternity!
    (Psalm 48:14 The Passion Translation)

So, because of God, we can talk about death with confidence, not fearfully, but as the normal end of a life well lived. But, as Wilcock says, “when you listen to what this present psalm [49] says about death…you realize that it speaks to everyone, to the ends of the earth. You don’t have to belong to the people of God in order to grasp its relevance. But you do have to belong to them…to be able to proclaim it.” (# 5)

Do you belong to “the people of God” who have hope for all eternity? If not, it is not too late to make the change.

The psalmist gives a hint of our hope in verse 15 when he says:

 15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
    he will surely take me to himself.

And this verse’s teaching “comes true in its fullest sense with the coming of the gospel.”    (# 5)

Jesus summarized this hope of eternal life when he said to his disciples:

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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)

And at another time he said: I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” (John 11:25)

Thankyou Father that with Paul we can say, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”…thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55,57) Amen.

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