Psalm 49

Hear this, all you peoples;
    listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
    rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
    the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
I will turn my ear to a proverb;
    with the harp I will expound my riddle:
Why should I fear when evil days come,
    when wicked deceivers surround me –
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 for ever
    and not see decay.
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 houses for ever,
    their dwellings for endless generations,
    though they had named 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
    (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning).
Their forms will decay in the grave,
    far from their princely mansions.
15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
    he will surely take me to himself.
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. 

This year I have bought a Christmas jumper - it reads: “Dear Santa, this year I’ve been…” and then underneath it has a sequinned panel, which you can brush in two different directions to read either naughty or nice. Obviously a spirit of duty, guilt and obligation is important to Santa ;) But, as this psalm points out in verse 10, the same fate seems to await both the naughty and nice (regardless of whether Santa visits!). Both will die. Death doesn’t keep a list of the naughty and nice. Now there’s a very un-Christmassy thought… However, this psalm points forward into hope. Here’s the Passion Translation of verse 15: “But I know the loving God will redeem my soul, raising me up from the dark power of death, taking me as his bridal partner.” Why? Not because I have been nice - or even because I haven’t been naughty, but because God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). In this final week of Advent, we remember the love that God has for us in sending Jesus to be our ransom price and to bring us into his presence forever.

Questions for thought and discussion 

  • Where are you tempted to forget the grace that Jesus offers you and try and earn your way into the Kingdom?
  • How can we express well to our young people that there’s no one the Father doesn’t love; no one Jesus didn’t die for; and no one whom the Spirit isn’t working like crazy to bring home?

Independent Schools West of Scotland and Perthshire

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