When we find ourselves in dismay about the troubles surrounding us and the people that seem to be behind those troubles, Psalm 49 offers an answer for what ails us… though quite possibly not the answer that would satisfy our flesh. The psalmist writes about our hope for redemption in eternity.
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.
This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts.
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.
But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me.
An initial response to these passages may be to disregard their lack of solution to our present trouble, but they remind me of Paul’s words in Romans 8:18: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Where we would seek an escape to what troubles us, God’s word reminds us that our hope is NOT provided this side of eternity. Our hope is in the rest he promises us when he commends us “well done good and faithful servant, come enter into my rest.”
Rest from what? Rest from a blessed life void of trouble? No, God calls us and grows us THROUGH our trials to persevere in and toward Him. What I love about these passages in Psalm 49 is that they offer no solution to the trouble, but remind us of our destination and the destination of those foolish enough to disregard the invitation of Christ.
But there’s a second thing about these verses that really gave me pause as I read them. First:
“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.”
“But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.”
All this talk of ransom… He’s talking about Jesus! I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore, but I am. The psalmist, clearly under the spirit’s leading, speaks of our great need for a ransom over 1,000 years before that ransom was made! He even elaborates that this ransom could come by no mere man, but then asserts that we will indeed be ransomed! I wonder sometimes: what would it have been like to live in a time preceding Jesus’ atonement, knowing that my sins are unforgivable and that pardon had not yet been made, but believing on God to somehow provide the payment required for my redemption? When Christ finally did arrive, what elation must have been felt by those who really understood what he meant and for HOW LONG we had been waiting for Him!
But coming back to our troubles (and trying to tie all this together): When Christ came there were many who missed Him because they weren’t looking for salvation. The Jews were looking for a king to save them from their troubles. Their troubles were seen as the oppression of Roman rule. Their REAL trouble was their depravity and separation from God, but they couldn’t see that. Jesus would look at the lame man lowered through the roof and forgive him of his sins instead of his handicap, because THAT’s what really mattered. He later healed him too, as he did so many others, but Jesus came to ransom us from sin and reconcile us to Himself, not to save us from our perceived trouble.
So when you are feeling you may never see freedom from your troubles, you are in a good place. You have the opportunity to turn your troubles over to God and accept that you may or may not see those troubles end in this life. Ask that God would help you find rest in the real prize to be had: eternal life in the presence of a fantastically loving God. Ask Him for an eternal outlook so that you not miss Christ as so many Jews did. Ask that He help you see the redemptive work HE has in mind, and not the answer you have in mind.
Finally, as a side note, I HIGHLY recommend you head over to GotQuestions.org to read about the sons of Korah, to whom authorship of Psalm 49 is attributed. They definitely have a thing or two to say about how God redeems us and works through us despite our sin. They are the descendants of a man named Korah whom God dealt with VERY harshly.