Why Should I Fear in Times of Trouble?
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.
49 Hear this, all peoples!
Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
both low and high,
rich and poor together!
My mouth shall speak wisdom;
the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
I will incline my ear to a proverb;
I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.
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.
For he sees that even the wise die;
the fool and the stupid alike must perish
and leave their wealth to others.
Their graves are their homes forever,
their dwelling places to all generations,
though they called lands by their own names.
Man in his pomp will not remain;
he is like the beasts that perish.
This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah
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. Selah
Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him.
For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
—and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
who will never again see light.
Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.
Psalm 49 Commentary
by Hank Workman
I remember the story well. A pastor I used to serve under spoke of an incident at his previous church where a member was a beyond generous giver. It was a blessing to the church and their budget. But then, this man began demanding things of the staff and church themselves. He began escalating himself and jockeying for leadership. He made it known at one point that he was the biggest giver the church had and they would fail if he stopped giving, which he was threatening to do if they did not bow to his requests.
And at that moment, Greg looked straight at him stating, “May your wallet perish with you!” Greg would not bow to such manipulation.
David Guzik wrote, “There are 4 kinds of riches. There are riches in what you have, riches in what you do, riches in what you know and riches in what you are – riches of character. The psalmist spoke of those who are only rich in the first way – the least important kind of wealth.”
What are the riches you hold? The fat bank account or successful business is what so many cling to – even Believers. Yet the reality is their hearts are dark and far from God. The fruit of their lives is deceit, manipulation and their character sends people running. When our perspective is off when we are pursuing the things for ourselves, manipulating to get our way and even over-spiritualizing such insanity, cloaking it in God themes, the fact still shines clearly that fruit tells the whole story.
Fair warning, Jesus spoke of such people who claim to be of God but are not part of Him.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit will be good, or make the tree bad and its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.  Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.  A good person produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil person produces evil things from his storeroom of evil.  I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”Matthew 12:33-37 CSB
Rotten fruit abounds even on trees that are in full leaves. Our words reveal our hearts. If a person’s heart is right with God their words confirm this. Yet out of the abundance of our hearts do our words reveal what is really going on deep within. By our words, we are justified or condemned.
All a person’s over-spiritualization of things, all their words do not change the reality that their fruit is rotten and must be avoided. For it was an object lesson like none other after Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem that last week of his life. Walking back to the city the next day Jesus became hungry and low and behold was a lone fig tree by the road. He went over to grab something for breakfast.
“Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.”Matthew 21:19
This fig tree was nothing more than false advertising. The tree withering is a tangible example of just how Jesus’ judgment of such will be.
As Psalm 49 points out, both rich and poor have one thing in common. When they die they leave behind everything they have built here in their lifetime. For at the moment of death both will stand exposed before God and judged for who they are, where they have invested themselves in the treasures of heaven. The fruit of our lives here and now is a reflection of what that standing naked before God will bring about.
The rest of the story of the man who was attempting to throw his weight around by his giving did not end well for him. As you can imagine the realities of Greg’s words were a blow. For this king of manipulation, the gig was up. Infuriated he retorted terrible things, attacking everyone he could and left the church. The reality was the church did struggle some initially with that lack of giving but God provided and sustained them. The church went forward.
For the man, it would not be the case. It would be several years later, he came back to Greg broken. For indeed his money perished as did his marriage, his relationships, and business. He lost everything. God brought the proud low and he was humbled completely as he stood in the wreckage of living his life. He was a broken man seeking forgiveness. On many levels, this devastation was a blessing for he came back to the Father although he had nothing to his name here on earth.
What are you truly investing in these days? More on point, what is the fruit of your life? You are known by that fruit not just to God but others. For some, the realities don’t settle well. The Holy Spirit often reveals people for who they are through their character and their fruit. Avoid such people. Let God deal with them as He will, and in time He will do just that.
Psalm 49 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Death. No one can escape it. It is a certainty that all of humanity agrees upon regardless of what they believe about God or the afterlife. You and I will die one day, and at that moment, our lives will be weighed and measured. The scales used will not take into consideration Earthly accomplishments. Everything acquired in this life is left behind.
What will be weighed upon death are the intangibles of our pursuit of God. Faith, love, humility, repentance, and obedience are just a few. How many today are rich in material wealth but poor in spiritual fruit? How many have prioritized entertainment, popularity, and prestige over humility, service, and meekness?
King Solomon is a sobering reminder that we can start off well and finish poorly. Solomon had everything going for him. He was handed a great kingdom from his father David. He accumulated incredible wealth and wisdom through God’s blessing. But even his innumerable blessings and extensive wisdom could not save him from his sin issue.
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.
3 He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.1 Kings 11:1-4 ESV
The danger of loving the possessions and pleasures of this life is that they begin to take ownership of our hearts. Just take a moment and consider that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived! If his heart was turned through the sins of impurity and greed, there is no doubt our hearts are in danger of the same outcome. The greatest form of evil comes in the most innocent and subtle packages.
One compromise seems harmless. It leads to another, and another, and another. After a while, we begin to justify our behavior and convince ourselves it isn’t sinning. We sometimes even allow ourselves to indulge in sin under pseudo-spiritual reasoning and think that God approves it. Why does discernment matter so much? Because our lives (and the lives of others) are at stake.
I want to circle back to the first statement. No one can escape death. The call for today is to live as relentless followers of Jesus Christ. We never know when our time will come!