Psalm 49 points out the stark contrast between life without God, and life with God.
Life without God
Those who live without God tend to end up trusting in either wealth (v.6a) or themselves.
Psalms 49:6, 13 NIV those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches? This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
This trust is characterized by a search for status. The wealthy may ‘boast of their great riches’ and use money to impress others with their possessions.
Psalms 49:16 NIV Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases;
They may even name lands after themselves.
Psalms 49:11 NIV Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves.
They enjoy the praise of others, and they count themselves blessed.
Psalms 49:18 NIV Though while they live they count themselves blessed— and people praise you when you prosper--
They may try to use their wealth to ‘buy off’ their own death. Yet no amount of money is ever enough.
Psalms 49:7-8 NIV 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--
In the end, it is all futile as wealth gets left to others. So don’t be impressed with those who get rich and pile up fame and fortune. They can’t take it with them.
What is this all worth if we decay in the grave?
Psalms 49:10, 14, 16-17 NIV For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others. 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. Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them.
By contrast, if you live a life with God there is no need to search for status. This is because your status is determined not by your success in accumulating wealth, but in knowing to whom you belong and how precious you are to him.
Your ransom has been paid and you have been redeemed – your future is secure.
Psalms 49:7, 15 NIV No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them— But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.
A life with God means you will live on forever.
Psalms 49:5, 9 NIV Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me— so that they should live on forever and not see decay.
Fear is a natural human emotion. But, with God you can face your fears with confidence because you are able to have complete trust in God for this life and the life to come.
The writer of Psalm 49 was confident in this, even though he did not know how it was possible.
Psalms 49:15 NIV But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.
What the psalmist didn't know at the time was answered in Jesus' resurrection.
Our prayer is Lord, thank you for the power of your resurrection, which now lives in me. Thank you that you will snatch me from the clutch of death and take me to yourself.