This morning I was reading the Psalms and stopped at Psalm 49. I stopped for one reason: I thought I was reading a letter to our culture. Let me explain...
In my short, yet accurate (haha) understanding of American culture, I have found a dilemma. That dilemma is the thought that a person is adequate enough to create happiness in this life to obtain life afterwards. I couldn’t count how many times someone would tell me how “good” they are and how being such a good person will earn them that “big ticket” in the sky. The American idea is: make a lot of money; never break the law; give to tax deductible organizations; say “please” and “thank you;” and last but not least, don’t ever tell anybody what they believe is wrong. Most people believe that if they live by these kinds of standards, then they are pleasing God. Well, this is wrong. Psalm 49 made this point very clear. Yet, with a very critical evaluation…you may be interested to hear.
Psalm 49 speaks of the psalmists’ enemies encamping against him. These enemies are wealthy and put their hope in money (49:6). However verse seven raises a deeper conflict. The Psalmist differentiates between the wealth of a man and the cost of a person. First, “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life.” (49:7) This statement explains to the world that no man (any man other than Jesus) can sufficiently pay off or give enough wealth to God for the soul of a man. What does this mean? Well, the psalmist is living in constant danger of his life and has to reassure the God whom he delights in. For it would not be comforting to know that his God is not an “either, or” God. In other words, God does not create multiple avenues to himself. You cannot live your life never worshipping him and then try to pay him off for the sake of your soul. The psalmist clarifies this point so as to reiterate his hope in a God who is not persuaded by earthly treasure.
Second, verse eight begins, “for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.” (49:8-9) Whose life is the psalmist talking about? Answer…the wicked wealthy man. This is rather phenomenal. Verse seven makes clear that he cannot woo God into buying salvation and verse eight clarifies that it is because the cost of his own life is too valuable to buy. Yes, even the wicked of people has values on his life. This cost is so high that nothing he can do could ever pay it off. This is intriguing because it shows the character of God. It displays his unique love for people. In the midst of persecution and torment, the psalmist even shows kindness to his enemy by displaying God’s love for him. However, don’t dumb the definition of love, this man is still an enemy of God, yet his life is invaluable. Verse nine concludes, there is no cost from his own billfold that could keep this man out of the “pit” or hell.
For me, I cannot get over the value that God puts on mankind. This means that no matter if your name is John Q. Hammons and you own half of Springfield, Mo and give to every charity on earth; or if you are Oprah and give everybody in the crowd a Hump-Back Whale; or Barack Obama and try to fix the economy, you will never be able to pay your way into eternity with God. Verse eleven says, “Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names.” Not even Michael Jordan will ever enter the Kingdom unless the price of his life is ransomed.
So, the question arises, “If even the wealthiest of men cannot pay God for our souls, then what is the cost?” I’m glad you asked. 1Timothy 2:5-6 says, “ For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” There are two unique points to this passage: one, is that God had purposed access to himself through one mediation, Jesus; second, is that Jesus is the ransom for mankind. These two fulfill everything discussed above. First, Paul and the Psalmist both agree that there is one avenue to God. While the psalmist doesn’t say Jesus, he would say, righteousness. Being a New Testament believer, Jesus is God and our righteousness. Therefore, Paul and the psalmist account their righteousness to the same God, which involves Jesus. Second, both Paul and the psalmist understand the value of human life and make effort to illuminate that a ransom higher than man’s wealth must appease. Therefore, Jesus, God and man came down to be the ransom that no man can ever pay.
Do you realize what this means? This means that God recognized a problem and created a solution. Himself! The value of human life is so much higher than anyone could even imagine that God could not be pleased if man tried to earn his way to eternity. Instead, He came down as a man who bled, died, was buried, rose, and ascended to the Father. All of this was accomplished so that man would repent of their efforts to try to please God. These efforts are called sins. Sins are acts that disobey the commands of God. All men have to do is believe and obey the Son of God, Jesus. By this men can be delivered from the “pit.” There is a danger with following Jesus. One must deny themselves and live a life of service to God and other people. This is difficult for the wealthy to do because they like to indwell in their riches and find momentary comfort in material things.
If this is you…ask yourself, “Do I value my self like man, or like God?” God loved you enough to die for you. But don’t let his love fool you, it can also send you to the “pit” lest you repent and follow him.
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