Read Psalm 49
For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm.
1 Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
2 both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
4 I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:
5 Why should I fear when evil days come,
when wicked deceivers surround me—
6 those who trust in their wealth
and boast of their great riches?
7 No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them—
8 the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough—
9 so that they should live on forever
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 forever,
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 splendor of their houses increases;
17 for they will take nothing with them when they die,
their splendor 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.
We are surrounded by people who blatantly cheat, constantly steal, and foolishly trust. But sometimes, we are those same people. Our emotions change depending on the weather. Our satisfaction flees when a new leader takes over our team. Our anxiety spikes when the market changes. We white-knuckle our paycheck now to pay for the future. As Psalm 49:14 puts it: we are being led by a shepherd of death. Our ignorant blindness led us where we did not want to go.
But, that is the story that occurs when we are led by the wrong shepherd. Our own actions and ransom can never cover the cost of our sin. We can never repent enough, do the right thing enough, or earn enough to lead us to joy. The Sons of Korah who wrote this psalm knew the path of destruction was easy to walk along in one’s lifetime; the better road is the one that leads us to our Lord.
Earthly honor fluctuates constantly. Cancel culture changes one’s spotlight of fame into shame and ostracism in a matter of a few moments. A celebrity’s “net worth” can plummet after speaking a single sentence or when major investments crash. But rather than live with false hope, we can turn to a God who is constant. He redefines our success. He reminds us of our full worth.
When we walk with the Lord, we do not have to fear in times of trouble. Our attempts to save ourselves can stop, and we can reallocate our time and resources to a greater purpose. We can find stability in Christ. We can be satisfied even when things around us are unstable. We can face anxiety knowing there is a greater outcome down the road. We can share the blessings God has given us with those in need. Fixing our eyes on our steadfast King allows us to get through the hills and valleys.
- Which shepherd are you following? One that leads to destruction, or one that leads to hope?
- How can you make sure you are following the right Shepherd today?
- In what ways can you share your gifts or blessings with those around you?