Reflection on the Old Testament: Psalms
“For the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever—that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit,”—Ps. 49:8-9, NKJV
“A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish,”—Ps. 49:20, NKJV
In Psalm 49, the psalmist reminds man of their mortality and the fact that, though they may amass great wealth and become prosperous on earth, they will eventually die and their prosperity will be left to others. The psalmist encourages us to consider our eternity and to remember that, though we may live our lives in honor and prosperity, neither our morality nor our wealth will save us from “the Pit.” “For the redemption of their souls is costly”—too costly for us to purchase. “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me,”—Ps. 49:15. Only God is able to redeem our souls, through Christ crucified. Men may attempt to redeem their own souls, through their own morality or by other ungodly means, or they may immerse themselves entirely in the pleasures of the physical realm and ignore the spiritual realm altogether, but they cannot avoid death—and what a wretched eternity awaits those who have no spiritual foundation! “Though while he lives he blesses himself (for men will praise you if you do well for yourself), he shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light,”—Ps. 49:18-19. The only path to eternal life, the only means of spiritual redemption, is Christ and Him crucified. Those who do not understand or accept this have no hope for their eternity, but will surely perish, cut off from all that is pure and good. “A man who is in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts that perish,”—Ps. 49:20. Deliver your soul to the only One who can truly save—let Jesus Christ secure it, for He has paid the price.
It is strange that Psalm 58, which is, essentially, a prayer for the destruction of the wicked, is “set to ‘Do Not Destroy’” (see Ps. 58:title). But why does David desire the wicked to be destroyed? Perhaps because he desires destruction to cease.
Wickedness invariably produces strife, chaos, and, yes, destruction. Most, if not all, of the time, to end destruction, the root of the destruction must be destroyed. To bring about peace, when humans are involved, there must first be war. On the other hand, what is true destruction? Is it not generally defined as a laying waste of something complete or good? Yes, in this context, as in many others, the destruction spoken of is the result of wickedness—wickedness which must be judged.
With this outlook, David’s psalm being set to “Do Not Destroy” is completely appropriate. He is pleading for wickedness to be eradicated—for strife to cease, and peace to ensue.
“Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; with the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself,”—Ps. 76:10, NKJV.
In and of itself, this verse is rather difficult to understand. How can “the wrath of man” praise God, or be a garment of glory for Him? The cross-reference in my NKJV Bible indicated Rom. 9:17, in which Paul quotes Ex. 9:16, “For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’” This cross-reference puzzled me at first, but then it struck me (I will leave to the interpretive reader to decide what “it” was): the pervading theme of God’s dealings with Egypt, and specifically the Pharaoh, was to “show His power” through signs and wonders, exhibited only as a result of Pharaoh’s wrath and hardness of heart. God’s tendency to reap good from evil, to thwart the enemy by backfiring his own works against him, permeates all of Scripture, and, indeed, our daily life. But although God is capable of turning evil purpose into good outcomes, He still judges sin and prepares severe consequences for sinners. As I said before, the reaping of good from evil, the use of men’s wrath to praise God, is an offensive blow toward Satan, dealt upon him time and time again, and, indeed, once and for all on Calvary. We, as Christians, should certainly never challenge God to use our sin for good—abominable thought! God never “uses” sin, but thwarts it, and through its defeat, He is praised. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; with the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself,” Ps. 76:10.