Talk given by John MacDiarmid at Poole High School for PCF on Sunday morning 7 October 2018
Listen to this talk (or download – right-click here and ‘Save as’):
We continue our series in the Psalms under the heading “Songs in the Key of life”.
As we have seen whenever we have looked at the book of Psalms, it is a song book written by ordinary believers who wrote about the ups and downs of living for God in a hostile world. It’s a song book about their challenges. It is therefore a song book about your challenges and the issues you face in your life.
In Psalm 49, one of the Psalms of the Sons of Korah, the singer deals with one of the real challenges that faces us as believers: we look at those who have put their trust in worldly goods…and often we see that they are doing very well, thank you! So how do we deal with it, and still have our treasure in the right place?
1. A Call to Listen
Like many ancient and modern songs, the singer sets the scene for us before he starts his song – saying, in other words, “Listen Up!”
Hear this, all you peoples;
listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
I will turn my ear to a proverb;
with the harp I will expound my riddle:
The advice that will follow is for all people, rich and poor, believers or not. The wisdom that comes here is wisdom from God – the only true source of wisdom.
2. A Challenge to Faith
If you’re someone who has made Jesus their treasure, who tries, within the limitations of our own sinful nature, to live life in a way that honours Him, you may expect that life will be fruitful, blessed and full of peace. Although there are plenty of Scriptures that promise this – we often experience exactly the opposite. People who put their confidence not in God, but in their own ability wealth and talent seem to prosper, and to be free of so many of the challenges that we have as believers.
“while they live they count themselves blessed—
and people praise you when you prosper— “
The writer of Psalm 73 puts it very graphically:
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.[a]
They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b];
their evil imaginations have no limits.
They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
It just doesn’t seem fair, does it? On our bad days, people seem to prosper by not following Jesus! What’s going on? If we’re honest, amidst all the joys of Knowing Jesus, there are times when we find it hard that those who put their trust in riches prosper, and we don’t. Does God have an answer for us. Yes he does. That is what this Psalm is all about.
3. A Clearer View
In order to really understand why Jesus is a treasure for whom we should give up everything else, we need to get God’s view on those who trust in themselves. Here it is:
For all can see that the wise die,
that the foolish and the senseless also perish,
leaving their wealth to others.
Their tombs will remain their houses[b] forever,
their dwellings for endless generations,
though they had[c] named lands after themselves.
People, despite their wealth, do not endure;
they are like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings. They are like sheep and are destined to die;
death will be their shepherd
The message is clear: “you can’t take it with you”. But it gets worse than that! It will be utterly usely as a bargaining chip when we stand in front of a Holy God
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— so that they should live on forever
and not see decay
When we stand before God – we do so alone, and we do so guilty, unless we can offer God something.
And the great news for the believer is this: we do have something to offer God. It is the ransom paid by our Lord Jesus Christ:
But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead;
he will surely take me to himself.
We who have Jesus as our treasure know that our reward is safe with Jesus and that those who do not – though they may flourish for a while – are facing an eternity with Christ and without reward. So the singer triumphantly concludes:
Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
when the splendour of their houses increases;
for they will take nothing with them when they die,
their splendour will not descend with them.
Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
and people praise you when you prosper—
they will join those who have gone before them,
who will never again see the light of life.
Living with Jesus as your treasure gives you a future and a hope – nothing else will!
So, lets finish with a very positive application, and ask ourselves, what does it mean for me to live my life with Jesus as my treasure?
What does it mean:
- For the way I respond to others?
- For the way I use my possessions?
- For the way I use my time?
- For the way I use my money?