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Chuck brought a group of bluegrass-style music friends to church this morning so it was fun having worship accompanied by drums, bass, keyboards, mandolin, harmonica and washboard. Your faithful blogger contributed with a few harmonica accents and harmonies.
began by reading Psalm 49 (which I recommend reading now.)
A man steps out from the pages of the bible and he has a riddle that applies to everyone -- rich, poor, wise, ignorant, believers and atheists. We need to listen because his words will give wisdom. The word used for "wisdom" here means a skill for living. And we will also have understanding. Insight. Understand means we see into things. Instead of just seeing only the surface, we learn to see behind the surface…
The psalmist is giving it in the form of a song, about a proverb…. “With my harp I will expound my riddle.”
A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish. In other words, sometimes a man can be like a cow.
This psalm was written by a man living in an evil time. Not unlike the days we live in today. The righteous have a difficult time and are at a disadvantage.
The man in this story was swindled, taken advantage of, and it tested his faith. But out of this bitter experience he had come to wisdom.
The psalm makes reference to Exodus 21:30. "However, if payment is demanded of him, he may redeem his life by paying whatever is demanded." The law allows a person with means to buy freedom from penalty of death in a situation.
But in the final analysis, neither money nor a Ph.D. will save you or me from death. Philanthropy doesn’t save you. People have states, or cities or streets named after them….but in the end they all die. Even the richest men, despite their riches, can not endure. He is like the beasts which perish.
The recognition that nothing can save us from death changes our perspective.
Brad told a story about a man who found a newspaper that is from six months in the future. The man gets excited about reading where stocks will be in six months, underdog teams that become champions. He realizes that gambling and investment opportunities will make him exceedingly wealthy soon. He then turns the page and sees... his own obituary.
Brad the shared about an order of Trappist monks who dig a grave that they leave open. Each day the monks go out and look at the open grave. When one of their number dies, he is put in the grave and a new grave is dug. They do this for perspective.
What’s the understanding this psalm writer has in mind? It's this: when life is over it is not over.
Death will feed on those in the grave. Death is like a shepherd that leads his flock to the slaughterhouse. This is their end.
It's important to keep perspective. Do not be overawed when man gets rich. When people die, they die naked. They do not take with them their splendor, their bank account, etc. The wicked go into the darkness of the tomb. They also go into the darkness of eternity.
But when life is over it is not over. For the righteous, there is light ahead of them. For the righteous, God can pay the price that saves from death.
"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Rom. 10:9
Jesus has gone before us. He went to the tomb and rose to life. What happened to Him will happen to us. This is the understanding that changes everything for us. Therein lies the freedom we all so desperately desire.
Farmer and cow… both will die. The farmer who does not have understanding is no more than a beast.
Brad shared how easy Chuck’s cows have it… no stress, easy life getting fat, no responsibilities. But those cows are being fattened for slaughter. If the farmer dies with no more understanding than the cow, then his end is no better than the cow’s.
John Wesley once visited a wealthy man at his fabulous estate. The wealthy man said, “You know, you could have had all this.” Wesley said in the next life he will have more.
This understanding changes everything. When life is over, it is not over. This is the gospel.
We then shared Communion as Brad affirmed, "The object of our trust should be Jesus."
POSTSCRIPT: This was the first time in a lifetime of attending church to hear a sermon on Psalm 49. The insights were refreshing, but inadequately captured here. Reading this blog is probably a good thing, being present for the service would have been better. Especially this Sunday.