Reading through the Bible together
This Psalm sounds like it belongs in the book of Ecclesiastes or Proverbs. In fact, verse 4 says, “I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle.” Life is indeed a riddle and it requires inspired wisdom to understand what is going on. If we are deaf to wisdom, we will get caught up by advertising and superficial propaganda such as: beauty in a bottle; happiness in your pocket; security of your finances. This is the gospel of the gods of this world, gods of gold and iron and wood. The value systems of our society lead us to define success in materialistic terms.
We are reminded in this Psalm that the wealthy will perish. Their wealth does not buy them any favours or accommodations beyond this life. “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the glory of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his glory will not descend [into the grave] with him.” In ancient times people stocked their graves with earthly goods to make the afterlife more comfortable, but the only ones who benefited were the grave robbers.
Regarding the life to come, verses 7-9 tell us, “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—that he should live forever and not see decay.” A ransom is often demanded by a kidnapper for the release of the victim. What value do we put on the life of a human, especially on someone whom we love? Are millions of dollars too much or far too little? The verse declares that “the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough.” And when it comes to eternal life, how could we ever give God an adequate payment for our ransom? Only by an act of God can a human life be ransomed. “No man can redeem the life of another…. But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to Himself” (verse 15).
Will we ever grasp how much it costs to redeem us from the grave? “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23). What was the price-tag of this gift? What did it ask of God for His Son to become a human being, to forever link Himself to this human race, and in the end to submit to degrading abuse and a horrifying death? Could we ever penetrate the dark clouds engulfing Calvary and comprehend the immensity of that hour? Above all else, how could God endure the infinite agony of watching His Son as He bore the ultimate impact of our sin and rebellion?
God Himself has made the payment for our redemption. Anything we may offer Him as payment could not contribute in the slightest to our redemption. The expression “God so loved” opens up a totally new dimension. The powerful pull of the grave is intercepted by His promise that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.
Greater Sydney Conference