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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Psalms 49



Verses 1-20

The chief musician here bids us not to fear the ungodly. However high they may be placed, they are but dying men, and when they die their hope shall perish with them. He gives a very graphic description of the deathbed and of the perdition of ungodly men.

Psalms 49:1-2. Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world: both low and high, rich and poor, together.

Whenever God has a voice for men, it is meant for all sorts of men. No Scripture is of private interpretation. No warning is intended only for a few. Hear ye this, then, all ye people. Whether ye be low, ye are not too low to listen to his voice; or, whether ye be high, ye are not too high to be under his supremacy.

Psalms 49:3-4. My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding. I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.

Mysteries are to be preached, but they are to be preached with an earnest endeavor on the preacher’s part to make them plain. If it be a dark saying, yet let it be open; and, if music will help, so let it be. Whatever there is to be taught, let it be plainly taught to the sons of men.

Psalms 49:5. Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?

We may read it: “The iniquity of my supplanters shall compass me about.” There may some dark days when the wicked seed, whose delight it is to bite at the heel of the seed of God, will gather around us; and we think, perhaps, that they will be too many for us. But why should we fear them?

Who are they? They are great and mighty, perhaps, but if they are but an iniquity; — a corporated iniquity, — we need not to be afraid of them. Our righteous God is our defender.

Psalms 49:6-7. They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:

They may be rich as Croesus, but they cannot save a comrade from the grave. They may fee the physician, but they cannot bribe death. How little is the power of wealth, after all! The rich man cannot save even his babe that he loves so well. He certainly cannot save his fellow-sinner.

Psalms 49:8. (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)

There is no redemption but one, and if a soul be unredeemed, the hope of it ceaseth for ever.

Psalms 49:9. That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption.

For the bodies of the great are fed upon by the worm as readily as the bodies of the paupers. They may embalm the body, if they will, to cheat the worm, or put it into a coffin of lead, but little can they do with it. It is a costly business after all, and is the exception to the rule. Even the wisest cannot live for ever, so as not to see corruption.

Psalms 49:10. For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish and leave their wealth to others.

Whatever men may have gathered, the wisest cannot find an invention which will enable him to take his treasure with him. He must leave it behind. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.”

Psalms 49:11. Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.

Man is so fond of immortality that, while he foolishly rejects the reality of it he clings to the name of it; and he builds a house which he ties down by entail to his heirs, and his heirs’ heirs, “for ever,” as he calls it. And then he calls the land by his own name, that it may never be forgotten that such a worm as he once crawled over that portion of the earth.

Psalms 49:12. Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not:

He passes away. His grace, his lordship, his reverence, must lie in the grave. How ridiculous grand titles seem when once it is said, “Earth to earth; dust to dust; ashes to ashes.” “Vain pomp and glory of the earth,” indeed we may say, in the presence of the shroud and the mattock, and the grave and the worm. “Man being in honour abideth not.”

Psalms 49:12. He is like the beasts that perish.

Not like any one beast, but like any beast that perisheth. He doth but live, and, as far as this world is concerned, he is gone.

Psalms 49:13. This their way is their folly: yet their prosperity approve their sayings. Selah.

When men have lived only for this world, and die and pass away, without any future worth the having — without any hope of heaven — yet still they report it in the papers that he died “worth” — so much, as if it were wonderful to have so much to leave. And they speak of the shrewd things he used to say — mostly very greedy things, and very grasping things; and though he was a fool, after all, for aiming at the “main chance,” as he called it, while he missed the real main chance, namely, the salvation of his soul yet his posterity inherit his folly with his blood, and they approve his sayings.

Psalms 49:14. Like sheep they are laid in the grave;

They lead a worldly life, and die a worldly death-quiet, contented with this world, — no thought of the world to come.

Psalms 49:14. Death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning;

That everlasting daybreak shall shed a light on many things; and then the master and the lord, who-- tyrannized over the poor and needy, shall find himself under the foot of those he trod upon. “The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning.”

Psalms 49:14-15. And their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.

What a happy confidence! Blessed are those who, by a living faith in a living God, know that their soul shall be received into its Maker’s hands. But woe unto those whose confidence lies in the treasure they have accumulated and the acres they have purchased.

Psalms 49:16-17. Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased; For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him.

They will not know him in the next world to be the squire, the peer, the prince. Death is a dreadful leveller. Envy not the great man of this world. “His glory shall not descend after him.”

Psalms 49:18. Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.

Not “when thou doest good,” mark; for often when you do good, men will criticize and censure; -- and, the better the deaf, the more sure is it to provoke the contempt of many. But “men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself.” A shrewd man, that! That is the kind of man, See how he prospers! A smart, pushing fellow! Oh, yes, he is the man for a friend.” Whenever there is an aggravated selfishness that accumulates to itself like a rolling snow-ball, men are sure to praise. It is the irony of life.

Psalms 49:19. He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.

They are sleeping in the grave. So shall he, and beyond the grave there is nothing but darkness for him whose heart is set on this world.

Psalms 49:20. Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.

Understanding, and the fear of the Lord which is the beginning thereof, and not earthly honour, is our only succor in the day of death.


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Psalms 49:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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