There isn’t a huge amount to say about this reading, as most of it is stuff that we have seen before. As the new generation of Israel are about to step into the land promised to them, he reminds them of the importance of offerings. These offerings were the primary way that your average person would develop a relationship with God.
Remember, these people don’t have the Holy Spirit yet, and so the only way to have a personal relationship with God at this time was to participate in offerings. Note how often that seven (or multiples of seven such as fourteen) appear during these offerings.
A branch off from offerings was vows. The fact that men seem to make decisions for women in this section can seem incredibly offensive to our modern thinking. As always, we have to remember this is part of a culture where men, predominantly, had authority, and a vow was a binding commitment.
This psalm is attributed to the sons of Korah and falls into the category of wisdom psalm. It is specifically focused on the topic of death, in the face of human power and wealth.
Psalm 49:1-4 - Introduction
Psalm 49:5-12 - Do not fear the wealthy, for they will one day die
Psalm 49:13-15 - The foolish trust in their wealth and die but the wise trust in God and are redeemed
Psalm 49:16-20 - Do not fear the wealthy, for they will one day die
The psalm opens with a call from the psalmist to listen as they share wisdom. This wisdom is for all people, no matter where you live or whether you’re rich or poor.
They then pose a question. Why should the fear in the face of death and powerful and wealthy enemies? These enemies might trust in their wealth and boast in their riches, but what good will it do them?
All the riches in the world won’t save man’s life. Eventually everyone dies, and that wealth will go to someone else. Though they may live in nice houses now, one day they will live in the ground.
The unspoken point here is that all people that are equal. The enemies that you face are no better than you because of their wealth and power. They will one day face the same fate as everyone else.
The psalmist then turns to the foolishness of putting your trust in your wealth. They walk around with confidence, seemingly unaware that each day they come closer to death.
In contrast, those who put their trust in God will have their souls redeemed, so that even death loses its threat over them.
And so the psalmist returns to their encouragement. Do not fear those who are wealthy or powerful. That wealth and power will mean nothing when they die. They have missed the point of life and end up no better than the animals.
This psalm reminds of the wise way to think of wealth and power. While it has value, it’s not something to put our trust in. Instead, put your trust in God.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.
This Bible study devotional covers Numbers chapters 28-30. Here we read about the sacrifices and festivals Israel is to keep once they enter the promised land. This is done to orient themselves around God using holy time.
As always, Spoken Gospel are committed to showing you how Jesus fulfills these specific passages. In Numbers 28-30, we see that Jesus' Gospel is the new catalytic event around which all our space and time is to be oriented.
Understanding the context of your passage is always important. BibleProject always do an incredible job of breaking down each book so you can see how your passage fits into the wider story.
BibleProject have done an animated recap of Leviticus to help you fit today's passage into the overarching story of Numbers.
Spoken Gospel outlines the book of Numbers and point out some of the key themes, all in the medium of spoken word.