Psalm 49: The End of All Things

I’ve started this entry on Psalm 49 about five times now, and have yet to settle on a way to describe this final chapter of the Korahite introduction to Book II of the Psalms. I’ve tried to write about how this psalm answers the question posed by the psalmist in chapter 42 and 43 where asks “Why must I go about mourning oppressed by the enemy?” I’ve tried to write about how this psalm bookends the hopeful description of the coming groom, his conquering work, ascension to the throne, and life in his eternal city. I’ve tried to write about how this conclusion brings hope. I’ve tried to write about all of these things, but I have neither the energy nor the words to adequately write about Psalm 49.

For the past couple days, I’ve thought about my low energy and sparse words, and I’ve come to a preliminary conclusion: I am living in the inevitable weary wake following the holiday season. There is something energizing about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, even if you don’t relish large celebrations and gatherings. It’s difficult to not become caught up in the energy of the first gentle snow, the scintillating lights strung on trees and houses, and the brightly wrapped packages filled with future hopes, but then the first week of January inevitably arrives.

I’m guessing you know the feeling. You reenter the daily grind of life, the snow is gray and slushy, the lights are gone, and the hope-filled packages are now empty. You are now stuck in January awaiting the most dreary of months: February. You tell yourself there will be holidays throughout the year, but you know none of their excitement compares to that found in the three in November and December. Whatever joy and hope you experience in December now lives as a dim light at the end of the long tunnel of time, and you know the darkness between you and the light is filled with many pitfalls, broken tracks, and other dangers.

I apologize if that was depressing, but it’s a fairly accurate description of how I feel as I sit at my lonely desk in my empty house on January 5th trying to figure out something insightful to say about Psalm 49.

I suppose if I had been a bit smarter, more intuitive, or even more spiritually attuned, I think I’d have quicker seen the comparison between the way I feel now and the way I think the Sons of Korah felt after their description of the wedding of the groom. In one minute, the promise of something wonderful would be in the air, but in the next, as the words “that you may tell of them to the next generation” were spoken it would come crashing down. It’s not that I don’t want to tell the next generation, but I don’t want the party to end. It’s easy to become caught up in the rapture of the glorious coming of the groom, forget his coming is a promise for the future, and forget I had been asking “Why, my soul, are you downcast?” But the pain doesn’t disappear and when the glorious hope-filled moment has passed I am left with a familiar sounding question.

But, I will notice something has changed if I pay close attention. The difference is so subtle that I might miss it because I am still focused on how everyone is still locked in this life of suffering and death where wickedness and wealth go hand-in-hand with the oppression of the righteous and the poor. But if I listen carefully I can hear a faint whisper, a hint that something has changed: it is my question. Where I once asked why God seems absent (Psa. 42:5,9,11 and 43:2,5) I now ask why I should fear (Psa. 49:5). Whereas the former question was one of pessimism and dismay, the present question is one of optimism and hope.

Why should I fear when the days of drudgery appear? Why should I fear when evil days come? Why should I fear when wicked deceivers surround me and boast of their riches and power? Why would such things cause me to fear now that I know the end of all things? I know a day is coming when the groom will redeem me, through no power or payment of my own, from the certain death of this life. And I know the wicked ones who trust solely in their wealth are doomed to destruction for they are no better than the brute beasts who will die, never to live again.

Yes, I think that’s why it’s been a struggle to write this entry. I think the moment after the celebration when everyone has gone home and I find myself back in my old habitation, I am tempted to despair. But I must, as we all must, realize what the celebration has done: it has changed my question from despair to hope.

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