“Man, in his pomp, will not remain. He is like the beasts that perish.”
Psalm chapter 49, verses 12 and 20 both say almost the exact same thing. So let me read them both.
Psalm 49, verse 12. “Man, in his pomp, will not remain. He is like the beasts that perish.” So that’s verse 12, and then verse 20, the last verse in Psalm 49, it says, “Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, is like the beasts that perish.”
Only what is done in humility before God, for the purposes of God, will last.
So the picture’s clear: man in his pomp. Picture man in his pride, man in his boasting in the things of this world, whether it’s wealth or fame or superiority in this way or that way, that’s what the whole psalm, going back to the beginning, is about. This is a Psalmist thinking about people who are cheating him, around him, who are trusting in their wealth, who are boasting in the abundance of their riches and their power. All of the things that they have in this world.
And then he says, right in the middle, and then right at the end; “Man and his pomp with all these things will not remain. He’s like the beasts that perish.” Man and his pomp, yet, without understanding.” In other words, pride in this world, makes one foolish. Takes away one’s understanding.
So, as we reflect on these verses, I think it’s helpful first and foremost, to look not at other’s hearts and all those people who boast and all these things in the world, but to look at our own hearts and to think about pride in our own lives and to pray that God would remove pompous pride from us. Boasting in the things of this world, that that would not be so, among us, that God would give us humility, that we would realize that the things of this world that we are prone to boast in, will not last. Only what is done in humility before God, for the purposes of God, will last.
So to consider pride and pomp and our own hearts, and then, yes, this is what the Psalmist is doing, looking at the world around him and reminding himself to keep perspective when it looks like everyone else is succeeding in this way or that way, or specifically when others are treating you unjustly or unfairly or attacking you or cheating you. That’s the language here in Psalm 49. To step back and remember: this too shall pass. And just like the beasts that perish, the pride and injustice of men and women will also perish. And in this way, the psalm beckons us to keep an eternal perspective on everything in this world, including unfair, unjust things that happen to us in this world.
So God, we pray. We pray first and foremost that you would keep us from pomp and pride. God, I pray for this in my own life, I pray for this on behalf of every single person listening right now. God, we pray for humility. Please give us humility. Please keep us from pride. Help us in a Jeremiah 9:23 and 24 kind of way, not to boast in our strength or our wisdom or our riches, but let him who boasts, boast in this: that he understands and knows me.
Yes, God, we pray for this understanding, for this knowledge. We want to know you more. We want to walk humbly with you. We want to worship you with all of our souls. We want to love you with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. God, we pray for humility before you, and humility before others and God, we pray for a humble perspective on the world around us. An eternal perspective. To realize what will remain and what will not remain.
And God we praise you, we praise you for the hope we have in you. That we know injustice will not remain. That sin will not remain. That suffering will not remain. That all who trust in you, all who humble themselves before you, will experience a kingdom where your justice and your righteousness and your holiness will reign forever and ever. Will remain forever and ever, and ever.
God, we lift our eyes to you today and we pray that you would protect us in every way from pride in this world, and from losing perspective on what matters most in eternity. In Jesus name, we pray. Psalm 49, verse 12 and 20. Amen.
View the 2021 McLean Bible Church Reading Plan here.