A Study of Psalm 49:20
“Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.” (Psalm 49:20)
What is he saying? Let me paraphrase it. In other words, David is speaking. He is writing under Divine inspiration, which is God breathed. The LORD is speaking through him. David is saying, “A man or a woman that is held in great worldly honour, great esteem, high position with riches and wisdom in this world, but yet, does not understand the true wisdom of God, who does not understand the honour that comes from God, who does not understand true riches in Christ Jesus, he is no more than the dog that dies on the highway or the beast that perishes in the field.” There is no difference.
What is this understanding? John says, “And we know that the Son of God is come and hath given us an understanding.” (1st John 5:20)
David said, “Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.” (Psalm 49:20)
Where do you get understanding? “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true.” There is no truth in this world. God is true and “and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (1st John 5:20) John says, “This is eternal life.” When a man has understanding, he has God. When he has God, he has life. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1st John 5:12)
It does not matter what kind of beast it is; I have just chosen the word “dog”. He perishes like a beast. It does not matter if it is a dog, cat, or whatever. The importance of what David is saying here cannot be exaggerated. I do not want to die like a dog.
You might be driving down the highway and you see a carcass of a dog beside the road. You do not know if some child has lost their pet, or a farmer has lost his sheep dog. There may be a hunter who has lost his beagle hound. There’s not much thought given to it because the dog perishes. It is annihilated and it is gone. He said, “That a man, no matter who he is, how much honour or how much prestige he has in this world, if he doesn’t have understanding, he dies like a dog.”
The understanding referenced here is in understanding the redemptive purpose and glory of God. The glory of God in Jesus Christ is the only thing that makes a man different from the beast, understanding that one thing. That is what he says. A beast, like a dog lives for today. He has no thought of tomorrow or life after death. A dog or animal lives for present pleasure (right now). His concern and interest right now is for himself. He may be in the fields; he may even be in his doghouse. The dog is concerned with being warm or cool, getting something to eat or playing with other dogs. The things about him in the world are all that he is concerned about.
Do you know anybody like that?
Men who live in this fashion have no concern for their spiritual well-being or no concern for God or no interest in God’s grace and mercy. They have no understanding of spiritual things. Well, they are like the dog; he perishes. He lives for the world and he dies with the world. When the world is destroyed, he is destroyed. When his interests are gone, he is gone. What David is saying here is actually from the loftiest place, the highest place of fellowship with God, of eternal glory, hope, and honour. From that highest place to the uttermost depths of despair and death and corruption, is only a matter of understanding. It is a matter of understanding and believing the truth of God. That is the difference.
The difference in dying like a man (an unbeliever), or the difference of a believer dying in Christ Jesus, (because in Christ we died with Him); as Paul said, “I’m crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
The difference in dying in the glory and honour of God and to hear Him say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34) and to die like a dog on the street; the difference is understanding and believing the true Gospel and true God.
Is that what He said?
A man that is in honour, prestige, and power and understands not, is like a dog that dies, a beast that perishes. There are men that have no worldly honour at all. I have no worldly honour at all. Men who have no worldly honour at all, who know God, are higher than the angels. That’s right; they are higher than the angels, if they know God. They are sons of God. They are “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). They are seated with Christ in the heavenlies.
Men boast of great wisdom, riches and honour on this earth. Their names are in the paper all the time and they are seen on television. Some are famous actors and actresses, yet, they do not know God. No matter how much acclaim, prestige, and power they have now, God says, “When they die, they are like a beast that perishes.”
“Let not the rich man glory in his riches. Let not the mighty man glory in his might. Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he knows Me and understands Me.” (Jeremiah 23:9-10)
He knows, He understands. I am saying to you from the loftiest place of eternal wisdom, glory is a step from the deepest pit of despair, and corruption is a matter of understanding.
Let’s turn our attention to this 49th Psalm. Let me paraphrase it, Psalm 49. Let’s start with verse one: David says, “Hear me ye people, all the inhabitants of the earth; listen to me, both low and high together. Both rich and poor, listen to me,” David said. “My mouth is going to speak wisdom. The thoughts of my heart shall be of understanding,” (real understanding).
“I’m going to submit a parable to you in music. I do not fear to speak the truth in these days of evil,” he said. “When men of evil and iniquity surround me, I’m not afraid to speak the truth; I am going to tell you the truth.”
“Men trust in their wealth and boast themselves of great riches,” he says. None of them can redeem themselves. None of them can redeem their brothers with all their riches, honour, power, and glory. Their billions and millions and their so-called wisdom and strength can’t provide a ransom for sinners. They cannot redeem themselves nor their brothers. The price of redemption is too costly.
“Without the shedding of blood there is no remission…But now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:22; Hebrews 9:26). It costs too much to redeem a soul. He says, “All of you fellows who trust in your wealth and boast yourself of riches, what will it get you?” You can’t save your soul; you can’t raise yourself from the grave; you can’t take yourself to glory; you can’t invade the Kingdom of God; it is not for sale
“They may talk of heaven, David said, but they can’t buy it.” For wise men die and fools die too. They all, wise men and fools, go to the grave and they leave everything behind them to others. They think that their houses, their names, and their members shall linger.
They name buildings after themselves and they chisel their names in granite and marble stones. They leave behind trust funds and their names on all kinds of things. They think their names, houses, and members are going to linger, but David said; “It is not so.”
Even honourable men die and fools die. Great men die and nothing remains. “They are like beasts that perish.” They lay in the grave like animals. Death and worms feed on them. Their beauty is consumed in the grave. That is all that it amounts to.
But, “My God shall redeem me.” I have a Redeemer; He paid the price. He is able and is fully sufficient. “He is able to save to the uttermost them who come to God by Him. He is able to present us faultless, holy, and unblameable before His throne of glory. He is able to raise our vile bodies and make them like His own. He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” He is able!
My God will redeem me. “It is impossible with men, but not with God; all things are possible with God. He shall redeem my soul from the grave for He shall receive me to Himself.” That is when he writes “A man that is in honour and does not understand this, the redemptive glory of God, is like the dogs that die.”
I haven’t exaggerated this in the least. This is exactly what David is saying, “A man that does not understand, is like a beast that perishes.” I say that a man that does not know God, believe God, understand the redemptive glory of God and the true riches of God, is like a dog that dies on the highway. A man who dies without an understanding of the true wisdom, true riches, true strength and true glory and true honour, regardless of his station in life, dies like a dog.
What is this understanding? Let’s look at understanding more closely. What is it? It is not in me. It is not in any preacher, not in any priest, not in any organization, or in religious tradition. It is not in the forms or in the law. This wisdom and understanding is not in philosophy or morality. The wisdom of God is in Jesus Christ.
If you will read Proverbs Chapter 8, Christ is called; “The Wisdom of God.” In First Corinthians it says, Those who believe, see in Christ, the wisdom and power of God. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1st Corinthians 1:30). He says in John, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). He has come and given us an understanding.
He says, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). God said on the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is My Son; hear Him” (Luke 9:35). So, the wisdom and the understanding of God come through Christ. “Hear Him.” If you want to know what God says, then hear His Son; hear Christ. He is the wisdom of God. He is the understanding.
Now, I want to give you five things that we learn in Christ that we learn about this understanding, to which we are brought, that separates us from the beast. All men are going to die. You are going to die, and I am going to die. Death is a certainty, just as sure as we are standing here. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27)
I want to die in Christ. I want to die in fellowship with God. I want to die with something ahead of me, not everything behind me. I want to have glory awaiting and a hope of life eternal. “If a man dies, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14) God says that he shall.
Here is what I have learned in Christ Jesus. There are five things. This is what it is to understand.
First of all, in Christ we learn the purpose of God. There is no way of knowing the purpose of God apart from Christ. Listen to this Scripture in Ephesians 1: What is God doing? What is God’s grand design in this whole thing? Well, it is wrapped up in Christ. It is revealed in Christ.
In Ephesians 1:9-11, “Having made known unto us the mystery of God’s will according to His own good pleasure which He purposed in Himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of time, He might gather together in one, all things in Christ, which are in heaven and on earth, even in Christ: In whom we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the council of His own will.”
What is God’s purpose? I ask you, now, do you have any understanding? Do you have any knowledge of God? God is Eternal. Back before the world was made and the sun, moon and stars were put in their respective places, before all things, before the morning stars sang together in the eternal councils of God, what was God’s purpose in all of this? What did God propose and decree?
Here it tells us; His purpose is in Christ; that in the ages to come He might gather together on a new earth and in a new heaven all things in Christ. The purpose of God is in Christ. God’s eternal purpose is to have a people from Adam’s race. He is to have people from every tribe, kindred, nation, and tongue under heaven, redeemed by Christ and made like Christ.
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Roman’s 8:29)
In John 6:37-40, our Lord Jesus said; “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
God’s will, God’s purpose, and God’s grand design in redemption is all fulfilled in Christ Jesus and is related to Christ Jesus. Now, that’s right! I understand this. Christ said, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10:16) I have some understanding of that, do you?
I discovered it in Christ, in His Gospel, in His life, death, in His Priestly prayer and His Words. I found out God’s purpose is to have a people like Christ. They are loved in Christ, redeemed in Christ, crucified in Christ, raised in Christ, seated in Christ and someday resurrected and made like Christ.
Secondly: In Christ we have an understanding of the power of God. When our Lord talked about salvation, the disciples said; “Who then can be saved?” Who can be lifted from the dunghill? Who can be made like the Son of God? Who can be cleansed from sin? Who can be perfected? Who can ascend unto the hill of the LORD? Who can stand in His Holy presence?
“What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?” (Job 15:14)
Our Lord said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27)
My friends; I am weary of hearing of today’s impotent god. I’m weary of hearing preachers talking about God wanting to do this, and God wants to do that, and folks just won’t let Him. “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14) Men keep preaching that God wants to do this and God wants to do that. They say, “God will do; God wants to.” Let me tell you something, what God wills to do, He will do. What God Almighty wants to do He will do.
I hear preachers say, “God is trying to show you this.” God doesn’t try to show you anything. If God sets out to show a man something, he will learn it. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will” (John 5:21). God said, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) My council shall stand. “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35) God says, “declaring the end from the beginning.” (Isaiah 46:10) They said, “David; where is your God?” He said, “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” (Psalm 115:3). Whatever the LORD pleased, that did He in heaven, earth and in the seas and all deep places.
The next time you hear a man preaching or talking about God wanting to do this, or that, and He is not able or “men won’t let Him,” turn him off, turn your hearing aid down. That man is not talking about the living God. The living God does what He sets out to do. He accomplishes what He wills to accomplish and “nothing is too hard for God.”
I see that in Christ “The Son quickeneth whom He will.” Matthew, follow Me. Zacchaeus come down. Lazareth, come forth. Have you ever known Jesus Christ to try to attempt to do anything that He didn’t do? Study His life. “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.” (Psalm 153:6)
Thirdly: In Christ we understand the providence of God. God is the first cause of all things. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28); “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ.” (Romans 8:39)
When God determined to bless Abraham, He called him and blessed him. When God determined to put Joseph on the throne in Egypt, He put him on the throne in Egypt. He worked all providential dealings in the life of Joseph to bring him to the throne.
When God chose His disciples, He called them. All things in heaven and earth, all things good and bad, all things past, present and future work together for the eternal good of His people who are called in Christ Jesus. That is true!
Hannah understood this. She said, “The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them.” (1st Samuel 2:6-8)
Job understood this. He said, “the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21) Eli understood this. Samuel told Eli, “God is going to kill your two sons.” He said, “Well, it is the Lord, let Him do what He will.” Paul understood this. He said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” (1st Corinthians 15:10)
Do you understand this? You can’t change God by wishing. You can’t change God by your theological patterns. You can’t change God by your feelings. God is God. “Let God be true.” Understanding God is the knowledge of Christ Jesus, and His Divine Providence.
Fourthly: In Christ, I understand the presence of God. “No man knoweth the Father but the Son, He to whom the Son will reveal Him.” You see, “He was in the world.” Who was in the world? God was in the world. He was in the world in the Person of Jesus Christ. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”
The disciples said, “Show us the Father.” He said, “You are looking at Him.” “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father.”
God came to earth. “God was in the Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” (2nd Corinthians 5:19). To know the presence of God is to know Christ. A man who does not have Christ knows nothing of the presence of God. “He that hath the Son hath life. He that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1st John 5:12). “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). Not the presence of God, not the love of God, not the mercy of God, but the wrath of God abideth on him.
God’s love is in Christ. I promise you that and that is true! God’s love is in Christ.
That is understanding the presence of God. Anything else is presumption. It is a fools presumption too, because He plainly says; “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” (1st John 2:23)
“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23)
Fithly: in Christ, we understand the promises of God. “All the promises of God are in Christ Jesus.” That is so! Turn to Second Corinthians 1:20, “For all the promises of God are in Christ.” That is what it says right there, “And they are yes and in Him, amen to the glory of God.”
There is not a promise outside of Christ for anybody. There is a promise of forgiveness in Him. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14). There is forgiveness of our sins, there is a promise of justification; “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
There is a promise of eternal life, “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” There is a promise of resurrection, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). There is a promise of hope, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
There is a promise of peace, “Having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20). There’s a promise of rest, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). There is a promise of His presence, “Lo, I am with you alway.” (Matthew 28:20)
Shall I die like a dog, or a man?