On Tuesday, we began our study of Psalm 49 by learning that the psalmist has a message for all peoples: nothing can save you from death except faith in God. Unfortunately, people have all sorts of idols in which they trust, though these idols will not ultimately be able to save them from death.
There are five specific idols identified in this psalm. We have already looked at the idols of money and intelligence. Today, we will look at the third idol: power. This idol is hinted at throughout this psalm, but it is specifically mentioned in today's verses.
Please read Psalm 49:11-12
Some of the more common pyramid schemes out there try to draw you in by telling you that you can “be your own boss.” You can choose when you want to work, how much you want to work, and how much you want to earn. There is no one telling you what to do; the power is all in your hands. Whenever I see commercials like this on TV or get those unsolicited emails, I tend to smile at the joke. In reality, these companies want you to submit to them, and follow their rules, and pay them a portion of everything you earn. They want you to work for them, but they somehow hide these facts by trying to convince you that you are the one with all the power. And we all want to have power, don't we?
People will do crazy, and often extremely corrupt things, for power. When you think of powerful organizations, you might think of the Mafia, Big Banks, Big Tech, Big Oil, political dictatorships, or Drug Cartels. You may be a little more creative and think of the people who are pulling the strings behind the scenes: manipulating elections, influencing the stock market, selling weapons to both sides of a war, etc.
There are many ways in which people pursue power. However, it is extremely rare that great power is attained through purely moral and ethical means.
Our movies portray superheroes who were generally good people who gained their power through a freak accident: a spider bite, a super serum, a lab explosion, a mutation, etc. Our heroes then used their newfound power for good. Other heroes were naturally gifted, and were trained to develop their powers to be used for good. Power is good in the movies. But movies are not real life!
In the real world, the people in power have often gotten there by lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating, breaking the law, and not caring about whom they hurt. Just this morning I was reading an article about the most powerful person in the world for the last four years, who is now being indicted for criminal activity. This is not the exception. This is the norm. “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And that's not even mentioning the corrupt people in power now who are indicting the one previously in power!
There's a lot of pot calling the kettle black among the powerful: corrupt politicians calling other politicians corrupt. Still, people pursue power. They think that power will give them happiness. If they can just control their world, then they will be safe.
But even the most powerful person in the world will die one day. This was especially clear in ancient times, when the most powerful rulers often died because they were powerful. Their underlings assassinated them to take their power from them!
Power cannot save you from death. No matter how many lands are called by your own name, no matter how large your pompous parade of followers may be, even the most powerful person will perish, just as the beasts of the field will die. Death is the great equalizer. Worldly power cannot save you from death.
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