Without God in the World
For centuries, Western society has benefited from the widespread influence of the Christian faith. While the history of the West is filled with examples of human depravity, where there has been a consistent Christian presence it has, in many ways and at many times, stayed the hand of evil. Most of us have not had to experience what a society looks like when it completely rejects and forgets God.
The Scriptures, however, do give us a grim picture of what happens when people have convinced themselves that there is no God. It is a picture of a rejection of humility, where “the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul” and rejects God in pride (Psalm 10:3-4). Humility is where the knowledge of God begins; therefore, those who reject God reject humility too.
Not only do such proud people reject God; they also revile Him, cursing and renouncing Him (Psalm 10:3). It is often prosperity that leads people to curse God. Their lives are going so well that they believe nothing can touch them and they will give no account to their Maker. Their prosperity gives them a false sense of security. They think they can live as they like, that “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it”
(v 11), and that there will be no repercussions for their behavior. With no accountability for how people live, there is no need for the powerful to serve or the strong to be gentle: we can treat others however we please, and so the godless man “sits in ambush … he murders the innocent … he lurks that he may seize the poor” (v 8-9).
It is with good reason, then, that the psalmist says, “Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.” When we reject and revile God, we foolishly think we are secure, which convinces us that it’s acceptable for us to mistreat others.
It is tempting to think that passages like this one only describe other people. But we should not be too quick to look away from ourselves. Are there ways we have rejected humility, believing ourselves to be sufficient without God? Have we let our prosperity numb us to our neediness and accountability before God? Has our treatment of those around us been marked by self-interest and arrogance instead of love and service? We may confess to have faith in God, but perhaps there are areas of our lives that require repentance.
The picture of man “in his pomp yet without understanding” is indeed a bleak one—both in this life and at its end. So praise God that this is not the whole picture. If you understand that we have a Creator to whom we are valuable and accountable, and that that Creator has ransomed your soul and will receive you into eternal life (Psalm 49:15), then the pomp of this world will assume its proper place, and in Jesus Christ you will enjoy purpose, hope, forgiveness, and pleasures forevermore.
Why Should I Fear in Times of Trouble?
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.
1Hear this, all peoples!
Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
2both low and high,
rich and poor together!
3My mouth shall speak wisdom;
the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
4I will incline my ear to a proverb;
I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.
5Why should I fear in times of trouble,
when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
6those who trust in their wealth
and boast of the abundance of their riches?
7Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
8for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
9that he should live on forever
and never see the pit.
10For he sees that even the wise die;
the fool and the stupid alike must perish
and leave their wealth to others.
11Their graves are their homes forever,1
their dwelling places to all generations,
though they called lands by their own names.
12Man in his pomp will not remain;
he is like the beasts that perish.
13This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
yet after them people approve of their boasts.2 Selah
14Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
death shall be their shepherd,
and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
15But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
for he will receive me. Selah
16Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
when the glory of his house increases.
17For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
his glory will not go down after him.
18For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
—and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
19his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
who will never again see light.
20Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.
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