"Hear this, all ye people;
give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world:
Both low and high,
rich and poor, together.
My mouth shall speak of wisdom;
and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.
I will incline mine ear to a parable:
I will open my dark saying upon the harp.
("I will express my riddle on the harp" NASV)
(verses 1-4 KJV)
Hear ye, hear ye, low and high, rich and poor together. Yep. We are all in this together, all human types. What will be discussed here? "Let all men consider, that their riches will not profit them in death. Poor people are as much in danger from an inordinate desire towards the wealth of the world as rich people from an inordinate delight in it." (Matthew Henry)
This is no mystery, no riddle, no dark saying, yet people act like it is. Death. There it is. I said it. So then, how shall we live? Most live in a death defiant, death denying manner. I have not much experience in death having not experienced it myself. My loved ones who have died, my parents and my grandparents, already had one foot on the other side because that was where their heart was. The dark mystery the psalmist speaks of could be just that, the dark before the light of heaven.
That commentator went on to say, "Some understood it not, it was a riddle to them; tell them of the vanity of the things that are seen, and of the reality and weight of the invisible things, and they say, 'Ah Lord God! doth he not speak in parables?' Others understood it well enough, but they were not moved by it, it never affected them, and for their sake he would open it upon the harp and try that expedient to work upon them, to win upon them. 'A verse may find him whom a sermon flies.'" (Herbert) This is all to say that mankind is rather thick headed, obtuse when it comes to the finite compared to the infinite, the here and now with the sweet by and by.
It is true that words set to music can touch hearts and minds that mere conversation, lectures or sermons cannot. David knew this as he was called upon to soothe Saul in his mental instability in the palace, to play upon his harp. Music, it just so happens, is one of the only things we share now that will be taken into eternity. Hmm. So, since I don't play the harp, let me try to say what spoke to me in this Psalm, these "dark sayings," this "riddle."
Think of a very rich man, a prominent man, one who "boasts in the abundance of (his) riches," who "trusts in (his) wealth." Even him who has "called (his) lands after (his) own name. But man in his pomp will not endure." (verses 6, 11-12) Do you have his picture in your mind, unpleasant as it might be? "Some rich people are wise, they are politicians, but they cannot out-wit death, nor evade his stroke, with all their art and management." (Matthew Henry)
"A man may have abundance of the wealth of this world and be made better by it, may thereby have his heart enlarged in love, and thankfulness, and obedience, and may do that good with it which will be fruit abounding to his account; and therefore it is not men's having riches that denominates them worldly, but their setting their hearts upon them as the best things...'They trust in their wealth.' (verse 6) they depend upon it as their portion and happiness. Their gold is their hope and so it becomes their God." (Matthew Henry) (Like the parable in Luke 12:16-21)
It is like Henry Clarke says about verse 11, "So six or seven feet long, and two or three wide, is sufficient to hold the greatest conqueror in the universe! What a small house for the possessor of numerous palaces and potent kingdoms!"
"No man can by any means redeem his brother,
Or give to God a ransom for him--
For the redemption of his soul is costly
That he should live on eternally;
That he should not undergo decay...
But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,
(from the power of the grave KJV)
Now that is the good news! No man can accomplish it, but this psalm prophecies that God will defeat the power of the grave, death itself. He will redeem my soul, hallelujah!This is what we celebrate this Holy Week of Easter. It is here sung as a dark saying while being played on the harp. But now it has come to light in our Redeemer, Christ Himself. Our redemption was indeed costly. But He has purchased eternal life for us. That 2 X 6 or 3 X 7 hole cannot hold us!
In the meanwhile, people go about like, "They expected no state of being but the present." "All he gets will be left behind; he can carry nothing with him. Even his glory must stay behind; --he shall mingle with the common earth." "For when he dies he will carry nothing away." (verse17)
"He blessed his soul."
"Though while he lives he congratulates himself --
And though men praise you when you do well for yourself--
He shall go to the generation of his fathers."
"He did all he could to procure himself animal gratifications,--and he was applauded for it; for it is the custom of the world to praise them who pay most attention to their secular interest: and he who attends most to the concerns of his soul is deemed weak and foolish, and is often persecuted by an ungodly world." (Matthew Henry) Is this ringing true in what we see about us, even upon the political scene? "The rich and honorable man, who has no spiritual understanding, is a beast in the sight of God...The important place which he occupies reflects no honour upon him, but is disgraced by him" "They flattered themselves, and were flattered by others...like sheep they are fatted for slaughter." (Adam Clarke)
"The worldling magnified himself; but thou that dost not, like him, speak well of thyself, but do well for thyself, in securing thy eternal welfare, thou shalt be praised, if not of men, yet of God, which will be thy everlasting honour."
"The beauty of holiness is that which the grave, that consumes all other beauty, cannot touch, or do any damage to."
"When dark breaks the dark lantern, yet it not extinguish the candle."
Thus "death hath no sting and the grave no victory."