Psalm 49 (Psalms on the Trail)

Psalm 49:15

But God will ransom my life and snatch me from the jaws of death.  

Psalm 49:15

Okay, this menacing creature is fairly harmless.  It’s either a wolf spider or a nursery web spider—I don’t know which.  So maybe this photo isn’t a good illustration for this psalm verse, because Psalm 49 is a “wisdom” psalm that teaches about the inevitability of death and the way that death levels both the wise and the foolish.  The psalm rants about how useless it is to trust in money or influential power, because death is inevitable.  We will all die and leave it behind and there is absolutely nothing we can do to prevent it—not even making a deal with God.

But then there is this strange verse tucked into the middle of the psalm that comes out of nowhere, offers no explanation, and simply jars us awake with just a glimmer of hope that death’s bite might not be fatal.  That hope, indicates the psalmist, would depend on God and only God’s ransom.  Read the whole psalm and see what a gem this verse is.  Having expressed that one hope, the psalmist then sinks back into philosophical fatality.  I think this psalmist would have enjoyed meeting Rabbi Jesus who came along a few centuries later and said many of the same things about the futility of amassing treasures on earth.  But Jesus took a huge leap further and proclaimed God’s gift of new life for people in the context of faith and trust in God.  The psalmist’s glimmer of hope was to become an embodied promise of Jesus.  Sounds like death can be venomless like a wolf spider after all.

God of wisdom, we do not know when our life will end.  

Help us set our hearts on things above and not on the wealth and power of this world.

We pray this, trusting in Jesus Christ, our highest joy.  Amen  

(Psalms for All Seasons, prayer for Psalm 49)


1. Take this verse with you and ponder its meaning for you throughout the day.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder?  Where do you need a glimmer of hope in your life right now?  Can you imagine how Rabbi Jesus would encourage you?

2. Or read all of Psalm 49 to discover how this verse fits into the psalm or to discover a different verse.

3. Or comment with a photo of your own that illustrates this verse’s meaning for you.

Tomorrow’s verse is from Psalm 50:11

Starting January 1, 2016, for 150 days I am posting a daily psalm verse with a photo that is a visual meditation on the text for me.  Each day a verse from the next psalm is chosen until all 150 psalms have been featured.   To participate you may subscribe to my blog at or “friend” me on Facebook and watch for the daily links to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am not a photographer and most of the photos are from a cell phone or small camera while hiking the Appalachian Trail or the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trail.