Psalm 49:7-9 (ESV)
7 Truly no man can ransom another,
or give to God the price of his life,
8 for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice,
9 that he should live on forever
and never see the pit.
No ordinary man has the ability to ransom the life of another man. Why? The cost is too high. The need is too great. We lack both the value and the perfection.
This passage is a good look at the gospel mystery, hidden but present, in the Old Testament. The psalmist understood that our lives are in need of rescue. We all have earned death. The death that we have earned is because of the sin of humanity in general and our own in in particular. And none of us can say to God that we will give our lives in order to purchase the pardon of another.
Imagine two death-row inmates. Both are guilty of murder. One says to the judge, “Take me. Execute me. Let him live!” What would you expect the judge to say. If both men are guilty, if both are headed for execution, it makes no sense. The judge would have both executed, because that was the destiny and just punishment for both.
Or, how about another scenario? Two heads of state have warred. One captures the other and sentences him to death for his war crimes. Now, the guilty one says, “Instead of punishing me, here is a private in my military. He will stand in my stead.” The victorious leader would reject this offer, as the private is not nearly of a rank to purchase the pardon of a president or king.
What could serve as a sacrificial substitute? Only one who is of equal or greater value and only one who was innocent could serve as a sacrificial substitute. We see that in this psalm, and it points us to Jesus.
This helps me to consider better how to present the gospel, and I look forward to trying to share it with others.
Lord, thank you for Jesus and his perfect sacrifice. I ask that you will help me to live in gratitude for you and what you have done. I also ask that you give me the opportunity, quite soon, to share this with others.