“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”

September 27, 2017

Scripture Reading – Psalms 114-116

Our scripture today begins with Psalms 114 and reminds us the God of heaven is LORD, Sovereign of creation and the winds and waves serve His bidding.

As a song of worship and praise, the psalm reminded Israel how God had lovingly and providentially gone before His people; delivering the nation out of Egypt, opening the Red Sea and Jordan River, allowing them to cross dry land into the Promise Land (114:1-3).

Psalm 115:1-8 is among my favorite passages in the Psalms contrasting the majesty of the God of Creation (Psalm 115:3) with the foolishness of those who worship idols.   While the psalmist states confidently, “our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased”, the heathen worship idols that are nothing more than “the work of men’s hands” (115:3).

Foolish man!  Why worship and sacrifice to objects made of “silver and gold” (115:4)?  Why call upon idols that “have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: 6  They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: 7  They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat” (115:4-7).   Sadly, those who worship deaf, dumb and blind objects become like that which they worship (115:8)!

Turning his thoughts to the LORD, the psalmist exhorts all who know the LORD, the nation of Israel, the priests of the house of Aaron and “Ye that fear [revere] the LORD, trust [be confident, secure] in the LORD: He is their help [aid] and shield [protector; i.e. a small shield used for defense in close combat]” (115:9-11).  The LORD is not only a helper in times of trouble and our protector, He is also a God of grace and promises to “bless them that fear…both small and great” (115:13).

The author of Psalm 116 opens his psalm with a sincere testimony of his love for the LORD, attesting he had cried to the LORD in his sorrow and He heard his cry.   The psalmist does not name the “trouble and sorrow” (116:3) that were his affliction; however, it was serious enough he describes them as the “sorrows of death” (116:1-3).  Reflecting how the LORD had graciously saved him out of trouble, the psalmist exclaims with joy, “I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications” (116:1).

Rather than one stream of poetic thought, we find many reflections on the character of the LORD and the troubles out of which He had saved His servant.

Psalm 116:4-8 – “Then called I upon the name of the LORD…5  Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful6  The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me….the LORD hath dealt bountifull… 8  For [the LORD] hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.”

Having reflected on the faithfulness of the LORD and how He heard and answered his prayers, the psalmist responded with a series of vows to the LORD and all who were his witnesses (116:9-19).

Psalm 116:9 – I will walk before [live; i.e. conscious of the presence] the LORD in the land of the living.

Psalm 116:13 – I will take the cup of salvation [possibly the Passover cup, recalling how the LORD had saved Israel in Egypt when the angel passed over the homes of Hebrews when he saw the blood on the door], and call upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:14 – I will pay [complete; finish] my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.

Psalm 116:17 – I will offer [i.e. sacrifice; make] to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving [praise], and will call [publicly proclaim] upon the name of the LORD.

Psalm 116:18-19 – I will pay [complete; finish] my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, 19  In the courts of the LORD’S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.

I close today inviting you to consider Psalm 116:15 – Precious [excellent; honorable; noble] in the sight [presence] of the LORD is the death [i.e. the day of death] of his saints [the godly].”

Remembering the author is a man rejoicing the LORD saved him from the “sorrows of death” (116:3), it gives us pause to reflect on verse 15 when he writes “the death of His saints” is “precious in the sign of the LORD” (116:15).

While the LORD is sovereign and hears and answers the prayers of some and spares them from death; others cry to the LORD in their affliction and come to die.  Some He restores to health while others pass through the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).

Man fears the inevitability of death; however, from the LORD’s heavenly perspective the death of His saints is precious, excellent and noble.   The LORD restores some saints to health and life while others die and enter into the eternal presence of the LORD.

I close with the apostle John’s description of heaven found in Revelation 22.

Revelation 21:3-7  – And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
4  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5  And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
6  And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7  He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith