Summary: This verse is at once both beautiful and startling. It provides a measure of comfort and assurance. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” That’s good to hear at times like this.
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Precious Is the Death
Introduction: This verse is at once both beautiful and startling. It provides a measure of comfort and assurance. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” That’s good to hear at times like this.
But there is something unsettling about it at the same time. “Precious … is the death….” The word means valuable or costly. The ancients would have used the term like we do to describe a precious gem or a fine work of art. We understand the costly part. The passing of a loved one comes at a heavy price. I am not talking about dollars and cents. I am talking about the toll of tears and grief and heartache. You have all paid a heavy price in terms of long days and sleepless nights. The heaviness you feel reflects that sense of loss.
That’s ok. It is right and proper to feel that way. Sometimes folk want to talk like there is something wrong with our faith if we express the pain and loss that we experience at the passing of a loved one. They talk like real faith doesn’t shed tears or feel grief. Nonsense! The Bible tells us that Jesus wept at the grave his friend Lazarus. Surely, no one could question the depth of Jesus’ faith or his understanding of heaven’s purposes. He wept. So do we.
Even so, this verse is still there. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” This raises a big question. How so? What can be precious about death and dying, about the parting of a loved one? Where’s the value? Where’s the good? Those questions are real. I have asked those questions. You have a right to ask them today.
Before I attempt to answer those questions, I must point out one very important thing. This verse is not universal. It does not claim to apply to every death or every person. That is very clear. Note what it says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” The death of his saints! Jesus made it very clear that not everyone should look forward to death. “I tell you the truth, whoever has my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live” (John 5:24-25). The Psalm speaks only of the death of the saints. Saints refers not to angels or perfect people or the rare heroes of the church. A saint is one who belongs to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Those are the ones whose death is precious.
So how do we explain this verse? Where does the value, the preciousness, lie? I think I can explain that from a number of different levels.
First, this death was precious to the departed. Anyone who had spent time with Bob over the last years knows that he didn’t want to tarry. When his sweetheart left him for heaven almost twelve months ago, he wanted to go too. This has been a long twelve months for Bob in lots of ways, mostly because he so missed Blanche. I know he would not hesitate to tell you that this is a good thing. It is a precious thing!
Another elderly believer expressed it well. “As a boy, I thought of heaven as a city with domes, spires, and beautiful streets, inhabited by angels. By and by my little brother died, and I thought of heaven much as before, but with one inhabitant that I knew. Then another died, and then some of my acquaintances, so in time I began to think of heaven as containing several people that I knew. Afterward another went, and yet another. By that time I had so many acquaintances and loved ones in heaven that I no more thought of it as a city merely with streets of gold but as a place full of inhabitants. Now there are so many loved ones there I sometimes think I know more people in heaven than I do on earth.”
Bob’s death means a glorious reunion. That makes it precious in his sight. I am confident of that. It also means rest. Bob like many of his generation went through a lot in his lifetime. He lived through the Great Depression, the War, and all the ups and downs of life in small town Missouri. He worked long hard hours on the job. He worked hard for his family. He worked hard for his church and his Lord. He deserves a rest. The Bible promises that when it says, “Blessed are those who die in the Lord for they rest from their labors” (Rev 14:11).