Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his servants.
O LORD, I am your servant. (Ps. 116:15-16)
The first verse above is written in the flyleaf of my Bible. It’s there to comfort those who mourn. To help them see that death is not the tragedy we make it out to be, especially for those of us who believe. In its crudest form the subtext goes something like this: “Why are you so overwhelmed with grief just because someone you love died? The Bible says death is a good thing, so cheer up!” Yikes.
I got quite a shock this morning when I read the verse in context. “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his servants,” so far so good. Then the next verse: “O LORD, I am your servant.” Bam! I was taken aback. It’s not talking about someone else’s death. It’s talking about my own!
In any case, the psalmist is talking about his own death, not another’s. Apparently he was weighed down with grief to the point of despair. In verses 8 and 9, the psalmist says God delivered him from death and expresses his determination to live, even to do the things he promised to do (14). Then he declares a new understanding about his own death, now no longer imminent. Death is not something to be dreaded, at least not from God’s perspective. It’s “precious”—like picking up a child after the first day of school, or, better still, like a child who was lost being found.
When I think of my own death, I usually regret mistakes I’ve made or worry about things I won’t have accomplished. It’s not bad to take stock of our lives and to be aware of the consequences of our actions. However, it shouldn’t get in the way of living.
I’m adding to the flyleaf of my Bible, “O LORD, I am your servant.” And this: “P.S.: Don’t forget to live!”