(15) Precious in the sight of Yahweh is the death of his holy ones. (16) Truly, Yahweh, I (am) your servant. I (am) your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have freed me from my restraints. (17) To you I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the name of Yahweh. (18) I will pay my vows to Yahweh in the presence of all his people, (19) in the courts of the house of Yahweh, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah! (Praise Yahweh!)
This final segment of Psalm 116 begins with the psalm’s third mention of “death” (vs. 15). Earlier the psalmist described a near death encounter when he had cried out to Yahweh to save him in his distress (vs. 3). Then he testifies to Yahweh’s gracious deliverance from death (vs. 8). Now, he rejoices in the great truth that, when believers inevitably die, we can rest assured that our death is precious in the sight of Yahweh (vs. 15).
Other repetitions include “I (am) your servant” (twice in vs. 16) and “sacrifice” (twice in vs. 17), first as a verb, “to offer,” and then as a noun, “sacrifice.” Finally, verse 18 is a word-for-word repetition of verse 14 in the previous segment.
I. Comfort in knowing that our deaths are precious to Yahweh (15 & 16)
II. Commitment to offering Yahweh praise which honors him (17-19)
Because Yahweh deals graciously with us, especially when we die, he is worthy of our highest praise.
In the Garden of Eden, God warned Adam, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Since the moment when Adam and Eve rebelled against God’s command by eating the forbidden fruit, all human beings with two exceptions, Enoch and Elijah, have experienced physical death, even the Lord Jesus himself. That is why Paul in his great treatise on resurrection calls death “the last enemy to be destroyed” (1 Cor. 15:26). Until death is conquered by resurrection when all rise to eternal life, every human being will face physical death as the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment...” (Heb. 10:27).
The playwright Woody Allen once quipped, “I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Most of us would do just about anything to avoid the inescapability of death when we come to the end of our earthly lives. The statement, “Precious in the sight of Yahweh is the death of his holy ones” (vs. 15), can provide great comfort in view of what we must inevitably endure in this sin-cursed world.
This verse should prompt us to ask why the death of his holy ones would be precious in Yahweh’s sight. Paul provides an excellent answer: “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). One reason we fear death is that it always brings separation from our friends and loved ones, from the familiar scenes of our earthly lives, from our bodies, from everything material we have grown accustomed to and hold dear. Because of this, we forget that death is actually the beginning of a great reunion. It marks the moment when we embark on a new adventure, leaving the realm of the temporal to enter into life eternal in the presence of the Lord and with all the faithful who have gone before us. What seems on earth to be a tragic loss is, in fact, a huge reward, as Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). For this reason our death is precious in the eyes of Yahweh. What appears fearful and ugly to those who remain alive on earth can be viewed as something beautiful and of great value when we consider it from Yahweh’s eternal perspective.