Sermon #1640 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: “Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his saints.”
Text: Psalm 116:15
Subject: Judy Estes’ Funeral
Date: Tuesday Evening — November 15, 2005
Tape # Y-82a
Readings: Bob Poncer & Larry Criss
Judy is in Glory tonight. Our dear friend, our sister, Bobbie, your wife, companion, your friend, is now seated with the redeemed around the throne of the Lamb. I can almost hear her singing, singing as never before…
“Praise the Lord for full salvation!
God still reigns upon the throne!
And, I know, the blood still reaches
Deeper than the stain has gone!”
· She is with the Savior.
· She is beholding his face.
· She is now freed completely from all sin and perfectly conformed to her Savior.
· Our God has wiped all tears from her eyes.
· For Judy, the former things are all passed away, forever!
We miss her; but we would not call her back, if we could, for anything in the world. Saturday night the Savior said, “Father, I will that Judy be with me where I am, that she may behold my glory.” He sent his angels to fetch her home. And there she is, her heart ravished with Christ, and his heart ravished with her!
It is my business and privilege to preach the gospel to you, eternity bound men and women. It is my prayer that God the Holy Spirit will give me your hearts’ attention and cause you to hear his Word and worship him. My text is Psalm 116.
This is one of the great psalms of David. It is a psalm that flowed from a believing heart, from the heart of that man who was a man after God’s own heart. David did not take the words of this psalm from books of theology, or from religious tradition, or sentimental stories. These words flowed from a regenerate, believing heart. These words arose from David’s heart and express his thoughts, emotions, and sentiments.
Yet they are also words of divine inspiration, written for our learning, admonition, and consolation. As Peter said, this psalm was written by one of those “holy men of God,” who, “spake as they were moved by God the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21). We cannot be reminded too frequently of these two facts: (1.) All Scripture expresses the thoughts, sentiments, emotions, and personal characteristics of the men who wrote it. (2.) Yet, every word of Holy Scripture is God breathed, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, so that the Volume of Holy Scripture is, in its entirety, the very Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16).
Let me show you nine things God says to us in this 116th Psalm by the pen of his servant David. Then I want to answer some more questions about death.
1st David talks about loving the Lord (v. 1).
(Psalms 116:1) “I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.”
If we love him, there is a cause for it outside ourselves. John said, “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). His love for us precedes our love for him. His love for us is free, unconditional, and eternal. His love for us infinitely supercedes our love for him. It was his love for us that caused him to sacrifice his darling son for us. Because he said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” he…
· Chose us in Christ as the peculiar objects of his love, predestinated us unto eternal salvation, and accepted us in the Beloved from eternity (Eph. 1:3-6).
· Sacrificed his darling Son for us at Calvary and redeemed us (Eph. 1:7).
· Called us, gave us life and faith in Christ (Eph. 1:13-14).
· Has kept, is keeping, and shall keep us in his grace unto everlasting glory.
And his love for us is the cause our love for him. — “We love him because he first loved us.” Still, this is the true confession of every regenerate, believing heart, “I love the Lord!” “We love him!” And “I love the Lord because he hath heard my voice,” my cry for mercy, my prayer for forgiveness, and my supplications of repentance!
2nd The psalmist talks with confidence of persevering faith (v. 2).
(Psalms 116:2) “Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.”
If we compare scripture with scripture, comparing this verse with Psalm 91, we see that the words of this verse must first be understood as the words of our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Substitute, our covenant Head, and our Surety (Ps. 91:14-16).
(Psalms 91:14-16) “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. (15) He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. (16) With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.”
Still, they are the words of a man who believed God. Trusting Christ, David believed, according to the Word of God, that God gave him faith, kept him in faith, and would keep him in faith. David came to God just like we do, the only way any sinner can come to him, by faith in Christ (Heb. 11:6).
(Hebrews 11:6) “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
Trouble and Sorrow
3rd In verses 3 and 4 the psalmists talks about trouble and sorrow causing him to call upon the name of the Lord.
(Psalms 116:3-4) “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. (4) Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.”
This was the experience of our Lord Jesus when he was made sin for us and suffered all the horrible wrath of God as our Substitute upon the cursed tree. The sorrows of death compassed him. The pains of hell got hold of him (Psalm 22:15-21).
(Psalms 22:15-21) “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. (16) For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. (17) I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. (18) They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. (19) But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. (20) Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. (21) Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.”
And this has been the experience of every believer. — “The sorrows of death” are the sorrows wrought in the heart by Holy Spirit conviction (John 16:8-11).
(John 16:8-11) “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: (9) Of sin, because they believe not on me; (10) Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; (11) Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”
“The pains of hell” are the torments of a self-condemned heart (Lk. 18:13). “Trouble and sorrow” are the struggles of a soul seeking peace with God (Ps. 103). The result of real, Holy Spirit conviction is always faith in Christ. — “Then called I upon the name of the LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.”
4th Next, David talks about the character of God (v. 5).
(Psalms 116:5) “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.”
The Lord our God is gracious, righteous, and merciful, full of mercy! He is gracious and merciful. — “He delighteth in mercy!” Yet, his mercy and grace can only be exercised righteously, and that is through the sacrifice of his darling Son. In Christ he is revealed, — “A just God and a Savior.”
5th Then the psalmist speaks of God’s unfailing faithfulness (vv. 6-8).
(Psalms 116:6-8) “The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. (7) Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. (8) For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.”
“The Lord preserveth the simple” — The single-hearted; the sincere, the believing. “I was brought low, and he helped me.” He who helped David will help us (Heb. 4:16).
(Hebrews 4:16) “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
The psalmist essentially says, “I will trust him to deliver me now and in the future who has delivered me in the past” (vv. 7-8). — “Return unto thy rest, O my soul!” Christ is our Rest. He is the Rest in whom the weary have rest. Let us ever return to him and find rest for our souls (Isa. 28:12; Matt. 11:28-30).
(Matthew 11:28-30) “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
“He abideth faithful!” — “Great is thy faithfulness!”
6th In verse nine, David speaks with assurance of a blessed hope. Because he is faithful, I am confident of this blessed, sweet, soul-cheering fact…
(Psalms 116:9) “I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.”
All who trust Christ alone as Savior and Lord, all who look to him alone for redemption, righteousness, and acceptance with God have reason to live in the assured anticipation of eternity and heavenly glory with Christ, “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (2 Tim. 1:12; Psa. 23:6). Because the Lord was his Shepherd, David confidently sang…
(Psalms 23:6) “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”
I know that I am a dying man. I know that after I die, I must meet the holy, righteous, just and true God of Glory in judgment. I know that heaven is real. I know that hell is real. And I know that I must spend eternity either in the torments of the damned in hell, or in the bliss of the righteous in heaven. And, as I try to frankly and honestly face those facts, trusting Christ, I know that I have no reason to be afraid of death.
· My Savior has fully satisfied the wrath and justice of God for me.
· My sin has been put away by Christ.
· I have been made the very righteousness of God in him.
· Yet, while here, I must pass through relentless tribulation, trouble, and sorrow. — Look at verses 10 and 11.
Faith and Trouble
7th In verses 10-11, this man after God’s own heart talks in one breath about faith, confession, and affliction.
(Psalms 116:10-11) “I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: (11) I said in my haste, All men are liars.”
These three things always go hand in hand. All who trust Christ confess him as their Lord and confess their faith in him as the only Way, Truth, and Life; and all who confess that the Christ of God, as he is revealed in the Scriptures, is the only Savior of sinners will suffer for their faith.
Yet, though all men are liars, though all prove themselves unfaithful and false, our God and Savior is ever faithful and true.
8th In the latter part of this psalm, David seems to direct all his thoughts to the worship of the great, gracious God of salvation. He speaks of gratitude (v. 12), commitment to Christ (v. 13), public worship and praise (vv. 14, 17, 18, 19), and the believer’s voluntary surrender and consecration (vv. 16-18).
(Psalms 116:12-14) “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? (13) I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. (14) I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.”
In the light of God’s boundless mercy and grace in Christ, in the light of all his goodness and love, when we consider his great faithfulness and truth, the question is asked, — “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?” Then, the answer is given. — “I will take the cup of salvation.” Salvation is the free, unmerited gift of God in Christ. It is not something to earn. It is not something we purchase. It is not something for which we barter. It is the gift of God.
· Redemption is God’s gift.
· Eternal life is God’s gift.
· Faith in Christ is God’s gift.
Salvation is a gift we receive by divine bestowment and take by faith in Christ. Christ is the Giver. We are just takers. He needs nothing from us and will take nothing we try to bring in exchange for his gift. He drank for us the cup of wrath. — “Thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out” (Isa. 51:17). We take from him the cup of salvation.
(Psalms 116:16-19) “O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds. (17) I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD. (18) I will pay 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.”
Here, again, first and foremost, we see Christ, our Mediator, Jehovah’s faithful Servant, who was bound for his people (Ex. 21:1-6; Isa. 50:5-7), but is now loosed from his bondage because his work is finished (Isaiah, 42:1-4; Matt. 12:8-21; Luke 1:38, 48; Isaiah 7:14; Acts 2:24; Isaiah 53:6).
Yet, because of our union with Christ, and in consequence of our union with him, we take these same words. Looking up to God in Christ, we pay our vows, as his servants, being loosed by his death from all the bondage of sin, and death, and hell, and “brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21). As such, with hearts of deep, deep gratitude, we worship God our Savior.
9yh Right in the middle of his talk about worship, David talks about precious deaths. — “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (v. 15). While the Bible speaks of many things as being precious, it only reveals two things that are precious in God’s sight. His Son is precious (1 Pet. 2:4). His people are precious (Isa. 43:4). As far as God is concerned, everything about his people is precious; and that fact is precious to me. “The redemption of their soul is precious” (Psa. 49:8). Their lives are precious (Psa. 72:14). And “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
WHAT IS DEATH? You could get many answers to this question. To the family, death means a vacant place, a loved one gone. To the physician, it is a patient lost. To the biographer, it is the last chapter, the book finished. To the newspaper, it is a spot in the obituary, or a brief story, maybe. To the insurance company, it is a payment claimed. To the theologian, death is the separation of the soul from the body.
However, when we think about death, either our own death or the death of a friend or loved one who has just passed away, none of those factual answers satisfy us. What is death? Here are four answers to that question. This is one thing we are all going to experience much sooner than we imagine.
1. Death is the result of sin. — “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Rom. 5:12). — “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). There is no greater proof for the biblical doctrine of original sin than the universal fact of death. All die because all are guilty. All die because all are sinners.
2. Death is an act of God. — “The Lord killeth and the Lord maketh alive.” It does not matter what the secondary cause of a person’s death is, the first cause is God (Job 14:1-5).
(Job 14:1-5) “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. (2) He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not. (3) And dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? (4) Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. (5) Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.”
3. Death is the decay of the body and return of the soul to God. — “The body returns to the earth from which it came and the soul to God, who gave it.” Whether that soul meets God in judgment or in mercy is not the issue being considered here. The fact is all men die. Soon, you and I must meet God? The prophet of old spoke faithfully — “Prepare to meet thy God!” Meet him we shall, very shortly.
4. Death is the end of life on earth and the beginning of an eternal existence. Life after death is not a supposition. It is not a superstition. Life after death is a fact, a fact so thoroughly stamped upon the human conscience that it simply cannot be erased (Matt. 25:46; Heb. 9:27).
(Matthew 25:46) “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
(Hebrews 9:27) “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
This is what death is: The result of sin — An act of God — The decay of the body and the return of the soul to God — The beginning of an eternal existence. Yet, the Holy Spirit here says, — “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” So I cannot help asking this second question...
WHAT MAKES THE DEATH OF A BELIEVER PRECIOUS? All believers are saints, people who have been sanctified. We were chosen to holiness in election (Jude 1), declared holy in redemption and justification (Heb. 10:10, 14), and actually made holy in regeneration by God the Holy Spirit imparting to us a new nature (2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 3:5-9). This is our threefold sanctification by the grace of God. When a saint dies God looks upon his death as a precious thing. Why?
The death of God’s saints is precious in his sight because God does not see things the way we do. — “The Lord seeth not as man seeth.” It is difficult for us to talk about death being precious because everything we see and know is here. God sees things as they really are. He knows that for his saints death is not a loss in any sense at all, but only great gain (Phil. 1:21). Death, for us, is not a penalty, but a promotion. Death is not the end of life, but the beginning. — “To die is gain.”
· To lose a weak, mortal body is to gain an immortal, eternally strong body.
· To leave this world of sin is to enter the heavenly world of perfect righteousness.
· To drop this house of clay is to enter our “house not made with hands in the heavens,” in Immanuel’s glory land.
· To leave this temporary state is to enter an eternal state.
· To leave this world of sorrow is to enter the world of endless, heavenly bliss with Christ. “To die is gain!”
The death of God’s saints is precious to him because the blood that redeemed us is precious to him. We belong to God by the blood atonement of his dear Son. We have been reconciled to God by Christ’s precious blood.
· As our Surety he received his elect from the Father as a trust in the covenant of grace (Eph. 1:12).
· As our Redeemer he received his ransomed ones from the law as a purchased possession (Gal. 3:13).
· As our Savior the Lord Jesus receives each of his chosen, ransomed ones at the appointed time of love and grace from the Father by the gift of God the Holy Spirit (John 6:37-40).
· Christ the King shall receive all his people in resurrection glory by his power.
· Christ our Priest receives the chosen, one by one, when they are called from earth to heaven in death, as the Father’s answer to his intercessory prayer (John 17: 24).
(John 17:24) “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” because his saints are precious to him! (Jer. 31:3; John 13:1; 1 Cor. 2:9). He has done wonderful things for us in election, redemption, justification, regeneration, and sanctification. He is doing wonderful things for us in preservation and providence. Yet, our God has wonderful things in store for us which no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has conceived. He has wonderful things yet to show us (1 Cor. 13:10-13). He has wonderful things yet to give us (John 14:1-3). He has wonderful things yet to do with us (Eph. 2:7).
This statement applies to all believers. It is an unlimited, unqualified, unconditional statement of truth with regard to all God’s saints. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” It matters not who the saint is. We can understand how that the death of a martyr like Stephen would be precious in God’s sight. Yet, his death was no more precious than that of the most insignificant saint. All believers have the same attending angels to carry them into Paradise, the same Savior waiting their arrival in heaven, and the same glorious inheritance with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
It matters not when the believer dies. We talk of untimely deaths, and accidents, and of lives ending prematurely; but there are no untimely deaths. Every believer’s life is a completed, fulfilled plan. God takes his saints when it pleases him, at the time he has appointed. Our Master plucks the grapes of his vineyard when they are ripe and ready to be taken. He never picks green fruit and never leaves his fruit to rot on the vine. With regard to every believer, the hymn writer was correct, when he wrote...
“Mortals are immortal here
Until their work is done.
It matters not where the believer dies. It may be in a lonely hospital room. It may be on a busy highway. It may be upon a terrible battlefield. It may be in his own bed. That does not matter. — “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Years ago, an old preacher in England rose one Sunday morning and announced a hymn, giving out the first verse like they used to do...
“Father, I long, I long to see
The place of thine abode,
I’d leave these earthly courts and flee
Up to thy throne, O God.”
Then he closed his eyes, slumped down behind his pulpit, and went up to the throne of God.
Let me go a step further. — It does not matter by what means the believer dies. I have known some to die in very odd circumstances and by very strange means. I have known many to die suddenly, without warning. I have seen others die very slow, lingering, painful deaths. No matter how a believer dies, he dies by God’s appointment, by God’s hand, and his death is precious in God’s sight.
WHAT ABOUT THE DEATH OF THE UNBELIEVER? There is nothing at all pleasant, comforting, or precious about the death of an unbeliever. I once knew a young lady whose father died in a state of rebellion and unbelief. As she stood by his coffin, broken-hearted, almost everyone who came by said to her, “Well, your daddy is better off now.” After hearing that statement countless times, the young lady finally said to one, “He’s in hell now! Do you call that better off?” The unbeliever’s death is a horror, a tragedy, an indescribable woe. God says, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord!” We cannot write blessed where God has written cursed; and we cannot write cursed where God has written blessed. “If you die in your sins,” our Savior said, “Ye cannot come where I am.” Yet, to every believer, he says, “Where I am, there you (shall) be also.”
When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies;
I’ll bid farewell to every fear
And wipe my weeping eyes.
Let cares like a wild deluge come
And storms of sorrow fall,
May I but safely reach my home,
My God, my heaven, my all!
There shall I bathe my weary soul
In seas of heav’nly rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast.
And when you see my eyes strings break,
(How sweet my minutes roll!)
A mortal paleness is on my cheek,
There’s glory in my soul.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” That is what God says. The world says, “Blessed are the rich, the famous, the healthy, and the honored.” The world takes you into its lavish, luxurious club. There men and women are laughing, singing, and dancing. The room is filled with earthly joy. Nothing is beyond the reach of the rich and the mighty. Autographs are sought from smiling heroes. The best is none too good for those whom the world calls blessed. But all is vanity, a puff of wind, nothing more.
Now, go into a darkened room. There is complete silence. A wife sits by the bed of a dying husband and holds his hand. A husband sits helplessly beside a dying wife, and weeps. The children stand around the foot of the bed. Tears fall silently down their cheeks. Only the ticking of the clock can be heard. For a brief moment the dying one’s eyes open widely, a smile crosses brightens the face, and, then, one last, deep breath, and the spirit is gone. And God says, “Blessed! Blessed!” You cannot write cursed where God writes blessed; and you cannot write blessed where God writes cursed!
Illustration: Harold Martin and His Brother
Someday the silver cord will break,
And I no more as now shall sing,
But oh the joy when I awake
Within the palace of the King.
Someday my earthly house will fall,
I cannot tell how soon twill be
But this I know — My all in all
Has now in heaven a place for me!
Someday, till then, I’ll watch and wait,
My lamp all trimmed and burning bright,
That when my Savior opens the gate,
My soul to him will take its flight.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”