Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. – Psalm 116:15
I recently received some tragic news. A close friend’s sister was killed in a fatal car accident. A drunk driver was fleeing in a rage while police pursued him and his girlfriend. He ran a red light and broadsided my friend’s sister. She died in the hospital the same night. Tragic. Unnecessary. Shocking. This teaching is in response to this tragedy. I write in hopes that it will offer some comfort in the situation and in other similar situations.
Death always comes as a shock. Death jars us into reality and the fragile nature of life. Life really is a vapor (Psalm 39:4-5; James 4:14). Because of that we join the psalmist in praying, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). There is wisdom to be received from the LORD that can make the death of his saints precious to us.
What takes the edge off the shock and grief associated with this sudden death is that my friend and many of her family knows the LORD. Her sister who died knew the Lord. The Father of mercies and God of all comfort has what we need in such trying times (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). This sister who died is with her Shepherd Jesus. She is in His arms. She is comforted. We who are left behind mourn. But we don’t mourn as those who have no hope. Jesus holds us close as He holds her close. Jesus has big strong comforting arms. His embrace holds us together. Our arms become His arms. We bear this burden together in prayer, togetherness, and care and thus fulfill Christ’s purposes (Galatians 6:2).
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). There is great comfort and wisdom in those inspired words. They are part of God’s love letter to us. And like a love letter we read the words over and over soaking in every meaning, drawing out every precious drop of love.
“Precious” (Hebrew yachar) means valuable, bright, clear, costly, excellent, honorable, precious, prized, rare, splendid, highly valued, like a precious jewel, glorious. There is something of great value to the LORD. He looks at this precious thing as a gloriously splendid bright shining light. It is a precious perfectly cut diamond that reflects His light. It is something whose facets hold His fascination. He just can’t get His eyes off of this precious object.
What is it that is so valued to the LORD? It “is the death of His saints.” The end of a saint’s life on this earth is precious and of great value to the LORD. The way His people pass from this life to the next is very precious to the LORD. But God is not into death, He is into life. Jesus, God, is the resurrection and the life! (John 11:25). The death of His saints is of great value to the LORD because God’s people are a “special treasure’ to Him (Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2). The death of His saints is precious to the LORD because His saints are His precious treasure. And the death of His saints means they are coming home to Him.
This shouldn’t be construed or interpreted as God stealing saints from us. We don’t tell a mourning child, “God took your mother.” The mother’s days may have been fulfilled. God permitted her to pass on (hopefully having been a “saint”). The length of a person’s life is in the sovereign hands of the LORD. We should be thankful for every breath he blesses us with. But we have to be careful and follow the leading of the Spirit when it comes to discussing death and its circumstances. There are no pat answers. Some questions are beyond our pay scale to answer. Sometimes we simply need to be silent and trust the LORD. When you are confronted by a problem you don’t know the answer for, fall back on what you do know. We know God is loving, good, gracious, merciful, forgiving and holy. There is none like Him. His thoughts and ways transcend our comprehension (e.g. Isaiah 55:8-11). Like Job we may question circumstances the LORD allows but we don’t understand (Job 1-37). But in the end we must humbly bow in submission to Almighty God (cf. Job 38-41).
How treasured are we saints to the LORD? The LORD treasures us so much He can’t get His mind off us. “Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (Psalm 40:5). We are always, “in the sight of the LORD.” He’s looking at us like a newly engaged woman fixates on her engagement ring and all that it means to her. That ring represents the love commitment of her fiancé. In a very real way, life is our engagement to the LORD and death is the wedding consummation. It’s precious to the LORD.
God views “the death of His saints” differently than we do. Death is the ultimate healing at times. Death can mean an end to all suffering and pain. Death can mean a coming home for the saints of God. It means entering the presence of the LORD. Death leads His saints into His loving embrace.
But who are these “saints”? Death in and of itself is not precious to the LORD. Death is the final enemy that Jesus defeated (1 Corinthians 15:54-58). The death of unholy sinners is tragic and unwanted by the LORD. He desires none perish in a spiritually dead state. He desires none die without His Son Jesus as their Savior and LORD. He wants none to spend eternity separate unwed to Him (e.g. 2 Peter 3:9). God loves everyone and sent Jesus to prove it. God sent His Son Jesus to pay off the death penalty that hangs over every sinner’s head. Through Jesus He gives every sinner the opportunity to be forgiven through faith in Jesus (e.g. Matthew 25:46; John 3:16, 36).
The death of someone who is not a saint leads to eternal suffering and separation from God. If the death of His saints is precious in the sight of God the death of an unbeliever is a tragic and sad. If we take the antonym of “precious” the death of an unbeliever is worthless to the LORD. It is worthless because all its potential preciousness has been squandered. Death without God’s salvation is like throwing a precious diamond into the garbage.
God has an incredible glorious plan for those He loves. It involves an eternity of precious fellowship with himself. “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). God is vast and limitless. His plans for those He loves come from the center of His vast deep love filled heart. God looks at the death of His saints as a precious jewel because it is a graduation, it is a finish line, it is a door of realization, it is coming home, it’s a final arrival.
Who are “saints”? “Saints” (Hebrew chasid) means godly one, good one, holy one, faithful, kind one, pious one, saint. A “saint” is a special person, but not the way certain segments of “the church” teach them to be. Saints don’t necessarily have to perform a miracle. Psalm 116 paints a picture of the “saint.” Let’s look at this picture that is so precious to God.
First, a saint is one who belongs to God. The psalmist uses the words “His saints.” The person who belongs to God is the one in whom His Holy Spirit dwells. The “saint” is one who has experienced the second birth; a spiritual birth; they are born again (John 3). The Bible says, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9). The only way we can become a “saint” is through faith in Christ. Old Testament “saints” were made righteous by faith in God as far as He had revealed Himself to them (e.g. Genesis 15:6).
Once Jesus came all the redemptive requirements were finalized in and through Him. The Bible explains, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26). A person becomes a “saint” by receiving God’s saving gift of gracious forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not something we do. It’s something he has done for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). God makes this gift of salvation available to all who would receive this great salvation by faith.
Second, a “saint” is holy; distinctively different than a common sinner. No one can be a “saint” by any effort of their own. To become a saint is a gift of God’s grace and a work of the Spirit in a person’s life. When the Holy Spirit indwells a person, He makes them a “saint”; a holy one. But the one who is saved goes form death to life; there is a tangible change in them (e.g. Acts 26:18). When the Holy Spirit indwells us He makes us holy.
Based on Psalm 116 what does the saint look like? The “saint” says, “I love the LORD” and that love is evidenced by prayerful communication (Psalm 116:1-2). The “saint” trusts their LORD at the point of death (Psalm 116:3-4). The “saint” trusts the LORD at the point of death because they believe “gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful” and “He saves me” (Psalm 116:5-7). The “saint” trusts in the LORD to deliver them from death and knows “all men are liars” in contrast to God who is true (Psalm 116:8-11). The “saint” knows there is nothing they can do to compensate the LORD for the salvation he provides. All they can do is receive and drink from the “cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD” (Psalm 116:12-14). That “saint” lives to serve their LORD (psalm 116:16). They are thankful for all the LORD has done for them (Psalm 116:17). And they praise and worship the LORD in His presence and the presence of His other “saints” (Psalm 116:18-19)
Yes, precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. The Bible instructs us to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). The only place in scripture we see Jesus weep is at the death of Lazarus. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Why did Jesus weep at the death of His friend Lazarus? Bible teacher Jon Courson knows a lot about death. He lost a young wife and a child to early deaths by accident. He provides valuable insight into death and the heavenly perspective of it:
Death might not be precious in the sight of family members who miss those who are in heaven. Death might not be precious in the sight of doctors who see it as a failure of their ability to sustain life. But the death of His saints is precious in the Lord’s eyes because He knows the best place for us to be is with Him. Could it be this is why Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus? Eyes have not seen and ears have not heard the wonderful things God has prepared for those that love Him we are told (1 Corinthians 2:9). Jesus knew He would bring Lazarus back to life. Mary and Martha would be excited about it. The friends of Lazarus would be grateful. But perhaps Jesus wept for Lazarus, knowing he would have to leave the wonders of heaven. 
Amen to that! The death of His saints is precious to the LORD because He looks forward to us being united with Him. When we see why the death of His saints are precious to Him, it helps us view death in a more precious way ourselves. If we, a loved one, or someone around us aren’t among those referred to as “saints,” then get right with God. Start with yourself. Turn from your sins and ask God to forgive you for your sins through faith in Jesus as Savior. Receive his forgiveness and the Holy Spirit will indwell you and change you into a saint of God. Then death, no matter when or how it comes, will be precious to you too.
Please remember to pray for my friend and her family who have suffered this loss. They are precious in the sight of the LORD. God knows them by name. They are precious to me too. I pray God hold them close during this time of loss. And please also be alert to pray for and come alongside of those around you who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Share in the preciousness of the death of the LORD’s saints.