Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (Psalm 116:15, K.J.V.)
The Hebrew word translated in this verse as “precious” is yaqar. It’s an interesting word, one that carries multiple shades of meaning. Let me mention three of them.
First, yaqar can mean “valuable.” This is how it is used in 2 Samuel 12:30 to describe the stones (jewels) that were set in the crown worn by the king of the Ammonites. Second, yaqar can mean “rare.” For example, 1 Samuel 3:1 speaks of a time when the word of the Lord was rare (yaqar) in Israel. Third, yaqar can mean “honorable.” It’s used this way in Psalm 45:9 to describe the daughters of a king.
What all this tells us is that when a saint dies, God looks upon that death as a precious, valuable, honorable event. A difficult race has been finished (2 Timothy 4:7) and a good fight has been waged (2 Timothy 4:7). Furthermore, the death can also be classified as rare because God’s people are always the minority in this world (Matthew 7:13-14).
As Jesus stood before the tomb of the recently deceased Lazarus, He wept (John 11:35). The Jews who were watching understood His tears to be Jesus’ way of mourning for Lazarus. That’s why they said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:36).
However, other explanations have been offered as to why Jesus cried at that particular moment. I myself don’t claim to have any special insight into the question, but there is one explanation that makes me smile. It’s the one that says that Jesus wept because He knew that He was about to bring Lazarus back from a better place and reenter him into this world of trial, trouble, disease, and death.
Have you ever thought about the fact Lazarus had to experience physical death twice? That had to be rough. I wonder if anyone who knew the post-resurrection Lazarus took the time to get his unique perspective on life after death. Surely there were numerous people who did, and I have no doubt that he had a fascinating story to tell.
Anyway, to get back to the point, the next time you attend the funeral of a Christian just remember that God looks upon that death as precious, valuable, rare, and honorable. Really, it’s a homegoing. The soul of the deceased has departed the body and gone to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-8) and will never again experience any pain or sorrow. Therefore, while mourning is appropriate, it should be more for the loved ones left behind than the dearly departed. After all, those people are the ones who are experiencing the pain. The Christian departed certainly isn’t.
Thank you Russell for this wonderful commentary on Psalm 115:16. I know two wonderful Christian ladies whose recent deaths can certainly be aptly described as precious, rare, valuable, and honorable. What a joy to know them and how The Lord must be smiling as He welcomes these two “Daughters of The King”! Thank you! And I hope you don’t mind if I share this with some people in the morning as it is so appropriate to the Scripture I was planning to use. I will certanly tell them The Lord gave this message to you and I want them to hear it the way you phrased it. Might just make some copies if that’s ok?
Angie, I’m so sorry it took me this long to see your comment. I just now read it. Unfortunately, it showed up in my spam and I don’t check that enough. Yes, absolutely, please feel free to share anything I ever write if you haven’t already done so. Hopefully it’s not too late now. Again, sorry for the mix up and thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!