Precious in the Sight of the LORD

by Tommy Peeler

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones” (Psalm 116:15).

What does this mean?

Psalms 116 is best described as an individual psalm of thanksgiving. He is thanking God for saving his life. The writer had an experience where the “cords of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol come upon me" (Psalms 116:3). The LORD “rescued my soul from death” in Psalms 116:8. He thanks God for saving his life in Psalms 116:4, 6, 8, and loosing his bonds in Psalms 116:16. He is thankful to be walking before the LORD in “the land of the living” (Psalms 116:9). In gratitude for God’s mercy in saving his life, he keeps his vows (Psalms 116:14, 18) and offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalms 116:17). The writer rejoices in God sparing his life.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His godly ones” (Psalms 116:15).

Does this mean that death is a beautiful thing among the godly? Often, it is interpreted this way. I do not deny there is some truth in this idea (Philippians 1:20-23; Revelation 14:13), but is that what this specific passage teaches? Remember, the overall context of Psalm 116 is about God saving and sparing lives. The interpretation of death being precious and beautiful does not easily fit the overall context of this psalm.

What does the specific word “precious” mean in this context? This Hebrew word is an adjective, and it is used as an adjective around 35 times in Old Testament. It is most often used of precious or costly jewels or wealth (II Samuel 12:30; I Kings 5:17; 7:9, 10, 11; 10:2, 10, 11; I Chronicles 20:2; 29:2; II Chronicles 3:6; 9:1, 9, 10; 32:27; Job 28:16; Proverbs 1:13; 3:15; Ezekiel 27:22; 28:13; Daniel 11:38). What else can looking at this word tells us? The verb form of this word is used in II Kings 1:13-14. A commander of fifty men begs Elijah that their lives be precious in Elijah’s eyes (and God’s). The same verb appears in Psalms 72 in a description of an ideal king who rescues the poor and needy, and “their blood will be precious in his sight” (Psalms 72:14). Both these passages use this verb in the sense of someone’s life being precious, costly, or valuable. Therefore, it is used to save precious lives. That seems to be the same sense of using the adjective in Psalms 116:15. I think the NET translation captures the meaning of Psalms 116:15 when it says, “The LORD values the lives of his faithful followers.

While death for the godly leads us into God’s presence, God also delights in saving lives and rescuing his servants from death. The New Testament also teaches this truth (Philippians 2:25-27; II Timothy 3:10-11).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email