“He may look on death with joy, who can look on forgiveness with faith.”
Death is the unavoidable reality of life. It is inescapable. It is unstoppable. Death charts its course for the harbor of our life and its coming is irreversible. Both saint and sinner fall to Death’s sickle. Both prince and pauper eventually entertain this unwelcome guest. The idea of David’s death focused his heart on the needful things. The need for God’s mercy to deliver David physically from his enemies and to deliver him spiritually from our common enemy—sin, moved him to pray. Psalm 6 is a psalm of lament. In the words of Mark Vroegop, “Lament is how you live between the poles of a hard life and trusting in God’s sovereignty.” [Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, 21. For those interested in studying the grace of lament, this book is highly recommended.] David was in the midst of grief. He was plagued by foes and his soul was troubled. Additionally, the spectre of death seemed to be looming and threatening David.
One of the many reasons that people fear death is due to its finality. David cried out to the Lord:
Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise? (Psalm 6:4-5 ESV)
Death brings closure. The book of our life is sealed on the day of our death. We cannot rewrite a single page. We will stand accountable for both our words and our deeds and this thought is frightening. Pastor Vavasor Powell understands this fear and hints toward hope, “The fear of death is ingrafted in the common nature of man, but faith works it out of Christians.” [A Puritan Golden Treasury, 71.]
How do we overcome this reasonable fear of death? By faith. True faith is a clinging to the Lord Jesus Christ, who now holds “the keys of death and Hades.” (Rev. 1:18) The sting of death is sin but Jesus is the one who “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Rom. 4:25) Through the forgiveness that Jesus provides he is able to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Heb. 2:15)
This freedom is clearly for the Christian only. Only those who have been born twice may look forward to one death, but individuals who reside in their sins and scoff at the grace freely offered them in Christ will endure two deaths, an earthly and an eternal one. For the Christian, “Death is only a grim porter to let us into a stately palace.” [Richard Sibbes, A Puritan Golden Treasury, 70.] For the individual outside of Christ, death carries with it a note of finality and futility. Death’s doleful tune should cause the perishing to cry out. While Christ’s victorious song allows the penitent to sing, “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:9 NIV). Have a blessed week and we will see some of you on Saturday (at the parade) and everyone on Sunday.
Your humble servant in the Lord Christ, to be commanded,