************ Funeral Sermon on Psalm 116:15 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on November 17, 2016


Psalm 116:15
"A Precious Death"
Funeral Message for Jerry Eckart

Introduction
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."

This statement sounds odd only to those for whom death holds no promise, no hope. This statement sounds odd if you don't know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. This statement sounds odd if you believe death is the end -- earth to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes -- with nothing more to follow. This statement sounds odd if you don't believe in life after death and if you don't accept what the Bible says about eternal life.

This statement also sounds odd to those who want to avoid death at all costs. Many people spend countless dollars making themselves look younger and thus further away from death. Others devote themselves to diet fads, exercise plans, and technologies that promise us longer lives.

Furthermore, this statement sounds odd to those who try to deny death by covering it up with flowers, celebration of life services, and obituaries that state someone has "passed away" rather than stating someone has died.

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"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."

Jerry Eckart has died. He was basically alone but he did not die alone. Nor did he die unnoticed. For as he laid on his death bed the Lord took notice. His death, says the psalmist, was "in the sight of the Lord." The Lord noticed, the Lord knew, the Lord saw when Jerry died. The Lord was there with him. As Jerry walked through the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord was with him.

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"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." There are two meanings to that word "precious." First, the word for "precious" means "costly."

"Costly in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." "Costly in the sight of the Lord is the death of Jerry Eckart."

The death of any of His saints is costly for God. We see that when we look at Psalm 116. In verse 3 the psalmist tells of a time when he came close to dying: "The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me." It seems that at any moment the lights could have gone out for him. So in desperate faith he uttered the name of the Lord and called on the Lord to save him: "O Lord, save me!" (Ps 116:4). And God responded by saving the psalmist. That's why the psalmist can say: "For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling ..." (Ps 116:8).

But it was costly for God to do this. God had to dip into his treasure-chest of grace, righteousness, and compassion (Ps 116:5) in order to rescue the psalmist. It was expensive for God to save him, just as it is costly for search-and-rescue teams to find lost hikers in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. According to one estimate, the Federal Government alone -- through the National Park Service and the Coast Guard -- spends more than $383 million a year to rescue boaters, bikers, hikers, and climbers.

Some day all of us will die, like Jerry Eckart died. The cords of death will entangle us. The anguish of the grave will come upon us. We will be locked away in death. The cost to God to set us free from the prison of death is beyond our ability to calculate. It cost God His Son. It cost God the dying and rising of His one and only Son. It cost God the cross and grave of Christ. You see, it is only by sinking deep into death and being raised up Lord of Life, that Jesus broke death's power and removed its sting.
A little boy and his father were driving down a country road on a beautiful spring afternoon. Suddenly out of nowhere a bumblebee flew in the car window. Since the little boy was deathly allergic to bee stings, he became petrified. But the father quickly reached out, grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand, and then released it. But as soon as he let it go, the young son became frantic again as it buzzed by him. The father saw his son's panic-stricken face. Once again the father reached out his hand, but this time he pointed to his hand. There still stuck in his skin was the stinger of the bee. "Do you see this?" he asked. "You don't need to be afraid anymore. I've taken the sting for you."
Christ has taken the sting of death. This means that for the believer death is harmless, like a bee without a stinger. Because of Christ, death is nothing to fear.

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"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."

There is also a second meaning to the Hebrew word for "precious." The second meaning is "highly valued." "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." "Highly valued in the sight of the Lord is the death of Jerry Eckart."

Why would Jerry's death, or anyone else's death, be highly valued in the sight of God?

Jerry's death means the end to his struggle with sin, and guilt, and evil. Jerry's death means he no longer is sinning against God and His commandments. God loves it when we no longer sin. That is valued by Him.

Death not only puts an end to sin but also to the effects of sin. You know those effects: mourning, crying, tears; disease, cancer, heart-attack; disabilities; the pain and heart-ache of broken relationships; character defects like sloth, lust, anger, pride, envy, gluttony, greed. Those who die leave this world and this life and all the effects of sin behind. They appear before the throne of God with neither sin nor the effects of sin. So, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." "Highly valued in the sight of the Lord is the death of Jerry Eckart."

Do you know what else death means the end of? It means an end to separation from God. When God made man in His image and placed him in the Garden of Eden, man enjoyed God's company and presence. We see in Genesis a picture of the Lord God walking with man in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8). But what happened when Adam and Eve fell into sin? They hid from God. Sinful man cut himself off from the glorious presence of the holy God.

Death means an end to all of this. No more hiding from God. No more shrinking from His holy presence. No more fear of God and His wrath and judgment.

So far I have been talking in negative terms -- what is put behind when we die. But we can also talk in positive terms -- what we gain when we die.

Let's first of all look at the soul. What happens to the soul when we die? My soul is taken immediately after this life to Christ its head. My soul goes to be home with the Lord (2 Cor 5:7). There is rejoicing in heaven today because one of God's children has come back home -- to the bosom of the Father.

But there is more. We can also talk of what happens to the body. What happens to the body when we die? The body is put to sleep. That is the way the early Christians spoke of those who died. Which means that someday they will wake up. Someday God will wake up the bodies of the dead and reunite them with their souls.

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Funerals are not a time to speak to the dead but to the living. So I need to tell you something. Some day every person here, like Jerry Eckart, will also die. Let me ask you: will your death be precious in the sight of the Lord? Will your death be costly to God? Will your death be highly valued to God?

The reason I ask this is that not every death is precious in God's sight. Not every death is costly to God. Not every death is highly valued to God.

Our text tells us that it is "the death of the saints" that is precious to God.

What is a saint? A saint is someone holy. Many people think of Mother Theresa as being a saint because she devoted her life to the untouchables, the poor, the starving, and the orphans of India. Many people think of Gandhi as being a saint because he devoted his life to non-violence and peace. But Mother Theresa and Gandhi are sinners -- just like you and me. They don't deserve to be considered as saints because of what they have done.

In the Bible, a saint is someone who believes in Jesus, someone who has been washed clean in His blood, someone made new by His Spirit, someone who accepts the death and resurrection of Christ. Such people are made holy by the blood and Spirit and indwelling presence of Christ.

Are you this kind of saint? If you are, if you believe in Jesus -- as Jerry Eckart believed in Jesus -- then your death will be precious in the sight of the Lord. But, if you do not believe in Jesus, then your death is not precious in the sight of the Lord.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
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