Times were tough for King David. His son Absalom had started a civil war, trying to wrest the kingdom from his father. The rebel forces had even forced David to retreat from the capital city of Jerusalem. “Give me relief from my distress,” David prayed fervently (Psalm 4:1). Then, having put his troubles into the Lord’s hands, he was ready to lie down and sleep (Psalm 4:8).
His words remind us what to do not only with the manifold troubles in life but also with the greatest trouble of all, that shadowy specter called “death.”
Sleeping in peace
It’s no coincidence that the Scriptures use the term sleep 14 times to describe the death of the believer. Speaking of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus said, “The child is not dead but asleep” (Mark 5:39). When his friend Lazarus died, Jesus told his disciples, “Lazarus has fallen asleep” (John 11:11). In Acts 7, we read that Stephen “fell asleep” (v. 60). And Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about those who fall asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
For believers, death is like rest-bringing sleep. We crawl into our beds at night and leave the problems of the day there. So in death we look for respite from the sorrows and sufferings, the pains and the problems, the toils and troubles that only get heavier as the years advance. Even more do we look for a greater rest, a rest from the spiritual warfare that soldiers of the cross must face. Every single day the war rages as Satan marches his hellish troops against us. Only in death is the battle over and the victory won.
For believers, death is like sleep in another way. When we fall asleep in our beds at night, we don’t cease to exist. When we die, we don’t cease to exist either. At the moment of death, the believer’s soul leaves the body that housed it and is carried to heaven. There it has the best rest of all—sweet rest with the Savior. There we will see him face to face. There we will wear the robe washed in his blood. There we will join the saints and angels in singing his praises.
Dwelling in safety
How can we be so sure? David reminds us. He wrote, “For you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). Assured of the Lord’s continued help, David could rest his head safely on sleep’s pillow. The same holds true for us, not only for the problems in life but also for when we face death, the end of life. At that moment the Savior comes to escort us home. The cross stained by his blood shouts out that he has paid for all our sins.
The tomb that once held his lifeless body stands empty. The nail prints in his living hands reaching for us are our confidence. The spear wound in his living side where he nestles us is our assurance. He lives and so will we, our souls at the moment of death and our bodies in the resurrection on the Last Day.
Do you realize that the title for this devotion isn’t quite accurate? Death doesn’t draw us nearer only to the end but also to the beginning.
The hymn writer sums it up well, “Jesus lives! And thus, my soul, life is yours eternally; joined to him, your living head, where he is, you too shall be; you with him at his right hand victor over death shall stand” (Christian Worship 455:4).
Other psalms for when you draw nearer to the end: Psalms 16, 23, 73, and 90.
This is the fourth article in a six-part series about the psalms’ guidance for our daily lives. Read the psalms with FIC in a new six-month Bible reading series.
Author: Richard Lauersdorf
Volume 110, Number 04
Issue: April 2023
- Psalm 91: When God lifts you up on his lap - 2023/04/30
- Psalm 4: When you draw nearer to the end - 2023/03/30
- Psalm 42: When you ask, “Where is God when I’m hurting?” - 2023/02/24