When a wicked man dies, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perishes.
Death is the most unwelcome of all themes for human thought, certainly for the thought of the wicked. Yet has he special reason for considering its approach. For it is likely to arrive sooner than if he were righteous. As we read in this chapter, "Righteousness delivereth from death" (ver. 4); on the other hand, "The wicked shall fall by his own wickedness" (ver. 5). "The wages of sin is death," and every departure from rectitude is a step towards the grave. But how melancholy a thing is the death of the wicked! It means -
I. A MELANCHOLY EXTINCTION. Not, indeed, of the man himself, but of his work and of his hope. When the wicked dies, everything, except, indeed, the evil influences he has created and circulated, comes to a dreary end. His expectation, his hope, perishes. He can take nothing that he has toiled for into that other world which he is entering. All his laborious exertion, his elaborate contrivances, his selfish schemes, his painful humiliations, come to nothing; they are buried in the grove. He may have a powerful and well stored mind, but he has cherished no desire, has entertained no ambition which reaches beyond the horizon of mortal life, and with the stopping of his heartbeat, every imagination of his spirit perishes; there is an untimely and utter end of all his brightest hopes. A sad and dismal outlook for a human spirit! How great and how blessed the contrast of a good man! His largest hopes are then on the point of being realized; his purest and brightest expectations are about to be fulfilled. This earth is, more or less, the scene of disappointment; but in the country whose bourne he is about to cross, he will find himself where
"Trembling Hope shall realize Her full felicity."
II. A PAINFUL RELIEF. "When the wicked perish, there is shouting."
1. It is bad enough when a man's death is only felt by a very few souls. With the many opportunities we have of connecting ourselves honourably and attaching ourselves strongly to our fellows, we ought to be so much to our neighbours, that when we pass away there will be many to regret us and to speak with a kindly sorrow of our departure. Poor and fruitless must that life have been when this is not so.
2. It is seriously sad when a man's death excites no regret; when "the mourners" do not mourn; when the only thing that is real about the funereal scene is the drapery of woe. It is a pitiful thing when Christ's minister cannot pray for Divine comfort, because, though there are those who are bereaved, there is none that is afflicted.
3. It is a most melancholy thing when a man's death is felt to be a positive relief; when, as he is borne to the grave, those who knew him cannot help being glad that one more root of mischief is plucked up, one more source of sorrow taken away. That a man, created to be a light, a refuge, a blessing, a brother, a deliverer, should be put away with a feeling in every one's heart of gladness that he will be seen no more, put out of sight with the sentiment that the sooner he is forgotten the better, - this is sad indeed. What, then, is -
III. THE CONCLUSION OF THE WISE? It is this: "Let me die the death of the righteous." But the disappointing career of the author of these words (Numbers 23:10; Joshua 13:22) should be a solemn warning and a powerful incentive to form the firm resolution to live the life of the righteous, lest, as in Balaam's case, death should overtake us when we are in the ranks of the enemy. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.