Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
You might have thought that it would have been their life which was declared "precious"; for what are they but the army of the Lord? Are they not those who maintain His cause against a wicked and rebellious generation? And when withdrawn from earth, are they not comparatively withdrawn from all opportunity of witnessing for the truth, and upholding Christ's kingdom against the powers of darkness? Oh, it does but show more clearly how much of danger surrounds the saints during their sojourning below, that their death should be counted so valuable, notwithstanding that it interrupts their usefulness, removes them from the scene where alone they can wage the war with the enemies of God. Was the death of Paul precious, though his death was as when a standard-bearer fell, and there have arisen none since to take up his mantle as a champion of Christ? Then does not the very preciousness of his death give additional meaning and emphasis to his own words — "I keep Under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway"? The death is precious because the life is perilous; and God rejoices over His saints when He has gathered them into the separate state, because then they can be no more tempted to the forsaking His law, no more exposed to the assaults of the evil one, no more challenged to a battle in which if victory be glorious there is all the risk of a shameful defeat. And though it may seem to you that the usefulness of life must after all detract from the preciousness of death, so that you can hardly see how that is to be thought of great worth which transplants the believer from activity to quietude, from the maintenance of God's cause to the deep recesses of the separate state, yet reflect for a moment on the power of a saint's death, and you may believe that, even as a weapon against the unrighteous, death must be precious. It was in dying that Christ conquered. What was so precious as His death, forasmuch as through death He destroyed "him that had the power of death, that is, the devil"? It is in dying that saints often achieve their greatest victory, or do most for the cause of God or the truth. There is a power in their memory which makes them survive dissolution. The death of the righteous is often effectual in convincing those who were not moved by their life. The piety which can smile at the grim tyrant, more persuades men of its truth, and more urges to imitation, than piety under lesser trial and demonstration, as it was not in the pulpit, nor in the study, but at the stake, that martyrs lighted the candle which yet sheds over nations so rich an illumination. Let us not, then, speak of death as necessarily the termination of usefulness. It may often be only that which carries usefulness to its height, and gives it perpetuity, Having put off their armour, they may still be in the fight, their example remaining to incite others to constancy, their memory descending to lead on successors in the championship of truth. Housed, then, by death, so that everlasting blessedness is made theirs beyond every possible contingency; removed from a scene where every hour in danger of dishonouring and denying God, to one where they are certain to love Him and adore Him without the slightest interruption, the dissolution moreover of this framework of flesh being often but a process through which righteousness takes a higher stand in the witnessing for the Gospel, and in the advancement of the kingdom of Christ — oh, tell me not that death can be other than valuable in the eyes of the Almighty; valuable as securing those whom He loves and promoting that which He designs.
(H. Melvill, B.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.