In Christ It Is Not Death to Die (Psalm 91:7-8)

In Christ It Is Not Death to Die (Psalm 91:7-8)

Psalm 91:7-8 “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.”

The promise in this text is massive. The world, the flesh and the devil cannot harm God’s people. In self-deception we often shut our eyes to the reality of our mortality. Then calamity hits and the reality of our weakness comes in full force as we realize how fragile and short our lives really are. This can easily strike us with paralyzing fear, anxiety and despair. The threat against our lives is great and God meets the threat with this massive promise: “it will not come near you.”

The promise is for “you”, but who is the “you” of which the Psalmist writes? This is the same “you” to whom verses 3-6 refer. “You” refers to the people of God, the people who join in proclaiming trust in God in verse 2. “You” here is the people who dwell in the shelter the Most High (Elyon), abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Shaddai), have the LORD (Yahweh) as a refuge and fortress, and trust in God (Elohim). Further, “you” is contrasted by the group mentioned at the end of verse 8, the “wicked”. The promise here is for God’s people, the righteous, who proclaim their trust in God, recognizing that the world, their sinful flesh and the devil turn this beautiful world into a wasteland of death.

Before moving to the promise for believers consider the outcome of the wicked, for unbelievers, and as we’ll consider below, those outside of Jesus Christ. Death is the recompense of the wicked. “Recompense” simply is a financial term, think “compensate”. Recompense is the payment that is deserve for actions committed. Death is the outcome and fair payment for sin. And unless we have God as our Savior this is what we all deserve for our sins, death. And not merely physical death and then nothing, but eternal death facing eternal conscious torment in the wrath of God for our sins against Him. If you are an unbeliever and you aren’t trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this is your current condition, but God’s grace can extend to you. Only repent of your sin and trust in Jesus Christ, be counted in the congregation of the righteous, not because we are righteous, but because we trust in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.

What does the promise mean?

First, it applies to all believers. This doesn’t mean we won’t suffer at the hands of oppressive men and in military attack. Many believers face the horrible realities of abuse and of war, whether as a soldier or civilian. Though believers may face death through violence, death will not come near us. This doesn’t mean we won’t face illness, epidemic and pestilence in this world. Many believers face illness that ravages the body causing pain and leading to death. Further, if Jesus tarries we will all face the final outcome of our sin in Adam; death. The Bible describes death as our last enemy, and many of us will die before He comes. The Psalmist wasn’t a fool in denial of the reality of the brokenness of this world. In reality, he was likely much more acquainted with the suffering, pain and death of God’s people than even we are. How can this promise be for us? Though we suffer, suffering cannot come near us. Though we face death, death cannot come near us. For the people of God it is not death to die. We believe like Abraham that God is able to raise the dead (Hebrews 11:19).  Jesus made it plain that the Old Testament teaches that God’s people have eternal life in the fact that though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all died they are alive (Matthew 22:31-33).

Second, the way that this applies to all believers is through Jesus Christ alone. He faced suffering and death on the cross. On the cross He bore the scorn of sinful men and the full unmitigated eternal wrath of God for all of those who would ever trust in Him. The wrath of God for the sins of His people bore down upon Jesus Christ. Jesus knows suffering like no one else. Then, three days later He rose again from the grave. He has victory over death and calamity. Psalm 91:7-8 is most clearly and powerfully fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Third, by turning from our sin and turning to God by trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we see the death of our death in the death of Jesus Christ. The promise of Psalm 91:7-8 is fulfilled for believers in Jesus Christ. If we feel conviction for our sins and acknowledge the wrongs that we have done by confessing our sins to God; if we plead to God asking Him to forgive us for our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness putting our trust and hope in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection alone we overcome death. Our trust is not in ourselves, but in God’s grace in Christ alone. And while we wait for Jesus to return and take us to be with Him forever we may face calamity, war, pestilence, plague, illness and death, but because we have Jesus Christ who will never leave nor forsake us, none of it can touch us. We face sorrow and pain in this world, but if our hope is in Jesus Christ we are safe from it all and one day our loving King and Savior will wipe every tear from our eyes.

It is not death to die, to leave this weary road,
And midst the brotherhood on high to be at home with God.

It is not death to close the eye long dimmed by tears,
And wake, in glorious repose, to spend eternal years.

It is not death to bear the wrench that sets us free
From dungeon chain, to breathe the air of boundless liberty.

It is not death to fling aside this sinful dust
And rise, on strong exulting wing to live among the just. 

Jesus, Thou Prince of Life, thy chosen cannot die:
Like Thee, they conquer in the strife to reign with Thee on high. (1)

1. From the hymn It Is not Death to Die by H. A. César Malan (1832), translated from French to English by George W. Bethune (1847).