First-time experiences can be unsettling, can’t they? But they can also be exhilarating, depending on the situation and your personality. Remember your feelings on the first day of school, the first day on a new job, the first date, or the first time using a new skill? But there are “firsts” that are always difficult, such as the first time we face our own death.
Death was not a stranger to David. Early in his life he faced the possibility of his own death as Saul doggedly sought to kill him (1 Sam. 19). He also experienced the death of his closest friend, Jonathan (2 Sam. 1). And David saw the gruesomeness of death over and over again on the battlefields where he fought.
Perhaps it was his many experiences with death and near-death that made David resolve to “sing praises to my God even with my dying breath” (Ps. 146:2). In the prime of his life, David decided what he wanted to do on the day of his death. David could make this vow because it reflected his trust in God for all aspects of his life—even his death, for you must trust God to genuinely praise Him.
David trusted God because he understood something about God that brings hope and peace and comfort. David understood that the Lord “is the one who keeps every promise forever” (Ps. 146:6). He knew that all the promises made by God were available to him every hour of every day, including the day of his death. It may have been that as David thought about his death, he remembered God’s promise to always be with those who love Him.
I wonder if David got to fulfill his desire to praise God with his dying breath. We know David lived to be an old man, but we are not told the details of his final hours on this earth (1 Kings 1–2). It may be that his wish to sing praises to God was granted. Or it may be he was physically or mentally incapable of doing so. Either way, we know God understood the desire of David’s heart. So whether his praise was silent or audible, it would have preceded him into the loving presence of the Lord.
Most people do not share David’s attitude concerning death. They fear death and what it demands from us: the possibility of pain and suffering, loss of control, separation from those we love, and the many unknown aspects of the transition from this life to the next. That is understandable. Even David was not nonchalant about his eventual death.
Facing death is a hard thing, and David knew it. Scripture contains many verses where David pleads with God to rescue him from his brushes with death, but these verses also reflect his confidence that the experience of death for a child of God is softened by the promises of God and by His love. After all, God promises His children that their death is also their birth into the splendor and delight of Heaven.
When you think about it, birth and death have similarities. Birth, while joyous, comes about through a time that is painful. The baby being born, if loved by his or her parents, is about to experience all the joys and beauty of this world, things of which the baby knows nothing. Death, too, may come about through a time that is painful, and we, who are loved by God, know little of the joys and beauty of Heaven. Like a baby being born, we know best what we are about to leave behind. It will take our trust in God to look ahead to our dying breath with the thought of praise for Him on our lips.
If we worship the same God as David, there truly is reason to praise Him with our dying breath…and our every breath.
© 2010 Arlina Yates