The sleep of death

The title of Psalm 57 indicates that it was spoken by David when he fled from Saul in the cave. Psalm 57 is a prayer and it is possible that David prayed it on multiple occasions, but didn’t record it until the end of his life. It is clear from David’s language that he believed he was near death and even spoke as if he was already dead when he said, “My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire” (Psalm 57:4).

The word translated lie is shâkab (shaw – kab´). “An emphasis of shakab is ‘to die,’ to lie down in death (7901). David’s reference to being set on fire suggests that he was expecting to go to hell when he died and to be among the wicked men that were seeking to kill him. David described them as, “the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword” (Psalm 57:4).

Thinking about the prospect of dying and going to hell, David said, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (Psalm 57:7). The word translated fixed, kûwn (koon) means to be readied or to be prepared. Kuwn can also mean to be established or unchangeable. The sense is that David was ready to die as his fate had already been sealed. He knew that he could not avoid what was coming.

When David said, “Awake up, my glory; awake…I myself will awake early” (Psalm 57:8). he was referring to waking up out of the sleep of death (5782). David said, “I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations” (Psalm 57:9). David’s use of the words people and nations indicates he was talking about a time in the future when God would be worshipped by everyone, not just the Israelites.

At the end of Jesus’ ministry, he instructed his disciples to, “go ye therefore, and teach all nations…teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Regarding signs of the end of the age, Jesus said, “the gospel must first be published among all nations” (Mark 13:10). It appears that David was talking about worshipping the LORD at the end of the age, after the resurrection of the dead.

David’s insight into the future made it possible for him to accept death as a temporary waiting period. Although David knew that he would live for ever, his soul would sleep until it was awakened at the dawn of a new day, a day when Jesus would be king.

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