Read Psalm 6.
The author of Ecclesiastes, likely Solomon, wrote, “All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not” (Ecclesiastes 9:2). Death is the great leveler. No one escapes him. But death is also unnatural, a foreign invader in our world.
Death was never supposed to be part of human experience. We were designed to be everlasting creatures, to dwell in God’s presence forever and ever. But when sin was let in, death followed closely behind. Now, we cannot remember a time when death did not stalk us.
In death, the enemies of God believe they have won a victory. That is because, as David says here in Psalm 6, “Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?” (v. 5). That is the great tragedy of death—not separation from our loved ones, not the end of earthly comforts and joys (though those things are heartbreaking), but the silencing of worship that belongs to God.
Back in Genesis, God made Adam to “to work… and take care of” the garden of Eden. That was the purpose for humanity. As mundane as that sounds, it was anything but ordinary. The Hebrew words translated “work” and “take care” in the NIV are the same words used later to describe the activity of the priests and Levites who served in the temple (Numbers 3:7–8; 8:25–26; 18:5–6; 1 Chronicles 23:32; Ezekiel 44:14). Their work was worship—and as children of Adam, it is ours too.
Human beings were also made to be God’s image-bearers (Genesis 1:27), people who reflect the glory of God. Bearing God’s image is itself an act of worship, a way of ascribing to God the glory due His name, shouting it to creation and to one another through the lives we live.
Either way you slice it, worship is what we were made for. Death is the great enemy for the sadness it brings but chiefly because it puts an end to the work of worship God gave us to do. Or so God’s enemies thought.
The Hebrew word translated “grave” in Psalm 6:5 is Sheol, which refers to the realm of the dead in ancient Near Eastern thought. It was believed to be a place beneath the earth—watery caverns removed from the life of God. Sheol was the destination of both the righteous and the wicked until the day of judgment.
No one was exempt from Sheol, though God’s people recognized that the Lord was powerful and faithful to rescue the righteous (Psalm 49:15). Paul could later write confidently that “to be away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). But long before that, the seeds of the hope of bodily resurrection were planted (Job 19:25–27; Psalm 16:10; Daniel 12:2). And when Jesus rose from the grave on Easter morning, never to die again, the curse of death was lifted. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55; cf. Hosea 13:14).
Toward the end of Psalm 6, after pouring the anguish of his heart out to God, David could write confidently, “The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer” (v. 9). Because God is so good, I have no doubt that David is, right now, worshiping before the Lord, the purpose for which he was made. He is very much alive.