“And the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘None shall defile himself for the dead among his people.'”
Under the old covenant God set the levites apart so they might be involved in ministry. Because those who serve the Lord also become a representative of the Lord, very high standards were placed upon the priests and levites. These standards went so far as to instruct them regarding how they were to react to death.
“They shall not make any bald place on their heads, nor shall they shave the edges of their beards nor make any cuttings in their flesh.”
Shaving heads and cutting their bodies were common reactions among the heathen when a loved one died. Because they did not understand death and because they had no assurance of what happens after a person dies the people would invent bizarre practices of mourning. Moses instructed Israel that they are to have no part in those type of behaviors. In other words they were to have a different view death than the nations around them.
The same is true today. The child of God should look at death differently than the unbeliever does. There are many beliefs that people hold to out of ignorance. It is not uncommon to hear people say in response to the death of a loved one something like, “Our loved ones are watching over us” or “I can feel their presence with us” or “Everyone goes to a better place.” These statements stem from a failure to understand what the Bible teaches about what happens to a person when they die. Regarding those who have trusted Christ for salvation we know that they are immediately in a glorified state in the presence of God. They do not cease to exist, they do not watch over us and they do not visit us. Frankly because we do not need them to. The Bible teaches that the Spirit of God and the angels of God are commissioned to assist the believer. In times of sorrow, weakness, fear or doubt we do not need a visitation from a loved one, we need a realization of the presence and power of God.
Because the believer has a different view of death we should also have a different reaction to death.
1 Thessalonians 4:13
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.”
Sorrow is a natural part of loss and an important part of the grieving process. For believers this sorrow can often be more intense because our love relationships are deeper, but this sorrow must not consume us. We cannot become like Jacob who refused to be comforted. We must realize that those who have died in the Lord have gone on to be with the Lord and we must receive the consoling work of the Spirit for our lives. After all we can be certain that there will one day be a grand reunion before the throne of God.