Death to the psalmist is different from what we understand of it today. We learn five things about death in the words of the psalmist. First, death is equivalent to Sheol—the place of the dead. “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me” (v. 3).The “snares of death” are the same as the “pangs of Sheol” that lay hold of him. To him, the condition of feeling dead and the place of the dead are one and the same. Thus, the realm of death infiltrates the realm of life.
Second, the psalmist is already in the hands of death. Note his words in v. 3, “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me.” He is already in the power of death.
Third, to the psalmist, death in his life is being dead to life. After his deliverance, he says, he shall walk in the land of the living (v. 9). Conversely, in death, he lives in Sheol, so to speak, in the land of the dead. Death to him is not being there in life. He is like a “zombie,” a “walking dead.”
There is a TV series in 2010 entitled, “The Walking Dead.” In the drama, the zombies are called, “walkers.” The walkers walk aimlessly, but when they hear noise, they would go to the source of the noise. They would devour any living thing they catch. Their bite is infectious to humans. In the series, any uninfected person who dies comes back as a walking dead.
Death then is lifelessness, powerlessness, and helplessness. Ps. 88:3-4, “For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength.” You eat, sleep, walk, and work every day. But you are lifeless, lacking the divine spark in your life.
Fourth, no word of praise or thanks comes out of Sheol. “For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise” (Ps. 6:5, ESV)? There is no worship of God in Sheol. Being in death, the psalmist’s life therefore is marked by a lack of worship of God. Is your life marked by a lack of worship of the living God? You are living in death.
Fifth, death to the psalmist also means trouble and sorrow. “I suffered distress and anguish” (v. 3). Death to him is tears and stumbling. “For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling” (v. 8). Note that the word, “death,” is parallel in meaning to “tears” and “stumbling.” Where the psalmist is in distress and anguish, he is in the power of death.
God’s deliverance from death, then, is a “liberation of life.” God’s salvation is freedom from a state of death to a state of life. That is why he says that he shall walk in the land of the living (v. 9). God’s deliverance to the psalmist is an emancipation from a life of lifelessness and helplessness. It is a release from the shackles of distress and anguish.
Thus, the psalmist will thank God by lifting up the cup of salvation. The cup of salvation then is a drink offering of thanksgiving for his deliverance from death.
Do you live like the dead? Is your spiritual life lifeless? Do trouble and sorrow lay hold of you today? Do you feel like you lack the strength to move on in life? Is your life lacking a desire to worship God? Are you a walking dead?
Let me tell you the good news. Jesus Christ offers you the cup of salvation. It is a cup that He paid for on the cross. Drink from His cup of salvation and you will live!
Matt. 26:27-28, “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Drink from His cup and He will save you from death. He will forgive your sins. He will liberate you from death unto newness of life! Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has . . . passed from death to life” (John 5:24, ESV).
Take His cup of salvation by faith. Turn from your sin and trust Jesus as your personal Savior. That is one way to repay the LORD.
 James L. Mays, Psalms (Int.; ed. James L. Mays; Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994), 370.