Psalm 115 is assigned for Vespers on Mondays of the Easter season in LSB. Praying it tonight I was struck in a new way by these words:
The dead do not praise the Lord,
nor do any who go down into silence.
But we will bless the Lord
from this time forth and
forevermore. Praise the Lord! (vs. 17,18)
Naturally the first thought was that those who have ceased breathing do not praise God, but the more I look at it, the more that cannot be the meaning - look vs. 18! We WILL bless the Lord from now until forever. So that made me wonder and I saw that I had it backwards.
The dead are those WHO DO NOT PRAISE THE LORD! Those who do not praise Him, receiving His gifts and acclaiming them, are truly dead. And they are dead even if they are walking around. It made me realize that I am more than half dead myself. For how little of my life IS praise? But this is to be alive: to give God praise and thanks and glory and honor. And it seems obvious, doesn't it? I mean, I know when I am praising God in psalms and hymns I never feel more alive. And I know that I'm engaging in that one activity that I do now that I will get to go on doing forever - without end!
We are surrounded by the living dead. But it is our joy to waken them to life - to invite them into that life which we've tasted and known and which we long for more and more: the life that is praise to God. "That we should BE to the praise of His glory" as St. Paul said it, or "That we should declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light" as St. Peter put the same reality.
The dead do not praise the Lord. But WE do! And so we can sing, even as we enter death:
There is nothing worth comparing
To this life-long comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring,
Even there I'll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising
Still my soul *continues praising*:
I am baptized into Christ,
I'm a child of paradise. (LSB 594:5)