It is not the dead who praise Yahweh,
nor any of those descending into the silence of death.
But we will praise Yahweh,
both now and forever.
Psalm 115:17-18 HCSB
These two verses teach so much about eternal life in such a small space, it’s mind-boggling. (Admittedly, the standard required to boggle my mind is not very high, but still. It’s a worshipful mind-boggling in any case.)
Here’s an attempt to visualize what seems to be going on in these verses:
now and forever
|do not praise Yahweh||we will praise Yahweh|
Several times in the psalms (6:5 and 88:10-12, e.g.) there are references to the imposed, oppressive silence of death. In Sheol (sometimes the grave, sometimes the place where the wicked go in death to await judgment), there is no praise of Yahweh. The grave is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15), and its weapons include an irrevocable gag-order of all in its clutches. For the wicked who are awaiting judgment, the opportunity to praise Yahweh in repentance is gone; the silence serves as a haunting reminder of the praise and obedience the heart never spoke.
But “we,” the psalmist and the congregation of saints, will praise Yahweh. And not just “now,” but “both now and forever.” There is here the understanding–in seed form, perhaps, to blossom with Jesus’ coming and teaching–of eternal life. The wicked live this life with the opportunity to praise Yahweh; when they die, opportunities are gone. There is no more praise; only weeping and gnashing of teeth. But for the saints, those who are born again, there is never a last call for praise. The doors never close; the lights never go out.
O that the Spirit would give us a contagious joy in Jesus, that we would gladly praise now–in light of the fact we will never stop!