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ARE YOU BREATHING?
by Philip Owen

Unless we believe the concluding verse of the Psalter to be a piece of divine hyperbole, it must give us pause.  For it is as profound in meaning as it is simple in expression:  “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.  Praise ye the Lord” (Psa. 150:6).  What a fitting conclusion to a blessed book and what a profound exhortation it is to every saint.

 

The condition of praise.  There is one condition for praise:  the possession of breath.  Every one who is living and breathing has both reason and obligation to praise God.  That sinners altogether fail to praise God consciously and willingly does not obviate their duty to do so; it merely points out the profundity of their rebellion against a gracious, loving God.  And that believers, who have so much for which to be thankful, are neglectful of the privilege and duty of praise underscores the bountiful undeserved favor that God bestows upon them—a realization that should provoke even more praise.  If God is to be believed (and He is), then every creature who inhales breath should exhale blessing to the Lord.  How profound is that duty and how profound our failure!

 

The call to praise.  This verse expresses the sacred will of our holy God and gracious Savior.  “I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath,” vowed the hymnist in obedience to the will of God.  And since praise is commanded, it is the duty and obligation of believers to give it.  But what does it say about the hardness of our hearts that we so carelessly neglect such a ministry?  Would not our hearts overflow with thankfulness if someone pulled us out of the path of a speeding truck?  Would not our hearts overflow with thankfulness if someone found our lost child or rescued our grandchild from danger?  And what if he had done it at the cost of his own life?  Such is the nature of the work the Lord has done on our behalf.  And yet we grow callous of His benefits and careless of His blessings. 

 

The calling of praise.  Perhaps it was in part our text that provoked the catechism:  “What is man’s highest duty?  Man’s highest duty is to glorify God and to enjoy His fellowship forever.”  The command makes praise a duty to all who breathe, but the daily experience of the saving grace of God transforms the duty into a privilege.  And nothing believers do is so enjoyable as returning thanks to the Lord.  Truly to do so is to realize the joy and power of the Lord’s Presence and is as close to heaven as believers can get this side of eternity.  Regardless of the profession that enables a believer to put food on the table, his calling, his vocation is to praise God.  Unless and until he does this, he is failing of the reason for which he was placed on this earth and for which He has been redeemed.

 

The consumption of praise.  Since verbal praise is very much the focus of this verse and many other verses in the Psalms, it would be a mistake to make light of that conscious and deliberate element of praise.  But truly, to praise the Lord consumes the entire life.  A believer’s words should praise the Lord.  But so should his will.  The things he chooses and refuses either redound to God’s glory or bring shame on the Lord who saved him.  A good question to ask at every juncture is:  “Will this decision glorify the Lord, or is it merely a carnal desire?”  And following the will comes the work.  The actions of a believer should be chosen with the end in mind of praising the Lord.  “Will this deed or activity honor or dishonor the Lord?” is a question that should govern everything the believer does.  Praise to God will be the focus of our eternal occupation; our temporal lives should be a training ground for eternity.

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