(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)
PSALM 8 TALK
I LOOK TO THE HEAVENS
(THE MAJESTY OF GOD AND THE DIGNITY OF MAN)
When I was preparing for this study I came across a sermon on the internet written by a American minister named Glendon Thompson who sited a highly publicized legal dispute in the early 1990’s in the United States of America. The dispute he points out was between a man and his wife named Terri Schiavo – Schiavo had sustained brain damage after collapsing at home. After the accident she was capable of a small amount of activities on her own. Terri’s husband wanted to remove her feeding tube as he believed her quality of life was greatly diminished. Glendon Thompson points out it required a last – minute intervention of Florida’s Governor, Jebb Bush, to spare her life.
This incident and many others like it raises the question on how far should society go to preserve human life? What is the value of a human being? and are we, as many modern scientists claim, just a product of the process of natural selection ?
David in Psalm 8 offers some wonderful insights into the answers to these questions and many others. David might not have written this Psalm when he was a lowly shepherd boy attending his sheep out on the open fields of Israel but he would have looked up into the great night sky and thought of his God who he believed made it all and marveled at its majestic beauty.
This Psalm is one of David’s five nature Psalms (8,19,29,65 and 104) and can be broken up into three parts :
1. THE MAJESTIC NAME OF THE LORD IN CREATION
(1 – 2)
2. THE WONDERFUL POSITION OF MAN IN CREATION (3 – 6)
3. THE SPECIAL ROLE OF MAN IN CREATION (6 – 9)
Read Psalm 8
1 “O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
you have set your glory above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
1. THE MAJESTIC NAME OF THE LORD IN CREATION (1 – 2)
David spent many nights out in the fields of Judah and would have seen in the sky a mass of stars lighting up the night sky and striking his eye with wonder and delight. David believed in God and therefore the wonder he looked at in the night sky spoke to him of the power and majesty of that God who made it all.
It amazes me that so many people cannot see God in nature. They marvel at what they call, “Mother Nature” or even “The miracle of evolution” but cannot go the next step and acknowledge that “Mother Nature” is in fact God and the miracle of evolution isn’t a great accident but it is the perfect design of a incredible God.
Maybe the answer to their blindness is that they don’t want to see God. For if God exists he might want them to change and stop living their lives for themselves. Paul suggests this in Romans 1 : 21 – 23,
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles”.
In Paul’s day the idols that replaced God where often idols made of stone or wood. In our world these idols have been replaced by the worship of scientific discovery and human thought and what Christians believe is simply passed off as a form of supertition.
But David looked at the sky in both day and night and saw only one thing, “God’s Glory above the Heavens”.
David then points out in verse 2 a fact of life, that is the simple faith of children. I have not come across a young child yet who does not believe in God. Jesus recognized this fact on a number of occasions and used it to try and tell us how he wants all of us to believe in him. Lets look at two of these times when Jesus spoke of having faith like a child, Luke 10 : 21,
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure”.
And Mark 10 : 14 – 15,
“When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
So children have this innate concept of God in their minds but as we grow, so called older and wiser our childe like innocence is lost and replaced with a cold attitude of either, “agnosticism” (a person who believes that it is impossible to know whether God exists) or worse , “atheism” (a person who believes there is no God). David says of these so called wise adults, “enemies”, “foes” or “avengers”. They are avengers because they because those who don’t believe in God and refuse to therefore acknowledge him are part of the devils dark powers who oppose him.
All forms of opposition to God in this life is not just coming from the futile thinking of people in this life but finds its inspiration and power from the world beyond as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 : 10 – 12,
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.
2. THE WONDERFUL POSITION OF MAN IN CREATION (3 – 5)
David then moves to a remarkable statement of the position of “man” in the stage of God’s creation. Looking up at the night sky and the wonders it reveals about the God who made it, David asks, “what is man that you are mindful of him”?
What is David asking here?
David seems to be asking us to ponder the age old question, if God made everything making him big and powerful then why would he be interested in frail and puny creatures like us?
“The bigness of the universe is far bigger than David would have ever imagined.
Robert Jastrow, a former head of NASA’s Goddard Center, once used a clever comparison to help us grasp the immensity of the universe.
“An analogy,” he says, “will help to clarify the meaning of these enormous distances. Let the sun be the size of an orange; on that scale of sizes the earth is a grain of sand circling in orbit around the sun at a distance of 30 feet; the giant planet Jupiter, 11 times larger than the earth, is a cherry pit revolving at a distance of . . . one city block; Saturn is another cherry pit two blocks from the sun; and Pluto, the outermost planet, is still another sand grain at a distance of ten city blocks from the sun”
And that’s just our solo system, using Jastrow’s analogy and same scale “the average distance between the stars is 2000 miles. The sun’s nearest neighbor, a star called Alpha Centauri, is 1300 miles away”. Those kinds of distances have the potential to blow your mind.
So that’s how vast God’s creation is, so what are we in compared to that, we are not even like tiny ants or may I suggest smaller than microscopic single cell life forms. Yet God is mindful of us.
This statement could easily just wash over us but I intend not to let it do that. The God who made everything is interested in caring for and giving to insignificant creatures like you and me. Why? You might ask and the answer to that is even more mind blowing. He is interested in us because he chooses to. You see the very nature of the God who made this universe is “love” and very special form of love the bible calls love because not only are we puny creatures but we are flawed. We are at war with the God of the universe and yet he still chooses to love us. This teaching about God comes through beautifully in the first letter of John beginning at verse 7 and going through to verse 12,
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Soninto the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us”. We will have more to say about Jesus a little later in this section.
So God is intimately interested in us and right from the beginning our special place in all of creation was made clear. David says he made us special in two ways :
- One Step below the Angels.
“You made him (mankind) a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (verse 5)
We see in the Genesis that made, the first Adam, as I will call him throughout this section, “In his own image” (Genesis 1 : 27. Much has been written about what this means but we can safely safe something of what God is like is found in man. In the second account of the creation of man, in Genesis chapter 2 verse 7 we read “the Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being”.
Both these accounts present one unified fact that God made man in a special way and that he has a intimate connection with a special creature he created called man. In Psalm 8, David says this special creation makes us just a little lower than heavenly beings.
- Born to Rule the earth.
The second way in which we are special creatures in God’s sight is found in second half of verse 5 and verse 6,
“and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet”.
Genesis 1 makes it clear that we were created by God to rule over the earth. In Genesis 1 verse 28 we read, “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
This is a very controversial thing, especially in the day and age of global warming and other conservation problems. God made us to take charge of the earth and certainly before man’s fall we were to be like God on earth but of course we were to be doing this under the rule of God our maker.
THE STORY OF THE FIRST ADAM
I called this first man Adam, the first Adam because we are, I’m sure a bit unnerved by what we have just learnt from Psalm 8 about how we were made and who the Psalm says we are. For the Psalm is saying we are one step below the angels and are born to rule. However if this is true why are we in so much of a mess and why is the world we rule so polluted and poorly managed? Did God make some kind of mistake in how he made us?
No we know God made us beautifully but he did do one thing that makes us really different and that is he made us before the fall able to choose if we will obey him or not. This is the point of God giving this first Adam the little test of eating the fruit of one tree. We read of this test in Genesis 2 : 15 – 17,
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Of course the point of calling the Genesis Adam, the first Adam is that we know from Genesis 3 man, the first Adam failed the test of the fruit of the tree. The women fell for the devils lie of , “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”.
Of course both Adam and Eve fell for this lie and ate. I find it interesting that this story brilliantly yet simply explains what all sins are, they are some form or representation of rebellion to God’s rule. God gives them what they asked for in eating this fruit, independence and of course that meant being cast out of his presence and cursed to struggle with the world they now must work hard in and of course, die. Death seems to be not part of the pre-fall experience but comes as result of sin.
THE STORY OF THE SECOND ADAM
The writer to the Hebrew identifies Christ as the one David is actually speaking about when he says, “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor”.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet”, Hebrews 2 : 7 – 8. How can this verse’s refer to man in general and Christ specifically at the same time?
The answer lies in the fact that there are two Adams, as Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all will be made alive”.
The first Adam fell from the lofty position God made him in and through him sin and death entered the world but Jesus, the second Adam, did not fall to sin and through his death for us came righteousness and life for all who believe in him.
What this means is that only in Christ can the true dignity of man be restored and in Christ we can be made again to be, “crowned with glory and honour”.
- THE SPECIAL ROLE OF MAN IN CREATION (6 – 9)
We pick up verse 6 again and realise that , yes we are made to rule the earth but because of sin it is a destroying rule. Where does pollution and the destruction of plant and wild life come from? Why do people go hungry and others grow fat with to much food come from? Yes it comes from mankind’s greed and selfish living, which comes from man’s rebellion to God’s rule of their lives.
We do rule over domestic and wild animals, we do rule over birds in the air and fish in the sea but that rule because of sin is a rule of destruction and frankly we have made a real mess of this world.
What is the answer? Of course the answer is Jesus and his death for sin as Paul tells us in Romans 8 : 22 – 25,
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”.
Psalm 8 finishes with David exclaiming again, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
David uttered these same words at the start of the Psalm and he now closes it with the same words. He has looked into heavens and seen God’s majesty, he has realized that not only did God make such a vast and beautiful universe but he made man and gave him great dignity and power. Man of course, through the first Adam fell to the devils lie of seeking to be like God and control his own destiny. But God sent Jesus who has redeemed us, brought us back by his death for us.
Now the real dignity and purpose of man can be ours again.
Should life support be shut off from a suffering human being?
Are we really just an animal with a big brain, that should, like an animal be put down when we are suffering?
No we are, in Christ “made just little lower than the angels” and in Christ we alone know his majesty and might.
3 NEW TESTAMENT APPICATIONS OF PSALM 8
- CHILDREN RECOGNISE JESUS BUT PROUD MEN DON’T
In Matthew 21 : 16 Jesus quotes from Psalm 2, these word’s, “from the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise”. Jesus speaks these words to the proud and stubborn hearted chief Priest’s of his day. They have just heard children chanting to Jesus, “”hosanna to the Son of David”, and Matthew tells us the chief Priest’s were “indignant”.
Jesus is telling us here that if we fail to acknowledge him with simple faith, that young children seem to be born with but loose as they grow up, then we will fail to know and see who he really is.
In Matthew 18 : 3 – 4, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Here he is telling us that, if we fail to humble ourselves and accept him as Savior and Lord of our lives we will fail to enter the Kingdom and as David says in Psalm 8, fail to be, crowned with glory and honour.
What stops many people accepting this great gift from God?
Sadly it is the same thing The Chief Priest’s suffered from Pride.
- HOW JESUS CAN RESTORE OUR TRUE DIGNITY AND DESTINY
As I pointed out in my opening up of the Psalm, Paul spoke of two Adams in 1 Corinthians 15. He did this to teach us how we can find our true dignity and destiny in Christ. Lets read Paul’s total argument about this in 1 Corinthians 15 : 45 – 49,
“So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven”.
Man was made by God to live and relate to him but in Adam, sin entered the world and like Adam we all choose to go our own way and not obey God. This meant Adam and all who follow him struggle with his wife, the natural world and die. Death came into the man’s experience as a consequence of his sin.
However, Paul points out that just as death came by one man, the first man Adam, so, through one man, Christ, the second Adam comes life.
Which man do you choose to follow?
And will you accept or continue to accept the man who will lead us to heaven, Jesus Christ.
- MAN AND CREATIONS NEW CREATION
Paul spoke a spoke a lot about the fact that we can know, a new creation activity of God in our lives and the world.
In 2 Corinthians 5 : 17,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
He speaks more fully on this and tells us that all of creation is waiting for a new creation as well in Romans 8 : 18 – 25,
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that[i] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”.
So as I said in my opening up of the Psalm, both mankind and creation itself needs to be re-created and this new creation is now possible because of what Jesus has done for us.
What have learnt in this study about the nature and value of human beings?
We have learnt that God has made us special and we are in a unique position in creation.
We have learnt that because of sin this special unique position has been affected and the only way it can be fully realized again is in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This means we should treat life and death with the dignity it deserves. Three years ago I was present, with my two sisters and my wife at the death of my father. He had requested not to be resuscitated if his serious illness (pneumonia) and his frail aged body led to his death. He was made as comfortable as possible by the doctors and nurses at the hospital. It was a very sad thing to see your father die but at least I knew he died with dignity.
Death is a scary thing but of course, for us who know the second Adam , Jesus Christ, who died for our sins on the cross, death is not the end but the gateway to a much better eternal life with him in heaven.
Read the poem based on this Psalm
I Look to The Heavens
I look to the heavens
And what do I see
I see wonders and glories
That really amazes me.
Stars that shine
Sunsets that gleam
Mountains and rivers
In a breathtaking scene
And I ask who made this ?
Or was it simply an accident of time,
A never ending principal of order from chaos
Or a master design.
I look to the heavens
And what do I see
I see a glorious creator
That really amazes me.
Wonders and beauty
Even children declare
God is alive
I see him everywhere.
And I ask who is this God ?
He’s the Lord of all master of the universe
The God who created everything big and small
So beautiful and diverse.
I look to the heavens
And what do I see ?
I see a creator so powerful
He really frightens me.
The moon and the stars
A universe so vast
So what is mankind ?
So small in contrast.
Like a tiny ant on an open plain.
Yet God has set us over all the earth
To lovingly control and rule over all
From the day of our birth.
I look to God’s word
And what do I see ?
I see a wonderful God
Whose love amazes me.
Mankind has fallen
And death is its pay
So God sent his Son
To make for us a way
He died for me on a cross so cruel
He took my sin upon his body and soul
He raised me up to reign with him
Forgiven, free and whole.
Jim Wenman (2008)
Lord help us to know and appreciate our special value and place in your eyes. Help us to be faithful stewards of the world you have given us to look after. Above all help us to look to your Son Jesus Christ the king and Saviour of the universe. Amen