Psalm 8

The Majesty of God

Laura Miguélez Quay

Linebrook Church

May 22, 2016

Trinity Sunday

[A version first preached on 6/16/07

at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Warrenville, IL]

 

Our passage this morning is a brief psalm, or sacred song, credited to King David. This psalm is a psalm of praise and the first item of praise is none other than God himself. In essence this is a psalm from an earthly king who is awe of the heavenly King who made him and everything else that exists. David begins by addressing the LORD, our Lord. He is acknowledging God by his personal name—all caps—Yahweh, the name God first discloses to Moses and his covenant people, and then, in his role as King, David acknowledges that this is our Lord. David is speaking for his subjects—and, by extension, for us.

He acknowledges the majesty of God’s name in all the earth. In fact this psalm begins and ends in the same manner—with an enthusiastic proclamation of the majesty of our Lord’s name which extends to all the earth. There is only one God who made all that exists therefore all who exist should recognize and acknowledge his majesty. And yet…, do you ever wonder when reading such enthusiastic declarations how it is that David able to praise God with such abandon? What is it that causes him to acknowledge and exclaim the majestic name and honor of our Lord? Don’t we want to know? Isn’t this a key reason we come together each Sunday—to dwell upon the majesty and glory and beauty and wonder of our gracious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Yet, if we’re honest, isn’t this difficult to do at times? How is it that we can learn to take our eyes off of ourselves and our anxieties and our cares and our hurts and our troubles and focus upon the One who made us? What is David’s secret? What does he see that we so often don’t?

The answer is surprisingly simple. Look around you. By merely looking around at the world, taking notice of the world, David is able to see God’s majesty. In this psalm he begins with the heavenly creation, and then turns to humanity which God has commissioned to care for the earth as mini kings and queens. Humans are to watch over cattle and wild animals, and birds in the sky, and even fish in the sea. In all of these earthly realms that reflect God’s majesty, humans are entrusted as his caretakers and stewards.

So the first thing we need to do to see the majesty of our God is: Look up! Look up at the heavens. God made them. The heavens reflect the glory of God—which is another way of saying that the heavens point to the existence of the God who made them. The heavens reflect their Maker. And, this being a psalm that expresses the special relationship God has with his covenant people, Israel, it’s possible that Israel is who David has in mind when he states in verse 2 that “through the praise of children and infants,” i.e., Israel, the LORD has “established a stronghold against [his] enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” For despite the attempts of other nations to hurt the people of Israel, God’s people survive. Not even the Lord’s foes are able to silence the great refrain of the majesty of God. Alternatively, the thought here may be that “babes and infants”—as some translations read—are able to acknowledge and see what allegedly wiser adults cannot.[1] Whichever is intended, the message is the same—the God who made all that exists calls us to know and depend upon him for our protection and care. He is our stronghold. So look up and consider the heavens and the power and creativity and wonder of the One who made them.

When David looks upon these heavens, the work of God’s fingers, when he looks upon the moon and stars God has put in place, he is struck with a sense of awe and appreciation and praise for the God who made them. Again, do we want to develop an attitude of praise for God? Then we should look at the moon—for God made it. Look at the stars—God made them, too. These objects from the world of nature are a source of admiration and wonder for the psalmist for he recognizes that the King who has made everything that exists has left a mark of his majesty—his dignity—his beauty—his royal power and greatness on all the earth.

Yet why does David respond with praise rather than with fear? If that sounds like an unusual question, let me explain what I mean. In contemplating nature, have you ever experienced a sense of your own smallness? Have you ever gone hiking—away from the city, away from civilization—and looked up at the moon and stars at night? Or, perhaps here in New England, have you ever sat and looked at the ocean and felt its force and power? In doing so, have you ever felt as though you are so terribly small and insignificant in this great vast world of nature? You feel wonder, yes, yet you also experience a sense that you’re just a teeny-tiny cog in a vast complex cosmos that can seem impersonal and uncaring and that will continue on regardless of whether or not we ourselves continue to exist.

Before I came to a saving faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ at the age of eighteen, this is the effect that being in the great outdoors had upon me. Though I loved being outside hiking and canoeing and enjoying the beauty of the earth, at the same time it kind of freaked me out. I had a sense of the power and immensity of the cosmos, but this also created a fear in me because I thought that if there was a God who made it all, I had no assurance that this God cared at all for me. This is both the wonder and the limitation of what we as believers understand to be God’s general revelation or that which can be known of God by means of his created order alone.

Yet David reminds us that the vastness and majesty of the universe points to the vastness and majesty of its Maker. Just as we are able to recognize a painting by Monet that we have never before seen because we recognize his style, or a song we have never before heard by a singer we enjoy because we know her voice, so, too, God has left his imprint on the world. And that should lead us to conclude that he exists. Paul tells us as much in Romans 1:19–20 where he states:

19 …what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

From looking at the world that God has created, God has provided us sufficient information to conclude that he exists. He has made it plain so that we are without excuse. But there’s the rub, isn’t it? God’s general revelation at best will point to his eternal power and deity. Nature tells us nothing specific about what God is like as a Person. Is he for us or against us? Does he care for us? Does he notice us at all? So though we are hard-wired by God to discern his existence—his glory—in the world he has created, nonetheless in order for us to know what he is like personally, we need a further special—or specific—revelation.

David is able to praise the majesty of the LORD’s name by looking at nature because David is also the recipient of God’s specific revelation—of his specific communication of himself to David. From many other psalms he wrote it’s clear that David knew and loved and worshipped the God who made him. When David sinned, he repented and received forgiveness from God who is ever ready to extend forgiveness and so he was reconciled to the God who made and loved him. And despite David’s many failures and shortcomings, we are told in Scripture that he was a man after God’s own heart.[2] David knew God and he knew God’s Word. And this special revelation from God is what he turns to next.

Though when David looks at the world of nature, he, too, is struck with a sense of his own smallness when compared with the vastness of the heavens, moon, and stars, nonetheless this doesn’t cause fear in him but humility because he knows God cares for him. Notice how he says in verse 4: “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” So David gets it. Given the enormity of the created order, why in the world would God bother with us? Why would he “be mindful” of us? Why would he be conscious of or aware of our existence? Why would the One who has made all that exists bother to notice and care about the mere, puny humans who inhabit the earth? But in posing this question, David is already aware of the fact that God does care for us; he is mindful of us. And David knows this because he knows God’s Word, God’s specific revelation or unveiling of his will and ways. This is the source of David’s awe and joy. This is the reason he doesn’t feel swallowed up when he considers the vastness of the created order—because he knows that the God who made the cosmos is also the God who made human beings and cares for all he has created. Because David knows Scripture—because he knows God’s special or specific revelation—he further knows that in the midst of the magnitude of our Lord’s incredible creative acts, he has nonetheless chosen to be mindful of mankind—he has chosen to be mindful of you and me; he has chosen to care for human beings—he has chosen to care for us. Look again at verse 4 of our psalm: “4what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Our Lord not only created us, he is mindful of us. He is full of care for us. He takes heed of us. He remembers us.

Though you and I may feel at times as though our lives do not matter;

though we may feel at times as though there is no purpose to our lives;

though we may at times feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things,

this feeling is a lie. Hastening back to Scripture, to the original creation mandate given by God to Adam and Eve when he first created them, David notes that we have been made a little lower than the angels—or some translations say a little lower than God—and that we have been crowned with glory and honor. This is too difficult for us to comprehend. At least in the case of God we can understand why he should receive glory and honor—he is God, after all. He has made everything in the world. He is perfect love, and compassion, and justice, and holiness, and longsuffering, and mercy, and patience. The praise, honor, and admiration that attend his glory is merited for he made us and all that we see around us. Because he is the final cause of all that exists, his honor merited. Any respect, esteem, or reverence we accord to our Lord is but his due for he has created all that exists and he rules over it. He is a Sovereign like no other.

But what have we done to merit such glory and honor? We didn’t create the world. We didn’t create ourselves. Why in the world would our Lord crown us with glory and honor? The answer should humble us. The reason is because we have been made in the image of God. In these verses David is hearkening back to the beginning of the Bible, specifically to Genesis 1:26–28. Notice the close parallels with verses 6–8 in our Psalm. In Genesis we read:

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

Do you see the parallels between Genesis 1 and Psalm 8? As our gracious Lord rules over all that he has made so he has granted us his image that we might reflect the glory and honor with which we have been crowned by God. He made us stewards of this world in which we find ourselves. In essence, God has crowned every one of us as King and Queen and endowed us with the responsibility of caring for this vast, extraordinary world in which he’s placed us. Look at the person sitting next to you—or someone near you if you’re not sitting next to someone! Take a real close look—do you see the majesty that is there? Do you see the image of our majestic Lord and God that is there? And so, have we learned to treat one another as royalty?

In this opening passage of God’s Word from Genesis we have a strong indication of the inseparable link that exists between us and our gracious Maker. From the beginning, the meaning our Lord gives to our lives is by his grace, not our merit. He has endowed us with his image; he has crowned us with his glory and honor. Adam and Eve were made this way. They did nothing to earn such glory and honor. And this is why we are required not only to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength but also to love each other as we love ourselves. Brothers and sisters, we are royalty. We are the kids of the King! And as children of the King, we have been commissioned by him—we have been commissioned by God—to care for the world in which he’s placed us and to care for one another. We all are made in God’s image—young and old, feeble and strong, healthy and sick, married and single, wealthy and poor and in between. We all have been crowned with God’s glory and honor. What an awesome truth Scripture presents to us….

Let us yet again read verses 4–5:

what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.

Now does this passage sound familiar—and not just because we keep returning to it!? Where else do we see these verses referred to in God’s word? To who else is this passage applied other than humans in general? If you’re thinking Jesus Christ, you’re absolutely right. In the book of Hebrews, the author points out the superiority of Jesus Christ to the prophets, the angels, and even Moses himself. In making his case for Christ in chapter 2:5–11, he refers to this very Psalm saying:

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified [that place is Psalme 8:4–5]: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little[or them for a little while] lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.”[Or 7 You made him a little lower than the angels;/ you crowned him with glory and honor/ 8 and put everything under his feet.”] In putting everything under them,[Or him] God left nothing that is not subject to them.[Or him] Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.[Or him] But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

Do you hear what is being said here? At one and the same time the writer of this epistle is affirming both Jesus Christ’s divinity and his humanity. His divinity in that he is the one “for whom and through whom all things exist.” Because Jesus Christ was God, he was the one through whom everything exists and for him they exist—we were made for him. And the reason for his suffering death in our behalf is that we might be one with him— “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” As children of the one and only King, we are brothers and sisters of one another!

Now in identifying Jesus with Psalm 8, the author of Hebrews is not only affirming Jesus Christ’s divinity, he is also affirming his full humanity. He was made “for a little while” “lower than the angels.” Yet here’s an important contrast with our own humanity. Whereas, as already noted, we have done nothing to merit being crowned with glory and honor, Jesus is crowned with glory and honor “because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” The glory that was lost through Adam and Eve’s disobedience was regained through Jesus Christ. This is how Jesus is the “pioneer” of our salvation. He is the one who has set us apart for salvation that we might become members of the one family of our loving and caring Father in heaven. Apart from Jesus, the Word of God incarnate, the Word of God made flesh, the Word of God in human form, we cannot know God rightly.

Brothers and sisters, do we seek to see the majesty of our Lord? Then let us look around. Let us consider the fact that the sun and the moon and the stars we see as we look up in the sky are the very same sun, moon, and stars God made at the beginning of creation; they are the very same sun, moon, and stars Jesus saw when he walked upon this earth—they are the very same sun, moon, and stars that Jesus Christ himself created.

Do we seek to see the majesty of our Lord? Then let us look around at each other. For every human we encounter has been crowned with glory and honor by God, our King, our Savior, our Lord. As those who have been crowned by God, let us treat each other with the dignity that is our due. Let us in humility value others above ourselves, as Paul tells us.[3] Let us do for others what we would like others to do for us.

Do we seek to see the majesty of our Lord? Then let us look around at the world he has created. Let us notice and care for the flocks and herds. Let us notice and care for the birds in the sky. Let us notice and care for the fish in the sea. Let us notice the wonder of God’s creation.

Do we seek to see the majesty of our Lord? Then let us consider Jesus, our Savior and Lord and King, who came to earth and lived and suffered and died and rose again that we might never experience death or separation from God. My brothers and sisters—my fellow royal Kings and Queens—let us do all we can to exhort one another to dwell upon him who made us and redeemed us. Let us never be weary in proclaiming his goodness to each other and to those around us. Let us be faithful stewards as together we seek to walk the majestic road that our Lord and King has placed before us.

Then, perhaps, we too, will be able to join King David and proclaim: O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Let us pray….

[1] Sa. Matthew 21:16: 16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

 

[2] Acts 13:22: After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

[3] Philippians 2:3.

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