This season of contemplation draws the participant to consider the glory of God. How often do we do that? How long has it been since you sat back and really thought about how wonderful and huge and amazing God is? Since you were reduced to silence by both the immensity and the intimacy of His presence? Does looking at the vibrant world around you make you want to sing for joy because He is so creative?
Psalm 8 is the first instance in Scripture that a composition is addressed directly to God. Though it is difficult to place the piece firmly within the historical timeline, it is clear that David is the author. Thus it is not difficult to imagine, when looking at the wording, that he wrote this while alone one evening, whether in his duties as a shepherd or when he was on the run from King Saul. The grandeur of creation produced within him a song of praise.
Let’s look at this psalm one verse at time (NKJV):
LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is Your name in all the earth!
You have set Your glory
in the heavens.
The use of “LORD” in the opening line means that David is addressing a specific Deity, namely the Covenant God of Israel. The capitalization means that David was using the term “YHWH,” known as the Tetragrammaton. This was not a name to be casually uttered, and its fullness was never recorded on the page. (Thus the common English term “Yahweh” is an educated guess).
The first time God revealed Himself by this Name was when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush episode of Exodus 3. (The Name does, however, appear earlier in Scripture. Those scholars who hold to the traditional view that Moses composed most of the Pentateuch [the first five books of the Bible] or at least roughly sketched it in note this as an anachronism, something which occurs out of place in the chronology). Moses, in an effort to stall or get out of the mission he has been tasked with, asks God what name he should give the Israelites, if they ask for it. “I AM WHO I AM” or “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE” (depending on the translator’s choice) is what God answered.
This sounds strange to us, but there are a few things we can take away. Whether this is God’s “real” or “only” name, as some claim, does not seem to me (and I am admittedly not the smartest person out there) to be the best interpretation. I see God declaring that HE IS. He exists, over, above and apart from anything else. He is entirely self-sufficient and sustaining. Who is the God that has sent Moses to deliver the people of Israel out of their slavery? The only one who really exists.
So, David’s fundamental assumption in Psalm 8 is that he is talking to the real God, a God who can hear and respond to him. A God who, by virtue of His existence, should be praised. HE IS.
When was the last time that you thought about the fact that God exists totally apart from you? And that, because He exists, you should thank and worship Him?
Through the praise of children and infants
You have established a stronghold against Your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
Have you ever noticed that some things are patently obvious to children? Their minds and perceptions are not complicated by the things that weight on adults. If I were to ask my 3-year-old “niece” (we have a lovely adoptive relationship) if God is real, I have no doubt that her answer would be, “of course.” And that would be that. She would skip merrily on her way, feeling no need to defend her statement with lists of logical facts or with photos of archaeological findings.
There’s nothing wrong with logic or archaeology, but these are not the things that reduce objectors to silence. Those who do not believe in the God of the Bible cannot, in the end, speak against genuine love for Him, though they may try. Real, adoring love for the King of all is part of what protects His children, both literal and figurative, for that love keeps their focus upon Him.
The storms will come. There is no guarantee that you will escape them. Will you love Him? Will you fix your eyes steadfastly upon His face and allow that to be the thing that keeps you atop the rolling waves? (See Matthew 14)
When I consider Your heavens,
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which You have set in place,
These words draw the reader back to Genesis:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
The processes He used in creation, the timetable, how long Adam and Eve were in Eden, where dinosaurs were. . . None of these things are the point of the Creation narratives found in Genesis 1 and 2. The point is very simple – “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” There is a God (hearkening back to the idea that HE IS) and He made everything.
Have you made a moon? A sun? The stars? Do you tell the ocean where to stop or oversee the careful knitting together of a child in its mother’s womb?
what is mankind that You are mindful of them,
human beings that You care for them?
David is looking at the scope and variety of creation and ends up shaking his head. “God,” he says, “You are so big and so marvelous – why do You even pay attention to us?” The answer is, again, very simple – “for God so loved” (John 3:16).
Does it take your breath away that God chooses to love You? That in His splendor and majesty, He takes the time to notice your hurt, your confusion and your sorrow?
You have made thema little lower than the angels
and crowned themwith glory and honor.
We don’t know as much as angels do, nor are we as powerful; that much is clear from the verse. Yet it is also clear that these angels are entirely beneath God. He is still in command. Yet this God, who is the King and who has mighty angels who respond to the faintest whisper of His voice, has chosen to bestow upon humanity a little of His glory and honor.
He has made us to reflect something of Himself. That reflection is no longer pristine, thanks to the affects of sin and death, but it is, nevertheless, still there. It is brought out in the process known as sanctification, when we allow God to get in and deal with the junk of our lives that keeps us from being proper mirrors.
So many times I have heard that I am to be a representative of Jesus on this earthly plain. I wonder: am I really? Am I clear mirror, enabling all those around me to see His face? Are you?
You made them rulers over the works of Your hands;
You put everything under theirfeet:
How cavalierly we treat creation! While this is not a ecological diatribe, it is very important to remember that we were put here to take care of the earth that God has made. He made us, through nothing we ourselves had done, partners in this process. So, yes, littering is wrong. Pollution is bad. Anything that misuses and abuses this creation is a deviation from His plan.
Have you thought of that? That you are meant to take care of the earth you see around you?
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
Not only is the ground beneath our feet deserving of our interested care, but so are the animals. This fact has led some to forgo eating meat. While I personally wrestle with that, it think it is readily apparent that, just like with the world around us, it is wrong to misuse and abuse animals. Violence toward these creatures is a violation.
Do you ever think about the stuff that you buy at the store? Are those animals well-cared for? What about the animals, like dogs and cats, in your own life?
LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is Your name in all the earth!
David ends with a repetition of the opening lines, and well he should. The Psalm is cyclical, showing how all things fall under the authority of God and how He has deigned to grant humanity some part in it all. The tasks and the abilities come entirely from Him. He creates and then He invites His people to share in the creative and nurturing processes.
“The Psalm. . .views the work of the LORD as the word of the LORD’s sovereignty.” * This means that the very fact of creation (the work) is the final statement (the word) on the existence of God. Nothing would be here if it were not for Him. As such, the explicit theological statement of this Psalm is that there is a God who is real and there is nothing that can compare to or rival Him.
My friend, we must remember that God is God and we are not. We are His followers, His people. Our task is to correctly convey His love and truth to the world at large. We do not get the task of judgment, for we are not the Judge. We do not get the task of lordship, for we are not the Lord. Let us not waste time in quibbling over who is “more saved” based on denominational loyalty or Bible translation preference. Our allegiance is not to these things, but is to God.
And He is majestic.
* James L. Mays. Psalms, part of the Interpretation: a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching series, edited by James L. Mays, Patrick D. Miller and Paul J. Achtemeier. (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994), 65.