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Sermon 2019-03-03 Ross Woodhouse

Psalm 8

Today we’re beginning a new series, looking at three Psalms we’ve selected, that focus our attention on God. What we want to do is just set this time aside to focus on the person of God, the greatness of God, the faithfulness and majesty of God.  Sounds a little strange but this Psalm has forced me to stop, and think about God.  Like the spiritual equivalent of the ‘refresh’ button on your computer. Who is he to me, who am I to him? How do we consider God, on his terms, for who he is, rather than on our terms, who we want him to be? Psalm 8 addresses these questions.

It matters, to whom it is we worship, how we worship, why we worship…the way we view God. Who God is to us, how we view him determines our response in worship to him.  What does and would life look like if we’re really able to “consider” God, when God and his greatness are constantly on our hearts and minds and we are immersed daily in his, majesty? Tozer said it like this: “I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion… I want all that God has or I don’t want any.”[1]

Psalm 8 reminds us of the privilege we have and the great responsibility of worship. It is about the majesty of God and the role that God has given man in the place of his amazing creation, his cosmos, his world, his earth, that we’re privileged to be a part of.

We want to consider, God. We want to allow the person of the Holy Spirit to speak and encourage us. A little later it will be the person of Jesus we’ll remember in communion.

“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.2 Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against 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 mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? 5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour. 6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, 8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. 9 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

  1. Give God the Glory because his name is majestic (v.1,2)

…this is the great response and responsibility of man: to give God the Glory…

The Psalm begins and ends with the majesty of God’s name in all the earth. Why his name, what’s in his name? His name refers to the perfection of His attributes and the mightiness of His deeds. His name refers to who he is and what he has done. (Bible.org Ps. 8)

His name is God, LORD, Yahweh (“I Am”, he absolutely is God, no other), and God is his name and his glory is set above the earth.  It is above the earth, above the heavens because he is the creator of it all.

If he is above and over all the earth can anything ever adequately worship him?[2]

David answers this with what appears to be the most peculiar statement (v.2): “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger”

…what’s this about? It means, even praise out of the mouths of little children defeats the opposition, praise out of their mouths silences the enemy.[3] David knows that in spite of all of the evidence of God’s glory in His creation, there are still people who oppose God. People who have a bias against God because they want to be the lords of their own lives. But God’s majesty is such, that when and if he wants to push back the enemy, God has the power to do that even out of the mouths of infants.

Can you recall where we might see a similar picture in the New Testament?

Matthew 21:15-17 – But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “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’?” (“Praise from the mouths of infants to silence the enemy!”) And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

It’s as if Jesus was saying to those gathered on this Palm Sunday do you not remember what the word said in Psalm 8, have you conveniently forgotten? They had seen what Jesus was doing, at the same time recognizing Jesus as a threat to their positions and their religious prominence. He was messing up their plans. Which is why they were indignant.  Notice what happened though, praise came from the children, and the enemy was silenced by Jesus’ rebuke.

Jesus’ point here was (massive blindspot?) if the religious group properly understood the biblical witness, that before their very eyes was the promised Messiah, their place of privilege, not position of right, and acknowledged Jesus’ authority…they wouldn’t be “indignant”, they would join the children in worship. He was saying ‘you would look at what is happening before your very eyes and you would join them. You would welcome their praise’.

Jesus said “Yes”. Yes, I see what they are doing. These children are shouting, crying out the majesty and glory of God and I’m good with that.

So we give God the glory, we worship him because His name is majestic in all the earth.

  1. Give God the Glory because we serve a special and unique function (v.3-8)

(v.3) “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars which you have set in place…”

Can anyone guess where this photo was taken? I’ve told the story here before about my experience coming out of the Homer tunnel, this photo was taken on the same trip at Milford Sound…

I imagine David taking time out with God, musing, reflecting. His attention is drawn to the skies and he is captured by how small he is in the context of what he sees and impacted by the graciousness of God, who despite our sin, still cares for us.

Against the fragile and temporal nature of man David considers[4] what God did precisely and perfectly in setting the (enduring?) moon and stars in place – how many stars – billions probably, in the universe. “Generations come and go, but the earth remains forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:4). What man denies in the daylight David gives Glory to God for in the dark night sky.

Sir Isaac Newton had an exact replica of our solar system made in miniature. At its centre was a large golden ball representing the sun. Revolving around it were small spheres representing the planets, attached at the ends of rods of varying lengths. They were all geared together by cogs and belts to make them move around the sun in harmony.

One day as Newton was studying the model, a friend who did not believe in the biblical account of creation stopped by. Marvelling at the device and watching as Newton made the heavenly bodies move in their orbits, the man exclaimed, “My, Newton, what an exquisite thing! Who made it for you?”

Without looking up, Newton replied, “Nobody.” “Nobody?” his friend asked. “That’s right! I said nobody! All of these balls and cogs and belts and gears just happened to come together and wonder of wonders, by chance they began revolving in their set orbits and with perfect timing!” His unbelieving friend got the message![5]

It is not for me today to convince you about God’s majesty, or even the reality of God. Romans 1:20 – “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.”

Creation and the complex nature and function of the human body alone are sufficient evidence for anyone willing to think about it, that none of this is the product of random chance. So David here is not practising his apologetic, he’s making a statement of absolutes. This is God…this is the way he works…

He goes on to explain that despite our smallness (“what is mankind that you are mindful of them”) and our insignificance in the context of all God is (his majesty), he cares for us…and we serve a special and unique function. He gives us to rule over creation (God’s original creation intent), but particularly with respect to animal life.

…“what is mankind that you (God) are mindful[6] of them, human beings that you (God) care for them? This speaks to the uniqueness of our relationship to God over the rest of creation. We are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). It is through humans, Christians today more specifically that God is to be revealed and known.

…how? By being credible believers – “salt and light”, light among darkness (Matthew 5:13-14). Because we are eyewitness, believers in his majesty (2 Peter 1:16)

We, who have been created in God’s image, have been given a great responsibility and a special function – in the context of God’s creation, for his glory.

…rule/dominion over his creation (v.6. You made them rulers over the works of your hands), to look after it, to steward it, because it, is God’s.

…and what sort of job do we think man has done with this, even since biblical times?

What I’m not going to debate here is climate change, or carbon emissions, driving e-cars instead of V8’s, and recycling, our rights to use as much water as we want etc….I’m no expert at all on such matters – outside the context of Psalm 8. I think we’d all agree that these and more are important/vital and that we are committed to stewarding this planet as unto the Lord, however, I think the greater issue is this:

Said it at the start: who God, is to us, how we view him (is his name majestic?) determines our response in worship to him.  What does and would life look like if we’re really able to “consider” God. Why is this the greater issue for me? I want to suggest this Psalm calls us to renew our sense of awe and reverence of God, to be the image of God to a world desperate for him. How we steward creation is a product of this.

Man has and continues to, at breakneck speed, turn their backs on God, as powers and forces that are something not God, influence people’s lives literally away from God. We see Romans 1:18-30 alive and active to this day!

There is I want to suggest something provoking in David’s words. I’ll explain: He understood what worship of God could be diminished too, displaced, and replaced with. He understood the tendency to ‘bring God down, thinking of God and behaving toward God as less holy and majestic than he actually is…as opposed to lifting ourselves up to him’. Paul had a similar issue with the people of Athens: “we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (Acts 17:29). Worship had, and has become a distortion of God’s idea of worship.

Think of Nebuchadnezzar’s comment in Daniel 4:30. “This great Babylon I have built by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty”. We might call this an ancient version of secular humanism. No need for God. Do you recall what happened to him? He became insane and lived among the wild animals for the rest of his life. (v. 31,32) ….and even then the Lord restored him (see v. 34f)

Here’s the thing: the “enemy”[7] is anyone who opposes God’s purposes or questions His providence, and those who usurp, for their own selfish interests, function which belongs to God alone.[8]

Man can eliminate God or deny our need of God, take God out of national anthems and pray secular godless prayers, remove Bible in schools, we can develop our own beliefs about sexuality and morality, declaring war on God in the process[9]…but it doesn’t change that he is sovereign.  Those who are not for me are against me. Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered. How we view him (is his name majestic?) determines our response in worship to him. If I have a dim or twisted view of God that affects my worship.

Oh, how we need a move of the Holy Spirit to turn our hearts toward him.

So we give God the glory because His name is majestic in all the earth.

We give God the glory because though we are insignificant, in his graciousness he is mindful of us and cares for us. 

  1. Give God the Glory because creation order restored (reconciled) through Jesus

…Or more precisely in the person of Jesus…

Though David rightly said everything was placed under the dominion of man, rulers over creation (see Genesis 1:26), man hasn’t fulfilled this. But Jesus has and will.

Hebrews 2:5-9 is a key New Testament text to interpreting Psalm 8.

Hebrews 2:5-9 says, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honour and put everything under their feet.” In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them.  Yet at present, we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Note verse 8: “…at present we do not see everything subject to them”.  That “present” is still our “present” today. Why is that? “The entire created world has failed to attain its purpose. Because of human sin, it is not what God intended it to be”.[10]

The good news is, the person of Jesus fulfils for us what man has been unable to do and fulfils for us, Gen. 1:26[11] and Psalm 8. By the grace of God Jesus died (”tasted death”) to restore creation order, which is to come (Romans 8:18-30; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:1-2)[12] .

Notwithstanding what God’s future plans might bring and look like, we, for now, have been given a great responsibility and a special function, so what’s our task in the meantime?

The last line in the Psalm is the same as the first. The second time is different though. The idea is that our view of God has changed…because present in the Psalm is God’s grace, where he has given us responsibility, he has honoured us and given us a special function to care for his creation, which finds its ultimate fulfilment in Christ.

It’s like, “Ahh, now I get it! If his name is majestic, if I am in awe of him, it’s not just a head thing but I’m living into that every day.”

 

TAKEAWAYS

Give Him glory by:

Stewarding God’s creation

Representing the image of God daily

Life reflects God’s majesty!

Renewing our sense of awe and reverence for God – his majesty

 

Communion

What is it about this Psalm that draws our attention to Christ and the work of the cross?  Who are we, what is hope for us and for the world if it were not for Christ? Salvation is a restoration to what God intended when He made man in the first place. As we remember Jesus and consider the work of the cross, we see how far we have fallen from what God intended man to be. When we have turned from our sin and accepted Christ as our Saviour, we are redeemed, reconciled to God. What was lost has been recovered in Christ, because “God made him, who had no sin, to be sin for us…” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Jesus, his sacrifice, the cross, the sending of God the Holy Spirit (all part of our remembering) and this psalm fit beautifully together. How? The impact of what the man Jesus did for me and my gratefulness for salvation all collate to worship him with “O Lord our Lord…”

 

[1] https://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/21-inspirational-a-w-tozer-quotes/

[2] LOGOS

[3] See also Luke 19:40

[4] Or against the backdrop

[5] (From “Our Daily Bread,” 1977.)

[6] Hebrew zkr. “Remember, a calling to mind”. Like how we might call someone to mind as we pray for them.

[7] As referred to in the context of this Psalm

[8] Driver, S. R. (1915). Studies in the Psalms. (C. F. Burney, Ed.) (p. 235). London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton.

[9] This world that needs us to be salt and light, what does the gospel look like in this complex world?

[10] NIV Comms, Rom. 8

[11] 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.”

[12]  And at a future time in God’s eternal plan God will restore man’s rule over creation (see also Matt. 25:14-30; 1 Cor. 15:54-57), because of Christ : a fulfillment of Psalm 8.