7. Psalms of Praise (Psalm 8 introduction)

At the college, where I am on staff, we have times of worship and teaching together as a community. At the beginning of 2014 I shared on Psalm 8 as we commenced another year. Below are a few thoughts from that day:

“When we read the Psalms it’s important to remember that they were all written at a particular time in history, by a particular person in a particular circumstance. As we read them thousands of years later, it’s helpful to try and see yourself in the circumstances of the writer, if possible (some are easier than others!). So, today I want you to imagine yourself as David, the shepherd boy. It’s been a busy day taking the sheep to greener pastures, keeping them from wandering off and protecting them from wild animals. But the day is now over and there he is laying on his blanket out in the hills of Israel on a warm summer’s night. The night is silent except for the occasional noise made by one of the sheep in his care. The sky is clear and the stars and moon are brilliant and beautiful. As he lies there, he looks up at the overwhelming number of stars above him and his mind turns away from the troubles of the day to the Creator of all this amazing universe, the God he knows as Yahweh, the one who is his God and whom he will refer to in a later psalm, as “the Lord…my Shepherd” (Psalm 23). And as he lays there he worships and speaks out these words to his God,

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.  your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place.

Not just nice poetic words, but a prayer to his God. His heart is overwhelmed by the greatness, the majesty, the power, the creative genius, the glory of God and so he composes a song from the words of his prayer, a psalm, which thousands of years later we can also use to worship the God of all creation.

But as he worships God in all his beauty and glory and wonder and splendour he thinks of how small he is compared to God, compared to this huge universe God created. And remember, all he could see, is what we can see with our naked eye – no Hubble telescope in David’s day – so he was unaware of what we know today, and yet that was enough to bring forth awe and worship. He is amazed, that considering how big God is, and how small he is, that God would be in the least bit interested in him. So he says,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

He can’t take it in, considering the greatness of God, yet he still remembers humans like him and not only remembers but cares and blesses and loves, like a Father to his children.

But as David considers this truth, he realises there is more:

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: 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.

It’s all so amazing, all too much and his song of praise and adoration ends the way it started,

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

And, I think, God is pleased with David’s song as the shepherd boy, soon to be king, drifts off into a peaceful night’s sleep, under the stars, remembered and cared for by Yahweh, his Creator, his Father, his God, my God, and your God.”

Certainly a wonderful Psalm of praise and adoration to the Lord.

The Jewish Study Bible comments about this psalm that it “is pure praise, without any requests, and like other hymns from the bible…expresses the…moment when the individual stands before [God] and appreciates the greatness and power of the Divine.”  (The Jewish Study Bible Tanakh Translation Oxford University Press 2004 )

If the sky is clear tonight, why not go outside, look up and pray (or sing) David’s psalm to the Creator of all that you see above.

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