# 67 A journey through the Psalms. Truths to help us to “…live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). # Fourteen: Psalm 8 “we do not see…But we see Jesus…”

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I don’t know about you, but for me, without just being a pessimist, the words of David in this Psalm seem not to match the majority of mankind as I know it. He says that we as humans are “crowned …with glory and honor…[and] made…rulers over the works of [God’s] hands [and that God has] put everything under [our] feet”.

Sure, some humans have accomplished some pretty impressive things over the years, some have even shown just how compassionate and just and merciful humans are capable of being. And there is no doubt that there have been/are some people who are very passionate about the earth and the “flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea” and about our responsibility to care for it/them for future generations to enjoy.

But sadly, these ones are too often more the exception than the rule, and I’m sure I don’t need to suggest examples of those who fit “the rule” to convince you.

So, how do we reconcile these words of this psalm with what we know of humans generally throughout history, and even what we know concerning our own hearts and activities?

Part of the answer, maybe, is answered by a comment in the NIV Study Bible concerning this psalm. It says, “Man’s rule is real – a part of his ‘glory and honor’ – and it is his destiny … but it is not absolute or independent. It is participation, as a subordinate, in God’s rule; it is a gift, not a right.

Too often in history, God as Creator and Sustainer of his creation has been forgotten or totally ignored. And when we as humans have forgotten the truth of the words in Bold above and gone our own way, the result has been that things have gone very wrong.

But, it seems, there is more to this truth, as there often is in the Bible. The N.T. has something to say as well. You see, as we read the letter to the Hebrews 2:6-9 the author applies the words of this psalm to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is speaking in Hebrews 2:1-4 of our “great salvation” in Christ and this leads him to quote Psalm 8:4-6 followed by, “In putting everything under him [humans], God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:8-9)

NIV Study Bible comments on these verses as follows:

“2:8 everything. God’s purpose from the beginning was that man should be sovereign in the creaturely realm, subject only to God. Due to sin, that purpose of God has not yet been fully realized. Indeed, men are themselves ‘in slavery’ (Heb. 5:15).

2:9 Jesus…now crowned with glory and honor. Psalm 8 is here applied to Jesus in particular. As forerunner of man’s restored dominion over the earth, he was made lower than the angels for a while but is now crowned with glory and honor at God’s right hand. By his perfect life, his death on the cross, [his resurrection], and his exaltation, he has made possible for redeemed man the ultimate fulfilment of Psalm 8 in the future kingdom, when man will regain sovereignty over creation.”

As is so often the case, as we read the OT, it leads to fulfillment in Jesus. So here, the real “glory and honor” mentioned in Psalm 8 is actually found in Jesus, the One whose “name … is above every name” and “at the name of Jesus every knee” will bow and “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

Father, thank you that we may not yet see the fulfillment of Psalm 8 in mankind, but we do “see Jesus” in all his “glory and honor.” Continue your work of grace in each of our lives so that we will be day by day conformed to the image of your Son. Amen.

 

# 66 A journey through the Psalms. Truths to help us to “…live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). # Thirteen: Psalm 8 “A little lower than Elohim.”

As we continue reading there is even more amazing truth in this remarkable psalm. Speaking to God concerning “mankind that you are mindful of … that you care for”, David then says:

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.   (NIV)

David here takes us back to Genesis and God’s plan for us humans when he first created us. He had (and still has) such great plans for us! What amazing grace!

Verse 5 is interesting because of the word translated “angels” in most Bibles (or “heavenly beings” in the NIV). The Hebrew word used here is “Elohim” as in The Passion Translation: “…what honour you have given to man! Created only a little lower than Elohim.” The text note says: “This is the same Hebrew word used for the Creator God in Genesis 1:1”.

Not being a Hebrew scholar, I decided to check out what others have to say about the use of this very interesting word and discovered some thought provoking comments, not the least the next two quotes.

The Jewish Study Bible (Tanakh Translation by The Jewish Publication Society) has the following: “…You have made him [humans] little less than divine, and adorned him with glory and majesty.” The footnote adds: “As in Genesis 1:26-30, humans are very highly regarded. ‘Elohim’ is properly translated as divine; this explains why people are adorned…with glory and majesty, typically divine qualities. Thus, the tradition that “Elohim” should be rendered here as angels (Septuagint, Targum, Radok) is incorrect, and is the result of the discomfort of depicting humans as too God-like – a discomfort surely not shared by this psalmist.”

Kidner suggests: “In the most obvious sense of the Hebrew, verse 5 would seem to allude to the image of God, mentioned in Genesis 1:26 [“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’.”] which underlies our verses 6-8. But the LXX [Septuagint] takes God (Elohim) in its rarer, genetic sense, to mean supernatural beings i.e. angels…Hebrews 2:7, 9 follows that translation…The New Testament opens up fresh aspects of this passage.” Something we will consider later. (see references # 29)

The point is that God created humans totally unique (“in our likeness”) and with qualities and the potential to live lives in such a way as to reveal who our Creator is. Then, we are made to not only live well, but to reflect His glory and majesty to all creation. Sadly, the manifestation of this seems to have been scarce in the history of the human race, often ruined by our sin, but praise God, as we study history and look around us  we see it has been/is still present  in some people’s lives.

The psalmist, considering God’s unique creation of humans in Psalm 139:14-18, puts it like this:

“…you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”

 

Father, these psalms continues to amaze us, with their revelation of your love in creating us as unique beings in your cosmic plan. Strengthen us, Lord, and enable us by your Spirit, to live as those “Created only a little lower than Elohim… adorned … with [your] glory and majesty”, so that you, in all your glory and majesty, may be revealed through us to this desperately needy world around us. Amen.

# 65 A journey through the Psalms. Truths to help us to “…live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). # Twelve: Psalm 8 “He cares for you”

The Bible is full of questions, and this one by David is not the least of them. Listen:

When I consider your heavens,     the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars,     which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them,     that you care for them?

One doesn’t have to think too deeply or study too seriously the ‘heavens’ to realize just how tiny we are as compared to the vastness of the cosmos. On the earth I, as an individual human being, am already so very small and seemingly insignificant as compared to the whole planet. But then when we think about the size and position of the earth itself in the whole scheme of the cosmos, we are but the minutest speck of dust, lost in the endless universe of other planets, stars, solar systems, galaxies and whatever else there is out there.

And David only had a small glimpse of the cosmos as compared to all we know today. Let me remind you of a quote in my post on this psalm in May 2015. I wrote:

“It is approximately 3000 years since David wrote this psalm and we now know a lot more about those ‘heavens…the moon and the stars’ than David could have ever imagined. Through the use of powerful telescopes astronomers have discovered that the stars we can see by the naked eye are only the beginning of what seems to be an endless universe of galaxies beyond our imagination. The following is from a book written by a Christian astronomer.

“Astronomer’s now have plumbed the universe’s theoretically observable limits. Within those limits they see about two hundred billion medium sized and larger galaxies. These bodies and the dwarf galaxies that accompany them contain a total of about 50 to 60 billion trillion stars…All this stuff, however, constitutes only about 1 percent of the universe’s mass. The actual universe…must be significantly larger than the universe seen through our telescopes. The universe’s geometry tells us the universe…must be more than a hundred times more extensive than the universe we can observe. Thus, the actual universe must be at least a million times more massive than 50 billion trillion stars.” (Hugh Ross, Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job Baker, 2011)

It certainly is a bit difficult to get one’s head around such numbers, but the point being that the question David asked seems to be even more relevant than ever before.

It could be paraphrased:

When I consider your heavens, containing maybe more than two hundred billion medium sized and larger galaxies,     the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which total maybe more than 50 to 60 billion trillion,     which you have set in place, what is mankind, so small, so temporary, so vulnerable, that you are mindful of them,     that you care for them?

Now, it is one thing to suggest that mankind somehow has some small place in God’s scheme of things, but the psalmist informs us that there is even more to it than this. In fact, something much bigger and very personal. He says we are constantly on God’s mind, on his heart, and he actually takes the time and effort to care for us. Such grace! Such love! Now that is worth reflecting upon and giving thanks for!

Broyles says, “This psalm expands our perspective to the heavens to see that God has other alternatives for his attention and delight, namely the vast and well-ordered heavens…And yet it is humankind that that he is mindful of, and cares for. In the midst of innumerable possibilities – as many as the stars of the heavens – God’s interest in us remains undistracted.” (see reference # 4)

And then Kidner adds, “Mindful has a compassionately purposeful ring, since God’s remembering always implies His movement toward the object of His memory; and care…similarly implies His action as well as His concern…” (see references # 29)

No wonder Peter confidently promised, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Father, what an amazing creation you have made. The more we discover, the more we are awed by you handiwork. And to think that in the midst of all this beauty, which reveals your incredible beauty, you love us and consider us beautiful as well. Amen.

# 64 A journey through the Psalms. Truths to help us to “…live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received.” (Ephesians 4:1). # Eleven: Psalm 8 Pure worship

Brother Lawrence once said, “We should devote ourselves to becoming in this life the most perfect worshippers of God we can possibly be, as we hope to be through all eternity.”

And if this our desire then Psalm 8 will help us in this endeavour as David begins and ends his poem with words of praise:

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

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

This psalm is pure praise, without any requests or complaints. Quite a change from the previous psalms!

So, I wonder, what was the catalyst for David’s adoration and words of praise and worship to his Lord? We don’t really know, but possibly as a young man he was looking up at the sky on a quiet, clear night out in the fields while minding his sheep, and as he does he speaks to God and says,

“You have set your glory in the heavens.

And later expresses his appreciation for

… your heavens,  the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place…”

Recently my wife and I were privileged to be driving and camping along the isolated areas near the coast of southern Australia near the Great Australian Bight. Due to the lack of any other lights around us to hinder the view, at night the sky was filled with an almost overwhelming number of stars. It is times like these, as we consider the cosmos, that our hearts are filled with wonder and praise for our great and powerful and majestic Creator God. And such was David’s experience as expressed in this psalm.

But, as David’s introductory words suggest, our God is not only the Lord of “the heavens” but of “all the earth” as well. In fact he mentions other aspects of God’s creation as a cause for our adoration and worship. He speaks of,

“…human beings… 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.”

Kidner suggests that this psalm “is an unsurpassed example of what a hymn [of praise] should be, celebrating as it does the glory and grace of God, rehearsing who He is and what He has done, and relating us and our world to Him; all with a masterly economy of words and in a spirit of mingled joy and awe. It brings to light the unexpectedness of God’s ways [which we will consider next time]…but it begins and ends with God Himself, and its overriding theme is ‘How excellent is your name!’” (see references # 29)

And as Francis Chan says:

“This is why we are called to worship Him. His art, His handiwork, and His creation all echo the truth that He is glorious.” (Quoted from Crazy Love in The Heavens Proclaim His Glory – see references # 35)

Glorious Father, indeed, how excellent, how majestic, how great and powerful is your name in the heavens and in the earth. Help us to pause more often in life and reflect on this truth and worship you as we consider the wonder of your creation all around us. Help us to desire to be the most perfect worshippers of You we can possibly be. “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth” Amen.

 

12. Psalms of Praise (Psalm 8 – postscript re: verse 2)

If you were observant you may have noticed that in my talk on Psalm 8 (as shared over the last 5 posts) that I didn’t comment on verse 2 which says in the NIV, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise [or strength NIV margin] because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”

My main reasons being ones of time and purpose (I do try to keep my talks short-ish and to the point) and somehow this verse appeared (on the surface) to be a slight variation from the main theme of the rest of the psalm, although this may not be true.

But then, I have to confess, that when I read some commentator’s explanation of this verse, it didn’t help that much. I read phrases like, “The Hebrew…is obscure” and “This verse is puzzling.”

I do recognize though that obviously Jesus hadn’t read these commentators, because he didn’t seem to have any problem applying this verse to his situation. He quoted it to “the chief priests and the teachers of the law” who had become “indignant” when “the children were shouting in the temple area [to Jesus], ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’” Those religious guys asked him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” I presume they didn’t think he was deaf? And he obviously wasn’t and responded “yes”, and then reminded them of Psalm 8:2. No further explanation given, he just walked off and “left them” to work it out for themselves. Maybe they then went to the kids to find out the explanation! (see Matthew 21:15-17)

No wonder Jesus suggested that to really understand the things of God, in fact to actually “enter the kingdom of God” we need to “change and become like little children”. (Matthew 18:3) But that is another sermon in itself!

I did though find a commentator who seemed to understand how this verse fitted into Psalm 8. Michael Wilcock suggests that it has something to do with this psalm’s “shameless political incorrectness”. An interesting comment for a poem written thousands of years ago! He explains, “The Bible world, like ours, was pluralistic, awash with all sorts of different beliefs: in the view of any correctly thinking person, all of them valid, but none of them actually ‘right’ in such a way as to make the rest wrong [sounds familiar].

Not so the psalmist. The LORD, the God of Israel and the Bible, is not just our Lord, he says, but the name, the only name, to be honoured in all the earth and even above the heavens. Little Israel are right and the rest are wrong.

What is more, those with opposing ideas are not to be listened to for their helpful insights, as is urged by some, but rather put to silence; and that, not by equally powerful champions, but by the simple-hearted and dependent. Such infants hold the position of strength, which when Jesus quotes these words means that the children’s praise of him on Palm Sunday is right, and that those who would tone it down are wrong.” (Michael Wilcock The Message of the Psalms Intervarsity Press 2001)

So, to let Eugene Peterson have the last word on the subject; “Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.” (Psalm 8.1 The Message)

11. Psalms of Praise (Psalm 8 & the Messiah)

A wonderful OT Psalm of praise! But is there more? As we turn to the NT we discover there is. When we read the Book of Hebrews we see the words of Psalm 8:4-6 quoted by the author and he applies them to Jesus. He says; “…we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (see Hebrews 2:5-9)

“The NT takes the royal vision of humanity and uses it to identify and characterize Jesus, who is the true king [‘crowned with glory and honour’]…and [in Jesus] glory, honour and dominion…is profoundly transformed. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, is [now] to be understood as the one who embodies all of this, who is indeed the one ‘in whom all things hold together.”(Col. 1:17)    (Walter Brueggemann The Message of the Psalms A Theological Commentary Ausberg Publishing House 1984)

The NT application of this Psalm “tells us that it is only when Christ crucified and risen stands at the centre that the pieces of the jigsaw – the picture of creation and man’s position in it – fall into place…Of all that God created, only man is able to ask the question of verse 4 [what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?] … and only the man who is also redeemed by God [through the blood of Jesus] can grasp the answer to it.”   (Michael Wilcock The Message of the Psalms Intervarsity Press 2001)

Who are we? We are children of the Living God, remembered and cared for because of Jesus. And with David, we can proclaim, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

So, in our lives, in the good times and the bad, to keep things in perspective, come back to Psalm 8. If it is night time, look up into the vast universe that God has created for his glory and stand in awe before the God of creation who loves you and cares for you. Let us live as good stewards of all the good things God has given us in his marvellous creation. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

A fitting doxology:

“Praise the Lord, O my soul…forget not all his benefits…as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us…As a Father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him…from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him…Praise the Lord, O my soul. (Psalm 103).

10. Psalms of praise (Psalm 8:5-8)

“But David is not finished yet! He continues:

“You have made them [human beings] a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. 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.”

In Genesis 1:26 the Creator speaks and says, “Let us make mankind in our image…[to] rule over the fish…and the birds…over the livestock and all the wild animals, …[in fact] over all the creatures.”

Hugh Ross comments on this verse:

“…we humans, like God, have the capacity and responsibility to govern…[and] humanity’s role in governance is utterly unique among all Earth’s creatures, past and present.” (Hugh Ross Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job)

Brueggemann says, “the human person is acknowledged to be God’s regent in the governance of creation. Not only is creation [good and] well ordered, but the human agent occupies a crucial role in the governance of that order…humankind is authorized to have dominion over all other creatures.” (Walter Brueggemann The Message of the Psalms)

The NIV Study Bible notes continue, “Man’s rule is real…it is our [identity], our destiny…but it is not absolute or independent. It is participation, as a subordinate, in God’s rule; it is a gift, not a right.”

Sadly, we as humans have taken things into our own hands far too often, forgetting that we are stewards of all the good things God has made, and the result has too often been disastrous.  As we read this psalm we realize that “at [its centre ] is an affirmation of human power and authority. At its boundaries are affirmations of praise to God. The centre and the boundaries must be read together…Human power is always bounded and surrounded by divine praise…to use human power without the context of praise to God is to profane human regency over creation and so usurp more than has been granted. Human persons are to rule, but they are not to receive the ultimate loyalty of creation. Such loyalty must be directed only to God.”  (Walter Brueggemann The Message of the Psalms)

But wait, there’s even more in this psalm. David says,

“You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.” (8:5)

A little lower than the angels? Us, humans?  “Crowned with glory and honour?” What was David thinking? Aren’t these words, “glory and honour” only really applicable to God? Yet it is true. David here acknowledges that when God made humans, we were the very pinnacle of his creation and here David celebrates mankind as “royal personhood” in the eyes of God. Hard to take in, but “this psalm reminds us that our supremacy in the natural world did not result from our own efforts or from something inherent in nature, but from God’s deliberate choice.” (Craig C Broyles New International Biblical Commentary – Psalms)

We are not what we are due to an accident of evolution but by God’s design. Made to be like him, “crowned with glory and honour”.

”…God [has] granted to humans, and only to humans among Earth’s life, a unique capacity to think, gain understanding and discern what’s wise…[no other animal] can share the human aptitude for invention, communication, abstraction and assessment…Humans have the capacity to make judgements. We [can] discern what’s true, right and enduring. We can [also] choose to act unwisely…Humans can choose what has value and meaning and what does not. Humans can investigate the past and consider how it relates to the present and the future.” (Hugh Ross Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job)

And all these unique attributes come from God, his gifts to us to enable us to live well on the earth.  How different would the world be if we all acknowledged and returned to the truths of Psalm 8. If we saw the world and each other as God sees it and us. David could never have understood how relevant his simple yet profound psalm of praise would still be in the 21st Century.”