How Majestic is His Name!
Psalm 8, 3/29/2020, Remsen Bible Online
Proverbs 27:1 says, Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. How true that has proved these past days and weeks. Acknowledging the truth of this, let me follow the wisdom of James who tells us to preface our plans with, if the Lord wills. If the Lord wills, we're going to pause our study in John for a few more weeks.
Many of us feel uncertain about the world around us. In these times, with daily shifts in the news about the coronavirus, responses by the governments in our country and around the world, the resulting economic troubles- there are increased levels of anxiousness and worry. I'm not normally given to anxiety, but I've noticed in my own life what almost feels like a background noise, a hum of nervousness-not about any one thing, but just general worry and concern. And the effects are not good.
For example, Friday morning I heard the news that a prominent world leader had tested positive for Coronavirus. This leader’s handling of the virus and the government response in his country has been somewhat in question; and when I heard the news of his sickness, I blurted out, “serves him right!” -WHich then made me think, wait, what? That’s an evil response to sickness and potential physical peril for another human being. A human being made in the image of God. Yet that is precisely where I found myself. Vulnerable to hateful, ungodly thoughts, because my mind was gripped by anxiousness and worry, rather than by the word of God.
So how do we respond? How can I, and how can we, combat these feelings of anxiousness and fretting? How can we steer ourselves clear from the ungodly slope we’re so given to slide down? One practice I have found helpful when experiencing such feelings, after repenting for my fear and failure to trust my heavenly Father, is to turn to the Psalms. The Psalms have many precious truths and vital instructions for hard times. But it’s not just the content. The very form of poetry, of musical language, gives us comfort and peace. These lyrics sit with our minds in a way in which mere prose often doesn’t.
So my aim, God willing, is to spend the next little while focusing on the Psalms. We started last week in Psalm 46, and this morning we’ll hear from Psalm 8. (Read Psalm 8)
The Majesty of YHWH
Psalm 8 opens and closes with an exclamation of praise, O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! The fact that David opens and closes the Psalm in this manner makes clear that this is the main point in his mind. The bulk of the Psalm speaks about mankind in various ways. But the opening and closing square our attention on God, his majesty, his splendor, his power.
David writes, O LORD, our Lord. If you are looking at your Bible, you will notice that although it sounds like he is repeating himself, the first first of those “Lords” is in fact spelled differently. It’s in all caps. What does that indicate? We have two different words being translated by the English word lord. Typically, English-speaking translators have translated Yahweh, the name which God gives to himself when speaking to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3), as LORD, all caps. The use of those small caps to finish out the word helps us to distinguish between when the writer is using the personal name of God, Yaweh, and when they are using the title of Lord for God, which in this verse is translating the word Adonai, meaning Sovereign or Ruler.
The name Yahweh itself points to God as the self-existent one. When Moses asked God, who shall I tell the people sent me? God replied, I am who I am. God stands before all things, above all things, he needs no one outside of himself. He is totally self-sufficient. And what David is saying is that this self-existent being, this God who needs no one and yet in his mercy has revealed himself to Israel and redeemed them from bondage in Egypt, he is David’s Lord. He is David’s Adonai, his ruler, his king. He is the ruler of David’s people. O LORD, our Lord. But is he just the ruler of David and the Jewish people?
Far from it! How majestic is your name in all the earth! This God, his name, his character, everything that he is, is majestic and glorious in and over all of creation. Now we realize that at David’s point in history, and even today this is not true in the sense of all people everywhere acknowledging how majestic his name is. The splendour of God’s name is not seen as it should be. But he nonetheless is splendid, he is majestic, he is the Ruler of all.
David continues, You have set your glory above the heavens. The word translated glory in this verse can literally mean the beauty of God. His beauty is set above the heavens, it is painted in the sky. It’s higher than anything we can see, and yet what we see serves as an arrow pointing us in his direction.
If God is this beautiful, and yet his beauty is not seen by all, shouldn’t someone proclaim it? Shouldn’t someone say something? Yes. Indeed, Yahweh has appointed heralds, messengers of his majesty. But they’re not who you’d expect.
The Messengers YHWH’s Majesty
We meet the unexpected ambassadors of Yahweh’s majesty in v2, Out of the mouth of babies and infants you have established strength. Babies? Infants? How in the world has God established his strength on the basis of what they have to say?
Do you look for God to use the mighty? Do you think that you can’t speak up for God because you lack wisdom? Brothers and sisters, God isn’t too concerned about how intelligent or articulate his spokesmen and women are. Babes and infants can’t give a detailed defense of why the family is an important institution. They can tell you who gives them food. Your toddler knows who gives them hugs when they are sad or scared. They can say, “Mom” or “Dad”. They know whom they can trust. And they can learn to trust God.
We are learning the New City Catechism as a family, and the first question asks, What is our only hope in life and death? Calvin, my less than 2 year old, knows the answer: God! Is that the full answer? No. As we mature in our faith we certainly can grow in our understanding of who God is. But you, young person, don’t ever think you know too little to praise God. New believer, don’t ever think you have too little knowledge to tell someone what Jesus has done for you. God has chosen the small things of this world to shame the wise.
Jesus quotes this verse in response to the chief priests and the scribes in Matthew 21, when they are indignant that children are saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! The religious leaders come to Jesus saying, do you hear this? He replies, Yes; have you never read: “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise”? Jesus references the Greek translation of verse 2, which clarifies what is coming out of the children’s mouth: praise.
Why does God use those people whom the world would discount as the “Secretaries of his praise”? Because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. So God sends out little kids to stop the violent attackers? Well, yes. Because God would have us see that he is the one silencing the wisdom of the world.
Which brings us to our next point: if Yahweh has appointed the unexpected, babes, infants, and those whom the world discounts as the messengers of his majesty; who then are the ministers of his majesty?
The Ministers of YHWH’s Majesty
Verses 3 and 4 read, When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man, that you are mindful of him, and the son of man, that you care for him?
Imagine David back in his shepherd years. He lays on his back in the evening and gazes into the night sky. Have you ever been somewhere where there is little pollution at night, somewhere where you can really see the stars? It is one of the most magnificent sights in all of creation. You gaze up, looking at these stars which are obviously an unfathomable distance away. No one ever looked up at the stars and thought, wow, I’m super huge and important. You feel tiny, miniscule, unimpressive. Which is precisely what David expresses in these verses. You did this with your fingers! You control the expanse of the sky, you placed the moon, you hung the stars: how could I be of any importance to you? How could this tiny hill of ants even matter to a God who’s dealing with Orion, with Pleiades? Why would you care for us?
Yet, David isn’t just a keen observer of nature. Nature rightly makes us feel small, because we are in fact small. But we are also honored. Verses 5-8, Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
What is man that God pays attention to him? Man is the one whom God has given dominion and authority over all creation. Human beings, male and female, have been crowned by God with glory and honor. Do you remember Genesis 1:26-27?
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
The following verses detail God’s blessing upon the first man and woman, and how he charged them to take dominion over the plants, the earth, the animals-everything he had made. God made this world, but God intends to rule it through the agency of his highest creation: human beings.
But there’s a problem with all of this, isn’t there? We often seem to be at odds with this created world. We live in the Midwest, where fears of floods and tornadoes are constant companions. Out west the wildfires seem to get worse every year. Worldwide there is always news of a tsunami, or a famine, or some other problem seemingly outside of human control. We live in March of 2020, when we are seeing a spreading global pandemic take thousands of lives. If God made a good world, where did it go?
The answer, brothers and sisters, is found in the lords, the rulers, the caretakers of God’s good earth: human beings. Our rebellion cursed the world. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God the whole creation paid the price. Of course the cost for human beings is most severe: we are beings who are not simply physical, but spiritual as well, so the curse of God on us means not only physical decay and death, but spiritual death and destruction as well. But this world over which we have been given dominion suffers at the hands of human beings who fail to represent God’s good reign.
Does this mean each bad thing that happens, virus or natural disaster is the response of God to a specific sin, seeking to somehow get revenge on us? Absolutely not. But it does mean that this world groans under the weight of our curse. Romans 8:19-22 says, For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole world has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
All the problems in this world will one day be fixed. What day is that? The day on which the sons of God, which is to say, believers in Jesus Christ, are fully revealed. What does Paul mean by fully revealed? I think he is talking of the day when in the New Heavens and New Earth human beings are ruling and reigning with Jesus Christ. When we are once again ruling the earth, but now with sin removed from the picture. But what makes all of this possible?
How can you, how can I, move from being those under the righteous judgement of God to being those whom he will one day reveal as his true children? How can we go from the bondage which all of creation groans under, to the freedom of being in God’s own family?
The writer to the Hebrews picks up our passage in Hebrews 2:6-9, It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Jesus came as the son of man, par excellence. The one who, though being very God of very God, in order to save men took on human form. Taking on a true human body and a human nature, he came and he did the unexpected: he claimed his crown and his glory, but not by slaughtering his enemies. He was crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death. Human beings, ever since Adam, have failed in our calling as God’s image bearers, his representatives on this earth. Instead of being God’s ambassadors, his ministers, we have instead been his enemies, rebels against the king. Jesus came to conquer that rebellion-by dying for us. By absorbing the weight and penalty of our sin. So that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
We have failed in our task as God’s image bearers. But you can be forgiven of your failure, cleansed of your sin, relieved of its penalty, simply by trusting the king who died for you. And if you do so, he will begin remaking you. In Colossians 3:9-10 the Apostle Paul writes, you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
In Christ, all those who trust in him can be forgiven their failure, redeemed from the sin, and have the image of God restored bit by bit and piece by piece. The mirror which we were meant to be can be refinished by the Master craftsman. We are, as 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another. And we can once again be ministers, not simply of his rule over creation, but of the excellencies of his grace. We can all become like those babies and infants who use our mouths to lift his praises.
All of Christ’s redeemed can proclaim, O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!