Here is the recording and notes for today’s sermon that I shared with my church, Lansdowne Evangelical Free Church.
I will not be posting much (if anything) for the next week as I am taking some time off to recharge, but I will be back to posting devotionals and other things on 30 November. May the Lord bless you richly.
Where we look is all important. People say if you are climbing, “don’t look down.” Looking down can cause us to lose our balance. But looking in the right place can keep us moving. Sometimes it is hard to see clearly. When we are dazzled by bright lights on a dark night, we need to look away and refocus.
In the midst of David’s troubles (in Psalms 3-7 and then Psalms 9-13), we are invited to look up, away from the troubles and refocus by seeing the majesty of God. In the midst of Covid-19, we are encouraged to change our gaze and to see the majesty of God. A change in perspective encourages, refreshes and enables us to see more clearly.
1) The majesty of God’s name (v1)
The psalm starts and finishes with a declaration of God’s majesty. As this psalm reflects on God’s creation and on human beings especially, it starts and ends with Him, because we only see how amazing the creation is when we see how amazing the Lord is. The heart of the world’s problems is that they ignore their creator. Even for us who are believers, we drift if we don’t start and end with Him. We start with our worship and we continue with our cries for His help and then we end with worship. It is all Him.
The psalm starts: “O LORD.” He is God Almighty, the great I AM, the covenant keeping God who exists in and of Himself. He is dependent on no-one; rather all things come from Him. But yet, while He is high and lifted up, He is not far off. It says: “Our Lord.” OUR. If you are a believer, the great and glorious eternal God that is described in His awesome majesty and glory is yours. He is personally related to us.
His “name” refers to who He is in Himself. His name is “majestic” – mighty, full of splendour, powerful, deserving of awe, excellent (NKJV).
His name is majestic in “all the earth.” This distinguishes Him from the gods of the nations around. In the world at the time, people believed that each nation was ruled by that nation’s gods. But the Lord God Almighty is the true God and He is the God of the whole universe. This is why we proclaim Him. So people who say, “you have your belief and I have mine” are wrong. There is one, true, eternal, living God who is the God of the whole earth.
2) The certainty of God’s praise (v1b-2)
He has set/placed/displayed (set up like a banner) His glory or splendour above the heavens.
This could be referring to the stars (above the heavens in the sense of the air where the birds fly) but it also refers to the heavens as in the dwelling place of God. God’s glory is seen in creation and it is displayed and announced on high in heaven itself, and the praise of heaven never ceases.
It is also displayed on earth (v2) and here is a contrast. It is sung in heaven by the mighty angels and on earth by little children – the smallest and weakest. Yet this praise from tiny voices is a delight to the Living God as much as the praise from mighty angels. This praise from both literal children and those who have entered His kingdom like a child display God’s strength and majesty despite all the activities of those who are enemies of God (which are mentioned in the rest of verse 2). The enemies cannot stop God’s praise. See Matthew 21:15-16.
Nor can the enemies (and indeed the enemy of souls himself) defeat the purposes of God. In the Hebrew of Psalm 8:2 it says “you have established strength.” Let’s not be fearful in these days but have our focus upon Him and join with the praise of the hosts of heaven and the praise of the humble around the world. The enemy cannot win.
3) The wonder of God’s creation (v3)
“When I look.” We need to look. We need to fix our attention on what God has done (NIV: “consider” is good here).
“…at Your heavens” – referring to the vastness of the universe. He has made these – it is His work, done by His power, personally (His fingers). Thus He is very great. This is good news because nothing is greater than Him. He has made the vastness of the universe. He has “set in place” – each star is exactly where the Lord wants it to be across the vast light years and billions of galaxies each with billions of stars.
This is our God.
4) The privilege of being human (v3-8)
Having looked up at the vastness of the night sky, David asks: “What is man?”
And he wonders, this amazing and awesome God who has personally fashioned the universe is mindful of mankind! This is an expression of awe – and this is where we need to be in our worship. We don’t just know facts about Him, but we stand in awe of Him.
He is “mindful” (sense of remembering – elsewhere, the Lord remembered His people – for example, Noah). This is great security – at all times, but is especially good to be reminded now.
He “cares,” is concerned for, looks after us. Notice the way this psalm is written – it is man speaking to God! This might seem obvious, but again the contrast. Here is the God whose glory is shouted out by the hosts of heaven and displayed across the creation and yet you can talk to Him!
“You made him…” (or placed Him) We are here by His design and not our own. This defines who we are. Created beings. We are under Him. So, it is not our creation or our lives.
Since we are created by Him, we are not at the mercy of forces of nature but are in the hands of the Lord God Almighty, our Creator.
Yet, we are different from the rest of creation (v5b). We are “Crowned with glory and honour.” These are words used elsewhere to describe God Himself. So, the psalmist is saying, “God has made us in His own image.”
We are therefore precious in His sight. This is why He is mindful of us and why He has given us this place in creation.
The phrase “a little lower than the heavenly beings” (v5a) could be translated “a little lower than God”. The important thing to take away here is that we are not God, but there is something of His glory and splendour in human beings – yes, even fallen human beings.
Thus, there is this dignity and divine image in every person. You, your family, your friends, your enemies. The child in the womb is made in the divine image. The refugee is made in the image of God. English, Europeans, Asians, Africans, native Americans, native Australians – all are made in the image of God. We thus love and care for the child in the womb and we love and care for the refugee and people of all races.
Verses 6-8 tell us that we are over creation (to have dominion/rule). He has given it to us. This is not evolution; we have been placed in this position by Almighty God. We are not purposeless animals here one moment and gone the next; we are the appointed rulers and carers of creation under the living God. So we are to look UP, not down. The world is in a mess because people look down and think we are just animals; so we behave like animals. This psalm is a call to look UP and realise we are made in God’s image and so live to please Him.
Having dominion over creation is also a challenge. We are responsible to care for God’s creation that He has entrusted to us. We are stewards of His world, not owners, and should care for the earth as His representatives.
5) The goal and consummation of all things (v9)
In all these things humanity has failed. We have looked down and not up, we have failed to see the image of God in all people and so there are wars, exploitation, abortion, murder and slavery. We have failed to see ourselves as stewards rather than owners and so we see the destruction of animals and habitats and the beauty of so many places.
But God will be praised. His name is majestic in all the earth and human beings are to be the stewards who rule creation under Him. We have failed, but Jesus has not failed.
Look at Hebrews 2:5-9, especially the end of Hebrews 2:8, which says, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” Human beings have rebelled against the order that God has created and there is destruction and death. But Hebrews 2:9 says: “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.”
We see Jesus! He is the perfect Man. He came down and was for a little while lower than the angels. He lived perfectly and yet He died, in the place of failed, sinful human beings. And now His work of redemption is finished, and He is sitting on the throne and is the ruler of all, the Man who is God. Everything is under His feet. He has all authority and the day is coming when we will see that, as He returns. Sin and death and destruction will be banished forever and Psalm 8 will be fulfilled in the new heavens and the new earth.
God’s glory will be restored and so will ours as the perfect image bearers.
All the trouble that David speaks of in these psalms are not the final story. God’s purposes will be fulfilled and endure forever.
So, let’s firstly be in awesome wonder at our great and majestic God who has made all things.
Let’s also receive the challenge of recognising all people as God’s image bearers and of caring for the creation that God has given us, as far as we are able.
Let’s also be encouraged. While, humanity has failed to be as God made us to be, Jesus has not. He, the perfect Man, died our death and now sits at the right hand of God, victorious and ruling the universe. And He will return, to restore us and to restore creation. So God’s plan is being fulfilled. He will not fail. We are not at the mercy of Covid or anything, but are in the hands of Almighty God our Creator, who remembers us, cares for us, and will bring us to the fully restored and beautiful creation so that we can dwell with Him forever.
So, let’s keep looking up by faith to Him who is on the throne.