A WEEKLY WALK THROUGH THE PSALMS

PSALM 8

Our youth will recognize the first verse of this psalm as a great song they sing at youth events in the synod:  “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!”  Like that song, the psalmist is stirred to sing praise as he contemplates the glory of God seen in the wonders of creation.  Who among us hasn’t seen a view from a mountaintop or stood by the seashore or watched the sunset, and not felt like shouting out: “Thank you God!”  Such a moment also moves the psalmist to reflect on the place of humans in the whole scheme of creation: “Who are people that thou art mindful of them?”  I remember laying in the dark of night in the middle of a field at church camp, looking up at the starry, starry night and feeling so small in such a vast universe – and yet, knowing that I belonged to the God who had made all of that, feeling so cared for as well.

Of course, any praise we give can’t begin to do justice to the one whom we are praising.  As one writer put it: “The noblest hymns we can invent in praise of God’s glory are like the babblings of babes ands infants.”  Our greatest intellectual musings can only fall short of grasping God’s majesty; in the end, we can only stand in awe of who God is and what God has done.  And yet, as inadequate and lacking as it may sometimes be, praise we must.  For the God who is beyond and above everything is also our God – ‘O Lord, OUR Lord…’

There are two contrasts made in this psalm.  The first is between humans and the universe of which we are a part.  We are so little in the grand scheme of things, as compared with the evidence all around us of God’s greatness.  That reality leads the psalmist to say: “Who are people, that thou art mindful of them?”  Why would you even care about us, God?  Then comes the second contrast – between the quality of humanity and the rest of nature.  Here we learn that even as insignificant as humanity is, we are no accident.  We have indeed been created for some high purpose.  God has appointed us to be God’s stewards in the world.  We are different from the rest of creation.  The psalmist is so bold as to say that ‘we are made to be a little less than God’.  What that means, in part, is that we can think more like God thinks and we can rejoice over the things that God rejoices over.  In New Testament language, we can become more Christ-like.

Of course, we must remember the question of verse 4, and the humility such a question suggests.  The modern mind tends to think of man’s greatness – even in the face of all the tragedies and wars and brokenness that exist all around us, we still think we are great stuff.  That is why it is necessary to remember that it is God who has crowned us with glory and honor.  It does not come from us, and therefore boasting is excluded.  In fact, rightly understood, even though we are a ‘little less than God’, we are still less than God.  If God has singled us out at all, God has singled us out with the thought in mind that ‘to whom much has been given, much will be required’.  So lest we become enamored with our own greatness, the psalmist ends the way he began: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!”  And, indeed, it is!

PRAYER:  God of majesty, amid the grandeur of your creation you sought us out, and by the coming of your Son you adorned us with glory and honor, giving us dominion over your works. Enable us so to care for the earth that all creation may radiate the splendor of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.