Standing on the beach, staring out at the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean, I am always awed by the immensity of the oceans, and I am fascinated that every day, the tides come and go on a set schedule, meaning that there is order in at least one part the world. In Muir Woods in California, I felt so small beneath the vastness of a redwood tree that was possibly hundreds of years old, and I wondered, “Why are we humans made so small and live such a short time compared to these trees that have outlived many of the people who have come far distances to stare in awesome wonder at them?” It is an enigma that helps highlight the psalm for this week: Psalm 8.
In Psalm 8, David celebrates the work of the Great Creator, marveling at the beauty of God’s handiwork, including the creation of human beings. I find this psalm a source of peace and joy, for it always reminds me that man cannot replicate the work of God’s hands, and that it is through His creations that are all around us, from the sky to the ground and as far as the east is from the west, that we come to comprehend the reality of God’s existence.
Psalm 8: 1-2 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. You have taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.
In this first hymn of praise in the Psalter, David proclaims in verse 1 that the name of the Lord, our Lord, is majestic, magnificent, excellent, and glorious, according to the Bible translation read. This is high praise to the Lord who had saved David time and time again from death and his enemies and who had forgiven his many sins. In some translations, David calls Him Yahweh, rather than the Lord. In Exodus 6: 2-3, God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them.”
But, when I think of God’s name, I think of I AM, because I love God answer to Moses’s question regarding whom he should say sent him to the Jews and to Pharaoh in Exodus 3:14-15, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.”
I am reading a wonderful book titled, Knowing God by Name: A Girlfriends in Faith Adventure, by Sharon James, Gwen Smith, and Mary Southerland. In the book, they examine 40 names for God, and I am enjoying learning of the different names that match the qualities of our Creator and Redeemer. I have come to pray by saying Abba, Father, El Shaddai, or The Great I Am, because, for me, God is what He is, but His Name is who He is. Just as I don’t call Douglas “husband” or my child “daughter,” I feel the need to call my God by one of His names, according to whether I am praising Him and acknowledging His greatness and unfailing love and/or making requests for myself or others.
As David also declared in verse 1 that God’s glory is higher than the heavens, which are amazingly high and far away from us. I can just see David, the former shepherd boy, remembering all the times that he had lain in beautiful green pastures and looked up into the heavens, awestruck at the vastness and beauty of space above. So, he could appreciate the magnitude of God’s glory, when compared with what he had seen of the heavens. I, too, marvel at how far above us the heavens are, and the thought that Jesus one day will crack the heavens and come to reside with us in a new heaven and a new earth, the new Jerusalem, gives me such joy. Oh, I want to see Him!
Then David stated that God had taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all that oppose you. I had to think about this, and I looked at it two ways, neither of which may be theological. First, there is something sweet about the way children react to the ocean or the stars the first time they see them. Their little mouths form into Os, and their eyes become as big as saucers!
They have not begun yet to take God’s beauty for granted or to be so jaded that they cannot appreciate it. In their reactions, we can see that they understand better than adults the immensity of God. Children will state, “What a big God he must be to create all that water!” Not even the most proclaimed atheist could resist marveling along with the children.
Secondly, I am reminded that in Matthew 18:2-4, it states, “Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
It is when we can become as little children that we truly are God’s children. Children learn to trust their parents wholeheartedly, not worrying about anything, because they know that they will be okay. When they are their weakest, they depend on the strength of their parents to see them through. When we can come to God at our weakest and most vulnerable times, trusting in His marvelous care, not thinking that we know more than He does, then we are truly ready for the Kingdom of God. When He has helped us endure the long nights of the soul, then we proclaim Him as our Strength and Redeemer, declaring His faithfulness in ways that shut the mouths of Satan and his minions.
Psalm 8: 3-5 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers–the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.
How can one see the vastness of space and the sheer numbers of stars and not know that there is a Presence in nature greater than us? It is why I love being in nature, for it is when I look at the trees, oceans, and stars that I know that my Redeemer lives. I find myself looking upon the beauty of God’s handiwork and saying to my Creator, “Let Your glory fill this place, O Lord!”
David again spoke of the heavens, and adds that, in light of the vastness of the Lord’s creation of sky, stars, and moon, what is man that Yahweh thinks of them and cares for them? He admitted that we are only a little lower than God (this is the New Living Translation; other translations say man is a little lower than the angels). Either way, David reminds us of our lowly state. In her wonderful acceptance of the assignment to carry the Messiah, Mary also spoke of the lowly state of human being, for in Luke 1:47-48, she stated, “For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”
I think we all have wondered at one time or another about the love of the Lord for us flawed human beings. But, He loved us so much and cared so much about our eternal resting place that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world in human form, so that He could save us from our sins, paying the ransom to reconcile us back to His Father. I am in awe of the unfailing love that heals us, holds us, and keeps us through life darkest moments.
What is even more amazing is that, in spite of our flaws, the Lord crowned us with glory and honor, giving us characteristics that no other animal has, such as the ability to think, worship, and love each other and Him. What an honor it is to love the people who share this planet with me, and what glory, meaning absolute happiness and gratification and contentment, I feel when someone smiles at me and acknowledges my humanity! But, even more, our God honored us human beings by giving us dominion over His wonderful handiwork.
Psalm 8:6-8 You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority–the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents. O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
God made everything. David declared in Psalm 24: 1-2, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.” And in Job, chapters 38-41, The Lord asked Job and his friends questions regarding who had created the world, reminding them that it was not them. In Job 38:4-5, He asked, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?”
The whole point of these chapters was to remind Job and his friends that God alone created the earth, and that to think that they knew more about what motivated Him to let Job suffer was humans using words without knowledge. Job finally replies in Job 42: 2-3, ““I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
Yet, the Lord gave man dominion of all the earth, expecting human beings to care for the land and other animals in honorable ways. When we look upon the destruction of the rain forest, deforestation for money’s sake, and the continued extinction of animals, it is obvious that we have not done well by the planet or other animals.
But, praise be to God, the day is coming when all authority will be given back to God and His Son, Jesus Christ the Lord. The Apostle Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15: 24-28, “After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For the Scriptures say, ‘God has put all things under his authority.‘ (Of course, when it says “all things are under his authority,” that does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.) Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.”
When God has dominion and authority once more, we will be able to proclaim as David does once again in the last verse, “O Lord, O Lord, your majestic names fills the earth!” There will be a great celebration, as our God lives among His children, and the Bridegroom and the Bride will be together forevermore! Hallelujah!
Dear Abba, Father in Heaven,
Truly, the earth is Yours and everything and everybody in it! Thank you for loving us so much that our eternal salvation was of importance to you. You did not want one person to perish, but for all of us to have eternal life, which allows us to do as Adam and Eve once did: walk with you in the cool of the evening! What joy that gives me! Let all creation give You praise, honor, majesty, glory, and exalt Your beautiful Name. In Jesus’s Name I pray, O Lord, my God, Amen.