Praying for a New Perspective
June 27, 2015 | Brian Bill
God is king and worthy of our praise! How great is our God! Our order of service will be different today. We’ll begin with the preaching, then move to praising and end with praying. Don’t worry, this is not the new normal. It’s OK if you don’t like it because we’ll probably not do it again…at least for awhile. Here are four reasons we’re changing it up.
- When the order is too predictable we can get passive. For some of you that means since the sermon is first, you can get your nap in early and then wake up in time for the singing!
- Every element in the service is an expression of exaltation. Preaching, praying, praising and participating in the offering all make up our corporate worship. Even our announcements, properly understood, are avenues to adoration.
- The Bible gives us flexibility in the forms of worship. John Piper refers to the “stunning indifference” of the New Testament writers to issues of form and practice in corporate worship. In other words, there’s no one right way to order our worship gatherings.
- When we properly understand the greatness and majesty of God, we’ll want to give Him praise. Our worship through praising will flow out of our worship through preaching today.
We’re kicking off a brand new series this weekend called, “Praying Through the Psalms.” Our title today is “Praying for a New Perspective” from Psalm 8.
Ambrose, a church leader from the 4th Century, referred to the Psalms as the “gymnasium of the soul.” In order to catapult us into deeper prayer, both individually and as a church, we’re going to spend the next ten weeks exercising our faith as we “work out” in the Word by praying through the Psalms. I encourage you to read through all 150 of them (if you read three a day you will finish the entire book by the end of summer).
Here are some distinctives of the Book of Psalms…
- The Psalms are the only section of Scripture addresed to God Himself.
- The Book of Psalms is a holy hymnal made up of songs and prayers to God.
- The psalms are intended to stir up our emotions…and to shape them. While the Bible speaks to us, the Psalms speak for us.
- The psalms are real and raw. Psalm 10, which we will study next weekend, begins this way: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?” Here are just some of the themes you’ll find: loneliness, love, loss, awe, sorrow, discouragement, delight, anger, marveling, misery, peace, grief, God’s Word, failure, work, God’s glory among the nations, forgiveness and hope.
I’ll never forget lying flat on my back in Zimbabwe in 1983 in the middle of a soccer field when it was pitch black. As I looked up at the stars and the moon I was overwhelmed with the majesty of God and my own minuteness. My eyes filled with tears as God brought the words of Psalm 8 to my mind. I picture David, the author of this psalm, gazing up into the heavens, when these words started flowing out of his mouth.
Please close your eyes and imagine that you’re looking up into the sky as I read it.
1 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
We can outline this Psalm very simply.
- Our majestic God matters more than anything (1-3)
- You matter to our majestic God (4-9)
Our Majestic God Matters More Than Anything
Let’s begin by looking at the introduction: “To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.” This psalm was written to be sung. The “Gittith” means “wine press” and would have triggered readers to remember the Feast of Tabernacles, which was a celebration of the goodness and greatness of God while Israel wandered in the wilderness. It’s quite likely that David was using a stringed instrument in the shape of a winepress as he strummed and sang these words.
The theme of Psalm 8 is found in verse 1 and is repeated again in verse 9: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” The first word “LORD” (in caps) is the name Yahweh, which was the unspoken name of God, and means “the self-existent covenant-keeping God.” The second use of “Lord” is the name Adonai which means He is master and owner of everything.
The use of “O Yahweh” focuses on God’s otherness, or separateness from us. The phrase “our Lord” helps us see that God is personally involved with us. That’s what Thomas proclaimed in John 20:28: “My Lord and my God.” God is powerful and He is also personal. Theologically speaking, He is both “eminent” and “immanent.” He is to be feared and I can call him friend. This dual orientation is a key to understanding this psalm.
God is both majestic and He is mine
God is both beyond us and right near us. If we only focus on Him as forgiving, loving and not expecting too much, we can trivialize the Almighty. Conversely, if we picture God as removed from us, we can feel like He is impossible to know. Psalm 8 calls us to revel in the paradox of God’s being – He is “other” but He is “ours.” If I know Jesus as Savior, then God is both majestic and He is mine.
God’s name is “majestic” in all the earth. This means that His name, which stands for all that He is, is excellent and famous and lofty everywhere. There is no one else like Him. He is omnipotent and incomparable. Exodus 15:11: “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” BTW, the words “you” or “your” referring to God are used 15 times in just 9 verses!
David concludes verse 1 by saying that God’s glory is way beyond the heavens. The word “glory” encompasses all of His attributes. Glory literally means, “heavy” and refers to God being weighty, or awesome. As David stared into the night sky he was dazzled by what He saw and yet God’s glory fills the galaxy and is “above the heavens.” Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
He says something similar in Psalm 113:4: “The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens!” This means His glory is even greater and beyond what we can even imagine. The highest heavens can’t contain his glorious splendor. When contemplating God’s glory, Solomon writes something similar in 1 Kings 8:27: “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
Verse 2 takes us from the highest heavens to one of the smallest creations on earth: “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength…” We move from heavenly bodies to happy babies. I picture David’s stargazing being interrupted by a baby’s cooing or a child singing. This is really cool. God’s transcendent glory, His greatness that is far above the heavens, can be grasped and expressed by a child! Children have a way of capturing spiritual truth in ways that amaze, and even rebuke us grumpy grownups.
Jesus quoted this very verse in Matthew 21:16 to the religious leaders who were upset that children were singing hosannas and giving praise to Jesus: “‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” Don’t ever discount or diss kids…they are more prone to praise than many of us are. Notice that their singing “stills the enemy and the avenger.”
I love the rhythm of this psalm. It begins in verse 1 focusing on the greatness and glory of God and then in verse 2 we see how small children respond in praise. Verse 3 takes us back to the heights as we consider the creation of the cosmos and then verse 4 calls to mind the care God has for mankind. We go from God’s bigness to babies; and then back to God’s majesty then mankind.
Verse 3: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place.” Because of this verse, Spurgeon referred to this psalm as the “Song of the Astronomer.” The word “look” means to meditate, or to see. As David looks at the star-spangled sky, he quickly gives testimony to God’s work, which means workmanship.
David is astonished at the greatness of a God who could create such things. It is estimated that there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the universe but I just read this is likely to increase to 200 billion as telescope technologies improve. Each one of these galaxies contain up to 100 billion stars! As the opening video said, just traveling across our one galaxy (the Milky Way) at the speed of light would take 100,000 years!
The word “fingers” is a metaphor that was used for embroiderers. God knit everything together, arranging all the planets and stars in a way that would bring Him the most glory. God’s “finger” represents His power as illustrated in Luke 11:20 where we read that Jesus cast out demons “by the finger of God.”
These first three verses help us see that Our Majestic God matters more than anything. The rest of the Psalm establishes a second truth: You matter to our Majestic God. The first half focuses on the majesty of the Almighty. The second half answers the age-old questions: “What is man? How do we fit into the cosmos? What is our purpose? Why are we here?” By the way, these questions can only be answered as we come to grips with who God is. Any attempt to find out who we are apart from the One who made us is doomed to failure. We must always start with God because that’s how the whole Bible starts: “In the beginning, God…”
You Matter to our Majestic God
God holds the Milky Way in one hand and yet takes infinite interest in you. As David pondered the power of God while seeing the solar system, his thoughts come back to earth in verse 4: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” On this dark night, on this little pebble of a planet, why would God even care about me? Listen carefully. In God’s eyes, you are more spectacular than a supernova. The glory of the galaxy has been placed upon your head. If there is anything more marvelous than the sheer scale and splendor of the universe, it’s that in all of that vastness, you matter to the Majesty.
Because God treasures His creation, He looks for ways to come close to us.
The word for “man” here is the word that means “weak and frail.” Our lives are like a vapor, here one moment and gone the next. And yet, God is mindful of us, meaning that He remembers us and thinks about us all the time. This is a covenant term, indicating that He is committed to us and will never forget us. The word “care” has a rich meaning. It literally means, “to visit or search out.” Because God treasures His creation, He looks for ways to come close to us.
Some of you don’t really believe that God thinks about you all the time. You have a hard time understanding how He could love you because of all the things you’ve done. While you may be unworthy, as we all are, you are not worthless! Allow the truth of Psalm 139:17-18 to break through your guilt and shame: “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand.” Do you know what that means? It means that you can’t even count the number of times God thinks about you!
And Zephaniah 3:17 tells us what He does when He thinks about us: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” When God thinks about you He breaks out into loud singing!
You and I are the pinnacle of His creative power, the apex of His awesome plan for the cosmos. We are made lower than God but made to rule over His creation as stated in verse 5: “Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”
As our country continues to be confused about moral matters, I was reflecting on our counter-cultural Christianity series from February. We tackled the topics of homosexuality, racism, abortion and suicide. Listen. The reason we stand up for biblical marriage as between one man and one woman (in spite of what the Supreme Court just decided) is because God has crowned one man and one woman in the covenant of marriage with glory and honor. God has not changed the definition and design of marriage.
On Friday, five justices overturned the traditional meaning of marriage between one man and one woman. Almost 100 pastors immediately signed a document called, “Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage.” I affirm what these pastors have put together. I posted it on Facebook and on our Sermon Extras tab on our website. I want to read part of it right now…
As evangelical Christians, we dissent from the court’s ruling that redefines marriage. The state did not create the family, and should not try to recreate the family in its own image. We will not capitulate on marriage because biblical authority requires that we cannot…The Supreme Court’s actions pose incalculable risks to an already volatile social fabric by alienating those whose beliefs about marriage are motivated by deep biblical convictions and concern for the common good.
The Bible clearly teaches the enduring truth that marriage consists of one man and one woman…Evangelical churches must be faithful to the biblical witness on marriage regardless of the cultural shift. Evangelical churches in America now find themselves in a new moral landscape that calls us to minister in a context growing more hostile to a biblical sexual ethic. This is not new in the history of the church. From its earliest beginnings, whether on the margins of society or in a place of influence, the church is defined by the gospel. We insist that the gospel brings good news to all people, regardless of whether the culture considers the news good or not.
The gospel must inform our approach to public witness. As evangelicals animated by the good news that God offers reconciliation through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, we commit to:
- Respect and pray for our governing authorities even as we work through the democratic process to rebuild a culture of marriage (Rom. 13:1-7);
- teach the truth about biblical marriage in a way that brings healing to a sexually broken culture;
- affirm the biblical mandate that all persons, including LGBT persons, are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect;
- love our neighbors regardless of whatever disagreements arise as a result of conflicting beliefs about marriage;
- live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us for the sake of the common good;
- cultivate a common culture of religious liberty that allows the freedom to live and believe differently to prosper.
- The redefinition of marriage should not entail the erosion of religious liberty.
In the coming years, evangelical institutions could be pressed to sacrifice their sacred beliefs about marriage and sexuality in order to accommodate whatever demands the culture and law require. We do not have the option to meet those demands without violating our consciences and surrendering the gospel. We will not allow the government to coerce or infringe upon the rights of institutions to live by the sacred belief that only men and women can enter into marriage.
The gospel of Jesus Christ determines the shape and tone of our ministry. Christian theology considers its teachings about marriage both timeless and unchanging, and therefore we must stand firm in this belief. Outrage and panic are not the responses of those confident in the promises of a reigning Christ Jesus. While we believe the Supreme Court has erred in its ruling, we pledge to stand steadfastly, faithfully witnessing to the biblical teaching that marriage is the chief cornerstone of society, designed to unite men, women, and children. We promise to proclaim and live this truth at all costs, with convictions that are communicated with kindness and love.
We are against the sin of racism because God has crowned every human being from every race with glory and honor. As such, racial superiority is a sin and racism is repugnant to the God who crowned us. We stand up for the preborn because every baby, from conception on, is crowned with glory and honor and worthy of protection. And we hold out hope to the suicidal because every person matters to God for they have been crowned with glory and honor.
I like Allen Webster’s perspective: “Evolution sees man as one step above apes. Scripture sees him as one step beneath angels.”=
Notice how all of this is rooted in the creation account in Genesis 1-2. Check out verses 6-8: “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 seas.” God’s plan was to make us co-regents, as He’s called us to have dominion over animals, birds and fish. We are to care for the earth as stewards but not worship the earth as our mother. We must be careful to not deplete our resources but at the same time we have been given dominion over the works of God’s hands.
Allow Jesus to Recreate You
This Psalm should makes us feel a bit unsettled because while we can ride a horse and catch some fish, and put up bird feeders [I got my first one for Father’s Day], all of God’s creation is definitely not under our feet. Earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, fires, cancer, and death are stark reminders that our world is out of whack. Our trust in corporations, our courts, and even churches has been fractured. And, we wonder when the next terrorist attack will come.
We can heal and we can harm. We both educate and exterminate. We can overflow with humanitarian help and then explode in inhumanity to others. It certainly doesn’t seem like “all things have been put under our feet.” The writer of the Book of Hebrews felt a similar tension when he read this Psalm. Turn to Hebrews 2:6-8 so you can see it for yourself. He starts by quoting from Psalm 8: “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.”
And then he states what we’re all thinking: “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” We can barely control our own lives, let alone have dominion over God’s creation. Hebrews 2:9 resolves this tension by pointing us to Jesus Christ, the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 8: “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 have looked for ways to subdue our planet and have headed to space, looking for other worlds to conquer. We’ve done well…or have we? There’s still one thing you don’t have dominion over. Do you know what it is? It’s you. Humans have never learned to subdue sin. It was unleashed into the human bloodstream by Adam and Eve and it continues to infect and affect lives today. That’s the root of the human dilemma. We’re image-bearers of God who matter to Him and yet we’re marred by the magnitude of sin.
Jesus became a man in order to forgive sin and destroy death for us. He did this, according to verses 14-15 in order “…that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
Jesus has been given all authority and all things are under His feet! He changed water into wine, He walked on water, He calmed the wind and the waves, He rode an unbroken colt, He made the rooster crow at the exact time Peter denied Him, and He put a coin in the mouth of a fish. That sure sounds like complete and total dominion, doesn’t it? And then, right before Jesus ascended to heaven, He said these words in Matthew 28:18: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” And its in that authority that He sends us out to go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching people to obey what He has commanded. That’s why we spend time neighboring. Pray for Beth and I as we will be having another Block Party Sunday night.
People can only become who God made them to be by entering a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. That brings us full circle to the last verse of Psalm 8: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” Let me ask you a question. Is Jesus your Lord right now?
I read a statement this week that I can’t get out of my mind: “Our God is too massive to be minimized with me-centeredness.” He is majestic and you matter to Him.
The psalms are by nature invitational. They urge us to move from just skimming along the surface to diving deep in our devotion to God.