Saturday, August 01, 2009

Psalm 8, "What is man, that you are mindful of him?"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Psalm 8 is a beautiful Psalm, because it draws our attention at the same time to the majesty of God in all His works of creation, and the amazing attention that He still gives to mankind. David marvels at the creation: “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?” The greatness, the expansiveness, and beauty of creation calls our attention to the pure majesty of Our Lord God. Majesty speaks of His powerful and Kingly rule over all things. His splendor and wisdom. Creation bears witness to God’s handiwork, and the infinite wisdom that ordered the laws of nature to work like a finely tuned clock, to serve life and all creation.

The most massive stars in the universe, some as much as 1,000 times the diameter of our own sun, are the work of His fingers. And equally the work of His finger is the tiniest single-celled organism, with all its infinitely tiny molecular machinery. At creation God stretched out the heavens like a tent (Ps. 104:2) and placed the stars in the canopy of the sky. All the effort this required was His spoken word. And all the work of creating untold galaxies that stretch far beyond where even telescopes have ever seen, was summed up after He made the sun and the moon, with these simple words: “and the stars.” There is an enormous universe out there with glories and beauty beyond what we’ve ever seen, and sights that we’ll never witness in this life. All standing as a great and cosmic billboard proclaiming the majesty of its creator.

Science has discovered in only the last few decades, that there are dozens of natural laws that are set just so precisely that life can be possible in our universe and on our home planet earth. Just a slight variation in the strength of gravity, the strong and weak nuclear forces, the freezing and boiling point of water, the distances of our planet from the sun and the moon, the chemistry of all the carbon compounds that make up life…just a slight variation in these features and laws, and life would not be possible. And the list goes on and on. So many features of the laws of nature are independently set at just the right degree that life is possible. Mere accident? Coincidence? No, it is the work of our wise and powerful God.

But all of this is nothing in comparison to the marvel that God gives His attention to us human beings. That infinitely smaller than all the massiveness of our universe, and all the planets and objects whirling in motion throughout the distant reaches of space—that God would give His closest and most careful attention to us. What is man that you are mindful of Him? What is our significance in this grand scheme of things? How could He esteem us so highly? But if we read the places where the New Testament quotes this Psalm, we find out that there is more to what we read than at first glance. When we first read this Psalm, we hear it speaking of ourselves.

Jesus first quotes verse 2 of this Psalm in Matthew 21:14-16, “And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “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’?” Jesus says that God draws forth praise from the mouths of infants and babes! And that this praise is to Jesus Himself! He heard it in the children’s cry of praise, “Hosanna!” in the Temple. And what’s more, God uses the praise of infants and babes to confound His enemies. Truly God does not think like we would. But Jesus’ use of this verse gives us the first clue that the Psalm is not first of all about us.

A second place where this Psalm is quoted in the New Testament is Hebrews 2:5-9: “Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 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.”

So it is Jesus that this Psalm is talking about! He is the son of man that has been made a little lower than the angels, but crowned with glory and honor. This took place when the Son of God became incarnate—in human flesh—when He was born in the manger and named Jesus, 2,000 years ago. The author explains what it means that the son of man was crowned with glory and honor. This was talking about His suffering of death for us on the cross. That God in human flesh endured or tasted death for everyone. God tasted the deadly poison that our sin brought upon the world. He allowed it to take His only Son into death for us. This, not the majesty and beauty of creation, is the crowning jewel of His glory. This brings honor to God’s name, because it shows us the God of compassion and love, seen at the cross.

The third place that quotes this Psalm is 1 Corinthians 15:25-28: “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” So as part of Jesus’ rule and authority, He destroys every rule, authority and power, and brings all these into submission under His feet.

Jesus rules over all God’s enemies. Death was conquered when Jesus died on the cross, but it remains a menacing enemy until the last day of judgment. It will be the last enemy destroyed and places under Jesus’ feet. But this outcome is already guaranteed and assured, through Jesus’ resurrection. This outcome is already delivered to you in your baptism, where your mortal flesh was crucified with Christ at the cross, but also raised with Him through His resurrection. So in your baptism, God has already delivered the gift of eternal life to you. And when Jesus’ reign is fully realized, and all creation, all the powers, whether good or evil, come under His subjection and dominion, then it will be complete. Then this dying age will be brought to a close, and Jesus will usher in His eternal kingdom, of everlasting peace and life. And He and all things will be in submission to God the Father. Then God will be all in all.

So does finding out that this Psalm speaks first and foremost of Christ remove us from the picture? Perhaps God is not really mindful of us, but only of His Son? Quite the contrary! It is precisely because God entered into human flesh, that we see how much He valued us as His creation. Jesus’ incarnation as a human is the ultimate testimony that God is mindful and attentive to us lowly creatures. He prizes us above all else in creation, because we are made in His image and likeness, and He desires to restore that image destroyed by sin, and to return us to fellowship with Him. So yes! The God of the universe, the ruler of creation and the One who holds the stars like jewels in His hand—He is the same Christ the Lord who entered into our human story. God is mindful of us because through Jesus Christ He lives and knows our story. God is mindful of us because He has an unquenchable love for His creation and He delights to give us back the fellowship and life that we squandered when we sinned against Him. He delights to give us this gift through the forgiveness of our sins.

Truly such knowledge is too wonderful to describe! Such love is worthy of all praise and we cry out, “O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” God’s works of salvation first given to us, call forth our response of praise. All things begin, center, and end in Him. “O Lord, open my lips! And my mouth will declare your praise.” Amen.

1 comment:

Joseph Wawero said...

That was wonderful