Psalm 8 - Part 2
Happy Father’s Day! I trust you will have a purposeful, meaningful, and memorable time with your family this day.
As I consider what this day represents nationally, and I view it in light of our study of Psalm 8, I cannot help but see the handiwork of the living God. How so? Our study of this particular psalm did not just happen. Far from it. I do not plan what psalms fall on what days, nor do I always know in my pre-sermonic planning, how quickly or slowly I will move through a given psalm. Originally, I planned to be on a different portion of Scripture at this time; however, taking a vacation, coupled with slowing down to really understand and absorb this Davidic melodic piece has caused us to study it at this unique time. And, as I said, this is most appropriate.
How so? Permit me to pose a personal question: What is more important for fathers to understand than why God has placed this on the planet in this role? God wants much from fathers, as we see from Scripture, and wives and culture have their own share of demands. However, at the end of the day it is what God wants from these men which matters most. In fact, I would dare say that when a man cognitively grasps what God desires from him, all other life purposes fall logically, naturally, and easily into place.
Psalm 8 gives fathers the enlightenment they so desperately need, especially at a tumultuous, twisted, and trying time as ours. Should more fathers live out what the King says here by way of divine inspiration, their families would flourish even more, the ills of society would be cured, and peace would reign supremely. The question is clear, then: Are you fathers prepared to swing for the fences where God’s purpose for your lives is concerned?
As a sidelight, we must also pause and mention that God’s words here highly applicable to all people, at all times. Let us not lose sight of this reality. What is stated here does set the bar high for men with families; however, it does not mean everyone else is left to fend for themselves where life purpose is concerned. God’s Word is timeless truth designed and destined for everyone. We will note this reality as we study; however, we will make sure to apply it to fathers for, after all, this is their special day, and I believe God has a wonderful word for them (and for me).
Of all of life’s questions, the following one derived from Psalm 8 is of paramount significance:
What Is My Life Purpose? (Psalm 8)
From verses 1, 2, and verse 9, which repeats the praise of the opening two verses (by means of the rhetorical device called inclusion), the Spirit of God brings us face to face with our first and foremost life purpose:
1 For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! 2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! (Ps. 8).
My Purpose Is To Realize Who God Is (Psalm 8:1-2, 9)
To know and worship the living God in a personal faith relationship, bought and secured by the substitutionary death, burial, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, is the chief end of man (1Tim. 2:5; Heb. 9:15; 1 John 4:14; John 11:25; 5:24-25; Phil. 3:10). As a father, your primary job is not to make sure your son is on all of the traveling sports teams, to do your part to make sure your daughter gets into an Ivy League school, or to be present at as many events as you can which your children are part of. What is your first and primary purpose? To know, as a created being with a limited lifespan, who the living God is and to worship and follow Him as a servant would follow His Lord/Master. You will remember how David put this concept:
1 For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! 2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease. 9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! (Ps. 8).
Through general revelation located in the vast starry heavens (Rom. 1:20ff), God gives you all the evidence you need to see His character and existence and to worship Him. From verse 2 we learned even little children look up and understand there is a personal, living, all-powerful and personal God who wants to know them. Wise men, wise people, look up at the heavens in all of their immensity, brilliance, circular perfection, and strategic placement of massive planets like Jupiter to protect the earth from being struck by asteroids and they conclude there is a Designer behind the design and I must know and worship Him. Do you? When you do, meaning and purpose will flood into your life, along with a heavy dose of wisdom and inexorable hope.
Just ask two NFL football players.
Benjamin Watson played for the New Orleans Saints and the Patriots. Listen to what he says about being a father, “I was always told that a man is supposed to be the priest, the protector, and provider of his home. That’s not easy, but understanding that through the Holy Spirit, I have the power to do that.”
A former team-mate of his, Demario Davis, a linebacker for the New Orleans Saints, remarks, “My fatherhood and learning how to be a father-that reflects God’s glory—came from my relationship with God.”
Interesting. Both men are not afraid to share what makes a difference in being a father: It’s a relationship with the living God. And just how did they come to this conclusion? What persuaded them to walk, by faith, toward God? They looked up, I am sure, and saw all the evidence they needed for the fact that God did not just fashion everything, He was waiting to have a viable, meaningful relationship with them through their faith in the person and work of Jesus, the Christ. This is man’s primary purpose.
A second purpose unfolds in verses 3 through 8:
My Purpose Is To Realize My Role (Psalm 8:3-8)
What is your role? Why has God created you? What are you here for other than worshipping and living for the One who fashioned you? David gives us the sought after answer in the ensuing verses of his song:
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
Since David only mentions the “moon and the stars,” we can probably safely conclude he must have been looking up at the night sky as he wrote this psalm.
What did he see when he gazed at the brightness of the moon and plethora of stars, each glowing with varying degrees of brilliance? He saw the raw power, the immensity, the magnificence, and the limitless intellect of God Almighty . . . to name a few characteristics. And interestingly enough he states how the cosmos was fashioned by God’s fingers. Why did he choose this anthropomorphic description? For one, it denotes God as the Master Potter who lovingly, carefully, and creatively shaped the complexity and wonder of the heavens. For another, it denotes how easily God placed all of this vast, intricate beauty above our heads on a given night.
What exactly did God fashion with His “fingers”? Hugh Ross, Ph.D., gives us some ideas as a scholar in astronomy:
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field (telescope) showed astronomers slightly more than 10,000 galaxies (in the quadrant of the picture). Given the observed uniformity of the cosmos on large-distance scales (which is a fundamental requirement for life in the universe), researchers could then do the math: more than 10,000 galaxies multiplied over the whole area of the sky totaled 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe. These 200 billion galaxies contain, on average, about 200 billion stars each. So the total number of stars in these galaxies adds up to about 40 billion trillion—and that’s without the estimated 10 billion trillion stars contained in the unobserved dwarf galaxies. Somewhere around 50 billion trillion starts make their home in the observable universe.1
He then adds, “That’s a mind-boggling number.” No kidding. He goes on to state that the average distance between stars just in our Milky Way Galaxy is about forty trillion miles. Light traveling at basically 186,000 mph would cover 6 trillion miles in a year, meaning just a trip between two stars would take almost seven years! Wow. Just moving between stars in our small galaxy is not possible in a quick manner given is vast size. Pragmatically, this means our galaxy is HUGE, really, MASSIVE, and it is just one of billions of galaxies. Mind numbing, is it not?
What about the moon David mentions? Here is what Ross concludes:
The Moon’s large mass relative to Earth’s, the Moon’s proximity to Earth, and the fact that the Moon is solo all play a crucial role in stabilizing the tile of Earth’s rotation axis. Other planets in our solar system which have either no moons or moons of relatively insignificant mass (compared to their planet’s mass) experience chaotic tilting of their rotation axis. The stability of Earth’s rotation axis, titled at 23.5 degrees, over a long period of time protects Earth’s life from disastrous climate changes. 2
And this was by pure chance? I think not. The astrophysicist goes on to add:
Another reason Earth needs the Moon’s precise mas and present proximity has to do with their influence on tides. A Moon less massive or more distant from Earth and, therefore, smaller in the nighttime sky would mean weaker tides. Tides as powerful as those on Earth are necessary to effectively cleanse the coastal seawaters from toxins and to enrich them with nutrients . . . . the Moon [also] has an extraordinarily dark surface. It reflects a mere 7 percent of its incident light. Earth, by comparison, reflects 39 percent, some of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons reflect 60 and 90 percent, and Neptune reflects 73 percent. Because the Moon is so exceptionally dark, or non-reflective, its bounced-back light presents a minor annoyance to astronomers rather than a blinding glow that obliterates astronomers’ work and everyone else’s enjoyment of the night sky.3
Put differently, the divine placement and size of the moon is no cosmic accident, but is a nightly testimony of the skilled craftsmanship of God so that we can look up and study His heavens and see His lofty, vast, and amazing character.
On another note, who has not looked up and isolated the Big Dipper? Its outline always looks like a pot with a handle, and the two stars comprising the end of the pot always point directly to Polaris, the Pole Star. This star is important for navigation. Concerning it, Donald B. DeYoung, a physics and astronomy professor, observes:
From any location on earth above the equator, the angle of Polaris above the horizon determines one’s latitude. For example, if you are at a latitude of 41 degrees, the Pole star will be 41 degrees above the northern horizon. Early explorers on land and sea carefully used sextants to measure Polaris’s altitude and thus determine their location.
This predictability is simply jaw-dropping given the size of our out-of-the-way galaxy. And it is a good thing Polaris, a fiery star some 1,600 times brighter than our sun, is not our sun. Why? Its brightness pulsates/changes from night to night because it is constantly expanding and contracting. If it were our sun, our temperatures would fluctuate by hundreds of degrees daily, and/or weekly. Again, how did it happen that we just happen to have this constant star placed where it is to aid us in northern navigation? How did we not wind up with it as our star? God’s fingers fashioned and placed it strategically where it needed to be . . . for us. Amazing.
I could go on about the wonder of the cosmos, but I think you get the picture, a taste of its utter greatness as designed by the unseen, all-wise, all-knowing God. All of this, of course, is just some of what David could look up and see (coupled with what he could not see because of the sheer size of just our galaxy).
What did David ask himself after he made this nighttime analysis and appraisal? He poses two questions (one stated outright with the other one implied by the absence of the interrogative)
,) ָֽמה ( which are most emphatic in the Hebrew text with the placement of the word “what,” mah first in the sentence:
4 What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?
“Take thought” is from the Hebrew word zacar ( זכר), which means to remember and to then take some form of action. The phrase “care for” in the second clause is from the Hebrew pachad :which Holladay’s Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament helpfully defines ,) ָפּ ַקד(
, m i s s s . o n e 1 S 2 0 6 ; — 2 . m a k e a s e a r c h . 1 — : ְפּ ֻק ֵד י ֶכ ם . s f , ְפּ ק וּ ֵד י , ְפּ ֻק ִד י ם . p a s s , ֹפּ ֵק ד have a look 1S 1417; — 3. hunt up, seek out Ju 151; w. l®š1lôm look after s. one’s condition, health 1S 1718; — 4. take care of 2K 934; — 5. long for Ez 2321; — 6. subj. God: take care of, take up the cause of Gn 211 & oft.; — 7. call up (for duty), muster 1K 2015; — 8. p1qûd one entrusted w. a task, commissioned 2K 1115; — 9. therefore: appoint Gn 404; — 10. call s.one to account Je 615; — 11. therefore: avenge 1S 152; — 12. (= II. w/o obj.) call to account (for) Is 1012; — 13. p1qad b® avenge on Je 98; — 14. spec.: p1qad (babbayit) put s.thg away 2S 524; p1qad b®š¢môt list by name Nu 432.
Taking these words in mind, David is saying this: “God, why in the world with all that is on your cosmic plate in running the universe would you ever give man a thought? Why would he, a temporal and fragile part of your vast creation, ever be something/someone you would actually take time to care for? I am sure you have better things to do, right?” Yes, David looks up and sees God’s significance and his utter insignificance in the scheme and complexity of things, and all of this forces him to stand in awe that he would be a focus of God’s attention.
Who exactly is man? David tells us in verse 5:
5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!
The first part of this verse has been debated for years as to what it represents. The problematic word is God, or Elohim (ֱא�ִ֑הים ). We know the Greek text of the Old Testament (LXX) translates this word as angels, aggelous (ἀγγέλους), and this is how it is read in the New Testament (Heb. 2:7, 9). The word, however, probably denotes God and not angels because this is how the word is typically used in the Old Testament. Further, as Allen Ross, my former Hebrew professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, points out in his multi-volume commentary on Psalms, since this section (vv. 5-8) reference Genesis 1:26, and this verse specifically speaks about God fashioning man after His image, then, God is the object of verse 5.
Man, as fashioned in God’s image, has God’s communicable attributes: volition, purpose, intellect, and will. He has also shared things with us like wisdom, goodness, love, grace, holiness, compassion and so forth. Man does not have God non-communicable attributes like omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence and so forth. So, as Gerald Wilson correctly surmises,
Having created them as weak and powerless creatures, with one foot firmly planted in the creaturely world they share with the other animated beasts created on the sixth day, God goes on to plant the other human foot squarely and uniquely in the divine realm, both by the unique gift of the divine image and by the role of responsibility and authority given only to humans.5
On this no-name planet, located on one of the darkest and remotest arms of the spiraling Milky Way Galaxy, God lovingly and thoughtfully formed man in to reflect some of His lofty, other- worldly image. Is this not jaw-dropping and completely humbling all at the same time? I freeze- up attempting to think about its ramifications for me and the rest of mankind. He, the God beyond all time and space, the God beyond all total comprehension, made this seemingly limitless and intricate cosmos for us who bear His image. Wilson goes on to add “ . . . humans have been catapulted far beyond their seeming weakness and insignificance—not by any value of their own but simply by the action of a free divine choice and grace that causes the human jaw to drop and the mind to reel.”6 Wow. He, the living God who fashioned all we see above us and what the Hubble deep space telescope will never see, elevated us and gave us glory and honor above the rest of creation. He gave all of us dignity, did He not? Indeed.
In light of what God has done, I must make a practical observation. Because He gave all of us regardless of our race, with all of our issues and frailties, dignity and honor, who are we not to give dignitary and honor to all mankind? He who is far above us in EVERY way lifts us up from the dirt from which He fashioned us and makes each of us a man who reflects His image. He could have pridefully said He was, and is, so far above us in EVERY way, that we were not worth knowing, or that He was just so superior He did not need to speak with us as any sort of “equal.” But this is not what He did.
Is this not the answer to the racial tension in our country? Indeed. We all are God’s people, created in His image. How, then, can any one of us think we are better than another? How can we think one race is superior to another? We cannot because in God’s eyes we are all equally His unique, amazing creation.
What, then, should we do? We should start doing our part to show dignity and honor to all mankind, not just to the ones who look like us. Personally, I think we have nationally spent so much time being consumed with the looking at the things down here, as tainted and twisted as they can be, we have forgotten to look up and see the greatness of God. To understand His significance is to see, at first blush, our insignificance, but then to turn and be enlightened by our divinely ordained utter significance as the crown of His earthly creation. Father’s, listen up. Might you be fulfilling your divinely ordained purpose in training and teaching your children how the stars and moon above our heads teaches us not only about the living God, but how we are supposed to think about all peoples.
In addition to this, we all, especially our fathers on this most glorious day, need to wrap our minds around what God wants from us specifically. Why did He make us in His image? David gives us further insight in the ensuing verses:
6 You make him to rule 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 through the paths of the seas.
Just as God rules over the cosmos, He created mankind to rule, to a limited degree, over His glorious earthly creation. Here that dominion and mastery is related to domesticated, wild animals, birds, and all sorts of fish. God fashioned you to rule over this creation, to control and master it. Adam did this in a perfect garden prior to his fall. At this time, the creation enjoyed peace and responded positively to him
- Lions ran to him not because he was prey, but because they were not afraid of him.
- Gorillas did not mind sitting down with him in the cool of the day.
- Birds did not fly away at first sight of him.
- Fish probably swam toward him when he waded into the water.
The pre-Edenic earth must have been amazing and enjoyable.
Post-fall (Gen. 3) the created order worked against man, as did the animals, birds, fish and so forth. Now, a polar bear will eat you if you stand in his presence on an open ice sheet. A mountain lion is not what you want to encounter on a high up to Pike’s Peak in Colorado. And who really wants to surf off the coast of Australia where Great White sharks seem to congregate? Not I. The fall, however, did not remove our God-given responsibility to properly govern God’s creation until His appearance (Matt. 23). On the contrary, we, as Christians, are to set the pace for how to live prior to the time when Jesus will finally put sin its place (Heb. 2:8). We, of all people, should be known for ruling and reigning as the crown of God’s earthly creation over the rest of creation in a way which would make God proud.
Let us get practical:
- Taking care of a fish tank, keeping it algae-free, and the fish properly oxygenated is a sign of rulership.
- Making sure you dog is trained and under your control is a sign of rulership. When Liz and I had a 130 pound Rottweiler, we took the time to learn how to manage him from a professional trainer.
- Treating all animals with compassion is a sign of spiritual rulership. Mistreating them is a sign of sin. How do you treat your dog? Your cat?
- Pulling a hook out of a seagull’s beak is, again, a sign of rulership. Been there. Done that one in the ocean north of San Francisco. I caught a seagull while casting my bait for a certain target fish.
- Setting up a squirrel-proof bird food house is a type of rulership over the animals.
- Volunteering at the zoo to do some menial tasks to care for the animals is a way of expressing you God-given rulership.
- Climbing aboard a camel while it is sitting so you can take it for a “spin” expresses your rulership over the beast. Attempting to board the beast when they are screaming at you and standing up is not doing rulership in the right fashion. Again, been there. Done that.
Our rulership is divinely wedded to how we treat the animal world around us, but that is not the end of the matter.
Our rulership, ideally, applies to all aspects of life.
- If you are an engineer for NASA, which some of you are, then using what you know about mathematics to put an astronaut in space is putting your rulership rights into action.
- If you are a doctor or a nurse, and you are steeped and trained in the art of how to best treat the layered systems of the human body, then you are ruling over God’s creation in a great fashion.
- Even if you do what you can to make sure the trees on your property are well- cared for and disease free, you are ruling correctly. Imagine that. Laying down some Bayer Tree & Shrub is, ostensibly, a spiritual experience. When I had a tree service take down a massive double-trunker which posed a threat to my neighbor’s home, this was rulership in action. I could have saved the money, and let the tree alone, but I thought it most prudent and wise to have a crew come in and remove it.
- When I dug trenches around my front yard recently to properly move water from my downspouts to large, submerged sump buckets, I simply exercised my rulership rights.
The need for mastery of this sin-tainted world is all around each of us.
Our rulership certainly applies in these areas, which pragmatically and logically means we should understand how it also applies to the rest of our lives. If we are in politics, we are to serve in such a fashion that we reflect God’s peace and justice. If we are citizens, we are called to submit to and support the government (Rom. 13) and help its
leaders lead in a way which brings God honor.
What better thing, I ask you, could a father be known for than a man who know, loves,
and obeys God, and who teaches his children about how the great cosmos teaches him about God, about why he is on this planet, and how he is really supposed to think about and treat other people created in God’s likeness. I would dare say, if more of our fathers bought wholeheartedly into this biblical notion, many of the social ills our great nation is facing would be erased and replaced by true, lasting peace.