PSALM 8: The Special Purpose of True Humanity

May 12, 2019

Matt Olliffe

Happy Mothers Day! I thank God for all you mums and grandmums out there! And I also thank all the women who are like mums to us. Fittingly we are looking at Psalm 8 today so lets thank God now as we come to Psalm 8. This Psalm will show us that God made humans with a very special purpose. And we will come to see that it is in Jesus that we find our true humanity.

 

Right now, I’m in the middle of the fortieth birthday season. Many of you may be, too. Many of you remember wedding season: another weekend, another wedding. It is time to dress up all over again.

 

I know one couple here at church who got married on the Saturday, and the very next week, they were in the bridal party for a friend’s wedding. After wedding season came the ‘thirtieths’ season. Been there, done that. Then there’s the kids’ birthday parties season. That’s still going. Maybe some of you aren’t there yet. Or some of you, you’re about to come out of or about to go into school formal season at the end of year 12. Everyone’s going to one another’s formals. There’s this school on this date, and another school a few weeks later. Then there’s the ‘twenty-firsts’ season, where each weekend it feels like another birthday and another trip to the shops.

 

Having been at a few fortieths so far, here’s what I’ve noticed: there’s something about turning forty that causes people to take stock on their life. One birthday girl in the lead up to her fortieth shared with Teresa and me, “Is this it? I’m about to turn 40. What have I done with my life? What have I accomplished? I’m just a mum. My identity is so caught up in my kids.” In fact, she put it as bluntly as this: “If I died tomorrow, the only people who would miss me are my kids. There would be no one to take them to school, cook them dinner, and wash their clothes.”

 

Then there was another fortieth I was at. The speech began like this: “I reckon by the time you turn forty, you want to know the answers to the big questions in life.”

 

Well, one of the biggest questions in life, the question on everyone’s lips, is this: “What’s my purpose in life? What does it mean to be human?” Well here in Psalm 8, the answer loud and clear is this: whether you’re a beggar or a billionaire, a mum or a managing director, you matter to God, because not only were you made special by God, but in Jesus, you can also be remade by God.

 

Let’s look at the first and last verses of Psalm 8, verses 1 and 9:

 

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. (v. 1, NIV)

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (v. 9 NIV)

 

Do you notice that the first part of the first verse and the last verse of this psalm are the same? This is a psalm that begins and ends with God. This psalm sets and defines humanity not on human terms, but places humanity in relationship to God, and under God. It defines humanity on God’s terms.

 

In the phrase, “LORD, our Lord”, the first ‘LORD’, the all-capital-letters ‘LORD’, is not David shouting, as it is when we use ‘all-caps’—although David does shout praises in this psalm. The capital ‘LORD’ represents God’s personal name, ‘Yahweh’. David’s God is ‘Yahweh’. God’s special personal name is represented in our English Bibles by ‘LORD’ being in capitals. And the lower case ‘Lord’ is his job title. David’s God is Lord. He’s the one who rules. ‘The LORD’ is who God is (his name), and ‘the Lord’ is what God is (his job title).

 

Now, what is the mood of this words? What is the vibe? I think overall that this is a song of praise, gratitude, and wonder. David could’ve said, “LORD, our Lord, your name is majestic”, but he didn’t. Instead he says “How majestic is your name.” God’s name is majestic alright, but it’s also more than that. It’s as if David can’t quite take it in. He can’t contain himself! David is trying to get his head around why such a big God even bothers with a tiny species called human who happen to live on one tiny planet in one average-sized solar system, in a relatively unspectacular galaxy.

 

If by the end of this sermon, we collectively don’t have a sense of just how amazing God is, and if we can’t join the chorus of verses 1 and 9, and declare ‘the LORD’ is also our Lord, and if we can’t see how majestic is his name in all the earth, and if praise doesn’t fall from our lips in song, in our prayers, in our conversations, and if it doesn’t take root deep down in our hearts and in our souls, then we’ve failed to fully grasp the wonder of this psalm and I’ve failed as a preacher to convey that to you!

 

Here’s an idea for this week. Why not try, in your next prayer, to just spend time praising God. Just let the praise flow from your lips.

 

In verse 2, look at how God shuts the mouths of his enemies and his avengers.

 

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (NIV)

 

Who are God’s enemies and avengers? They are not Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, and the rest of the Marvel superheroes. Instead, for David, “the enemy and the avenger” are those who don’t want anything to do with God whatsoever!

 

Notice there how God chooses to take them on. We’re talking about God who has the entire cosmos at his disposal! Yet his weapon of choice is not to wipe them out with fire, or call down a meteor from another galaxy. Rather, God’s preferred weapon of choice in verse 2 is what comes out of the mouth of a child. The “guurrrs” and “gaaahs” of a child, the most vulnerable, dependent, and weakest members of the human family, stopping the arrogant and powerful dead in their tracks.

 

In a world of Israel Folau controversies, where Christians have become public enemies and we’re now being silenced, our children might end up being the best evangelists! One of my friends’ kids would, whenever he met an adult—it could have been the postman, the random stranger at the shops, a visitor or neighbour–without hesitation would ask them: “Do you believe in Jesus?” No shame, no shyness. Wouldn’t it be great if we had that too? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if ‘God-talk’ just naturally flowed from our lips.

 

Look it’s a side point, but one worth mentioning here. As adults we all have a part to play in helping our young folk praise God. It is not just the mums in the room. Whether it’s discipling kids and youth at church, in Scripture, in the home, at school, in whatever environment, be assured that every prayer that’ll be prayed at kids church today or every song sung by our youth on Friday nights is a declaration that there is a God and how majestic is his name! What an incredible privilege each and every one of us has to shape the soul of another human being, such that they would praise God. Sure it may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a church family to raise a child of God. Why not after church today aim to have a conversation with a kid or youth, and ask them what they learned about God today, or how you can pray for them?

 

Let’s move on. In verses 3-4, we get a glimpse at just how insignificant we humans are compared to other aspects of the creation we can see. Look with me at verse 3:

 

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, […]

 

Picture David looking up at the stars which God himself flung into space. We humans do paintings with our fingers, but God paints planets and entire galaxies with his fingers. Last month, humans finally managed to take the first photo of the black hole. This is something that God created simply with a word. The entire history of humanity has had to wait for this up until now. In the words of one astronomer, “We have seen what we thought was unseeable.” The more science opens up to us new horizons, the more insignificant we seem. We’re shown to be just a speck of dust.

 

Verse 4 opens with a question:

 

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (NIV)

 

David asks the God who created the black hole, “What is mankind?” The answer is in verse 5:

 

You have made them a little lower than the angels […] (NIV)

 

What makes us special is that we’ve been made by God. God has made us, and that is what makes us special. Be amazed at how special God made you to be. And not only that, but verse 5 again, you and I have been made “A little lower than the angels”. Notice how it doesn’t say, “a little higher than an ape” or “just a bit more advanced than a chimpanzee”. I just love how the Bible has got a higher view of humanity than scientists.

 

Then, as if it couldn’t any better. Along comes the next part of verse 5:

 

[…] and crowned them with glory and honor. (NIV)

 

We humans have been “crowned with glory and honour”. We’re royals! You don’t have to be born into the royal family like Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. It’s not just Archie who’s royalty: you are too! The God who, back in verse 1, set his glory in the heavens, has crowned us and only us with that glory. What a good and generous God!

 

There was a study done a few years back, where scientists tried to work out the answer to this question: How much are the elements and chemicals worth that are found in and go to make up the human body. We’re talking things like carbon, hydrogen, and calcium, etc. I’m not talking about selling of kidneys on the black market. They are not worth $580,000, or $58,000, or even $580, but believe it or not, your body, based on the current market value, is only $5.80.

 

Then there is how our world and our culture assigns worth and value to humans. Our culture would say that what makes people significant are things like their status, standing, or the number printed on the waistline of your jeans. Society says you’re dignified based on your looks, athleticism, or intellect. You are despised for your failures, if you can’t do certain things, if you look a certain way or if you don’t have a job.

 

That’s why it’s so crucial that we tune in to what God says about us, because the God of the Bible says that, regardless of physical ability, mental capacity, skin colour, we’re all image-bearers of the God who made us. That applies to every member of the human family, whether it’s the baby in the womb, the person in jail, or the pensioner with dementia. At the end of the day, our dignity and worth as humans is received not achieved. That means that every human you meet, whether a believer or an unbeliever, is to be treated as a fellow image-bearer. If you’re a Christian here today, know that you reflect the character of God in the way you speak to your work colleague who’s slacking off, the way you discipline your kids, relate to your parents, include someone who’s on the outer. Adopt the posture that God has towards all humanity! That’s what verse 4 picks up on too.

 

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (NIV)

 

Get this: God both thinks of you and cares for you. Now you might be here today as someone who’s not yet taken the hand of Jesus. We are so glad you’re here. Maybe today is the first time you’ve invested some serious time thinking about the things of God. Well know this, that God thought of you before you thought of checking him out. In fact, that’s true for every single person here! You can be sure that God thinks of you way more than you think of him. In fact, he thought of you before you were even being formed inside your mum’s womb!

 

And what a relief that is! You might feel alone as you battle with anxiety or depression, but take comfort in the fact that the God who made us knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows you inside out, and stands with you in the fog. You might be hurting from a mum you wish you’d have, or grieving a mum you’ve said goodbye to, or wishing you were a mum. God knows and draws near to you in that pain and grief too.

 

David’s not done. There’s one more thing that makes humans special, verse 6:

 

You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet (NIV)

 

Pretend we double-clicked on the word “everything”. Out would pop verses 7 and 8, where David says, “Everything” means all the flocks, herds, all the animals, be they birds, or fish or land creatures. Humans were created to be over creation but under God. It’s as if God gives us the keys not to the car but to creation and says, “You look after it.” This job is just for humans. That’s why we ride horses, horses don’t ride us. That’s why humans have managed to build some impressive architecture, discovered things like black holes, and come up with cures and medical advancements.

 

But notice here also that there’s not even a hint of reincarnation. Us and the animals are very distinct categories. We don’t come back in another life as an animal, a dog or a cockroach. No, we rule over the animals. We’re the pinnacle of God’s creation. This is the dignity of the human race!
Compared to the bigness of God, we are mere dust, but because we’re unlike anything else in all creation, we’re glorious dust!

 

Now I want you to think about this question: to what extent could you say that Psalm 8 is a reality, as you look around at our world today. To what extent do we see that humans are “rulers over the works of [God’s] hands” and that God has “put everything under their feet”? And we must say that as we exist now, the rule we experience is partial and incomplete. We fall short in our rule of the earth. We are glorious dust, or in the words of Francis Schaeffer, we are a “glorious ruin”. We don’t rule the world, and creation does not submit to our rule all the time. Sometimes creation controls us: a tsunami here, an earthquake there. Sure, we humans can tame lions, but I can’t even tame my tongue. And rather than ruling the world together, we fight one another for the right to rule.

 

The best illustration of how Psalm 8 is only partially true is the fact that humans pick up dog poo! Now I’m a dog guy. I love dogs. But you think about it: whenever you see someone taking their dog out for a walk, they stand by and wait for the dog to do it’s business, and then they crouch down, scoop it up with a plastic bag, and carry it to the next bin. That doesn’t sound like humans calling the shots in the way that Psalm 8 envisages! So you dog-owners out there, the next time you pick up dog poo—and trust me, I’m thankful that you do do it—let that remind you of Psalm 8.

 

But our problem is more than just having to pick up dog poo. We fail to rule God’s world properly and perfectly. We have broken, messed up relationships, full of regrets. Sure, we can try and exercise control, but more often than not it feels as though we’re out of control. We can’t even rule over death. Death rules over each and every single one of us! We’re made from dust. We’ll also return to dust. Things aren’t what they’re meant to be! We are broken! We need fixing!

 

Now the author of Hebrews pick up on this disconnect and frustration, and a thousand years after David penned this Psalm, the author of Hebrews wrote, in Hebrews 2:8 concening Psalm 8, “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them.” Humans don’t yet fully rule the earth, but in Hebrews 2:9, Hebrews says, “But we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death.”

 

Jesus, being the perfect human, is crowned with the glory and honour that Psalm 8 tells us about. He was the truest human, being sinless. He was God in the flesh, being born as a weak infant and placed in an animal feeding trough in a little-known town called Bethlehem. He grew from a vulnerable child to manhood, going around doing good and healing people because God was with him, only to be unjustly condemned and executed, and then rise again. He is the one under whose feet God places all things. Everything and everyone is subject to him! Jesus is now crowned? And he was crowned, according to Hebrews 2:9, “because he suffered death”. Remember that Jesus wore a crown of thorns on his head as he hung there on that cross. For Jesus, the pathway to glory was suffering: death first, then glory and honour after.

 

You think about it: the very thing that puts a one giant full stop on all human life—death—is the exact the same thing God uses to install Jesus as the true, perfect, ruling human, the very human that Psalm 8 is talking about. And notice about Jesus’ death, that it wasn’t a death just for him. Take a look at how verse 9 finishes: “Jesus tastes death for everyone”. Jesus tastes death not just for some people, or for those who are good enough, but for every single one of us.

 

Hebrews 2 can be summarized as “be amazed at how special God remade you to be.” Not only are we made special in our mother’s womb, but now thanks to Jesus, we can be re-made by him. Whereas at birth you were made a little lower than the angels, now in your second birth you will be made higher than the angels, for you will be with Jesus around his throne forever. That happens the moment we take the hand of Jesus.

 

Now I’ve got these babushka dolls. They are a doll within a doll within a doll. These are actually measuring cups. I grabbed them out of my kitchen. But I reckon they help us understand what it means to be remade by Jesus. I know that this is not the perfect illustration, but I found it helpful. Maybe you will too. This smallest cup or babushka doll is you and I, made by God. And this is Jesus, a larger cup or babushka doll. Now your life, my life, and all human life are precious to God, because every human is made special by God. But what gives us even more significance is when we actually surrender and take the hand of Jesus, so as to side with him. Another part of the Bible, Colossians 3, describes this process as having our lives hidden with Christ, just as one of these babushka dolls fits in the larger one. When our lives are hidden in Christ, we’re letting God transform us from the inside out. We’re letting him call the shots so that what happens to him, happens to me. Where he is, I am. Where he’ll be, I’ll be. That’s what it means to be remeade: that what happens to him, happens to me. It’s a day by day, moment by moment journey.

 

There’s a clear decision to be made here. I want to invite you to be remade by Jesus. Do you realise that to say no to Jesus and his offer of being remade is to accept that $5.80 is as good it gets. That’s all you’re worth. But even if we were worth $580,000, that still wouldn’t compare to being remade by Jesus, the worth that he gives you, and the identity you receive in him.

 

Let’s wrap up. I’m so thankful for the three mums I have in my life. First is my own mum, whose a real do-er and can’t sit still, so that the way she loves me is by acts of service. Last Sunday when she visited, she ironed this shirt! It had only just came in off the clothesline the day before! Second is mum number 2, my mother-in-law. The thing that I’ve come to appreciate about my mother-in-law is that she’s a woman of prayer. Prayer is part of her DNA in a way I wish it was in mine. It is her constantly coming before her heavenly Father that has sustained her through some horrible times. She has had to bury her husband, her own son, and last year, a granddaughter. Third there’s my wife Teresa, mum of four, a stay-at-home mum, she shows again and again that there is glory in the ordinary, whether it’s comforting a kid who’s just had tough day at school, searching for the other kid’s missing tracky dacks, consoling a kid who doesn’t want to go to school, or cheering another one who’s running cross country. She models Jesus to our kids in so many ways! I said to one of my kids this week—who shall remain nameless because this was after they had just chucked a tantrum—“You know what? There’s only one person in the entire world you get to call “mum”. And not only that, but God knew that she’d be the perfect mum just for you.

 

And so as thankful as I am for each of these mums, I’m even more thankful for the God who gave them to me.

 

Mark Twain said that the two most important days of your life is the day you’re born and the day you know why. You don’t have to wait until you turn forty or fifty or seventy to work out the answers to the big questions in life. You’ve got the answer today! What’d you learn at church today? Be in awe of the one who made you. Be in astonishment of the one who’s remade you.

 

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name!

 

Let’s pray!

 

Lord, our Lord,

How amazing it is that you have not only created each and every one of us, but that you’ve also given us purpose, meaning, dignity, worth, and value. We particularly want to thank you for the special role mums have in our world. But even more than this, we want to praise you for giving us Jesus, the true and perfect human, the one who died the death we deserve, and now offers us the chance to be remade by him from the inside out.

All glory and honour be to you.
Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
And all God’s people said Amen.