One of the benefits of living in an area where there aren’t many big cities is that we often have beautiful views of the night sky. On a good clear night, after our eyes have adjusted, we can look up and see the moon, thousands of shimmering stars, planets from our own solar system, and we can even see the beauty of our own home galaxy, the Milky Way. At some point or another, most of us have probably marveled at the beauty and the magnitude of the night sky. The truth is, any time we stop and pay attention to the world around us, we are bound to be amazed at the diversity, order, and intricacy that surrounds us.
This morning, as we look at Psalm 8, we see how David responded to the world around him. David concluded that the majesty of creation pointed to the glory of the Creator. He thought about what implications that had for him as part of that creation. We’re going to look at David’s thoughts this morning and consider those same questions for ourselves.
David begins with a line of praise of God,
O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. (Psalm 8:1, NLT)
This line is a declaration of what David knows to be true—that God is worthy of praise in every corner of the earth, and even in every corner of the universe. David is saying that everywhere we look, we see God’s majesty. I have to imagine that David is writing this in response to something he had seen. Maybe he was sitting out in the fields with his sheep and looked up at a clear night sky, or maybe he was looking at children playing around him. Whatever the case, David begins with an exclamation of praise—declaring that everything around us points to a glorious Creator!
In verse two, he points out how even children and infants point to God’s majesty and glory. We might ask, how can children and infants proclaim God’s glory? They can’t even speak! Though children may not be able to speak lofty theological truths, they proclaim God’s glory without even saying a word. Think about the miracle of childbirth and the wonder of seeing a newborn child. For nine months, there is an indication that something is happening inside the mother. We see evidence that there is something living and moving around inside her. In David’s time, there was no way of seeing the child in its mother’s womb. It wasn’t until the baby was born that you could see what had been growing. Today, using ultrasounds and other technology, we can actually get a view of the baby inside the mother, and using some of the newest technology, we can even make out facial features. In some ways it is even more amazing to see what is happening as the child grows inside its mother. There is no question that the little fetus is really a little person.
Though ultrasound pictures give us a sense of the miracle of childbirth, it can’t compare to when the child is actually born. The first time you hold the tiny, newborn child, there is a sense of awe—a realization that you hold in your hands a fully-formed person. This child has been created from a sperm and egg—cells that are so small you need a microscope to see them—and has become a human being with fingers, toes, eyes, ears, and a very functional set of lungs! We marvel at how this child who is only minutes old seems to recognize the voice of its father and the comforting touch of its mother. The child may not speak with words, but its mere presence loudly proclaims the glory of the God who has created it. Even as science slowly begins to understand all of the processes involved in the growth of a child in the womb, it still seems appropriate to refer to the process as nothing short of a miracle
The same thing is true in watching that child in their first years. As the child learns to recognize their parents’ voices, understand tone of voice, and then later on understand words, we marvel at quickly and naturally they learn. It is amazing to watch as a young child begins to crawl, then stand, then walk, and then run. In a short period of time, they begin forming sounds, then words, then sentences, and then begin to think for themselves. This process of development astounds us time and time again—and it should! David reminds us that in the midst of such miracles, even those who claim not to believe in God must admit that something marvelous is happening.
David reaches the same conclusion when he thinks about the night sky. He recognizes that God is the Creator of all, and so he knows that as he looks at the sky and sees the moon and the millions of stars, he sees them as evidence of God’s glory.
In other places the Bible talks about how God saves his people with His mighty arm, but here, in speaking of the creation of the universe, David describes it as the work of God’s fingers. It is almost as though the moon, stars, and the rest of the universe is the delicate detail work—they were just the finishing touches to God’s masterpiece!
For David (and I think most people), looking at the universe drives us to consider how great our God is. As we become more scientifically advanced, and build more sophisticated instruments, we become more aware of just how large and intricate and delicately designed our universe is.
Consider the size of the universe in which we live. Earth is one of eight planets which orbit our sun. In terms of distance from the sun, Earth is planet number three. The sun is close enough to keep us warm, but not so close as to make it too hot (though on some summer days we do wonder!) We are still a great distance away from the sun though—almost 93 million miles! If you were able to drive a car from here to the sun at 70 miles per hour nonstop, the trip would take almost 152 years! Light, however, travels much faster than our cars can. Light is able to make the same trip in just about 8 minutes.
Though 93 million miles is a huge distance, in galactic terms, the sun is really pretty close to us. The next closest star is Proxima Centauri. Light from the sun takes 8 minutes to reach earth; light from Proxima Centauri takes 4.2 years to reach earth. That’s how far away our “next-door neighbor” is in the universe. Once again, these are just the distances of things that are relatively close to us. The whole universe is far larger. Scientists estimate the entire universe is 92 billion light years in diameter—in other words it would take light 92 billion years to go from one edge of the universe to the other! And scientists believe the universe is continually getting bigger!
I mention all of this because, like David, I think that our understanding of the universe has a profound impact on our understanding of God. If we believe that God created the entire universe, and we see that the universe is more massive than we can even comprehend, then it must tell us something about the vastness of our God! And David describes God’s ordering of the universe as the work of His fingers. Like David, these truths should lead us to proclaim the greatness of the Lord throughout all of the earth!
What about Us?
David’s mind naturally flows from thinking about God to thinking about our place in the creation.
3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—4 what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4, NLT)
David understood that the universe is larger than we can even fathom. With all the billions of stars out there, why should God pay any attention to us?
Mars is the planet that is our nearest neighbor. It is close enough that we have actually landed several different probes on the planet, and NASA currently has a probe that looks like a little car on Mars which they can remotely control from earth. One day NASA decided to have the probe turn its cameras back toward earth and then take a picture. This is the picture they took.
From our closest neighbor, Mars, we are a tiny little dot in the sky. As we look at this dot we don’t see all the individual people living here, we don’t see the massive cities that we have constructed, we don’t even see continents and oceans—all we see is a tiny pinprick of light. I don’t know about you, but as I think about this, it causes me to feel very small and insignificant. David experienced the same feeling.
But look at what David concludes in verse 5-8,
5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. 6 You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority— 7 the flocks and the herds and all the wild animals, 8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and everything that swims the ocean currents. (Psalm 8:5-8, NLT)
David thinks back to the book of Genesis and remarks that God created human beings with glory and honor. We weren’t just an afterthought. God created us with purpose and a job to do. We are an integral part of God’s creation—so He doesn’t forget about us, but He loves us and cares for us.
Sometimes people are confused by the statement that God made men “a little lower than God”. That seems like a huge understatement, especially given the fact that we have just talked about the greatness of God and the seeming insignificance of man. David isn’t saying that God made us low-level gods, or that we are gods in training. Rather, David is saying that God created us in His image. This means that unlike other animals in creation, God has chosen to make us reflect His nature. We see this in a number of different ways. God has given us the ability to be creative—we can put sounds together to make a song that has never been heard before, we can string words together to write a story that no one has ever heard, we can take our tools and build something that had previously existed only in our minds. Human creativity is a reflection of God’s nature. God has also given us the ability to reason and think for ourselves, and He has given us some measure of freedom to do as we desire.
The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 8 in Hebrews chapter 2. In that passage the writer points out that God created us to rule over creation, but because of sin, we don’t rule over it as fully as we should. He goes on to say that one day our rightful position will be restored because of Jesus. He describes Jesus as having been given a position that was “a little lower than the angels (or God)” so that He could come and suffer and die to pay for our sins. So Psalm 8 not only describes how we are made like God, but how God became like us in order to save us.
David didn’t fully understand this truth, but we do. Jesus Christ, the One who was there in the beginning, the One who made all things (cf. John 1), became like us—a human being a little lower than God—and willingly sacrificed Himself in order to set us free and allow us to be forgiven.
When we think of the majesty God, the vastness of His creation, and the fact that we are puny little creatures in an unimaginably large universe, the fact that the Son of God would choose to die for us to be forgiven is more than we can fathom. This truth should drive us to our knees and cause us to praise God, because He loves us more than we deserve, and more than we can even begin to understand.
As David ponders all of these things, he is left with only one response—the same one with which he started.
9 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! (Psalm 8:9, NLT)
Even though these are the same words David wrote at the beginning of the Psalm, I picture David saying them differently. I imagine these same words taking on a deeper meaning at the end of the Psalm. I see the opening line being read with a note of jubilation and excitement, but I don’t see the closing line being read the same way. I picture the closing line being read almost in a whisper—with reverence, and with a greater understanding of just what it means to say that God’s majestic name fills the earth.
In truth, there are not words sufficient to capture the majesty of our Lord—these truths demand a response. So, how should we respond to the truth that God’s majesty fills the entire universe and yet He continues to love and care for us?
First, we should adopt a position of humility. When we have a proper understanding of God, it leads to a proper understanding of ourselves. We understand that even though God created us in His image, we are not anywhere close to being God. When we understand God’s greatness, we will no longer fight Him (as though we were equals), but we will bow before the One who is infinitely greater than we are.
That means that we do not live this life for ourselves. So often we focus our lives on what we can get out of it. We begin to get tunnel vision and see only ourselves. If we understand these truths, they should lead us to change our perspective. It should help us to see that the universe does not revolve around us (not even close!), but that it is all about God. Practically this means that,
- We show love to others even when there’s nothing in it for us
- We live God’s way even when it seems like doing so will make things more difficult
- We view the things we have in this world (possessions, talents, time) as things we should use to make God known, rather than to make ourselves comfortable
- Every person we see is important to God, and should therefore be important to us
If we understand the majesty of our Lord, then it will show through in the way we live.
Second, we should be encouraged and energized by His love. Though on our own, we seem like insignificant creatures on a humdrum planet somewhere in the vastness of space, we must remember that God has said that we are important, we are valuable, and He loves us. It is tempting in life to get down on ourselves and to feel as though we don’t matter, to feel as though nobody notices us, or that nobody knows us for who we really are. As we read through this passage, we are reminded that all these things are false.
God has said that we matter, because He has made us in His image. He says that we matter because He has given us a role to play in His vast creation and His master plan. We also see that we matter to God because He continues to love you and me, even though He has created the entire universe and billions of other people. If we ever need evidence of God’s love for us, we need only look to the cross. It is there that we see love personified, it is there that we see Jesus willingly humbling himself to save you and to save me. If there was ever any question of whether anybody cares about you or whether you are important or not, the cross should be our reminder.
Third, we should face the trials of life with confidence. When we see the greatness of our God it should remind us that there is nothing that is outside of His control. We know that He loves us, and we know that He is more powerful than any of the circumstances we face. So when we find ourselves in the midst of trials that are more than we can handle on our own we can carry on, confident that the God we serve, the God who loves and cares for us, is bigger than any trial we can face.
As we look at the world around us, we see the fingerprints of God everywhere. The creation tells us a great deal about the Creator—it tells us that He is more powerful than we could ever imagine, it tells us that He is creative and unique, and it tells us that in all of the vastness of God’s Creation, He continues to care for us.
Not everyone sees the God of creation. Some people look at the beauty of creation and allow it to leave them unchanged. They see the sunsets, they see the sun, moon, and stars, they see the miracles of life around them every day, but they live their lives as though these things are nothing special.
Others are amazed at the creation in which they live. They marvel at the way everything works together and the vastness of the world around us and worship the creation rather than the Creator. They crusade to protect the world (which is not a bad thing); they gaze on the world and marvel at how “chance” has caused it all to be. It is good to recognize the beauty of the world we live in, but if it doesn’t drive us to worship the Creator then we are missing the point.
Still others see the vastness of the universe and feel hopeless, as though they are simply a single grain of sand in a vast desert, unremarkable and unimportant.
David reminds us that as we look at the world around us, none of these is the correct response. The correct response is to look at the creation and see the Creator who is worthy of our worship. It is to be amazed at His creativity, His wisdom and His plan. We should look around and understand that we are blessed and even in the midst of this vast creation, we are loved. We recognize that everything points back to Him and that we should live our lives in such a way that it brings honor to Him and Him alone. As we look at the world around us, we should be driven to praise, and to devote our lives to celebrating and pointing others to the truth of His majesty.