Monday, August 17, 2015

The Majesty of the LORD: Learning to Pray Psalm 8 (part 1)

 Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.
Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8 immediately fulfills the vow to praise God found in Psalm 7:17. In Psalm 8, we encounter the first hymn of praise in the Psalter. It’s opening and closing lines (1a and 9) exhort us to sing of the majesty of the name the LORD. This psalm then focuses its praise for God as creator of all but especially for the role that the LORD graciously created men and women to fill.

The opening and closing exhortations praise God for the majesty and wonder of God’s name “LORD” in all the earth. This psalm reminds us that the God of the Bible is not restricted to any small slice of the world. His name is not confined in a temple, room, tree, rock, or in any particular part of the created world. The entire earth is the sphere of his awesomeness. The words of the seraphim in Isaiah 6:3 carry similar meaning: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Verses 1b–2 connect the heavens and the earth in terms of the proclamation of God’s glory or splendor. There is no doubt in the psalmist’s mind of the LORD’s worthiness to be worshipped. Verse 2 is difficult in its specific meaning but its general force is clear. English translations differ. Our NIV text uses the word “praise.” Literally the Hebrew reads “Out of the mouths of children and infants you’ve established strength.” The idea is that God has created a world where human power is not final word in history. The sounds of the weak, whether they are the praise of God or not, can silence powerful enemies. God has created a world that privileges light, justice, peace, love, grace, and mercy. These are the values of God’s kingdom.

In our lives on the earth, we often face the hostility of forces that privilege power, darkness, injustice, war, envy, division, vengeance, and hate. These forces often seem more powerful than God and at times seem poised and ready to sweep us away. Psalms 3–7 reminded us of the challenges of living the journey of faith. There are perils that drive us to cry out for help.

Psalm 8 speaks a counter testimony against the powers of darkness for the way of God. God established a different mode of living. It is one that finds power in the margins rather than in places of privilege. Within the awesomeness of creation, God is sovereign and powerful. To demonstrate divine power, God’s kingdom advances through different channels than the world’s power. In the world, whoever speaks the loudest and most forcefully often carries the day. Psalm 8 declares that strength manifests through the voices of children. This truth astonishes the psalmist. God empowers the weak to serve as mouthpieces of God’s power. This stands as testimony to the world and invites all creation to rejoice in God’s majesty.

How does Psalm 8 describe the praise of God?

How does this psalm help us to understand God’s work in the world?

Read part two of my notes on Psalm 8

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