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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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 reubenbredenhof.com
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Our Lord Shows his Excellence in all the Earth
Text:Psalms 8:1-9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God and our Creation
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-09-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hy 29:1,3                                                                               

Ps 19:1,3

Reading – Hebrews 2:1-18

Ps 144:1,2,5

Sermon – Psalm 8

Ps 8:3,4,5

Hy 13:1,2,3,4,5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, as we lead busy lives each week, we need to slow down. In the middle of the activity of work and school and home life and church life, we need to pause and ponder. For how often do we really think about who God is, who we are, and what to do with the few days on earth that God has given? It’s easy to become absorbed in all the busyness, to think that busyness is our calling, while missing out on what’s most important.

The one remedy for our distraction and disorientation is always the Word of God. And Psalm 8 is one truly God-pleasing meditation on life. This is true and Scriptural contemplation, for here David focuses not on himself, but on God.

Imagine David writing this Psalm during an evening in the countryside. Perhaps David was still a shepherd for his father when he wrote it. He was tending the flocks, spending much time in solitude, with only the sheep as his companions. At night he finally had time to sit back, to look at the starry heavens, and to think about the things that are above. Or maybe David was already king when he wrote this Psalm. We see him walking out onto the roof of his palace one evening to be alone with his thoughts and with God.

Whatever the setting of this Psalm, it seems certain it was a bright, clear night. The host of the heavenly lights stretched out above him—like you see when you go up north, away from the city. Under these bright and twinkling lights, David looks up to God and praises him: “You have set your glory above the heavens!” (Ps 8:1).

Under the broad sweep of the sky, David reflects on who God is, the Maker of heaven and earth. David considers this gracious God and his unfailing love, and he is amazed that the LORD would give so much to puny and sinful mankind. This personal reflection in Psalm 8 is a song for public worship, and it’s a lesson in considering the LORD’s greatness. I preach to you God’s Word,

The LORD, our Lord, shows his excellence in all the earth:

  1. the height of God’s glory
  2. the breadth of creation’s glory 
  3. the depth of mankind’s glory

 

1) the height of God’s glory: Our text begins with a joyous declaration of God’s greatness: “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (v 1). Now, many of the psalms open with words of praise for God, but the opening of Psalm 8 stands alone. For David calls on his God as both LORD and Lord. The difference between the two titles is marked by all capital letters for the first, and regular letters for the second. You probably know that the first ‘LORD’ is a translation of the Hebrew Yahweh. This is the name which God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3. It speaks of the LORD as the faithful God of the covenant, the unchanging and eternal God of promise.

Right away this tells us that when David prays in the night, he’s not calling on an impersonal God up above. The LORD didn’t create, then vacate his world, staying far away, not interested in earthlings. No, in his prayer, David turns to the covenant LORD, knowing that his merciful love is as everlasting as the heavens. He seeks the God who says, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” This is something that you and I should never get tired of thinking about: the LORD God comes very close to us in his relationship of love.

God comes very close, yet without diminishing his might and authority and glory. For the LORD is also ‘Lord.’ That second ‘Lord’ speaks of God as the sovereign ruler of all created things. He is the great King; says Isaiah, “Heaven is his throne, and the earth is his footstool” (Isa 66:1). In our prayers and worship, we should stand in awe of the LORD who is our Lord. For this God is surrounded with glory and power!

David sings to God, “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!” In Scripture, ‘the name’ of God stands for nothing less than God himself, in his fullness and completeness. The Psalms are filled with references to the great name of God. We trust in his name. We hope in your name, O LORD. His name endures forever, his name is near. God’s name protects and saves.

And the name of the LORD is ‘excellent.’ The Hebrew word for ‘excellent’ speaks of glory and honour. We use that word loosely, like when we compliment our mom on another excellent dinner. But in the Bible it’s a word used especially of God and his deeds. For example, after Egypt was crushed in the Red Sea, Moses sang, “Your right hand was excellent in power, your right hand shattered the enemy” (Ex 15:6). And God is tremendous in appearance: “You are more glorious and excellent than the mighty mountains” (Ps 76:4).

If the LORD is so great, and his name is so excellent, then this demands an answer from everyone in all creation. You may not know this name and stay silent. David tells us about the response in verse 2: how God’s children respond, and how his enemies respond.

We’ll start with his foes, “the enemy and the avenger.” Who are they? And what are such hostile people doing in this peaceful Psalm? In all times and places, the enemies are those who reject the LORD and his Word. This is what David and all of God’s children have experienced, that wherever God’s kingdom is coming, Satan’s kingdom is not far behind. He is forever attacking and trying to undo the works of the LORD.

The wicked are often loud and raucous. It’s what unbelievers do when they’re confronted with the great God: they yell and shout and throw insults. Think of how David experienced this when he faced Goliath, the giant who shouted proud blasphemy against God and many other defiant words.

Today too, the wicked love to make a lot of noise. Where do we hear this? Unbelievers see the glory of God’s creation, and they insist that it’s all a product of random events and chance. Unbelievers see God’s strength in earthquakes and floods, and they give credit to Mother Nature. They see the conviction of Christ’s people and they call it brainwashing and extremism. And today if someone has Christian views, they might well be shouted down and overwhelmed with opposition. God always told us it would go this way; Psalm 2 says that the wicked will rage and mock and slander.

Yet no one can block the ongoing display of God’s glory and excellence. The LORD can’t be dismissed, even by the proud words of godless scientists. He can’t be declared dead and irrelevant by philosophers. And David says that God’s enemies will be shut up with a plain yet wonderful sound: the babbling and chattering of children. “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you have ordained strength, because of your enemies, that you may silence the enemy and the avenger” (v 2).

God’s enemies will always flaunt their human strength, yet the keys to a blessed life are humility and faith, when we know the LORD and walk with him. Think of how even our little children are able to glorify the great God. It happens when they love him, when they sing to him, when they pray to him. And this puts to silence all who live in hatred of God. Like one commentator put it, “A child’s stammering words of bedtime prayer are more powerful than all the ranting and raving of the ungodly.”

One of the beautiful gifts of children is their ability to see right through things. They can perceive God’s excellence plainly and simply. Children look at the heavens and the earth, and are filled with humble awe: “God made this all!” Children hear about God’s mighty works of the past, and they respond: “God can do anything!” Their praise puts every enemy to shame.

Children, know that God is pleased when you sing his praises. He delights to hear you speak words of wonder and amazement and faith. He wants you to open your eyes and see his glory all around you. See the heights of God’s glory in the brilliant moon, and in the tall trees, and the spring weather, and praise him. See God’s glory in the Bible, when God defeats the Egyptians and Goliath and even Satan himself. Believe that this God is the LORD, our Lord!

Children are able to see things clearly. Yet we still have to teach them to open their eyes. And this is the parents’ task. To show our children the excellence of God’s name. To show his glory revealed in creation, his name revealed in his Word, his love displayed in Christ, so that they will praise him.

Think of the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey. On that day, many children sang praise to Jesus. Some of the Jews were upset about this. Yet Jesus defended the children, and He did by quoting from Psalm 8, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” (Matt 21:16). Parents, train them to praise. Teach them to worship. It’s what God has ordained.

And God seeks loving worship not just from our children, but from us all. Scripture speaks about the need to have a childlike faith, when we are humble before the LORD, and accepting, and filled with sure trust. Sometimes life is so busy and complicated it feels like we’ve drifted a long way from having childlike faith. But God delights in our praise of his name, our unquestioning confidence, our quiet acceptance of his will. This is to his glory!

           

2) the breadth of creation’s glory: In verse 1 David praises God for setting his glory above the heavens. David returns to this adoration throughout the Psalm, as he takes time to consider God’s glory displayed in the creation.

For instance, in verses 7-8, he looks at the world of animals: “all sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.” David’s beloved sheep were created by God, and the cattle, but also the many things David could not see, like the eagles circling so high in the sky, or the octopi lurking in the ocean depths. These are all witnesses to God’s glory. So many species, so much diversity, multiplying and filling and spreading over all the earth.

David looks around and admires the spectacular beauty of the creation. Every new created thing that you set eyes on should evoke more praise for God. As Psalm 89 sings, “The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it” (v 11).

This what we need to stop and ponder. Don’t just rush past, but listen to what David says, “When I consider your heavens…” (v 3). That’s a word of thoughtfulness and reflection. We ought to consider the creation around us, not simply because we love beauty, or because it’s calming to our spirits. But when we stop and marvel at the sun setting on another day, or when we listen carefully to the cheerful birdsong of the morning, or when we take in the amazing variety of wildflowers, we should be moved to thank the LORD. Consider, and be amazed. The world is his workshop. God is the wise and powerful Maker who needs no tools. Know that the whole earth is “the work of [his] hands” (v 6).

We see the handiwork of God here below, in the sea and on the earth. Yet David’s eyes can’t help but be drawn up, again and again, to the heavens: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars…” (v 3).

That immense sky above us, those circling planets, the radiant stars and moon, and the brilliant sun—they all reveal the God who made them. Through their fine detail, through their sheer size, through their stunning beauty, the heavens are telling about God’s power and wisdom. Their order and orbits are witnesses to the Lord’s sovereignty over all, his faithfulness to what he created. The farther that mankind’s vision reaches into the universe through telescopes and probes, the more we can be staggered by God’s greatness. The heavens bear the undeniable signature of their Creator. They are ‘the work of God’s fingers.’

That’s a remarkable phrase. When we use our fingers to make something, we pay careful attention. Our eyes are fixed on the task, while with our fingers we bring together and twist and shape a piece of paper or fabric or pastry.

Though the heavens are so vast, the sun so massive, the stars so far-flung, it’s like God the Creator used fingers to form them all. It is all carefully ordered. Yes, even the apparently limitless heavens are insignificant next to God’s glory, for they’ve been pushed and prodded into shape by the divine fingers.

The lesson is that the greatness of God’s name permeates all creation. His glory is evident everywhere, from the plants to the planets, from the seas to the stars. Marvel at the astonishing things shaped with the hands and fingers of our God. And then marvel even more at the glory that God has given to man!

 

3) the depth of mankind’s glory: When we consider God’s majesty in creation, we need to be humbled. We’ve probably all felt miniscule under the broad expanse of the sky, or insignificant next to the ocean. At moments like that, we sometimes wonder why God, who set the entire universe in its place, would ever want to concern himself with us?

David too, is filled with wonder. Though we’re so puny, just tiny blobs of flesh dwelling on a watery planet, God has given us great glory! David asks, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” (v 4) To our minds, it makes no sense that we should be able to know this glorious God as the LORD and covenant God.

But God has been mindful of us. For from the beginning, we were created to be “a little lower than the angels” (v 5). David here thinks the servants stationed in God’s throne-room, those creatures endowed with much wisdom and strength and glory. These angels have the high task of serving God constantly. And incredibly, we rank just beneath them, for God made us in perfection, righteous and holy.

For God gave us charge over his creation: “Be fruitful and increase,” God said in Genesis, “Fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion” (1:28). Though we are frail and limited, unspectacular in appearance, the remarkable truth is that mankind is the crown of creation. Nobody else received such a task of authority. Yet God has called us to labour for him.

Beloved, this gives a different perspective on our daily work. It gives our ordinary tasks a new significance. Though our work may sometimes be burdensome or mundane, it is work done for God, done with the strength and help of the LORD.

Our weekly work is not simply about earning our pay so that we can cover the bills and fund our hobbies and afford our holidays. We have a job to do, entrusted by God with authority over his creation. God gives us gifts, and God gives us opportunities, and God even gives ambition and resources, so that we would work hard in the world He has made. We serve God by our work as well as by our rest, by work as well as by worship.

It means we should seek to do our tasks with integrity and honour. When we are involved in business, or in education, or in a trade, or in the home—wherever in the creation God calls us to work—we have an opportunity to live out our God-given mandate. It begins with our awareness: “This is a job that I am doing for God.” Yes, whatever that job is: “This is a job I am doing for God.” And it continues with our firm resolve, “Let me do this job, and pursue this project, and answer this calling with diligence, with honesty, with hard work. I want to do it to glorify the LORD who made me.”

That all sounds very positive. And some people have read Psalm 8 and asked why it doesn’t mention sin. Where is the mankind’s fall from glory here? Where is our depravity? But it’s there. In verse 4 David uses a Hebrew word for ‘man’ that emphasizes our smallness, weakness, even our sinfulness. We might translate it, “What are miserable mortals that you are mindful of them?” We are weak. We fail all the time. We don’t deserve our high position—we never have, and we still don’t.

But even after we rebelled against our Creator, God didn’t give up. The Lord had every reason to crush those who bore his image. He could have wiped humanity away and forgotten them, yet God was mindful of us. And this has resulted in God’s excellence shining even more clearly. For the glorious God first stooped down to create us, then He stooped down to save us.

God the LORD even comes to us in his covenant. The LORD God enters into a relationship of love with sinners, and He promises to wash us clean from sin. To believers and their children God shows such grace. This moves us to ask in humble worship, “Who am I, that you are mindful of me?”

God is gracious because from the beginning, He promised a Saviour. The Christ would be born, for a time no more than a simple child, then a man, dying on the cross. How great is God, that He would send his own Son as a mortal man to die for sinners!

That’s what really turns up the volume of praise in this Psalm, when we sing it in the name of Christ. Hebrews 2 tells us about how in Jesus, God ‘visited’ his small planet. He was utterly humbled, for Christ was made like his brothers in every respect, and spent his life among sinners. But in his life and death, Jesus offered everything to God’s glory.

As his reward Jesus received all authority, not just on earth but also in heaven. Hebrews says that because of his perfect sacrifice, all things—angels, principalities, lords and rulers, the whole universe—all things have been placed under him.

Now we’re allowed to share in Christ’s perfect dominion. His triumph over death is our triumph. His rule over Satan is our rule. Through Christ and his Spirit, God is restoring us to what He wants us to be, in righteousness and holiness. God is renewing us so that one day we can reign with him over all.

Who are we, that God should be mindful of us? Who are we, that God should include us in his great plan? Yet this is the sure truth about our lives. And it’s a truth to ponder often, meditating on who God is, what God has done for us in Christ, and about who we have become. And so the Psalm ends in the same way that it begins: “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth” (v 9).

When we rise in the morning, and when we go to sleep at night—and throughout our day—may this praise and thanksgiving flow from humble lips to the God who has given us so much: “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!”  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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