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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
 Singapore
 ferc.org.sg
 
Title:The Exalted God-Man Makes Man Exalted
Text:Psalms 8:1-9, Hebrews 1:3-5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God and our Creation
 
Preached:2022
Added:2022-10-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

TH 44 - How Great Thou Art

Psalter 15 

TH 525 - A Child of the King

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


Psalm 8:1-9, Hebrews 1:3-5, Hebrews 2:5-13

How we view man matters. Yes, the Bible speaks a lot about man’s sinfulness - he’s depraved and unable to come to God. Even the Christian fights the sin that lingers in him. And this sin affects us. We sometimes sing about it - prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Yes, it’s good to remind ourselves of our weaknesses so we can cling to Christ; but we forget that also need to affirm our high and exalted state. But because we don’t, we can be very morose - we’re bad, sinful, corrupt. But we forget to hope, believe, and yearn for God’s promised victory. In particular, this negativity can be prevalent in Reformed circles. 

But why? Christ has saved us to have life, and life more abundantly. God’s in the business of changing hearts and lives - filling us with joy. We can be victorious! We’re a new creation living for his glory with a certain hope. And Psalm 8 tells us that. Man is highly honored and created for great things. Praise God! That’s the theme of this Psalm. It teaches us to do 3 things. It teaches us to praise God for who God is and what he has done, for man - who he is and what he’s done, and for the God-man - Christ - for who he is and what he has done for us.

Now, the Psalms are poetry and they have poetic structure. Some poems are acrostic - you take the first letter of each line and it spells something. Other poems are calligrams - words are arranged in shapes. Like a poem about a cat is written to form the shape of a cat. This Psalm has a chiastic structure. You can see it in your notes. The first and last line are related, so are the second and second last line, until it gets to the middle verse - which is pivotal. “What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him?” So for Psalm 8, it starts with praise in verse 1 - “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” These are the same words as the last verse - verse 9. Both verses are praising God for something. For what?

Firstly, working from the top; we praise God for who he is and what he has done. Verse 1 reads - “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” There’s praise for God. Why? For who he is. His name or reputation - it’s excellent or majestic in all the earth. There’s no one like him on earth. Why is he majestic? Because he’s transcendent. His glory is above the heavens. The Psalmist moves from earth to heaven. This shows the totality of God’s glory and praise. Not just because of earth but he should be praised because his glory is above the heavens. Above the heavens can speak about galactic location - God’s glory is above the heavens. He resides in the third heaven in light inaccessible - even angels cover their faces. As Psalm 113:4 says - “The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.” But it’s not just location. His glory is greater and more majestic than even the vast expanse of his creation. We live in an age where we know more about how expansive the universe is. There are 2 to 400 billion stars in our galaxy. And it’s just one of the 2 million galaxies in the universe. But God’s glory is higher, greater, more majestic than that. This is who he is. Transcendent.

And God is to be praised for his works. There are 2 described here. God is praised for being powerful - he conquers his enemies without effort. Verse 2 - “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” Now, context is important here. The Psalms were put together with intention. Perhaps not for all, but definitely for Psalm 8 and the surrounding Psalm, especially Psalms 6-7 and 9-10. These Psalms speak about God’s enemies. In Psalm 6, David cries because of his foes. He wishes his enemies would be put to shame. Psalm 7, David calls on God to act against his foes. Psalm 9, David trusts God will turn his enemies back. Psalm 10, David speaks about how wicked his foes were. Now, set in the midst is Psalm 8, which praises God because he can and does silence his enemies. 

But how does he do it? By spectacular things and a show of strength? Yes, God can do that - but he does it by small and unexpected means. Even using babies and infants to show his power, silencing his enemies. Now, there have been many attempts to interpret this strange phrase. I’d encourage you to study it for yourself. But inherent is the idea that God vanquishes his enemies by unexpected means. God restrained Balaam by a donkey. Goliath was killed by a stone thrown by a shepherd boy. Mass destruction of the Jews was averted by Queen Esther and a dinner party. When the Pharisees, Christ’s enemies, wanted to silence the little children’s praises at his Triumphal entry, Christ quoted this verse - and his enemies were silenced. God is praised for overcoming his enemies by small and unexpected ways.

But God is also praised for the grand spectacular things he does - also without much effort. Verse 3 - “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained.” God made the heavens - the moon and stars. David saw the thousands of stars at night as a shepherd. But we know now, there are between 10 sextillion and 1 septillion stars; 200 billion of them in our own galaxy. And for all this, David said it was the work of God’s finger. Just his finger. Someone once said that God created the universe and didn’t even have to try. This is why God is praised - who he is and what he does.

Secondly, the Psalmist praises God for who man is and what man does. But compared to the heavens, man seems so small. Verses 4-5 - “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man (or a human being), that thou visitest (or care for) him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels.” The way it’s phrased, makes the Psalmist sound dumbfounded. God, if you’re so powerful, silencing enemies, creating the universe with no effort; why do people even matter? In fact, in Hebrew, the fact that it’s phrased “what is man” rather than the expected “who is man”, makes the question insulting. “What’s this thing called a human?” Man’s nothing! Lower than the angels! Why do you bother with him? That would be the natural thought. But remember, God doesn’t despise small things - like babes and sucklings. Small man is actually great. Working backwards now, following the chiastic structure, from verse 9, “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” Why does the Psalmist praise God? He’s praising God for what man does.

Man is not nothing. He’s something. He was created to do great things. Verse 6-8 - “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.” Notice the parallel. In verse 6, God has made him to have dominion over the works of God’s hands. What works? In verse 3, the works of God’s finger! The moon and stars - all the created order. God created all of these magnificent things so that man might rule over them one day - even today, man harnesses solar power, has sent men to the moon. God has put all other things - sheep, oxen, beasts, fowl, fish - under the feet of man. God’s glory in verse 1 is above the heavens, and man is to rule over the fowl of the sky. The terms “make him to have dominion” and “all things under his feet” speak about man’s kingship on earth - like how ancient kings have a dominion and when they conquer their enemies, they put their feet on their necks. And here, man is like God. God conquers his enemies, man subdues the created order. Sometimes with small and insignificant things - like using bit and bridle to control the horse. These are the works of man for which the Psalmist praises God.

But not just for what man does, the Psalmist praises God for who man is. Verse 5 says - “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.” Now, man was made a lower than the angels for a little while. The word “lower” does not refer to geographic location - man is on earth, angels in heaven. But it refers to his ranking. Man is lower to angels for a little while. The comparison was to angels. David didn’t compare man to animals - that man was made higher than animal. Our category is more like angels than beasts. So for a a little while, we’re lower; but not forever. 

And we’re not worse than angels but better. Animals were created with body but no spirit - to be ruled by man. Angels were created as spirits, but with no body - also to be ruled by man one day. 1 Corinthians 6:3 says that man will one day judge angels. So Man being created a little lower than the angels is actually higher in rank than the angels. As Hebrews 2:5 says, we’re only lower than the angels while we’re on earth. But in heaven, we will rule. It says God didn’t give angels charge of heaven - but man. This is the status of man. God has crowned him with glory and honor. The same glory that is above the heavens, God puts it on man as a crown. This is how God thinks of man - his highest creation, reflecting God’s glory in ways other creatures do not.

But this is not completely true now. We’re not in heaven. We’re still for a little while lower than the angels. Is it a wonder why the Psalmist scoffs in verse 4? When I consider all that God has made, what is this thing called a human being? I thought he was a ruler? But he’s ruled by his sins. So why would God care for man when man isn’t what he’s made to be at this moment? Because there is one man who is what he should be. That man - that God-man is Christ. Thirdly, we praise God for who the God-man is and what he has done.

While man was created to be God’s ruler on earth and crowned with glory, man sinned and was dethroned. Man’s not a ruler, but a rebel; not the king God intended him to be, but a servant to sin. We’re not realizing Psalm 8 now. Adam fell, but God sent a second Adam - Jesus Christ. And because of Christ, he regained all that the first Adam lost. While Psalm 8 does not speak specifically about this, it leaves that that pivotal verse - verse 4 unanswered, until God answered it in Hebrews 2. Hebrews 2 interprets Psalm 8 for us. The man that is spoken of - that rules and fulfills is the God-man. God has not given dominion to the angels in heaven, but to Jesus, verse 5. When Jesus was incarnated, he was made lower than the angels for just a while - 33 years. 

We see who he is. Hebrews 1:3-5 says, “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?” He is the brightness of God’s glory. God’s glory is above the heavens - but that glory is Christ’s glory - he’s God himself. And even while he was made a little lower than the angels on earth, we see that glory at the Mount of Transfiguration - he shone with great brightness. He’s also the express image of God. While others are made in the image of God, Christ is the exact representation of God. When we see Jesus, we see God’s very nature. Even though he was for a time made lower than the angels, he was better than the angels. Why? Because he was God - we praise him for who he is; but we also praise him for his work.

Hebrews 2:8-9 quotes Psalm 8:6-8, applying it to Christ. “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” When Christ was on earth, he ruled the fish - he told the disciples where to fish, and put a coin in the mouth of the fish. He tamed the beasts. He cast out demons. He walked on water. He has even subdued his foes. Christ rules today when he subdues sinners to himself. And how did he do that? By something unexpected - by his death. And after he purged our sins by his death, he ascended into high where he sat on the right hand of the Majesty of God. He has all dominion. And he has received the title of Son. But the wonderful work that he has done that affects all other men is seen in verse 10. He brought many sons into glory.

Dearly beloved - what can we learn from this Psalm? And how can we apply it? Firstly, let us be what we have been rescued to be. Fundamental to this Psalm is the idea that God has created man to be high and lifted up. But we’re sinful, so God appointed Christ to be the kind of man we could never be. And because of him, we’re elevated to what we’re supposed to be. Christ has brought many sons into glory. We are not what we ought to be - but we are also not what we once were. Have dominion over your sins. Christ has conquered them. Let us work at subduing them, and living for him. 

Secondly, let us also not always be so morose. We are still here for a little while more - one day we will be in heaven. We are imperfect. But Christ is not ashamed of us. We are his brethren. Verse 11 - “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Now, it’s not that we shouldn’t be affected and grieved when we sin - Christ has rescued us from our sins - he’s not ashamed of us, and so let us remember our status in him. Satan seeks to give us more grief that we have sinned - Christ seeks to give us assurance that despite our sins, we are his.

Thirdly, let us live by faith and trust in God. This is what the God-man did. In verses 12-13, Jesus said, “Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.” When Jesus suffered for his people, he identified with them. God became a man so that he could identify with us. And what did he do as a man on earth? He put his trust in God. He had to live by faith. How often did he come apart and pray? He had to learn reliance and obedience. So be assured, that Christ has come to be with us so we are not alone in our journey. One day, we will be complete. As Revelation 1:6 says, “he hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.”

 

A. Give praise to God in all the earth (v 1a)
    B. For God's mighty work (v 1b-3)
        C. Who is M(m)an? (v 4)
    B. For Man's mighty work (v 5-8)
A. Give praise to God in all the earth (v 9)

 

Sermon Outline:

  1. Praising God for Who He Is and What He Does
  2. Praising God for Who Man Is and What He Does
  3. Praising God for Who the God-Man and What He Does



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Mark Chen

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