Beckett: Psalm 8 – How Majestic is Your Name

1, O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens.
2, Out of the mouth of babies and infants, You have established strength because of Your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.
3, When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place,
4, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?
5, Yet You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour.
6, You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,
7, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
8, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9, O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

Verses 1-2

David starts off with, “O LORD, our Lord.” I probably should’ve mentioned this when I started this series on the Psalms, but whenever we see “LORD” in the Old Testament, God’s personal name, Yahweh, is being used. In the Hebrew Old Testament (in the Masoretic text), “Yahweh” is still written as Yahweh, except the vowels are purposefully put in the wrong places of the word because of the traditional Jewish custom of never saying or writing His personal name out of reverence. In prayer and in the reading of Scriptures, the Jews would say “Adonai” whenever they came across “Yahweh.” They still do this today, which you can observe when visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem (a remnant of the Temple in Jerusalem before the Romans destroyed it during the Jewish Revolt in AD 70).

So here, David addresses God personally, and then gives Him the honourific title of “Lord” in the Hebrew word Adonai, which is a term used to address someone as king or ruler. So, David is acknowledging God as ruler of the earth, and over his own life.

©Garrick Sinclair Photography, Wildlife Refuge, Oklahoma

We witness God’s majesty in the earth. People often ask me why photography is such an expensive hobby of mine, and it’s because I see God’s majesty and glory in all His creation. I photograph so I might capture the displays of God’s majesty. The photograph above is one of many photographs I’ve captured that puts me in awe of God’s majesty.

When we stop and admire a sunset, a sunrise, a cascading waterfall, a field of flowers, we are stopping to admire God’s majesty in His creation whether we acknowledge it or not. His majesty extends beyond our view as we stare into the heavens. We stop and admire the stars, God’s artistic creation mesmerising our wonder.

We even see God’s majesty in people—in the birth of infants, what we often dub as “the miracle of life.” God’s most majestic and glorious works are best displayed in the incarnation of His only Son, Jesus Christ, and the reconciliation He works in us toward Himself in our Baptism. 

On verse 2 of this psalm, Martin Luther comments:

This is the way Christ’s kingdom is established, namely, not with human force, wisdom, counsel, or power, but with the Word and the Gospel preached by infants and sucklings… By “infants” He does not mean young children who cannot walk… but plain, simple, unsophisticated people, who are like infant children in that they set aside all reason, grasp and accept the Word with simple faith, and let themselves be led and directed by God like children. Such people are also the best scholars and pupils in Christ’s kingdom. (LW 12:108)

In these words, Luther helps us understand what Christ means when He says to have childlike faith (Matthew 18:2-4). A childlike faith is an unquestioning faith.

A friend once told me of a child who was having a hard time grasping why Jesus died on the cross when she was a camp counselor. The child asked, “Why would Jesus let that happen to Him and not fight back?” My friend answered, “He died for you because He loves you, and if He fought back then He wouldn’t have been able to save you. In order to save you, He had to die for you.” The child, with the utmost simplicity, responded, “Okay!” and ran off to play with his friends.

When that answer is given to most adults, it is not enough. As adults—even teenagers—we demand a more pragmatic thought process with a philosophically complex answer as well as better tangible evidence that’s more convincing than a historical recording that claims to be the Word of God. But for this child, the simple answer was enough; it made perfect sense to him and he didn’t need to prod his counselor’s mind or test her biblical knowledge.

Jesus welcomes the faith of little children, and He commands that we have a child’s faith—one that does not deny or challenge the simple, undeniable truth of God’s love for us. Faith is a gift. And I think Jesus tells us to have faith like a child because children are the best gift receivers.

I’ve been told other similar stories and witnessed my own accounts where a child has exhibited unquestioning faith. It is always surprising how these children have more faith in God’s Word than most adults do. It’s humbling and makes me realise sometimes asking interrogating questions are unnecessary. Of course, it’s fine to ask a question if you don’t understand something, but childlike faith is not one that’s given in a debate format, demanding more and more evidence because then, it is no longer faith. Jesus’ words ring true, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Such childlike faith, as this psalm says, is incredible strength God gives because His enemies seek to destroy it. Sometimes childlike faith can be so great that our enemies get angry with us. “Ugh! How can you be so stupid and believe in some imaginary genie in the sky,” they say in their marveled agitation.

Understanding of God’s Word comes not through logical apprehension, but only through faith. “The natural person does not accept the things of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they  are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). As much as people like those on the Facebook page, Atheism on the Slide, want to believe that a person can be persuaded into the faith, Scripture says differently.

People cannot be argued or reasoned into faith. A person comes to faith only by the monergistic conversion of the Holy Spirit as the Lord draws him or her near to Him (John 6:44; 1:12-13; Romans 9:16). “Therefore, I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3, emphasis added).

Verses 3-4

These two verses remind me of some poems I’ve written about the mystery of God’s love for us. Here’s one I wrote, titled No. 1300, Christ’s Blood:

There I stand about to sin,
quenching the Lord’s Spirit,
God’s wisdom behind.
What was that moment for which I sinned?
Without God’s wisdom, about to sin,
I find it so convincing,
blindly diving into it.

How easy it is to fall,
though the grace I tend to leave
is never far gone.
O, God’s adoration for His child
is a grace I cannot fathom.
Though I repent daily,
in His grace I remain.

When sin creeps up on me,
He hears all my pleas
begging to forgive me.
Before the Cross I stand,
therewith Him my sins are nailed,
and my sins cease to be.
Without hesitation,
my God forgives me.

When I look upon the Cross,
I know what is real.
When sin is convincing
and its shame tortures me,
before the Cross I finally realise:
Christ’s blood covers me.

We look at the stars in the night sky and the remnants of the Milky Way galaxy, and we examine in awe the photograph taken by our most powerful telescopes and conclude these are God’s most beautiful creations. In our eyes, they are more beautiful than we are. So, what is man that God loves us and seeks to reconcile us to Himself?

God has created all these miraculously beautiful things, and yet in His eyes we are His most beautiful creation. I like to think that the way we look at a sunset is the way God looks at each and every one of us. No doubt God sees  the beauty in all His creation, but He treasures us. God will restore all creation, and the astounding thing of it all is that God chose to fix the problem we created by dying for us.

Verses 5-9

Here, David is considering the place human beings have in God’s created order. He has created us only a little lower than the angels. We possess not the immortality of angels (at least not anymore), but unlike angels we have been created in God’s image and have been given authority to rule over creation. Angels might have divine powers, but they do not rule over us. They serve God, and as God’s servants He commands they serve us for protection against dark powers (Psalm 91:11-12). Even fallen angels—demons—have no power over God’s people (Romans 8:38-39).

Angels primarily serve as messengers to us, which we see many examples of in Scripture. (In fact, the word for “angel” in Greek, ἂγγελος [angelos], also means “messenger.”) We are specially created—made in God’s image with authority over creation. We’ve been given this great authority and responsibility—this stewardship—but David reminds us that creation is the work of God’s hands. So we, too, are servants of God who have been set to rule over creation, not to lord over it, but to use it for love of God and love of neighbour.

Concerning the conclusion of this psalm, Luther said, “David concludes this psalm just the way he began it. He thanks the Lord, our Ruler, for His great and inestimable blessing, for establishing such a kingdom and calling and gathering His church, which gloriously praises His name throughout the world and thanks Him in heaven” (LW 12:135-136).

This same God David praised is our God today, and He is Ruler of our lives. Let us, therefore, praise God for His majesty and glory and give thanks for His abounding love for us. When we stand and admire God’s creation, let us turn our awe into praise. Let us respond in unquestioning childlike faith.

Psalm 8 Prayer

Father, You are my God and Ruler of my life. Let all I do speak to Your glory and majesty. Thank You for Your gift of faith. Teach me to have faith as a child—unquestioning of Your will and Your Word. O Christ, You are the Lord and giver of life. Thank You for the gift of life and salvation You have given me, gifts undeserving and received for Your sake alone. Lord, grant me faith that will cause my enemies to be still—a faith that may extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Lord, You have created such beauty in this earth and other worldly places, but You see me as the most beautiful. Even when I consider myself ugly, worthless, and frivolous, remind me that in Your eyes I am beautiful and mean the world to You. You died for the world—You died for me because for reasons unknown to me, I am the world to You. To You I commend my spirit, and to Christ be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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