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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Learning How to Worship: Psalm 8

Today I will be starting a new series of posts that will last a few weeks, specifically on the book of Psalms. This is for a class assignment that I am working on, but nonetheless one I wanted to share with everyone who visits our site frequently. I'm calling it "Learning How to Worship" since this book has historically been a collection of poems, prayers, and songs that were addressed to and about God.

Today to start us off will be a thought on Psalm 8.


Psalm 8 opens with the lines, “Oh LORD, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.” It is at its very core and expression of praise, an adoration of worship. I think there is a lot we can learn as a culture about God, about His church, and about His creation from this psalm alone. My boss has always said that it is sad and increasingly sad that we save our best praises for sports teams and not for our creator. This psalm, written by David for a worshipful environment has rich theology about God and man’s place in God’s universe bookended by these statements of adoration and worship. 

“Oh LORD, our Lord…” The name of God and who He is by His very own nature our Lord, our King, our ruler, begins and shapes this cry of love.

Charles Spurgeon commentates on this opening and closing line in his famous work, The Treasury of David, which I will be using a lot during this study, 

Unable to express the glory of God, the Psalmist utters a note of exclamation. O YaHWeH our Lord! We need not wonder at this, for no heart can measure, no tongue can utter, the half of the greatness of Jehovah. The whole creation is full of his glory and radiant with the excellency of his power; his goodness and his wisdom are manifested on every hand. The countless myriads of terrestrial beings, from man the head, to the creeping worm at the foot, are all supported and nourished by the Divine bounty. The solid fabric of the universe leans upon his eternal arm. Universally is he present, and everywhere is his name excellent. God works ever and everywhere. There is no place where God is not. The miracles of his power await us on all sides. Traverse the silent valleys where the rocks enclose you on either side, rising like the battlements of heaven till you can see but a strip of the blue sky far overhead; you may be the only traveler who has passed through that glen; the bird may start up affrighted, and the moss may tremble beneath the first tread of human foot; but God is there in a thousand wonders, upholding yon rocky barriers, filling the flowercups with their perfume, and refreshing the lonely pines with the breath of his mouth. Descend, if you will, into the lowest depths of the ocean, where undisturbed the water sleeps, and the very sand is motionless in unbroken quiet, but the glory of the Lord is there, revealing its excellence in the silent palace of the sea. Borrow the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea, but God is there. Mount to the highest heaven, or dive into the deepest hell, and God is in both hymned in everlasting song, or justified in terrible vengeance. Everywhere, and in every place, God dwells and is manifestly at work. Nor on earth alone is Jehovah extolled, for his brightness shines forth in the firmament above the earth. His glory exceeds the glory of the starry heavens; above the region of the stars he hath set fast his everlasting throne, and there he dwells in light ineffable. Let us adore him ‘who alone spreads out the heavens, and treads upon the waves of the sea; who makes Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.’ (Job 9:8, 9.)”

The psalmist, King David here, goes on for 8 more verses extolling the works of God and His relationship to His creation. In this psalm we get a sense of our duty to govern the earth; to subdue, yet care for the earth in all of its beauty and despair. We understand the love of God in that among all of these great things he is mindful of us… and even deeper, that he cares for us.

Perhaps the most beautiful line to me is in verse 3, a verse I had memorized at an early age:
“When I look to the heavens…” This is David, remembering all those nights as a shepherd boy looking up at the beauty of the stars and galaxies. Like David, I’m reminded of a time when I was in Potter County, PA. My family used to camp there for hunting season and times in the Fall when we just wanted to get away. There are no cities for miles… MILES…. And the entire area is rural and mountainous. My dad needed to make a phone call one night and the closest pay phone (yes way back then!) was located at a building inside Lyman State Park. So we drove over there and he used the phone. I remember walking over to the lake edge in the dead of night and looking out upon the still water reflecting the glory of the heavens above….

Now I was raised in Sunday school, so I knew the verses, at least I was supposed to know them. It was our weekly homework to memorize a new verse. And as a kid I have this memory burned into my mind. I was in awe of the glory that was around me. Pitch. Black. No light pollution. In the mountains. I was able to see everything the night sky had to offer. I whispered as closely as I could remember the verse:

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?”

I honestly believe that as a kid, who knew nothing of the Bible compared to the academic knowledge that I have today, right there by the lake I had the most impactful worship experience of my life.
I didn’t sing. I didn’t play instruments. There was no light show or fancy equipment. It was me and my dad in the stillness and quietness of the night just gazing upon creation with my whisper of a verse of Scripture which seemed to hang in the air around me.

Perhaps that’s what we need more of in our churches today. The simplicity and the awe factor of looking at what David would have seen as he wrote these words for the first time. If we learned again to have Scripture be our guide to worshiping the Living God, perhaps our vision of Him would clear up?

Psalm 8 is a call towards worship. It is organized in such a way as to teach us that all of everything we see, we hear, touch, or taste comes from YHWH, our Lord… but at the center of it all He has placed us. It amazes me that we can get so caught up in the miraculous that we long for; that we miss the ordinary all around us… that is truly anything but ordinary.
Not only the ordinary earth... but us. Ourselves. People. The part of creation that is eclipsed by His own glory and honor.

We bear His image.

I think it was St. Augustine who said, “Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering at all.”
Though David makes very little of us in comparison to what he says of everything else, we are able to see how important God sees us, humanity, as the structure of the psalm has us in the very middle. And in Hebrew poetry this is a big deal. Two things mark Hebraic poetry more than anything: parallelism and chiastic structure. This psalm has both and it is pointing towards something: God to us and back to God.

More than that, David pens down a truth that he must have been self-aware of… that we are crowned with God’s own glory and honor when we worship Him for who He is.

I believe this psalm is key to understanding how God desires to be worshiped, who God has made us to be in the midst of all the grandeur of His universe, and why… yes, why He has made it so.
My hope is that we will use the book of psalms as a guide over the next few weeks to dive deeper into what it means to pray, to worship, and to extol God for who He is. As we do this, I am sure that He will respond in an amazingly (extra) ordinary way to us, that will help us to become more aware of our place in this world and the joy He has set before us.
O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
You have taught children and infants
to tell of your strength,
silencing your enemies
and all who oppose you.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.

O LORD, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

- Psalm 8 NLT

Nathan Bryant

is a pastor at River Run Church in East Orlando, FL. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology.  In 2014 he attended the Leadership Institute in Phoenix, AZ where he continued his education from other pastors and educators at one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. He loves the outdoors, whether it is camping in the mountains or jumping through the waves at the beach, nothing is better than enjoying God’s creation. Nathan has a combined passion for unity and discipleship in the global church.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

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1 comment:

  1. Love the quotes from Spurgeon and Augustine. Glad you're reading them. You're an excellent writer yourself.

    One of the things I find interesting about this psalm is the psalmist makes much of God, but then he realizes that God has made much of him as well.