The Majesty of God
Most of us are probably familiar with the Rorschach test. This is a psychological exam, where someone looks at an indistinct image of an inkblot and states what they see or feel. The purpose of the test is to try to analyze how someone thinks, to see if the images elicit any deviant responses that could point to improper thinking.
In a way, Psalm 8 tells us that all of creation is a Rorschach test of sorts. All of creation is representing or pointing to something, or better yet, someone, and the thoughts we have when we look around at our world reveal what is happening inside of us. And Psalm 8 gives us the right way of thinking that we should measure our hearts against.
Specifically we learn that when we consider the world around us, we should see that,
The majestic God of the universe has gifted us with undeserved grace and kindness, so let’s marvel at, bow down to, and rejoice in God.
So what we will do is walk through the psalm and build each of these things off the last one: marvel, bow down and rejoice in order to fully understand how we are to see God and ourselves in light of him and what he has done for us.
1. Marvel at God in His Majesty, vv.1,3
One of the things that I love about poetry, and many of the psalms are poems, is that the writer has to pick their words with great intentionality. If you want them to fit into a specific meter, form or scheme, you need to choose each word with great care. And I think verse 1 is an amazing example of David’s ability to do this. Every word of this sentence is meant to speak to God’s majesty. The word translated “majestic” in most English translations means things like grandeur, awesomeness, beauty and high status. Someone who is majestic, is someone who commands respect because of their great power. And David says that the evidence and proof of God’s majesty, his great power and the respect he therefore deserves, is seen all around us, in all the earth. As verse 3 says, the heavens, the moon and the stars are set in place by the work of God’s fingers. He is the almighty master craftsman, an artist, who’s work yells out that the artist is majestic, he is beautiful, he is higher than we could imagine.
If God could create galaxies, and ants, supernovas and ice, trees and birds, people and platypus, what can’t he do? If this is all his handiwork, that flows from his creative imagination, what more is he able to do? When we think about the intricacies of creation, it should leave us in astonishment at God’s awesomeness. Majestic doesn’t truly come close to describing the type of power and abilities that God has. And I think David knew that, which is why, again, he chose his words so carefully and intentionally.
Notice how he started this poem. Most English versions will translate the opening words as, “O LORD, our Lord.” And your Bible most likely has the letters of the first “Lord” in all capitals. Did you notice that? Do you know why? Whenever you see the word “Lord” in all capitals in the Old Testament, it is telling you that in the original Hebrew in which it was written, the highest name of God was being used which is Yahweh, meaning I AM, or I AM who I AM.
And this name of God, I AM, speaks to the fact that God has life and existence within himself. He is uncreated, he is eternal, he is not dependent on anyone or anything for life or power or wisdom or whatever else. He is totally and completely self-sustaining within himself, he is entirely independent of his creation. He is the creator and is himself uncreated, he is the ultimate being, the one in which all other beings find life, purpose and meaning.
In other words, he is beyond anything we can fully fathom. He is infinitely above us; he is transcendent to the point that words cannot truly capture him. He is just too otherworldly to be contained within language. Everything that we see, everything that we continue to discover about our world and the universe, is just the tiny tip of the immeasurable iceberg of God’s majesty and power. Everything we will ever be able to see or perceive are just drops in the infinite fountain of God, as Jonathan Edwards said.
God’s creation is meant to leave us in awe. The depth of His creative imagination and abilities as seen in the galaxies above us, and the DNA within us, and the animals around us should lead us to be like David and marvel at our majestic God.
So I ask you, when was the last time you marveled at, truly were in awe of, God? Perhaps we would all benefit from being more like David, and simply do what he did as he says in verse 3: look around. The original Hebrew word he used speaks of so much more than just looking at something passively. It means to truly look at it, consider it, make observations, think about what it means. All of us, me, you, every one of us, would benefit immensely by doing the same. That is why it is all here, for us to consider the work of his fingers and see his majesty and glory everywhere. Don’t be afraid to be curious, to slow down, observe, study, learn, dive in to God’s creation and be filled with wonder at our majestic God.
2. Bow down to God in Humility, vv.2-4
When we see God in his beauty, power and majesty, not only will it lead us to marvel at him, it will also cause us to bow down to him in humility, as we see in verses 2-4.
When I prepare a sermon, I like to write notes, ideas and observations down before I compile it all into a manuscript. And here is a direct quote from my notebook this past week when I was making observations about the second verse. See if you can handle this wisdom. Quote, “Verse 2 is weird.” Does anyone else feel that way, it can’t just be me, right? Verse 2 seems out of place and totally disconnected. And in studying this passage, I discovered there is a lot of debate on what it means so at least we are not alone in being confused. But I will give you the conclusion I think fits best in the context, but just know there are differences of opinion as to exactly what David was originally trying to communicate.
I think what David is saying, is that God, the I AM, the transcendent, self-sustaining one, does not need anyone to do anything for him. Similar to what we saw a moment ago with the very name of God that opens the psalm. Yahweh can accomplish his purposes and plans by whatever means he desires. He can even use babies and infants to defeat his enemies if he so chooses. He needs nothing. He doesn’t need me or my strength and abilities, he has all power and sufficiency within himself.
And fully realizing this is what led David to ask that all important question of verse 4, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” When we truly see God for who he is, when we marvel at his majesty, the only proper response can be, “God, what am I that you would even take notice of me?” Look at how high-above us God is. Consider his power and transcendence. He doesn’t need me. I have nothing to offer him. I am a tiny insignificant speck in the vastness of the universe which exists because God spoke it into existence out of nothing.
And not only is God separate from us in power, but then we have the holiness factor. He is so far outside of our experience because he is pure light, not even a stain or hint of sin. He is perfect in all of his attributes, there is no weakness, no evil, no shadow, no sin. And what are we but broken and sin-soaked creatures? Sin separates us from God and every single one of us is a sinner through and through. We are all standing on the opposite side of an infinite chasm between us and God. We can’t get to him on our own. Not even close, it’s like trying to jump to the moon, or better yet, it’s like trying to jump to the moon of a planet on the other end of the universe that we haven’t even discovered yet.
I think the best definition of humility I have ever heard is very simple and falls right in line with all this. “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. This is just what David is saying here. When we truly and honestly see God for who he is, our hearts will honestly flip to humility. There can be no other response. It isn’t possible to be prideful when staring into the face of the majestic King of the universe.
When we see God in all of his perfections through his Word and his world, it should drop us to our knees in humility. Who are we that he would pay us any attention? That he would even allow us to continue breathing? That he would patiently let us go on marring his beautiful craftsmanship, the works of his hands, with our sin and rebelliousness? How can we do anything but marvel at his majesty and bow down in humility before the great I AM and ask along with David, “Who am I in light of you?”
3. Rejoice in God for His Grace, vv.5-9
And yet. I love how verse 5 starts with that simple but loaded word: yet.
Even though God is majestic and pure, and we are humble, lowly creatures that God doesn’t need, he has still chosen to not only create us, but to take notice of us. And not just notice us, like we would notice an annoying fly buzzing around. No, God has chosen, purposefully and intentionally and freely chosen, to lavish us with his kindness. Despite all the grounds for him not to pay us any mind, even though we have given him every reason to the contrary to care for us, yet God gives us extravagant grace upon grace. When we truly marvel at God in his majesty, and bow down to him in real humility, it will lead us to overflow in rejoicing in God for his overwhelming grace and kindness!
And there are two types of grace for us to understand and rejoice in. The first is what is called common grace, and we see that in verses 5-8.
a. common grace
The reason this is called common grace is because it is universal, it is grace given to everyone, all humankind. It is common to everyone. Experiencing the beauty and effects of God’s craftsmanship in creation is a gift of God’s common grace. The sun rises and sets and shines its warmth down on believers and unbelievers alike. The rain waters the crops of the wicked and the righteous. The seasons change for everyone equally. A night sky full of stars is beautiful no matter who you are. The air we breathe, the hearts pumping blood throughout our bodies, our ears to hear, are all gifts of God’s common grace.
God has revealed his power and majesty to all people of all time through his creation, as Romans 1 says. Unfortunately, sin has blinded our eyes to where that beauty leads us to, as one of the effects of sin is that all people naturally suppress the truth about God. Meaning not everyone is going to look around and see that this world is the handiwork of a majestic creator. But that doesn’t change the fact that we live, breathe and have our existence from God due to his common grace.
And David also brings up the fact all people have been put over God’s creation, another aspect of common grace. All people have been given the gift and calling of dominion. From the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, mankind has been chosen to rule over God’s creation, to subdue it, to use it, to explore it, to learn about it, to create within it, for our good and his glory. That is the universal calling of all mankind and part of God’s common grace. Anyone can discover a new galaxy whether a follower of God or not. That is part of what it means to have dominion over creation is common grace. Anyone can create a cure for a disease, that is common grace and part of what it means to have dominion over the works of God’s hands.
And what a precious gift this grace is. Again, why should God even be mindful of us? And more than this, why should he take his perfect craftsmanship, the beauty that he imagined and created and upholds through his own power, and to our first ancestors he gave them this calling to have dominion. And even after they brought sin and death into the world because of their sin, and even after we continue in their rebelliousness and carry on as sinners after them he still us the keys, so to speak. He says to us sinful, dependent creatures, us tiny specks in the universe, “here you go, this is yours to dive into and rule over. Everything I have made is for you. Create, explore, build, learn, grow! Enjoy it!”
God has crowned us, all humankind, with glory and honor. Meaning He has given us a special role in his creation, we act as his viceroys, governing and ruling his universe. Clearly, we hold a preeminent place in his heart. That is amazing grace!
b. special grace
But common grace only gets us so far. As I mentioned before, sin has blinded us to seeing the truth behind this common grace. Instead of acting as God’s representatives in our dominion, we usurp power for ourselves. We don’t acknowledge the creator; we ignore his majesty and think nothing of his blessings and use our dominion for our own selfish pleasures.
In order to be able to truly appreciate and rejoice in and benefit from God’s grace, we need what is called special grace. Common grace applies to everyone, but special grace is only given to those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate display of the mercy and kindness of God.
We marvel at God in his majesty and we wonder why God would pay us any attention since there is an infinite gulf between us and him. But God has lavished his grace upon us, not only by his common grace in things like a sunset, but by stepping into his creation himself. And the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews uses verses 4-6 of this psalm to make this point.
In Hebrews 2 it says, the transcendent creator God, Jesus Christ, made himself lower than the angels, who are his own servants. Not only has God paid attention to us humble creatures, he humbled himself and became one of us!
God the Son, took on flesh, was born into this world just like you and me, and subjected himself to suffering and death, standing in our place, taking on the penalty of our sin and rebellion against him. So that through faith in him we would be restored to God.
As the ultimate expression of grace and further proof that God doesn’t need us, he did all of the work by creating a way over the infinite chasm between us. He has poured out his special grace upon all those who come to him through Christ so that we would be able to know him, to have true and everlasting life and rejoice in him! And instead of just being tiny, insignificant dots in the vast universe, here today and gone tomorrow, instead of even just being his servants, ruling over his handiwork, God the Son calls us brothers and sisters. God the Father calls us his sons and daughters that he loves and cherishes. And he promises that he will never let us go from his all-powerful hand; we are his children that he will extravagantly cover with grace, kindness and favor for all eternity.
There is still sin and brokenness in this world and in us, make no mistake. But instead of leaving us in despair, it should remind us that we are children of the all-powerful God. Nothing can stand in his way, we can’t be defeated and nothing can separate us from his love, we can’t be lost. Our majestic Lord always stands right alongside us. He suffers with us. He feels our hurts and temptations with us. He rejoices with us. He walks with us through everything. What amazing grace!
God has lovingly and graciously gifted us with new eyes, new hearts and new minds, removing from within us our hearts of stone that kept us enslaved to and dead in sin and he has awakened us to the fullness of life! Life in him.
And now a sunset is no longer just a sunset. It is a picture of the beauty and creativity of our great Father. And the stars are no longer just tiny bits of light in the sky. They are the markers of the transcendence and power of our creator.
And that insignificance that we feel as we ponder the vastness of the universe? That is the fuel for the praise and worship of our great God for his majesty and his indescribable grace towards us in Christ Jesus our Lord.