Our Place in God’s Creation

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Psalm 8:1-8

INTRODUCTION: Last Sunday we began a new message series on “God’s Good Creation.” Last week we looked at the goodness of God’s creation from Genesis 1. And we saw that the fact that God created all things good is what we call a foundational principle. It lays the foundation for everything that follows. So last week we laid the foundation. God created all things good. This week we can begin to explore the answers to some of the questions we posed at the beginning of the series: What is our place in this world? How should we view the environment? How can we know God better though his creation? How can we use our creative gifts for God’s glory? Today we will look at our place in God’s creation from Psalm 8.

Psalm 8:1-8 – “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (NIV)

Have you ever wondered about your place in the world? Have you ever wondered why God put you here? That is a personal question, but before you can even begin to answer that on an individual level, you must first answer it on a larger level. “What is the place of man in this world? Why did God put us here?” Because until you understand the place of man in this world, the big picture, how can you ever understand your own individual place in the picture?

Psalm 8 is a beautiful hymn of praise to God. Like many of the Psalms, it was written by David. David begins and ends the psalm with these words of praise and acclamation: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1,8) Because the Psalm speaks of God’s creation and the night sky in particular, it was probably sung quite often in evening worship, beneath the very skies under which the words were originally composed.

The Psalm is in the second person. David addresses God throughout the Psalm, and as he speaks to God, David reflects both on God’s creation and man’s place in God’s creation. And so as we study this Psalm together this morning, we will seek to answer the question: “What does Palm 8 teach us about our place in God’s creation?”

I. God is greater than all (1-2)

Well, first of all, Psalm 8 teaches us that God is greater than all.

    A. God’s name is majestic in all the earth.

As we have already seen, David begins and ends the whole Psalm with these words of praise: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1,8) If you look at that verse closely in your Bible or up on the screen, you will notice that there are two different representations of the word “Lord” in the verse. The first one is “LORD” in all capital letters, and the second one is “Lord” with just the first letter capitalized. This is the way most English Bible translations distinguish between two different words for “Lord” in the Hebrew. When you see the word “LORD” in all capital letters, that is the actual name of God. That is the name “Yahweh” as revealed to Moses at the burning bush. It is a name that speaks of God’s self-existence and eternal nature. When you see the word “Lord” with just the first letter capitalized, that translates the Hebrew word “Adonai,” which means “Lord or master.” Yahweh is God’s personal name; Adonai is a title.

And so David addresses God in this Psalm by both God’s name and God’s title. He says, “O Yahweh, our Lord and Master, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” God’s name refers to his person and nature. The word “majestic” translates a word that means “great or glorious or excellent.” And so David is saying in verse one that there is no place you can go on earth where God’s power and greatness and glory cannot be seen. God is greater than all, first of all, because his name is majestic in all the earth.

    B. God has set his glory above the heavens.

Secondly, God is greater than all because he has set his glory above the heavens. We see that in the second half of verse 1: “You have set your glory above the heavens.” God’s glory and majesty not only fill the earth and the universe. His glory and majesty extend beyond the universe. God has set his glory not in the universe, but above and beyond all created things. In other words, as great as the universe is, God is greater. As big as the universe is, God is bigger.

King Solomon understood this. When Solomon dedicated the newly built temple, asking God to bless the temple with his presence, he prayed: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27) God is not contained by the universe. He has set his glory above the heavens. God is greater than all.

    C. God can silence his enemies even through the praises of little children.

A third way Psalm 8 teaches us that God is greater than all is this: God can silence his enemies even through the praises of little children. Look at verse 2: “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” God is not threatened in the least by his enemies. Even the praises of little children can defeat these who would attempt to stand against God and his ways.

Jesus quoted this verse when he was healing in the temple and the children were proclaiming him as the Messiah, shouting out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The chief priest and teachers of the law were indignant at this and asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”
“Yes,” replied Jesus, and then he quoted Psalm 8:2, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” (Matthew 21:14-16)

There is a hint here in Psalm 8 of the promise that was given to mankind when God cursed the serpent in the Garden of Eden. God told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Through the procreation of children, a line was established that would eventually bring the Messiah and bring a crushing defeat to Satan, the great enemy and foe of God.

Gods name is majestic in all the earth. He has set his glory above the heavens. He can silence his enemies even through the praises of little children. The first thing that Psalm 8 teaches us about our place in the universe is that God is indeed greater than all.

II. The universe is big; we are small (3-4)

The second thing Psalm 8 teaches us about our place in the universe is that the universe is very, very big, and in comparison, we are very, very small. As David looked up into the stars at night, he had some idea of the bigness of the universe. But he would be absolutely astounded by what we know of the size of the universe today.

Show slides:
    1. Earth compared to smaller planets
    2. Earth compared to larger planets
    3. Larger planets compared to the Sun
    4. Our sun compared to Sirius, Pollux and Arcturus
    5. Sirius, Pollux, Arcturus compared to Rigel, Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Antares
(Link: The Size of the Earth Compared to Other Objects in Space )

We have a much bigger grasp of the size of the universe than even David did in his day. So what effect should looking at God’s creation and staring up into the heavens have on us today?

    A. The beauty of God’s creation should cause us to worship the Creator.

First of all, the beauty of God’s creation should cause us to worship the Creator. We are going to be talking more about this next week when we look at Psalm 19, but David touches on this theme here in Psalm 8 as well. Look at verse 3 where David says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers.” (Psalm 8:3) Now we know that God does not actually have fingers or arms or hands. God is a spirit and does not have a body. But this is a poetic way that David describes God’s intimate and personal act of creation. The world we live in was created by God, and even though it is stained and distorted by sin, we can still see the beauty of the Creator reflected in his creation.

This is one area where David and those who lived in his time probably had the advantage over us. We may have a greater knowledge of the universe than they did, but they certainly had more direct experience of nature than we do today. You can just picture David lying on his back under the stars as he tends his sheep, staring up at the awesome beauty and wonder of God’s creation in the heavens. On some of our family vacations we have had the pleasure of going far away from the city lights where the night sky was just stunning in its beauty. That’s what David must have seen every night! But the heavens are just one example of God’s beauty in creation. The mountains, the ocean, the forest trees ablaze with color in the fall, even the birds and squirrels out at the bird feeder – God created all things good, and all the beauty we see in God’s creation should cause us to worship the Creator.

    B. The vastness of God’s creation should cause us to consider our place in the universe.

Secondly, the vastness of God’s creation should cause us to consider our place in the universe. David said, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man?” (Psalm 8:3-4) And that is an appropriate question to ask in the face of such a vast place as the universe. What is man? What is planet earth compared to all the stars and planets and galaxies in the universe? What is our place in all this? Why are we here? Do we even matter? Are we alone in the universe, or are there other life forms out there?

Not too long ago it was popular to imagine that there were thousands and thousands of other planets out there just like ours, all teeming with life. Scientists believed that life could develop easily, and that in a universe this big, there just had to be other life forms. So programs like SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, were set up to contact these other worlds. Messages were sent out in space capsules like Voyager. TV shows like Star Trek presented a world full of alien civilizations, many much more advanced than our own.

But the scientific evidence is swaying the other way now. We have learned that life does not develop easily, and scientists are beginning to understand just how amazing it is that there is life even here on planet earth, never mind the rest of the universe. When Stephen Hawking calculated the mathematical possibility of life developing here on earth, he came up with the answer of zero. In other words, apart from God, we shouldn’t be here.

Now does that mean that we are alone in the universe? Not necessarily. God may have created other worlds where other beings live in the universe. I like what Larry Norman said about it in one of his songs: “And if there’s life on other planets, I’m sure that he must know, and he’s been there once already and has died to save their souls.” C.S. Lewis wrote a science fiction novel about another world called Perelandra where the people had not fallen into sin as they had on our planet. Is there life on other planets? We don’t really know, because God has not told us.

But the bottom line is this: we are not alone in the universe, because God is there. The sheer size of the universe can drive some people to despair, because when it comes to size in the universe, we really are nothing. But that does not mean that we are insignificant. Yes, the universe is very big, and yes we are very small. But God has a place for us in all this. That is the message of a vast universe: you are nothing, without God. It is God who makes mankind significant in the universe.

    C. God’s gracious concern for tiny man in the universe should humble and amaze us.

God’s gracious concern for tiny man in the universe should humble and amaze us. Look at verses 3-4 together: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4) The word translated “mindful” in verse 4 means “to remember” and the word translated “care” means “to pay attention.” David is basically saying, “Why should God even notice tiny man on a tiny planet in the midst of a vast universe? Why should God even remember that we are here or pay any attention to us at all?” When David considers the immensity of the universe, he is humbled and amazed at God’s concern for man, and we should be, too.

III. God gave us a special place of honor in creation (5-9)

But the remaining verses of the Psalm teach us something even more wonderful than that. Not only does God notice us and pay attention to us here on planet earth, but God gave us a special place of honor in creation. Look at verses 5-6: “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands.” (Psalm 8:5-6)

    A. God made man a little lower than the heavenly beings.

First, God made man a little lower than the heavenly beings. The word translated “heavenly beings” in verse 5 is the plural word for God that we saw back in Genesis 1:1. It can refer either to the angels of heaven, or it can also refer to the one, true God. It is hard to determine which David means here. Perhaps he has left both meanings open for us.

What does it mean that God made us a little lower than himself or the angels? David is simply saying that we are earthly creatures. God and the angels are spiritual, heavenly beings. We are made out of the dust of the earth along with the other animals in creation. We are made lower than the heavenly beings, but notice only a little lower. That means that man is significant in the universe.

    B. God crowned man with glory and honor.

That is brought out even more with the next description: God crowned man with glory and honor. God created man and woman last as the very pinnacle of his creation. And how did God crown man with glory and honor? The Bible tells us that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) What greater honor could God bestow upon specific members of his creation than to create them in his own image? Yes, man is tiny in the universe. But he is significant. He is only a little lower than the heavenly beings, and he has been crowned with the glory and honor of the image of God.

    C. God made man ruler over all creation.

And as if that were not enough, David goes on to remind us that God made man ruler over all creation. As David writes in Psalm 8: “You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.” (Psalm 8:6-8) God made man the ruler over all creation – over all the animals on the ground, over all the birds in the air, over all the fish of the sea.

Does that mean that man can do whatever he wants with creation? The answer is no, because as image bearers of God, our rule over the created world should reflect God’s wise rule over his creation.

We read in Genesis 2:15: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” The verbs here are very significant. The word translated “work” is the Hebrew word for “serve.” The word translated “take care” is a word that means “to keep, to guard, to watch over and protect.” In other words, man is not to be a tyrant ruler over creation, but a servant leader over creation. God gave man the stewardship of the earth, to serve the land and take care of it under God’s care. God gave man both rulership and responsibility.

This is where so many groups get it wrong concerning the environment today. When it comes to the creation, God gave man both rulership and responsibility. If you leave out one or the other, you are going to be out of balance. If you leave out responsibility, you get the view that the world is ours to do with as we please and so it is okay if we trash it. That is not a biblical view of the environment. If you leave out rulership, then you get the view that man is on the same level as the rest of creation. This is not a biblical view of the environment either. This view gives just as much importance to a spotted frog as to a new-born baby. And that’s just not right.

An even more extreme version of this view would be the type of environmentalism that worships the planet instead of God who created the planet. In this extreme, the planet actually rules over man, instead of man ruling over the planet. Notice we are not to worship the earth but to take care of it. The Christian cares for the earth because God created it, and because God gave us the responsibility to take care of it. And that is where Christian environmentalism is so radically different from much environmentalism today

It is important to note that these final verses in Psalm 8 are applied specifically to Jesus in the New Testament. (see 1 Corinthians 15:24-27; Hebrews 2:5-9; ) We have been crippled in our attempts to fulfill our rightful place in the world because of sin. But Jesus came as the perfect Son of God and perfect son of man to deliver us from sin and to lead us one day to our rightful place as rulers over all creation. Jesus came to restore the creation to its original glory and then give it all back to us. This time we will do it right. This time we will be faithful stewards of God’s creation, rejoicing in the gifts of creation and returning those gifts in thanksgiving and praise back to God. That in fact is your individual place in this world – using the gifts that God has given you to serve God in this world and to bring him glory.

CONCLUSION: And so that is our place in this world. We are under God and over the world. What should our response be to all this?

1) We should be awestruck at God’s majesty in creation. Notice again, this is how David begins and ends the Psalm. “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1,8)

2) We should be amazed at God’s love and concern for us. David looked at the beautiful vastness of the heavens and said, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)

3) We should seek to be good and faithful stewards over God’s creation. God has given us both rulership and responsibility. As Christians we must be wise rulers over the beautiful creation God has given to us.

© Ray Fowler

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