Last week, I had the privilege of walking through Psalm 8 at Brentwood Baptist Church with a group of men who are meeting regularly for prayer and Bible study in the Psalms. Below is a synopsis of my talk.
What is it that makes a human being significant?
More personally, what is it that makes YOU significant?
One of the easiest ways to answer that question is to think about how we introduce ourselves to others who do not know us. Something like, “Hello. My name is Joe. I have a wife and three kids, and I work at a button factory.” Or maybe, “Hello. My name is Rob. I have a wife and three kids. I am a husband, father, pastor, educator, and author.” An answer like these shows that such a person finds his roles or activities as the foundation of his identity.
“I am what I do.”
“I am who I know.”
Of course, in a postmodern culture, one might reject this question altogether, which is to answer it without acknowledging that one is answering it. It’s to say, “I am whatever I want to be.”
In an evolutionary culture, we might answer it this way: “I am the most highly evolved species on our planet, perhaps in the universe.” It’s be defined biologically and by how that biological “story” has unfolded.
None of these exactly “gee-haw” with the Bible.
In Psalm 8, David’s prayer and song reveals that human beings find their significance in submission to a Creator God.
Let’s begin with verses 3-4.
When I look at 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, and the son of man that you care for him?
David recognized something that we, even with our vast technological advances with regard to space travel, are still recognizing: the universe is unbelievable! For example, our galaxy, the Milky Way, is one of BILLIONS in the universe. It takes the sun 100,000 light years to travel around our galaxy once (about 200 million earth years). To spend any time exploring the profundity and complexity of the universe as a Christian is to arrive at the same conclusion as David: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” How small we are in the grand scheme of things! Why in the world would the God who made and orders the universe think about and care for human beings? Why would God have a purposeful, active compassion for humanity? Why would we have any special significance to Him?
But not only does He do just that, but He has given us significance and honor above everything else in creation. Look at
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
Notice how David uses the word “glory” in this Psalm. He uses it in verse 1 to talk about God’s glory, but he uses it here to speak of you and I. This is an effective way of identifying man with God and of saying that we have been made in God’s image.
Notice how David emphasizes our special significance by speaking of our role as “ruler” over the world and its creatures. Rule is something normally ascribed to God in the Bible, but Psalm 8 says that God shared this rule with us.
Notice how David emphasizes our significance by the way he describes us as being “a little lower than the heavenly beings” rather than “a little higher than the beasts.” It could have been written the other way around. But by doing it this way, David forces us to “look up” and strive for the God who created us, rather than “look down” and find our identity in what we rule over.
But there is a problem, and it is a very obvious one to all of us. We humans do not rule over God’s creation the way we were made to. God made us a little lower than heavenly beings, but we have rebelled against such an identity. We do things to each other that animals would never even dream of doing to their own kind or us. Some of us would never treat our dog the way we have sometimes treated our spouse, and our dog would not treat us as poorly as others have treated us.
Graciously … Lovingly … God has acted on our behalf. God sent his own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to save us from our failures and to fulfill Psalm 8 as we have not.
That is why the author of Hebrews uses Psalm 8. He applies it to Jesus, saying that He (JESUS) was made a little lower than the angels and that, as a result, the Father has “crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet,” adding, “In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him” (Hebrews 2:7–8).
So where is our significance found?
It’s found in our submission to the God, whose Son submitted Himself to God so that we could be with God forever.
And when this is our identity … our significance … we sing along with David in verse 1 and verse 8: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”