Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reflecting on a Starry Night (Psalm 8)

>Complete: “When I look at the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, _________________________________________” What is man that thou art mindful of him? (Psalm 8:3, 4a)

Psalm 8 is a psalm of David which glorifies God the Creator. It is the first hymn of praise in the psalter. It is also the only psalm that is constructed entirely as a direct address to God.’

In Psalm 8, the writer engages in star gazing. Like most humans have been at one time or another, the psalmist is overwhelmed by the grandeur of creation.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4 NASB)
Viewing the magnificence of the creation led the psalmist to consider its Creator. Artur Weiser (1893-1978) comments, “Behind the glorious splendour of the brilliant sky his mind’s eye envisages him who has created that splendour. It is for him, for the Divine Creator, that his song is intended; his first and last thought is directed to the glory of God and to the praise of God (Weiser, The Psalms: A Commentary (The Old Testament Library), 140).”

Next to a seemingly endless creation, any single human, even a king, feels insignificant. The psalmist asks how a God so big can care about something so small. The assumption underlying the psalmist’s question is that God, the creator of the universe, does indeed care for him. Nancy L. deClaissé–Walford (b. 1954) comments, “Psalm 8 certainly contrasts the sovereignty of God with the earthiness of humanity, but the two are inextricably connected (deClaissé–Walford, Introduction to the Psalms: A Song from Ancient Israel, 69).”

When has admiring God’s creation led your thoughts to the Creator? Why does the God of the universe care for you? Do you think the celestial beings serve only as a backdrop to life on earth to remind us of our finitude or are there other reasons for it?

The Psalmist did not have all of the scientific data we do today to realize the scope of what he saw. He did not realize the sun was merely the closest of over one billion stars and 109 times bigger than Earth. He did not realize that the moon was a satellite of the earth, ¼ of its size. He did not realize that earth was merely the third of nine planets in our solar system. Yet, even without these facts, he realized he was small. Very small. And that God was very big, at the very least bigger than creation.

Though modern humans know more about outer space than the Psalmist, he knew enough to realize that the God of the universe cared for him. Do you?

When have you felt insignificant? Do you remember that the creator of the universe cares for you (Psalm 8:4, I Peter 5:7)?

“Saint Augustine [354-430] said that Jesus loved each person he ever met as if there were no else in all the world to love, and he loved all as he loved each. I have never known which aspect of Jesus is more incredible, his capacity for individual affection or the amazing inclusiveness of his love.” - John R. Claypool (1930-2005), The First to Follow: The Apostles of Jesus, 1

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