Monday, November 26, 2018

What is Man? - Psalms 8

What is Man?

Key Verse: What is man that thou art mindful of him?  Ps 8:4


In the past few decades we as a nation have been shocked to hear and see the inhuman acts of violence that seem to be taking place almost monthly. Shootings by children killing other children. One of the first I remember was an 11-year-old boy and a friend who waited outside an elementary school after pulling a fire alarm and begin to shoot their classmates as they gathered outside. We see terrible violence even in churches, just like ours and it has become so common that churches must now guard against a madman dressed in fatigues and carrying an assault rifle in the parking lot.  Nor is it just shootings, I have in my note a news story of a unmarried college age couple that delivered a their child in a hotel room and then tried to hide their sin, by killing the baby and throwing it into a dumpster.  Or another about a girl at her High School Prom, who delivers her baby in the restroom throws it in the trash can and then goes back to the dance and requests a favorite song.  How can a human being do these things to themselves or to other human beings? Could it be that we as a people, as a society, no longer know who we are because we no longer know who God is?  Why should my life or your life or any life count when science and our schools teach us that we are nothing more than cosmic accidents? Nothing more than random chance in a universe of random chance?  According to them we are nothing more than the product of a cold impersonal force called evolution.

But, the Bible tells us that we are not here by chance, that our existence is not some random accident and that our life is the highest act of creation by God who has created all things. David understood this and wrote about it in Psalms 8. If I can see myself and this world as David expresses it in this majestic Psalm then life, this world and eternity makes sense. And I can answer the question, “What Is Man?”

Joke: A farmer and his neighbor watching his hogs run from one end of a pasture to another.  "What's wrong with your hogs, Henry?"   
"Well, you remember about a month ago when I broke my leg and couldn't get around?  I would come out here with a stick and bang on a fence post and then feed those hogs when they came." "Well, you ain't banging on no post now, why them hogs running everywhere?" 
"Yeah, but it seems that ever since I got well, them crazy woodpeckers are about running them pigs to death."

Those hogs are like some people I know, mixed up and confused because they don't know their Master.  And the consequences of not knowing who you are and why you are here is much more dangerous than just running back and forth all day long looking for food.

I want you to look at Psalms 8, a passage that deals with man recognizing God, His creation and his relationship to God.

God's Glory  Psalms 8:1-2

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

David's God

He begins his praise by saying, LORD our Lord.  The first LORD is Jehovah/ Yahweh, the "I am "of the burning bush.  The personal name of God.  So revered by the people who transcribed the Old Testament that it dared not be written or even spoke out loud. So they took the consonants from Jehovah and the vowels from the world Lord and made a new word that showed the personal name of God but did not spell it out.

The Second Lord is the word Adoni, it means controller, master "one who occupies the position of a master over a slave.

Then David expresses his first praise. He says, How excellent is thy name in all the earth! God is lauded as sovereign in power and majesty.  David imagines God in all his His might and splendor.
From David's perspective, he looks up into the heavens and his mind is filled with the wonder of his God.

He says that God's glory is set high above the heavens. Higher than man can fully see, imagine or comprehend. God is higher than what David can see, what he can put into a psalms and higher than he can imagine.

In comparison man is but a babe or an unweaned child and yet God has given strength to man to protect him from his enemies.

Our God

If we are to make sense of life then we must see God as David did. We must see Him as Jehovah, God Almighty, God of Creation, God of Power and yet God who I can know.  I must see Him as the creator of all, the Sustainer of all, All powerful, all knowing, all present?  Is He real to us, is he real to you or just an abstract concept, a myth?  Does He exist in your heart as your Sustainer or only in your head as an idea?

I must know Him also as Lord. The ruler, the master the one I have given myself to serve. Can I honestly call Him master and the controller of my life, and my eternity?  Does he guide my steps?  Does he hold my future in His hands because I have willingly placed it there?
Is He Majestic?  Is He over all and supreme to all?  Is everything in my life submitted to Jehovah, Lord of all and my Lord and my God?

We all need to come to our own Damascus Road experience. It may not be as dramatic as Paul’s that day but it must be just as real in its results.

Illustration:  Saul/ Paul as he rode the Damascus Road and was cut down by God.

Acts 9:4  And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5  And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6  And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?
We need to see God as He truly is. We need to see him as Paul did.  We need to call out, "Lord, what would you have me to do?"

Transition: From God Himself, David now turns to God’s handiwork, His creation.

God's Handiwork  Psalms 8:3

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

David Beholds Creation and Sees God

David was astounded by the stars and milky way he saw over spanning the night sky in his time. At that time the visible eye could only see about 3000 stars and “river of the sky”, the milky way galaxy running through it.  Funny, we know more about the universe than David but we see less of it and are no longer impressed by it. Perhaps that is one of the things that has blinded us to our God, we see further but we see much less.

The Bible tells us in Psalms 33:6  By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Job 22:12  Is not God in the height of heaven? and behold the height of the stars, how high they are!
So let’s consider God's Universe, let view His Glory written in the heavens.

The universe is so vast that no scale model is possible. If we tried to make a scale model that contained an earth only one inch in diameter, the nearest star at the same scale would be over 51,000 mile away.

If in our scale model we reduced the distance from the earth to the Sun, 93 million miles, to only the thickness of the page of my Bible, the distance to the nearest star (4 1/2 light years) would be a stack of paper 71 feet high.

Our galaxy then,  which is 100,000 light years across, would be a stack of paper 310 miles high.
The known edge of the universe would be a stack of paper 1/3 of the way to the sun or 30 million miles.

Our universe is also so immense that no one can count it. They say there are over 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone. Then there are over 100 million galaxies in the known universe. To count to 100 billion, just the stars in our universe, you would have to count to 250 every minute for 1000 years.

In David's time they had numbered the 3000 stars they could see and they were in awe of the creation of God. How much more should we be in awe when we consider the One who holds this vast universe in the palm of His hand?

What Do You Behold in creation?

Do you just see stars, planets and darkness or do you see God who hung those stars in the fabric of space?

Do you see nothing, or do you see the glory of the God of creation and yourself in the center of that creation?

Psalms 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Romans 1:20  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Do you understand what a difference that makes? What such a reality, such a truth does for us and who understand ourselves to be?
Illustration: The story of Galileo’s model of the solar system and his atheist friend.

Transition:  David saw man's smallness in comparison to the greatness of God’s creation and glory and so in vs. 4 asks, “What is man?”

God's Greatest Creation  Psalms 8:4-8

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?   For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.  Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:  All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;  The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. 

David Sees Himself.

David sees himself in the light of God’s creation. After considering the vastness of the heavens, the glory of God, he then asks God, "Why would you even think of man? What is man?
He asks in all the vastness of the universe, what is mankind and who am I, a son of man, among all the vastness of mankind.

He asks God why would you visit me, why would you reveal yourself to us?
This is a natural consequence of Davids seeing himself in proportion to all of God’s creation. What is man? Why do you care enough to reach down to him?

And David’s answer is the most amazing thing in all of Psalms 8.
David says you have made man a little lower than the angels. The Hebrew here means in order of ranking all of God’s creation, man is second only to God himself. We have been made the highest creation in all of creation.

David says, We have been crowned with honor and glory.
We have been made in the image of God. He breathed into us the breathe of Life. He made us A creature of choice, a creature of intellect through that image. The likeness has been marred by sin, but praise God, it can be restored through the gift of God in His Son Jesus Christ.

David goes on and says, All things have been placed under man's control. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands, thou has put all things under his feet.
This is who David sees when he sees himself in light of God’s creation and relationship.

Who do you see?

Are you only an insignificant bit of life in a vast universe?
Many spend their whole life seeking as Socrates said, To "Know Thyself."
To many when they find themselves they don't like what they find. So they turn to any means to forget or change who they are, drugs, suicide, violence or simply not caring about anyone or anything anymore.

Man with God understands who he is. He understands his purpose, his power and his prospect of eternity. Man without God is hopeless, helpless and homeless for eternity.
When I realize who God is, when I realize who I am in light of God Word, then my life, my existence has purpose, has a reason. I am not an insignificant speck in the fabric of time and space.  
Now my life makes sense; I am someone in this universe, because God has revealed Himself to me through Jesus Christ His Son. I mean enough to the Creator that He would not give up on me and sent His own Son to redeem me and restore me to my proper place as his highest creation. This is what Psalms 8 says,  we are God's greatest creation, second only to the Trinity. All of God’s creation has been given to our care, but this can only be true in a right understanding of God and a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Illustration:  John Newton's life.

John Newton was an absolute lowlife; He was the captain of a slave ship that traded in human beings like so much livestock.  He was even terrible at this low profession since he was also a drunkard that hated his men and was hated by them.  Once he was so drunk that he fell overboard in a storm. His men cared for him so much that they took a harpoon and tossed it at him as he struggled in the water. The harpoon struck in the leg and they used the attached rope to pull him back on-board.  Ultimately, he lost his job as a captain of a slave ship due to his drinking and actually wound up being sold as a slave amongst the very people he used to buy and sell in Africa.  Yet, he couldn’t even be a slave and became a runaway.

You might look at John Newton and think that is a worthless speck of mankind not fit to be called human at all, but this worthless bit of scum in the sea of the universe found God or really was found by God.  He became a pastor and a writer of hymns.  His most famous is of course Amazing Grace.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

If John Newton could rise from the worthlessness of his life by coming to a right relationship with God, what of you?

Conclusion:  The highest Praise  Psalms 8:9

O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

David finishes the Psalm as he began it, with the majesty of God.  He has found his place in God's universe, because God has found him. Now the circle is complete.  He knows who man is, God's finest creation and that God has chosen to be with him for eternity. The question we leave with is, can I make David's words of praise my own?

Have I found my place in God's universe?  Has God found a place in my life?

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