The Glory of God, Revealed in Man
The Psalms show us how to walk with God through the various things we experience as humans. In Psalm 8, we see the weakness of babies, the glories of the sky, and the great abilities of humans are all reasons to ascribe glory to God.
Psalms 1-72 (Kidner Classic Commentaries), Derek Kidner
We’re starting our series through the book of Psalms today, and the Psalms are a unique part of the Bible, because they typically show us, rather than instruct us on, how to walk with God when faced with a whole range of experiences common to us as humans. For example, have you ever realized how weak and helpless babies are? Ever felt weak and helpless yourself? Have you ever been in awe of the vastness of the moon and stars? Ever been amazed at what humans are able to accomplish? Atheist, Christian, Muslim, New Age, no religious affiliation at all: We all live in the same world, and so we all have these experiences from time to time if we keep our eyes open. Is there more to see in all of them, though? The author of this Psalm, David, saw these things too, but as he saw them, he also saw more reasons to give praise to God. From the weakness of babies to the greatest abilities of man, God’s glory is revealed through man, and yes, I will be using that term as the Psalm does, in the sense of humanity, male and female. God’s glory is revealed through the weakness of man, the glory of man, and through the God-man.
Through the weakness of man
Our Psalm begins with an address to the Lord that says His name is majestic in all the earth, and His glory is set above the heavens. He reigns in majesty over all the earth, and His throne is above the heavens, in what the Bible elsewhere calls the “heaven of heavens,” the invisible heavens, above the visible heavens, where the angels and the souls of the saints who have died assemble for worship. In the ancient world, to be higher was to be greater, so if God has set His glory above even the heavens, His glory is greater than the heavens and everything on earth, greater than everything our eyes can see.
If His glory is exalted above the heavens, though, above all we can see, how does God reveal it to us? Well earlier in our service we saw one way: God gave John a vision of that heavenly throne-room. But that’s actually not the ordinary way. The first way the Psalm shows us is in how He defeats His enemies. Verse 2 says the way God stills His enemies and avengers is through the mouths of babies and infants. The Sixers are in the playoffs right now; that’s Philadelphia’s professional basketball team for those of you who don’t know. In the first round, they were playing the Washington Wizards in a best-of-7 series, but during game 4, the Sixers’ star player, Joel Embiid, tore his meniscus. He sat out the rest of the game, they lost, and then he was unable to play in game 5. As I was talking about game 5 with a friend, he said the Sixers should be able to beat the Wizards even without Embiid; that’s how much better than them we are. And the Sixers did just that. Their supremacy over the Wizards was revealed in that they could beat the Wizards without their best player. So also God’s glory, His supremacy over all of His enemies, is revealed in that He beats them without the greatest soldiers. He beats them through babies and infants, and not babies and infants with baby-sized swords and guns, but the mouths of babies and infants. As the weakest humans proclaim God’s glory, God’s enemies are defeated, and this shows that the power and glory is ultimately His.
You may feel weak, you may be weak, but if you’ve got a mouth, you’ve got a powerful weapon against the forces of darkness. Or as I’ve sometimes heard our black brothers and sisters say, if you’ve got a praise in you, you’ve got a powerful weapon against the forces of darkness. In a sense, the weaker you are, the more your proclamation of God’s glory reveals God’s glory. Kids—there are a lot of things in life you can’t do right now, right? Your parents and teachers often have to remind you: “When you’re grown up, you can do that.” Well proclaiming the glory of God is not one of those things! You can do that now, and it’s a great encouragement to the rest of us when we see you proclaiming God’s glory by singing with us in our services. Demons get scared when you do that. God’s glory is revealed when you do that. And there may be a lot of things you still don’t know or understand, but you can use your mouth to tell your friends about God’s glory too, especially your friends who may not know God yet. God uses that to defeat evil.
And adults, don’t we need to hear this too? We often think once we get ourselves together, we’ll sing God’s praises, but when you’re weak, beat up, worn down, Satan just wants you to give up, and you choose to sing God’s praises anyway, God is defeating the forces of darkness through you. God is revealing His glory through you. When you’re struggling with the same sin over and over again and you praise God before you have it all fixed, that’s one of the things God uses to put that very enemy of sin to death! When you’re struggling with your own doubts, when the depression won’t lift, when you’re not killing it at work, when you’ve got no way to impress your neighbors, but you still turn to those neighbors and say, “Could I share with you the message of Jesus?” that’s how God defeats evil! That’s how God reveals His glory! The glory of God is exalted far above all we can see, and is revealed through the weakest humans. But it’s also revealed through the glory of man.
Through the glory of man
From looking at the smallest humans on earth, David turns his gaze in verse 3 to the heavens he can see, which he calls God’s heavens, because they are the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars, which God has set in place. Of course God does not have literal fingers, but God is the creator and sustainer of all things, which means He has set the moon and stars in their place and determines their motion. By saying this is the work of His fingers, it communicates that the ease with which He sets the moon and stars in their place is comparable to the ease with which I turn the pages of this Bible. That’s what I can do with my fingers, but this is the God who set the moon and stars in place with His.
Now in Philly we can often see the moon; the stars not so much, but they’re there, and if you get a chance to get out of the city sometime at night, it’s worth looking up to see them. The moon is about 240,000 miles from the earth. The closest star is the sun, 93 million miles away, but the next closest is over 4 lightyears away, which is about 24 trillion miles. And those are the closest stars! Beyond them there are more, and beyond our galaxy there are more, and the universe itself is expanding. How great, how glorious, how majestic must this God be if He set them in place with His fingers?
But that’s not even the craziest part in David’s mind. The crazy part is that the God who created and governs trillions of miles looks down and considers this little speck of dust called earth, and then within that vast earth He goes even further and is mindful of these smaller specks of dust called humans. I mean think about how many things you can realistically think about in a day. We have to make lists to keep it all straight, and how many people do we know who we can’t possibly be mindful of day in and day out? What if you were putting moons and stars in place? What might fall off your to-do list? And yet the God who actually did that has us on His mind. He cares for us. The things we do, the pleasures we enjoy, the pain we endure, the challenges we face…they matter to Him. What are we that God would be so mindful of us? What does that say about us?
Verse 5 begins to answer the question: Though in comparison to the vastness of the things God has made, we are mere specks of dust, God has made us a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned us with glory and honor. Heavenly beings here probably refers to angels. So picture the hierarchy here: There is God, whose glory is exalted above the heavens. Then there is the moon and the stars and the heavenly beings, but then right beneath them, the most glorious creature in God’s creation is man. God gave us that glory and honor by giving us, verse 6, dominion over the works of His hands, and put all things under our feet: Sheep and oxen, beasts of the field, even birds of the heavens (who would seem to be above us), fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. David is alluding here to Genesis 1, when after creating the first humans in His image, God gave them dominion over the rest of what He had made on earth. And it’s still a fact today that sheep and oxen don’t go to the market to buy and sell humans; God has given us dominion.
Notice, then, the great worth and value you have in God’s sight. He is mindful of you, He cares for you, and He has crowned you with glory and honor, giving you dominion over the works of His hands. And I can say “you” because there’s no person this Psalm leaves out. It’s “What is man, that you are mindful of him?” not, “What is this particular group of people, that you are mindful of them?” God has given humanity generally dominion over the other works of His hands, and has put under his feet sheep and oxen, birds, fish, and so forth, but not other humans. Eddie Glaude, in his book Democracy in Black, writes of the “Value Gap,” the gap in value placed in America on white lives over really every other life, but especially black lives. God operates on no such value gap. Maybe for various reasons our world has made you feel like you are less-than, but please hear this today: You are not. God is mindful of you, He cares for you, and He has crowned you with glory and honor. He made you royalty. As Pastor Jared Mellinger puts it, “We are unworthy, but we are not worthless.” God made us glorious.
And yet the Psalm doesn’t end there. Instead, it ends where it began: O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! David points out the glory of man, he even wonders at it, but in the end, it leads him back to the glory of God. Because here’s the deal: Our glory, real as it is, is not original to us. We had to be crowned with glory and honor; God is glorious and honorable. Paul said, “by the grace of God I am what I am,” but God simply says, “I AM…what I am.” He made us a little lower than the heavenly beings; we didn’t make ourselves. Our glory is like the glory of the moon, producing none of its own light, but only reflecting what the sun shines on it. We are images of God, but only God is God, so even our glory ultimately serves to reveal His.
We live in a time where the glory of man is on display all around us. There is so much we are able to do. I can move my fingers and words appear on a screen, because I own a computer, and humans invented that computer. I had music playing from the speakers of that computer while writing this sermon, though nobody in my house knows how to play an instrument. I heard my wife’s voice through a phone part-way through; a human invented that. I see books behind my computer screen printed on paper and mass produced; humans invented those means. Now we’re working on self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality. Sure, we had a COVID-19 pandemic, but we developed a vaccine and now in many ways we find people acting like it never happened. Faced with these facts, Christians have sometimes felt threatened and opposed advances in science and technology, while others have touted such advances as proof that we don’t need God. Psalm 8 teaches us a better way. What if when you saw the glory of man you also saw the glory of God? This psalm teaches us to look at the great abilities of man without denial or fear, and to say in response: “Wow God. What is man that you are mindful of him? You have given us such great abilities to exercise dominion over the works of your hands. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.”
But with great dignity comes great responsibility. God gave us dominion over the works of His hands. We are stewards, not owners, meant to exercise our dominion for God’s glory, not for the furthering of our private interests. And yet, what have we actually done with the works of God’s hands? Last week we saw that instead of exercising dominion over a serpent, the first humans listened to his voice and ate from the tree of which God had commanded them not to eat. Humans throughout history and still throughout the world today have worshiped and bowed down to statues, made of the very things over which we were to exercise dominion. We too have worshiped and served created things rather than exercising dominion over them. Instead of exercising dominion over our money and using it for the glory of God and good of others, we have worshiped and served it. Instead of exercising dominion over our bodies in service to God and others, we have worshiped and served our bodily desires, letting them direct our decisions. Instead of exercising dominion over technology, technology has become a means whereby powerful people exercise dominion over us, getting us hooked so we’ll buy their product or join their cause. Instead of exercising dominion over the works of God’s hands that God actually gave us dominion over, we’ve sought to exercise dominion over one another, oppressing and abusing one another. Great as our abilities may be, we’ve wasted them on shameful gain.
And so our glory is now overshadowed by shame. Our crown is covered in rust. But as soon as sin entered into the world, we also saw last week that God also promised one would come, an offspring born of woman, who would successfully execute the dominion we’ve failed to execute, and put God’s ultimate enemy under His feet. God Himself would come in the weakness of human flesh, as a baby, to defeat His enemy through the weakness of a cross. God’s glory is ultimately revealed through the God-man.
Through the God-man
In the New Testament book of Hebrews, we read:
“For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” – Hebrews 2:5-9
The writer to the Hebrews helps us see Psalm 8 in the context of the whole story of Scripture. He sees that the “all things” God put under man’s feet referred not only to the world that was, but to “the world to come.” The seed of the new creation was present in the old, and the seed of the second man was present in the first. This second man, namely Jesus, is the man to whom God would ultimately subject the world to come. We do not yet see everything in subjection to Him, but we see that He was for a little while made lower than the angels. For man originally to be made a little lower than the angels was a promotion, a rising up from the dust to the position of greatest glory and honor on earth. For Jesus to be made a little lower than the angels was a willing humiliation, a going down from the glory that was His above the heavens as true God, to become the God-man.
And why did He do it? Hebrews tells us it was “So that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Now because of our sin and the penalty of death it deserves, the only way to restore the crown was through the cross. Before being crowned with glory and honor, He was crowned with thorns. Now the path to glory was through shame, the path to eternal life through death, and so the God-man came to first taste death for everyone. He is the one now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, the crown He received when He rose from the dead and ascended above the heavens to sit at the right hand of the majesty on high, where He will reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be defeated is death, which He will defeat when He comes again. Then the shadow will lift, the rust will give way to gold, and all who are one with the God-man by faith on that day will be crowned with glory and honor forever, reflecting back His glory as we behold it.
And there will be a judgment of those who do not. They too will be raised, but to everlasting condemnation. Consider the great worth and value with which God created you. You were made for glory and honor, but you and I have fallen, and can only be restored and advanced to your highest glory and honor through the one who tasted death for us. As Shai Linne puts it, “Though all have value, all are lost. All have great need for the cross.” So put your trust in Jesus. He is not unable to sympathize with your weaknesses; He too was made for a little while lower than the angels! Draw near to Him especially when you’re weak. If you are one with Him, He is restoring you to this honor and glory even now. By the power of His Spirit in you, put the sin that remains in you under your feet. It has dominion over you no longer. Take the things God has made and exercise dominion over them for His glory, instead of letting them exercise dominion over you: Your finances, your body, your job, your phone, your home. And say with the Psalmist, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.”