The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
July 16, 2023
The best life we can have is launched and kept soaring, not by who we are and what we do, but by who God is and what God does.
God is both the Supreme Good and the source of every other good. Whether we recognize it or not, God is the One from whom every blessing flows and in whom each blessing grows.
This means that every gift of service we render was enabled by gifts of grace that God first gave us. All our good work is derived from the prior good work of God, and each action we take is a reaction to action God has already taken. So when we glorify God or bless a neighbor, we are being reactionary in response to God’s previous initiatives of love.
Psalm 8 radiates reverent awe over God’s greatness, heart-felt gratitude for His goodness, and thrilled delight in kindness.
Psalm 8 begins and ends with exactly the same exuberant prayer: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” The word “name” there stands for God’s character; and the word “majestic”, for God’s magnificence. Calling God “our” Sovereign means that, though He’s infinitely beyond us, we have a personal connection with Him. Calling God our “Sovereign” means that He is high above us and deserves our deference and obedience. That’s to say that, if we live right, He leads and we follow; He acts and we react.
Due to his lofty view of God, David is astounded that God pays us any mind, let alone vigilantly watches over each of us. David marvels at such grace and in wonder asks God, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” David can’t explain how we can matter that much to God, but he can’t get over how we do. Both astonishment and appreciation run deep in David.
David here celebrates how the God, who might have made nothing of us, instead made us “a little lower than [Himself]” and “crowned us with glory and honor”. God endowed us with such qualities and powers that He, the Sovereign of heaven and earth, can entrust some of His deepest concerns to our responsibility. God in fact delegates to us a bit of His own authority that we might, for Him, exercise “dominion” (or responsibility) over “the works of [His] hands”: the land, the sea, the air and the creatures in them. God asks us to serve them as His faithful stewards and to use the abilities He’s given us to take good care of them.
All this foreshadows what Paul would say a thousand years later to the Ephesian Christians: “You are God’s handiwork created…for good work.”
God asks us to work for Him to protect, provide for and perfect nature and the life of those who dwell in it. He does this even though we feel half the time we don’t have it in us to do the job. Despite our low self-evaluation, God gives us all a special role to play in the kind and wise management of His world, to help it develop into the best version of itself.
This call is universal. It invites all of us to collaborate with God. That is why David, in the 2nd verse of this Psalm, illustrates this divine-human collaboration by applying it to those we might think have nothing yet to contribute: “babes and infants”. Those little ones, who can sometimes do no more to glorify God than to gurgle or giggle with delight, can from their cradles and nurseries join their voice of praise with the angelic choruses in heaven. The modest musical sounds of babes and infants can, verse 2 says, serve as a “bulwark” against the verbal assaults of God’s detractors, and to such an extent that their praises “silence” God’s “foes”.
Think, for example, of how after the Palm Sunday parade and Jesus’ driving out the money-changers from the temple, the children continued to stay with Him in the temple courtyard and continued to shout out His praise, yelling as they had all day long, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” When the priests complained about their loudness and demanded Jesus shut them up, Jesus – according to Matthew 21:16, thanked God for those vociferous kids by reciting Psalm 8:2 here and praying, “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself!”
The point is that all of us, even those who seem “lowliest” in ability, are meant by God to serve Him in whatever way He enables – whether it be by gurgles, giggles, loud shouting or exquisite execution of Bach cantatas – whether it be by uplifting a downcast soul by a warm and encouraging smile, providing an elderly person a ride to the doctor’s, picking up the trash others have tossed on the ground, reducing our carbon emissions, or influencing our government to do right by immigrants.
We all have the same call from God: To embody the virtue of being reactionary in response to the God who takes the initiative and extravagantly overreacts to our need with extraordinary love. God has made us a little lower than Himself, shared with us His dominion and responsibility, and honored us with the privilege of being His partners in making the world a better place!
“O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”