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Man's Place in God's World

By Richard Caldwell | 04.13.15 | The Expositors Blog

    The following post is a transcribed sermon from the pulpit of TES campus pastor Richard Caldwell of Founders Baptist Church in Houston, TX.

    When is the last time you had a conversation with the people of your church about their views of creation? Have you considered, and helped your people consider, how their theology of creation informs their viewpoints concerning the issues being discussed by the culture every day? Our views of homosexuality, gender identification, marriage, and race relations can all be traced to whether or not we believe the Bible’s account of creation. It is certainly true that we could discuss these same issues from the standpoint of biblical inerrancy and sufficiency. I would argue, however, that there are people who affirm these doctrines yet rarely think through the implications of the Bible’s account of creation.

    As Christians we have a very simple choice that is before us every day. Will we accept and believe the word of God for what it says? Are we willing to be thought foolish so that we might learn wisdom?

    We are living in a time when the Bible is treated as nonsense. It is treated as nonsense for many reasons, but one particular reason is that the culture rejects the Bible’s creation narrative. This world rejects the idea of the God of the Bible as Creator. The world rejects the account of a literal Adam and Eve and all that goes along with a literal six-day creation. The world rejects, therefore, a designer and a design for men and women. The world rejects the thought that all perversions of that design represent sin: homosexuality, bi-sexuality, so-called transgender identification, adultery, all sexual relationships outside the boundaries of marriage, and so on. If you believe the Bible then all of the perversions of that original design represent sin. This world scoffs at this way of thinking, viewing it as utter foolishness. It is for the simple minded. It is for the uneducated and unintelligent. If you really want to understand man, his place in the world, and how he ought to live, then let man study himself, and the world in which he lives. Let each man determine his own course. You don’t listen to God and you don’t hear God in the Bible.

    Enter the 8th Psalm, a Psalm of praise for creation. It is a Psalm of praise to the Creator. And in this Psalm, man is taught to give praise for the revelation of God’s glory in creation, to marvel at his place in God’s world.

    In this Psalm, man exists in a mediatorial position. He was created lower than the angels but higher than the beasts. He was created to rule over the beasts and the things under his feet as he looks up. As man looks up to God, he understands what God has made and his place in the midst of what God has made, a perspective that has enormous practical implications.

    Scripture shows us that without this perspective, men stop looking up to understand their place in the world. Instead, they begin to look toward the creation itself. Instead of taking on the likeness of God, instead of experiencing the gracious dignity that God has bestowed on mankind, men begin to descend into the behavior of beasts (Rom 1:18-32).

    Psalm 8 teaches, to the contrary for man to look up and to understand his proper place in God’s world. We see the majestic name of God (vss. 1-2), the amazing care of God (vss. 3-4), the exalting mercy of God (vss. 5-8), and a return to the majestic name of God (vs. 9).

    I. THE MAJESTIC NAME OF GOD (8:1-2)

    God is addressed by His proper name and then by a title: “Oh Yahweh our Lord.” Yahweh is Israel’s Ruler and King. The name of God, here, refers to His self-revelation. It is synonymous with His glory.

    When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God proclaimed His name to Moses: "‘Please show me your glory.’ And [God] said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name, “The LORD.” And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy (Exod 33:18; see also 34:6-8).’”

    The praise David offers is both corporate and personal. The community joins in this praise together (vs. 1), but the Psalm also reflects the personal contemplations of David (vs. 3). As David writes he takes account not only of God’s grace to him as an individual, but God’s grace to them as a people.

    As noted earlier, man is meant to acknowledge the glorious nature of creation in thanks to the Creator. Man understands his place in the world by looking up.

    A. The Glory Of God Revealed (vs. 1)

    God has manifested His glory throughout His glorious creation. Throughout all the earth His name is majestic, and above the Heavens His glory is on display. It is the Psalmist’s way of saying, “God you have put yourself on display by all that you have made.”

    Do you notice this personally? It is so easy in our world to see concrete and buildings and cars and computers and phones. But have you noticed God’s glory lately? Have you taken note of the story that this earth tells, in a mute fashion, about God? Have you looked up into the night sky and contemplated what those heavenly bodies testify about Him, about the Creator?

    The story is there. Verse 1 represents what God has done all by Himself. His glory stands there regardless of what man perceives by it. Whether a man ever acknowledges it or not, God has put it there. Whether a man ever acknowledges it or not, he is made responsible by it. Why? Because God has not only given external testimony about Himself to man, God has done this in conjunction with an instinctive knowledge that He has placed in man about Himself. Men instinctively know that God exists. The animus that exists in atheism is testimony to that instinctive knowledge (see Rom 1:18-20). Psalm 19 is a fabulous testimony about this very principle. The psalm tells of God’s natural revelation and then follows with a description of God’s special revelation that is Scripture.

    B. The Glory Of God Received (vs. 2)

    But who really acknowledges this glory? God says that He has ordained strength (and most take this to be an acknowledgement of God’s strength) out of the mouths of babes and infants. This is taken to be praise as Jesus does in Matthew 21:16. It is a strength that comes out of mouths. Notice also that this is in contrast to the activity of the enemies of God. It seems that what the Psalmist is saying is that here you have this wonderful display of God’s glory in creation, but instead of a unified praise in response to this, God has ordained to have His strength acknowledged by the weak, the lowly, and the simple in the midst of a world full of enemies and vengeful people. By those who seem helpless to the “strong” of this world, God establishes their strength. As Spurgeon noted, “Early church history records many amazing instances of the testimony of children for the truth of God. He who delights in the songs of angels is pleased to honor himself in the eyes of his enemies by the praises of little children.”[1]

    This is true both literally and figuratively. Figuratively, believers are described as being the weak and lowly in this world’s estimation (1 Cor 1:26-31). Literally, Psalm 8 was in the mouth of Jesus when He faced His enemies over the praises of children (Matt 21:15-16).

    II. THE AMAZING CARE OF GOD (8:3-4)

    David is one of these who receive the testimony of God’s glory through creation. He tells us of his personal contemplations through several observations. What does David see when he looks up? First, David sees the work of God. He doesn’t attribute what he sees to nature. He doesn’t attribute it to chance. He sees what his eyes behold as the work of God. Second, David sees the will of God. The heavenly bodies exist as God willed. He put them there. He set them in place. He established them in the heavens. Third, David sees the greatness of God. He describes the universe as the work of God’s fingers. The universe is God’s finger work as it were, intricately shaped to perfection. Last, David sees the amazing concern of God. In view of that greatness David sees our smallness. And he asks a question. “God, why would you care for mankind? Why do you give us any attention at all?” As one commentator wrote about this passage, “In contrast to God, the heavens are tiny, pushed and prodded into shape by the divine digits; but in contrast to the heavens, which seem so vast in the human perception, it is mankind that is tiny.”[2]

    Have you ever caught yourself saying, “God, why aren’t you noticing me? Can’t you see? Aren’t you paying attention?” Pride makes us think we deserve God’s attention. But the one clothed in humility is amazed that God notices us? at all. Indeed, what is man, but a mere breath? We came from dust and our physical nature returns to the dust if not for the grace of resurrection.

    But as we see in verses 5-8, God has done more than simply give a passing thought to mankind.

    III. THE EXALTING MERCY OF GOD (8:5-8)

    In verses 5-8, David moves from what he knows from general revelation, natural revelation, to what he knows from God’s special revelation.First, David marvels at god’s design for man (vs.5) Mankind has been crowned with glory and honor, he says. I accordance with Genesis 1:26-28, David perceives that he is God’s kingly representative, exercising dominion over all the earth.[3]

    Second, David marvels at God’s destiny for man (vss.6-8). It was God’s plan to submit everything that God made to the dominion of His image bearers. And David stresses that it is everything that God assigned to man for his dominion. Man is so insignificant it is a wonder that God notices him at all, and yet God has given all into man’s care and rule.

    What did man do with such privilege? The testimony of Scripture shows that he wasted it. Beginning with Adam, man sinned away this privilege. He did not lose it entirely, but his position in this world is now marred and tainted by sin. Man is under a curse. The physical universe is under a curse. Thus, man is not what God originally made man to be.

    Yet this is where the mercy of God really shines. Notice that David does not speak of these things as though they are lost forever. Why? Because the Holy Spirit makes plain that God’s destiny for men has not been thwarted. There is a greater plan for man to be reconciled to God. How will the plan be accomplished? It is clear that it cannot be accomplished by man in his current state, for “as by a man came death” (1 Cor 15:21), and “as in Adam all die” (1 Cor 15:22). Any man born of Adam, therefore, is destined for death and incapable of exercising eternal dominion.

    And yet the truth of the Scripture shows that God’s plan does get accomplished, not through the first Adam and his offspring, but in and through the last Adam, the very offspring of God himself. In quoting Psalm 8, the writer of Hebrews 2:6-8 shows that the most exalting thing that God has ever done toward man is to have His eternal Son take the nature of man to Himself for the rest of eternity.

    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.

    Or as scholar Allen Ross rightly notes,Hebrews 2:6–8 quotes this psalm to contrast man’s failure with his exalted destiny. Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, is the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45, 47); all things will be subjected to Him when He comes to fulfill God the Father’s intended plans for the Creation.” [4]

    IV. THE MAJESTIC NAME OF GOD (8:9)

    The Psalm ends where it began with praise to the Creator.   For any who read this psalm, we would do right to stand amazed at His glory, to marvel at His grace and goodness to us, mere men. Yahweh is our Lord. God is our King. And we know God as our King in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the last Adam, the fulfillment of all that God meant for man to be in terms of His perfect humanity, and in Him we experience the destiny that God has ordained for His image bearers.

    When we accept the Bible’s creation narrative we understand that every perversion of God’s design for men and women is rebellion against the Creator. When we accept the Bible’s creation narrative we see that all men have Adam and Eve as father and mother and therefore there is no room for racial bigotry. When we accept the Bible’s message of the fall and of God’s plan for salvation we see that all men are either still in Adam, or in Christ. Every person we meet is either a brother or sister in Christ, or someone for whom we need to pray for their salvation and with whom we can share the gospel. A biblical creation theology provides clarity on all of the issues over which men war in our day. One of the wisest things we can do as pastors, therefore, is to take our people back to the very beginning and teach them to look up as they consider man and his place in God’s world.

    [1] C. H. Spurgeon, Psalms, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 24.

    [2] Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 140.

    [3] The Hebrew word, Elohim, is the word translated “God” (NASB) or “heavenly beings” (ESV). Its use in this verse can mean that man was made lower than God, but based on the quotation from the LXX in Hebrews 2, many take it to refer to the angels.

    [4] Allen P. Ross, “Psalms,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 797–798.

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