Resources: Climate change and the purposes of God

Bible study: A meditation on Psalm 8

Posted in: Climate change and the purposes of God, Theology
Resource type: Bible studies and reflections

Psalm 8 is a song of praise to God the Creator.  The overwhelming nature of the poet’s experience of God’s glory in creation helps him to a right understanding of his own place within God’s creation.

Psalm 8 is a song of praise to God the Creator. The poet contemplates the glory of the starry heavens (v.1) and behind that discerns the glory of God. He offers praise with the same awe and wonder that a young child shows – a fact that should silence God’s opponents. The deep spiritual response of even young children to the wonders of God’s world are a sort of audible ‘bulwark’ against the enemies of God. (v.2).

v.3- 4: the overwhelming nature of the poet’s experience of God’s glory in creation helps him to a right understanding of his own place within God’s creation. God’s revelation of himself within creation illuminates humanity’s status and presses the question ‘what are human beings?’The first word about human beings is one of humility before the majesty of God.

vv. 4 – 6:Throughout it is God who is the subject. God has made human beings to be his image (as Gen 1.26 says more explicitly – though this verse has a strong resonance with that). It is God who now gives to humanity a task of royal service. On the one hand ‘crowned’ with the authority of God the king (v.5),and given responsibility for the care of all ‘the works of God’s hands’ (v.6).

The created order is always ‘the work of God’s hands’, not humanity’s to exploit or damage. The task of ‘dominion’ (cf. also Gen 1.28) is that of a commission given by God to exercise God’s ‘rule over’ creation on God’s behalf and in line with God’s will and God’s way. This ‘royal’ task is to reflect the sort of kingly rule which God exercises,described in another psalm like this:

“Give the king your justice, O God..May he judge your people with righteousness and your poor with justice.. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.’ (Psalm 72. 1-4).

‘The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.’(Psalm 145.9).

‘All that God has made’ is illustrated in vv 7 -8 by reference to sheep, oxen, beasts, birds and fish. Again the resonance is with Genesis chapter 1. All good things around us are ‘the works of God’s hands’. (v. 6).

The psalm ends not by dwelling on humanity’s place,or humanity’s responsibilities, but deflecting from both to the majestic name of God, Sovereign over all.

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