Friday, December 2, 2011

Psalm 8

Psalm 8
A psalm about God's gift of dominion to man

"To the Chief Musician. On the instrument of Gath. A Psalm of David. O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens!" (verse 1)

      Before David was a king, before David was even a commander of an army, David was a shepherd. Raised as the youngest in his clan, he was sent out to the fields from an early age to tend the family's flock of sheep. He spent days, possibly even weeks at a time, out in the field leading the flock to pasture and protecting them at night. He probably rarely slept inside the family home with the rest of his siblings, but spent the majority of his life under the stars. It is, thus, little wonder that the enormous magnitude of the glittering members of the night sky would leave an indelible impression of God's might and magnificence upon his soul.
         Later, as a harpist for King Saul, he sang the psalms he wrote in those fields, and even later, when he himself was king, he composed music regularly for the Levite singers at the temple. The Levite choir and orchestra was lead by a conductor called the Chief Musician. To him, David delivered his compositions, often with notes regarding specific instruments or the melody. Explanations were sometimes offered on the particular source of inspiration that prompted writing the new psalm, as well. Here we have the recommendation that this piece be played on an instrument of Gath, known as a "Gittiyth", literally "winepress."
       There are two other psalms, written by Asaph and the sons of Korah, that also recommend the use of this particular ancient instrument. Psalm 8, 81, and 84 all were played originally on a Gittiyth, and were titles often played during the feast of booths, when people would sleep outdoors under palm branches and grape clusters reflecting on their wilderness sojourn during the days of Moses. This "winepress" instrument was apparently in some way particularly suited to the theme of this tabernacle feast. In reading all three psalms in order, you may notice several correlating thoughts related to this yearly festival of remembrance. Feel free to share any observations or interesting comments below.

"Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" (verses 2-4)

       God has always chosen the weak things to confound the strong. Imagine a scheduled boxing match: "Babies and Nursing Infants versus Enemies and Avengers". Not exactly a fair match. My kids have a long running joke of the sort that only children actually find humerous, but all the same succeeds everytime in causing me to laugh right alongside them. It goes like this: "What if a Leviathan killed a Behemoth?" (two Biblical dinosaurs) As the other children picture the battle between the giants, they say, "Woaaah!" Then our seven year old comedian will say, "No, wait! What if a tiger killed a Behemoth?" Disbelief and smiles all exclaim,"Noooo!"  The scenario becomes increasingly more ludicrous with, "No, wait...what if a cat killed a Behemoth?" The reaction is fairly explosive now, with a loud and clamorous, "Nuh Uh! Noooo waaaay!" The joke ends with a definite impossibility, voiced softly and provocatively, "A newborn kitten killed the Behemoth." At this, the rest of the children positively erupt into hoots and hollars that THAT simply can't happen! and they all are besides themselves with laughter.
       The joke, it seems, is in the preposterous notion of the mightiest of creatures defeated by the weakest of creatures. Rather than bigger and stronger, the victor gets smaller and weaker. Well, God sees not as man sees. He uses the weak of this world to confound the strong. "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;"(1 Cor. 1:27)
       We tend to look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. What is more, God looks at the hearts of men, as opposed to mighty celestial beings... Men, not brilliant stars... Men, small and seemingly insignificant in this vast universe. He could have made us big. He didn't. He intended us to feel our weakness, our smallness, our impotency... for then, we will grasp for His strength, His power, and His might.  He is above all, and yet cares intimately for us all. The universe is vast; God is vaster still. And vast as He is, He comes and dwells inside of us when we put our trust in Him. Amazing!
        David was humbled and awed by both God's unlimited power displayed in the heavens, as well as His unlimited love displayed in His mercy to sinful man. That is something even more incredible than a kitten victorious. Selah;)

"For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen- even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas." (verses 5-8)

      Speaking here still of mankind, David writes that men are weaker than angels, the other created beings of this world. Angels are powerful creatures, capable of destroying vast armies of men and laying the entire planet waste. There are numerous accounts in scripture of the power God has given these spiritual beings. Angel and man are no match. 
      And yet, weak as we are, God has given mankind alone the rule over this earth.  He did not say to Adam and the angels that they were to have dominion over the earth. Adam's descendants, the human race, were solely given rulership over this planet. 
      Why then do we read scriptures referencing a certain angel called "the god of this age" (2 Cor. 4:4), "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2), and "the ruler of this world"? (John 12:31) Satan, meaning "enemy" or "adversary", was once Lucifer, a magnificent angel of God. He sought to usurp God and was thus cast to earth a fallen creature. He then stole the authority over the earth from mankind when we rebelled against God, and has been a key background player in all of world history. 
      "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one." (1 John 5:19) Tell me, why does every nation hate Israel, the apple of God's eye? Because satan does, and he temporarily reigns through mankind's rebellious forfeiture. Why is every belief on earth tolerated except Christianity? Because satan hates Christ, the Redeemer of mankind. 
      Yet, God intends the earth to forever be governed by man; it was given to mankind by God at the beginning and God will uphold His own appointment. How then shall it be reclaimed from these "principalities", "powers", "rulers of the darkness of this age", and "spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places?" (Ephesians 6:12) 

      Hebrews chapter two gives us the answer: "For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.
      But one testified in a certain place, saying: [and he quotes this very passage, Psalm 8, verses 4-6 and continues], 
      "...for in that He put all in subjection under him, (speaking of mankind), He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels [ie. a man], for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone...that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil..." (Hebrews 2:5-9, 14) 

      Jesus came as a man, with man's right of dominion, that as a man He might redeem mankind, and in so doing redeem mankind's dominion. 

      Despite appearances, man does not have full dominion over the earth at present, even if various rulers exercise a limited authority over a limited area for a limited time. When a man dies, though he is a king, does he continue to rule in the grave? No, death, as introduced in Genesis 3 through mankind's sin, (and satan's deceit), is why satan rules this age. Mankind was intended to live forever in a perfect state on this earth, but Adam's choice to rebel in the garden cost him both his life and authority. Death unnaturally separates man from his God-given dominion. Here's the good news:

      With the power of death destroyed by Christ's death, mankind will be redeemed spirit, soul, and body to again have dominion over the earth, this time with the man Christ Jesus as King on earth, and righteousness reigning. Currently, all of man's earthly dominions are corrupted, and even the Church's attempts at spiritual dominionism are sad perversions of what only can be accomplished at Christ's return. We have no right to an eternal dominion at present, as these bodies we dwell in must yet still return to the earth in death, while our immortal souls await their new physical habitations at the resurrection. 
      Any "kingdom," however good or influential, we may spend our short lives here building will end with the grave. Worldly or religious, all kingdoms made by men will fall. The Catholics and Muslims sought to establish God's kingdom on earth through the sword a thousand years ago. The Puritans tried through the joinery of church and state in a more recent attempt at Utopia. Today, there are those in the Church who hope to restore cities and nations to God through spiritual and political strategies. They are merely fleshly attempts to reclaim the dominion lost at the fall of man. 
      Christ declared Himself to be the "Son of Man", that is, the rightful heir to the dominion given to man. Fully man, and fully God, Jesus is the total fulfillment of Psalm 8, and through the coming of His kingdom to earth, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," (Matthew 6:10), we too will "inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5) as His brethren. 
      The kingdoms of this world, themselves ruled by demonic influences, will continue for a time. We, however, belong to His kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, for which all the saints of old also waited for in hope. When He returns to the earth to reign as the eternal Son of Man, then we too, shall reign with Him on the earth (Rev.2:20). Look up! Our redemption draws nigh!

"O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!" (verse 9)

      And thus, we return to where we began. Looking up. Regardless of who reigns upon this earth, regardless of what kingdoms may rise up or be cast down, One remains constant. The LORD, Yahweh, is ever upon His throne and ruling. 
      His glory is above the heavens, beyond the universe. He alone is GOD. And His name is above all names, "whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers" (Col.1:16). "Our God, the great, the mighty, and awesome God" reigns (Neh.9:32).  Amen.

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