Psalm 8 – Prevenient Grace amid the stars. This sermon was preached at License to Preach School, Lindsey Wilson College, June 2014.
This psalm takes us out under the canopy of stars to observe the heavens. We join the writer of this poetry out under the moon where we discover the glory of God’s creation. Imagine with me the dark expanse of the skies on a beautiful moonlit night where the heavens have make manifest the certainty of God who is beyond our imaginations. The mighty expanse of the heavens points to our smallness in the vast world we live in, and can be a humbling experience.
King David is the composer of this tribute to God. In David’s time there would not have been the glow of electricity as there is today. The vast expanse of starlight would have been more impressive than what you and I experience on any given night. I wonder if David was remembering the story of creation as he sat under the starlight and observed the moonlight. In the Ancient Near East David would have been familiar of the competing stories about creation, but none would have been like Israel’s story. Israel’s story was unique. Israel’s story is founded on the concept of covenant relationship between God and the people of Israel.
I wonder if as David composed these verses…if he was indeed remembering the first story of creation – the grand narrative as recorded in Genesis 1-2.4 – when God named the light “day” and the darkness “night.” And, how God called the expansive dome “sky” and named earth “land” and the waters “seas.” I wondered if David remembered that God created the stars, the moon, and the sun to rule over day and night. And with each step of creation God stated how good it was. I can just imagine how David looked up into the canopy of the night sky and gave thanks and worshiped his Creator God.
The Disciple John would have looked up at the same stars that David saw, and Jesus observed. And these same stars would have reminded John of his Creator God who existed before all time and space. In John’s testimony we read that Jesus was right there at the beginning of all creation in Genesis 1. The Spirit of Jesus that came down at Pentecost and rested on the believers was the same Spirit that hovered upon the waters of creation at the beginning of time. It is here in the Creation story of Genesis 1 that we first see the image of our Truine God – God Eternal Three in One.
For John Wesley in his sermon on the “Trinity,” there was no mystery in whether God was Three in One, but there is indiscernible mystery in how Jesus became flesh and dwelled among us. So the question is not “if,” but “how?” It’s hard to imagine that God came and dwelled among us as a babe looking up at the same stars David saw…you and I see… our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will gaze upon at night. It’s not hard to imagine that those same stars inspired Jesus to worship his heavenly Father just like David.
Even in infancy God has given you and I the ability to praise and to stand in awe of creation. For out of the mouths of small children come peals of laughter when they discover nature: from following an ant’s journey across the ground for hours to squealing in delight at the playful tactics of wild animals at the zoo. It’s hard to conceive why God chose to give human beings dominion over the expanse of all the earth. However, it’s not hard to hear the continuing story of creation in our Psalm. God created all the birds of the air, fishes of the seas, and every kind of living thing from livestock to wildlife and crawling things. God declared that his creation was good. And then, God chose to make us. He created us to rule over this good creation. God gave you and me the right to rule over his handiwork having put everything under our feet.
The scriptures point out that children are the inheritance of the Lord. They are a gift to those who long for children. They carry on the promises of God to the next generation. They are the seed-planters of truth and the cause of great humility to leaders. Our role is to point these little ones to God. It’s our mandate. It is our role to teach our children to obey everything Jesus commanded. In fact Jesus did not come to abolish the law of the Old Testament but to fulfill it with the aim of whole-hearted love of God and neighbor.
We are to teach our children so that the next generation and children not yet born will know our God. They will rise up and tell their children to put their hope in God, never forgetting His mighty deeds and acts. The purpose of such a task is so that rebellion and stubbornness of heart should not arise in the children. Instead this teaching is intended to make hearts strong in their faith and believing in God. Teaching our children the great stories of God like the creation story will make strong their foundation.
Psalm 8 guides us to begin the training of our children… to teach them to gaze upon the wonders of God… to teach them about the Creator of the universe! We call this kind of encounter with God grace. By studying the vastness of creation one can come to terms with the possibility of a Creator. But we don’t stop at seeing God as a real possibility. We are given the task of leading the children in knowing that there is a Law at work in creation, and there are steps of instruction to guide actions and decision-making. This leads us toward a deeper sense of God’s grace and the realization that we cannot follow the Law in our own strength. We are given the task… of illustrating why Jesus came to die on a cross to save us from sin and death… and of teaching how Jesus came to give his people life in covenant faith community. We call it Church.
In the days of David, family groups were called “the father’s household,” which included extended family, formed the foundation for the Israeli community. This family group lived together in a compound where they jointly owned and shared the responsibilities of the land. They shared their time, talents, and resources. They shared good times and bad times. If a child was left orphan, it was the responsibility of the community to raise the child. If a wife was left a widow, she was offered protection, food, clothing, and shelter. Jesus understood this family culture when he spoke of his Father’s Household. Jesus tells his disciples: “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places, if it were not so I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be (Jn 14.1-3).” In the Kingdom of God Jesus aims to restore his family. Every child has a place in the household of faith. That’s why we call God Father and each other brothers and sisters. We belong to a community that does not turn away orphan or widow.
In the early church all believers came together. Everything was held in common. Property and possessions were sold and given to anyone who had need. Every day they met together in worship. They shared meals in their homes and found favor within their local communities. Many joined the Father’s Household, the Church we know today. In fact the Kingdom of God is open to everyone: little children and the widows, the poor, the blind, and the lame. Jesus once said to his disciples to let the little children come without hindrance. And, the children did come to Jesus and he received them and blessed them. When Jesus arrived for the Passover Festival in Jerusalem the week before his death, even the children shouted loud praises to him.
And when the religious leaders scolded these children and confronted Jesus, Jesus was quick to quote Psalm 8.2 – “From the mouths of babies and infants at the breast you established strength because of your foes, in order that you might silence the enemy and the avenger.” While the Psalmist looked upon the night sky and declared the wonders of God from the lips of infants and children, Jesus heard the praises from the lips of children in the temple courts. These children had recognized what the adults could not see. The children saw Jesus heal the blind and lame and declared him worthy to be praised as their God. Indeed these children celebrated the coming of their Creator God through Christ Jesus who had prepared a place for them in his covenant community of faith.
To be sure Psalm 8 is our guide to teach our children about God with three basic instructions. First, creation points to God’s sovereignty. Second, even children can know our Creator God. Third, it is our job to care of creation… so that the next generation might know our God. Our role in God’s created order is to teach our children the amazing stories about our God so that the next generation will know our God. It seems so simple, but it is of great importance! Through the simple observation of the night sky we may observe the handiwork of our Creator God. Share this gift with the children! Inspire them to worship our good Creator God!