Whoa, This is Heavy (Psalm 8)

In 1985, one of the most iconic sci-fi movies was released. Back to the Future instantly changed the way we thought about time travel and the potential consequences of altering the past. Oh, and it gave us great quotes like “1.21 gigawatts” and “Lorraine? You are my… density.” And who can forget this exchange between the hero, Marty McFly, and a young Doc Brown soon after he finds him in 1955:

[Marty sees the outside of the Hill Valley High School in 1955]
Marty McFly: Whoa… they really cleaned this place up. Looks brand-new.
[Marty and Doc walk toward the building]
Dr. Emmett Brown: Now, remember – according to my theory, you interfered with your parents first meeting. If they don’t meet, they won’t fall in love, they won’t get married and they won’t have kids. That’s why your older brother’s disappearing from that photograph. Your sister will follow, and unless you repair the damage, you’ll be next.
Marty McFly: Sounds pretty heavy.
Dr. Emmett Brown: Weight has nothing to do with it.

Later, Marty would repeat his quintessential 1980’s expression, “Whoa, this is heavy.” to which Doc responds, “There’s that word again; ‘heavy’. Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth’s gravitational pull?”

Har, har, har. Gotta love the mind of a scientist! To Marty, weight comes with mental or emotional seriousness. To Doc, weight comes with physical mass, like an anvil. To David, weight comes from God.

Huh? David? Like King David? Why’d you have to bring him into this? A few years ago in a Psalms class we discussed Psalm 8, a psalm of David that bears great weight. But its weight in a manner different than Marty or Doc visualized. The weight of David’s experience was the weight of honor. I want to briefly explore the magnificence of Psalm 8 and what it can teach you and I about the weight of honor.

PSALM 8
For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David.

1 O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4 What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

David’s great praise of His Creator in this psalm has inspired many song writers through the centuries. It, in its brief nine verses, is a magnificent summary of God’s glory as seen in creation, one man’s response to this glory, and then his remembrance of mankind’s great glory in relationship to creation. He begins and ends with the only fitting response to God — praise. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name!”

The Hebrew word for glory is transliterated “kavod,” which at its core means “weight.” It only shows up once in this psalm — verse 5 — but its meaning is infused into the other verses. This poem is all about weight — all about glory. All about honor. When you give someone honor, you give them glory. Not the divine glory reserved for God alone, but instead weight that bestows value and appreciation. Think “honor your father and mother.” You give them value and appreciation when you honor them.

Back to the psalm at hand. There are at least three great weights in psalm 8:

  • God’s weight displayed in the heavens, vv. 1-2
  • Creation’s weight to David, vv. 3-4
  • Man’s weight, as given by God, vv. 5-8

1 O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
2 Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!

God’s weight in Creation is obvious because He has made Himself obvious in Creation. Psalm 19 says that the heavens display the glory of God and the skies His handiwork. Romans 1:19-20 says that God has intentionally made His nature and invisible attributes known in His creation. These aren’t accidental smudge marks. They’re handprints in concrete. With a finger signature below them. Everything God does is intentional. There is no chaos. No after thoughts. Only design.

3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4 What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?

Herein lies the great effect of glory. When faced with even the slightest glimpse of God’s glory — His weight — mankind should feel small. Even secular scientists who deny the existence of God feel small. They talk about the majesty of nature, too, but fail to acknowledge the handprints in the concrete in front of them. To them, those handprints get there due to a tidal shift, uneven ground, and the mixture of the concrete. It was too thin, they say. Besides, those aren’t handprints. They’re waves. But someone who has a divine worldview sees stars and comets and clouds and is, to some extent, blown away. Just like David.

A few years back I lived out in the country, about 60 miles north of Dallas and 25 miles away from the big city lights. The stars at night were tremendous in the country. I imagine they still are. Being in the city, they sometimes seem more like a false backdrop than endless space. But in the country… it is as if you’re glaring into the very eyes of God. With a celestial filter, of course. Let me tell a secret: I used to drive out to a hillside once a week and stare at those stars. I’d lay back on the hood of my Chevy Cavalier and just be blown away. Sometimes I’d pipe in some music from my car stereo to enhance the experience. Usually I’d listen to Father John Michael Talbot as he sang the psalms and prayers of the saints and I, a much lesser saint, would pray and praise with them.

Let me tell you another secret. As a youth, I used to be terrified of the stars. Granted, I never received a personal threat from a star but I still felt very intimidated staring straight up at them. When my family would watch meteor showers, I always struggled to keep my eyes open. Why? Well, I always felt like I was going to have something divine happen if I stared long enough — like a vision or something — and I was just fine without having a divine encounter. Because my gaze seemed to go straight into heaven and the magnitude of space was laid bare in front of me, I felt so incredibly small and the universe — and God — felt so incredibly big.

So I understand what David was thinking. Creation lends great weight to God’s power and might. When compared with the stars and universe, who are we? Why does God think any more of us?

5 Yet You have made him a little lower than (God/angels),
And You crown him with glory and majesty!

Whoa. Now this is heavy! In Genesis 1:26-27, God the Creator, gathered in community with Himself and, perhaps, His heavenly court, decides to make a new kind of creature. “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground,” He said aloud. And so, in the sight of angels, cherubim, seraphim, and creatures too awesome to imagine, God created a new creature out of the newly created dirt of the new planet and gave him an honor not even angels were allowed to have. He made Adam the vice regent of His planet. A prince ruling over the same soil from which he originated. An immortal being, not subject to death because of his holiness. Until later on, of course.

The Hebrew word for “God” here is elohim (el-oh-heem), which is a plural of divinity. God is called “El” throughout the Old Testament and, in Genesis 1:1, He is called Elohim. So some modern English translations have this word in psalm 8 as “God.” Under this translation, the verse means that mankind was made a little lower than God, which is true, especially when the authority of man over Creation is taken into account. As the most beloved of God among Creation (as evidenced by the cross of Christ), mankind truly is special. We’re not gods but we’re second in the pecking order. Angels minister to us (Heb 1:14). Demons obey us (because of Christ, Mark 3:15).

But not all translations translate elohim as God. Why? Because somewhere over the course of time the word for God got translated “angels.” In the Septuagint, which is the first Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, circa 70BC, the verse is translated “angels.” And the author of Hebrews uses this version in chapter 2 of his inspired work, a chapter in which he argues for the superiority of Jesus to angels. So what’s our conclusion? The Hebrew translation or the Greek? Which one is correct?

I’m going to argue that both are inspired since both appear in Scripture. Mankind was made by God as a lesser being, to have authority and honor but never become God. We cannot be God. And we will not become little “gods” at any point in time. And we were made lower than the angels in our very physical form and physical limitations. Angels are entirely spiritual beings. They live and dwell in the spiritual realm. We are a combination of flesh, blood and spirit. We dwell in the physical realm with knowledge of the spiritual realm but an inability to cross over and back at will. We can’t see demons. We can’t see angels unless they reveal themselves to us at the command of God. So in this sense we are a little lower than the angels.

What about the third great weight, mankind’s honor, given to us by God?

6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

Ah, the rule of man over creation. David’s description here harkens back to his young days, hearing the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2 at the tabernacle. He heard about how in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And he heard about the order of created things. And, finally, he heard about God’s managerial design for His new creation. God created one single man (later a woman) to be his representative on the planet. Oh sure, God Himself came walking through the Garden every now and then to visit with Adam, but the rule over the animals, plants and other life forms was Adam’s responsibility. What was Adam to do with the great honor? Well, we see only one thing in Genesis 2 but that doesn’t mean Adam didn’t do other things. In Genesis 2, he names the animals. Giving something a name, by the way, is a form of honor. Why do you name pets? To make them more than just animals. It makes them special. Like family.

The rule of mankind, however, has been altered since the fall of Genesis 3. First of all, God transferred Adam’s job from Eden to someplace outside the Garden. It’s like a boss sending you to Grants, New Mexico, after you spent the first part of your career in New York City. But Adam and Eve’s sin had widespread effect on all of creation and mankind’s relationship with it. The ground grew thistles and thorns (Gen 3:19-22). It became so hard to till that Adam was going to break a sweat (a.k.a. work would become frustrating). In Genesis 4, we see that mankind’s relationship with animals changes, too. Abel sacrificed animals as an offering to the Lord. Man now is a threat to creatures.

All of creation, as Paul writes in Romans 8:20, has been subject to frustration by God because of mankind’s sin. It groans for redemption, for the elimination of sin, and the glory of the first creation. Because man is frustrated and creation is frustrated, the rule of mankind over said creation is also frustrated. Animals attack people. People abuse animals. People destroy the earth in a variety of ways. Christians, perhaps the worst of all, have largely neglected the divine mandate to rule the earth. “It’s all gonna burn up anyway,” we say after throwing our plastic bottles out the window. But we still have a responsibility as God’s vice regents — his appointed custodians of His creation — and we must act on that responsibility, even if imperfectly.

Mankind draws its weight — great honor — from its Creator. God has given us a weight not even given to angels. We are rulers. Princes. Governors. Ambassadors of the King.

David finishes with his refrain from verse 1:

“O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

Praise of our Creator should always be at the core of who we are. We are nothing without God. We have no honor, no weight, no glory. Just imagine, the world could be ruled by talking apes. And who wants that?

In the words of Marty McFly: “Whoa, Doc, this is heavy.”

Advertisements

One thought on “Whoa, This is Heavy (Psalm 8)

Comments are closed.