May 22, 2005

The Lord Delights in Us
Psalm 8

Among the many wonderful gifts that my mom and dad gave to me over the years was their enthusiastic affirmation. Mom and Dad were big fans of mine, and they never hesitated to let me know how proud they were of me. One particular memory that the Lord blessed me with just before my mother died in November—I will carry this memory with me to my own grave—took place at Holy Spirit Hospital. I walked in the room and sat beside my mom’s bed—I think Karen Durbin and her parents followed soon after me—and a psychiatrist was asking mom various questions. My mom had been somewhat delirious, and the psychiatrist was attempting to determine what factors were contributing to mom’s confusion. As I sat down, the psychiatrist asked my mom, “Do you know who that is?” My mother, barely able to talk, looked at the doctor as though it was a ridiculous question. “He’s my buddy,” she said. When the psychiatrist pursued the matter further, just to be sure that my mother was coherent, my mom said with a smile, “He is my son!”

What a wonderful feeling that is—to be loved, accepted, and affirmed by your parents. Or your spouse. Or other particularly significant people in your life. Such acceptance boosts a person’s self-confidence, fosters an adventurous and inquisitive spirit, and profoundly affects the entire way that that person looks at all of life. When you know that you are loved and that people are proud of you, you are free to love and to live yourself.

Precisely the opposite is equally true, as we all know too well. Vivid images of rejection, endless attempts to earn someone’s favor—perhaps your mom’s and dad’s—and the overwhelming sense that you are unimportant and unvalued, even to those who you would expect to care about you the most, can leave people so deeply wounded that the journey to wholeness seems frightfully long and perhaps endless. I’ve seen it over and over again. I met sometime ago with a young couple to talk about their upcoming wedding—they are not attenders of the Grantham Church—and I began by asking a simple question about the woman’s family of origin. She barely got a word out of her mouth before she started to cry, almost uncontrollably. I knew what was coming next—I’ve seen it before. “My mother doesn’t care about me,” the woman said. “I never could do anything right in her eyes.” Here she was, a beautiful young woman, deeply scarred by a lack of acceptance, affirmation, and love. If we are so deeply affected by the sense of being either accepted or rejected by those close to us, just imagine how profoundly influenced we are by our conceptions of God.

We have been looking together in recent weeks at selected Psalms and what they might tell us about both God and ourselves. Psalm 47, you might recall, assures us that the Lord reigns over the entire world—nothing can ultimately harm us. Psalm 104 celebrates the fact that God, who created the heavens and the earth, provides for his creation—we can wean ourselves from the things of the world and trust in his care. Today, we look together at Psalm 8, which testifies to this amazing thought—the Lord delights in us! While it is true that we can weary the Lord with our spiritual inconsistencies and anger the Lord with our acts of unfaithfulness–my mom and dad certainly grew frustrated with me, too!–the Psalmist here shouts loudly so as to rattle the very depths of our souls—the Lord delights in us, and he is not afraid to say so! The Lord affirms us. The Lord loves us. The Lord thinks that we—you and I—are indescribably special.

Psalm 8, like Psalm 104, is a hymn or psalm of praise. It is brief and eloquently composed. The prelude and postlude are precisely the same—“O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Each of the intervening lines is likewise directed to God himself, suggesting that Psalm 8, like other hymns, is all about God. As the Psalmist, and the entire congregation for that matter, praise the Lord, however, they are clearly overwhelmed by this realization—God delights is us!

Certain themes in the Psalm unmistakably lead us to this realization. In verses 2-4, first of all, we read that God assures his people of his unending affection. Through any number of means—the Psalmist here mentions only two—God lets us know that we matter to him. Children are often wonderful channels through which God speaks to us. “Out of the mouths of babes and infants,” the Psalmist declares, God speaks loud and clear. Children seem to have a particular capacity to sense God’s presence and to enjoy his blessings, a capacity that sometimes fades away with the increased “sophistication” of adulthood. Just watching Allisa Venema dance during our 2nd service last week was enough to overwhelm me. Her joy. Her enthusiasm. Her sincerity. “It is in the small and insignificant things,” Artur Weiser wisely reminds us, “that the greatness of God is revealed.”

God also assures us of his affection through nature, the Psalmist continues. “When I look at the heavens—and all that you have made—what am I that you would care for me?” Job asked much the same question soon after his entire world fell apart, but his sentiments were quite different. Job, overcome by grief and anguish, wished that God would forget about him (7:17). In Job’s mind, the sheer magnitude of the heavens ought to give God enough to do so that he would feel no need to micromanage Job’s own affairs. How drastically different is the question here. The Psalmist, in awe of the world—how many stars are there, anyway?—can scarcely imagine that God would have time left over for him. And yet he does! God, whether through children, the heavens, or any number of means, assures us of his unending affection. “You matter to me,” he repeats to us, over and over again.

In addition to assuring us of his affection, God demonstrated his delight by creating us with unprecedented glory (v. 5). “What are human beings that you are mindful of them?” the Psalmist just asked. Here is the answer. Humans were created “a little lower than God,” the Psalmist suggests. This is, I suppose, his twist on Genesis 1:27, which points out that you and I were “created in the image of God.” Human beings are gods, C. S. Lewis wrote, with a little “g.”
And God, verse 5 continues, has crowned us with glory and honor. If in Psalm 42 God is mindful of the universe, then in Psalm 8 he crowns us as his princes and princesses, if you will.

And finally, we sense in Psalm 8 that God delights in us because he has entrusted us with extraordinary responsibility (vv. 6-8). Human beings have been given “dominion” over the works of God’s hands. Dominion, I should quickly point out, does not involve the freedom to do to God’s creation whatever we please whenever we please. Dominion, instead, involves creating an environment in which everything entrusted to us can flourish as God intended. God assigns us the task of nurturing creation—caring for it so that it can itself thrive. God, in short, has given human beings the task of overseeing all that he has made—in the air, on land, and in the seas.

Human beings, Psalm 8 makes clear, are of inestimable worth to God. He delights in them—in us. He is proud of us. He wants to show us off. How do we know? He assures us of his unending affection. He has created us with unprecedented glory. And he has entrusted us with extraordinary responsibility. Knowing this should lift our spirits and strengthen our confidence. Knowing this should lead us, as it did the Psalmist and the congregation with him, to burst forth in praise: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

I could not help but be struck by a profound impression as I was sitting with this Psalm over the last several days. Today is, as has been said, Trinity Sunday, a day set aside every year by many Christian communities to reflect upon the mystery of God in Three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and to praise him for the various ministries that each of these three members of the Godhead enact in our lives.

Interestingly enough, some of those key ministries come to light here in this ancient Psalm. God, the Psalmist announced, assures us of his unending affection. That is, the Apostle Paul reminds us centuries later, a key ministry of the Holy Spirit. “When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ ” he writes, “it is the very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,…(Rom. 8:16).” God, the Psalmist continues, created us with unprecedented glory. That, John the Revelator makes clear, is the role of God the Father:
You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor
and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and
were created (4:11).
And finally, the Psalmist reminds us that God entrusted us with extraordinary responsibility. So, Jesus the Son sends us out as his instruments of peace—his witnesses—throughout all of the world (Acts 1:8).

What the people who are particularly close to us think of us has a significant effect on virtually everything about us. When we sense the acceptance, affirmation and love of our parents—as I did—we can live our lives with confidence. When we are overwhelmed by a sense of rejection, we face a mountain that is often difficult to climb. What does God think of you? Frustrated? Sometimes. Angry? No doubt. But Psalm 8 celebrates this amazing realization theme. God, the maker of heaven and earth, actually delights in us! You, whether you always realize it or not, are remarkably special.