RECAPTURING EXUBERANT FAITH — Pete Bauer
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on August 25th, 2013. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Ps.8.
This is a Psalm of David. The Psalm is exuberant – and so is David. David lives out his faith seemingly without fear. He doesn’t seem like he is ever afraid to mess up – whether he is facing Goliath – or whether he is dancing half naked in front of the Ark of the Covenant – or even when he really does fall into sin with Bathsheba. David is Alive – spiritually! And this morning we want to ask, Why? How? What is David’s view of the world and of God that allows him to be so full of life?
Exuberance Begins with Who We Think God Is.
David says that God is “Majestic” an adjective which means – “having or showing impressive beauty or dignity”. Vs.1-2 spell out what he means by this
The One Who Made the Heavens: “You have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!” This is a way of saying that God, who David thinks of as being above the stars, has shown something about himself through the creation of the stars and the moon (see vs.3). The ancients were very impressed with the heavens, moon & stars, and even worshipped them as gods.
We can smile at the ancients but the truth is that there is still something compellingly beautiful about a full moon or a shooting meteor – and we are impressed by these things. Something about the stars and the moon makes us think about transcendent things. God spoke the heavens into existence – stars and planets and galaxies. God is powerful and amazing.
The One Who Creates and Sustains Life: “From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength” This sounds strange – as if David is suggesting that nursing babies and infants are going around making arguments for the existence of God. And actually, that is sort of what David is saying. David is talking about the miracle of life – seen in the birth of infants and babies nursing – gaining strength and life at their mother’s breasts.
What makes a dead body different from a live body? What makes an animal or a tree alive – but differently from us (yet you can tell when they are dead). It isn’t just the material – there is a spark – a something beyond the mere material of bodies – that makes us alive. Again, Genesis 2:7 tells us that, “God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
Life is miraculous – and it is a gift, given to us by God. But because we see these miraculous things almost every day, we take these miracles for granted.
The One Who Reaches Out to His Enemies: “Because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.” What is God up to? What does God expect to accomplish with these grand displays of power and beauty? The answer is interesting and unexpected and says something profound about who God is.
Because of the way we often think of God we probably interpret vs.2 to mean that God shuts up bad people – that he shames them. We have this view that God runs a tight ship and has expectations that we must always run around filling – whether we know what they are or not. We can have this view of a displeased deity putting up with us – irritable – tapping his foot impatiently.
But that is not at all in view here. Rather David is saying – these beautiful things – full of dignity – are displaying the NAME (true character) of what God is like, so that those who are his enemies – and those who are full of vengeance and anger, will see what God is really like – so that their anger and their vengeance will be silenced and replaced not with shame, but with love for God, appreciation and worship. This is what God wants – what he is like. God wants human beings to see his dignity, power and beauty so that they will be filled with wonder – even joy – and come to appreciate who he is and what he is like. God made human beings to know and love him. God’s crowning act towards human beings was to become human himself and to take on himself the angers and hatreds and sin of the world for the redemption of human beings.
Exuberance Depends on Who God Thinks You Are?
Against this framework of who God is, David asks the central question of the Psalm. David seems overwhelmed by who God is to the point where he asks – What are human beings anyway? Why do you care about them? His answer is so startling that the NIV translators changed it – because they thought it sounded blasphemous.
God Thinks You Are His Crowning Achievement! “Yet You have made him a little lower than God…” What does that mean? It sounds blasphemous – and yet it is what Genesis 1:4 tells us – that God made man in his image – male and female. What does this mean? Human beings are, and are created to be, the representatives of God – in their capacity. David says that there is an innate nobility and beauty about human beings and their capacities – “… You crown him with glory and majesty!”
- We can think about things which transcend our experience and which we cannot prove or see. We can think creatively – imagine – problem solve – be amazed – worship. We are capable of belief or disbelief.
- Human beings can act with dignity or be despicable. We can act with love or hate – honesty or dishonesty. And we assign meaning to our actions.
- Human beings can speak – sing – praise – express truths that have not previously been understood. We can speak with compassion or malice, wisdom or deceit. We can influence with our words.
God Thinks You Are The Rulers Over Creation! “You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet…”
This is an incredible privilege and responsibility. Here, God has made all of these creatures, the world we live in, the resources – and has given us the amazing honor of entrusting it all to us. Again, this looks back to Genesis 1 and 2 – where God tells the man and the woman to have dominion over the beasts of land, sky and sea, and puts them in a garden to tend it – to cultivate and make beautiful.
How Does This Make You Free?
This is the question that Psalm 8 leads us up to and then allows us to stop and think about. Who are you? You are the joy of God! You are his image! God looks on us with joyful expectation – not demandingness. God has fulfilled the demands in Christ. We are and must be free! And what we do – how we live is meant to be an increasingly free expression of who God made us to be in all of our uniqueness and capacity. We have been given creation
To Use Our Gifts and Passions for the Glory of God: If God appeared in front of you this moment and said – all of creation is yours – there is no fear or condemnation – I have given you your interests, talents, abilities, opportunities – just use them thoughtfully to love and bless people – and to honor me – what would you do. Psalm 8 has, in effect, just posed that question to you.
Would you cultivate a garden? Would you make music? Would you spend time with children? Would you cook? Would you make wood working projects for people? Would you write or speak about society – study science – counsel people? All of these things bring glory to God. They all are ways that we can love people and honor God. They are God’s gifts to us to be lived out in freedom.
To Treat People Without Fear: So if we believe that we are the image of God – that our loving use of our gifts reflect his glory – then there is something here that needs to be said. The church is too hung up on making neat, awkward formulated little presentations of the Gospel that no one is asking for. We do it because we think God is demanding it – and because we are too afraid to just talk to people. Presentations help us to know we said all the right things in the right order – but Jesus never spoke to people that way.
What if you were free – what if the pressure was off and you believed that God could express the truth of the Gospel through your gifts and passions and your treatment of people – with dignity – as though you thought they were also made in the image of God – that God loved them too? What if God is showing his dignity and power to people through you and you can trust him and be free to just talk to people without fear.
To Live Joyfully and Boldly By Grace: David had this boldness and freedom. This exuberance. He seemed to believe that God loved him and that he was important to God. That trust and perspective seems to have enabled him to be full of God’s Spirit. I think this is what scripture means when it says David was a man after God’s own heart. God delights in this kind of freedom.
This is the freedom that Jesus died and rose from the grave to give us. This freedom can create exuberance in us. It sounds like too much – and I think we can be suspicious of it. We have all seen people with plastic smiles who pretend not to have problems. But that is not what is going on with David.
This morning, Psalm 8 is not telling you that you have to be exuberant – God is inviting you to be free. Free of fear that you aren’t doing enough of what you are supposed to be doing so that God will be happy enough with you. Free to recognize that our abilities, talents, our work, our relationships – as they are – are capable of bringing glory to God – that God will breathe life into the things we are already doing as we ask him, because we are the image and delight of God.