Sunday Services: 9:00am & 10:45am

The Majestic Vise of Psalm 8

The Majestic Vise of Psalm 8

Preached by Pastor Benjamin Vrbicek

Mini-Sermon: Bearded Gospel Men

Jason and I have mentioned this before; every once and a while we have a mini-sermon, or a short sermon, before the “real” sermon. This is one of those week. I’ll say up front, this mini-sermon, or pre-sermon sermon, is directed at the men here. Sometimes men need to be challenged; men respond well to challenge.

I’m not sure if you men are aware or not, but there is a group called The Bearded Gospel Men. The subtitle to their website is: Pogonotrophy, Masculinity, and Theology (noun po•go•not•ro•phy: beard growing).

On their “About” page it says,

BGM is a celebration of facial fair, the gospel, and robust masculinity. We do not believe that God commands all men everywhere to grow their beards, nor do we believe that a beard makes one a man. Masculinity is about growing in love, grace, self-sacrifice and service. The beard is simply a beautiful bonus!”

Why am I brining this up? Since we are teaching through the Apostles’ Creed, I thought I would let you know that on their website under the tab titled “Gospel” it says,

“So what does it mean to be a Bearded Gospel Man? As simply as can be explained, it is a man who believes the ancient “Apostles’ Creed” of Christianity… If you can recite and believe this creed and add, “…and I have a beard,” then you are a Bearded Gospel Man!”1

So my challenge to you, men of this church, is this: be Bearded Gospel Men.

Actually, no. I only bring this silly thing up say something quite serious. First Timothy 3:1-7 is one of the chief passages in the Bible to describe the qualifications of being a pastor-elder-overseer in a local church. In the opening line of that passage, Paul writes this:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task (1 Tim. 3:1).

Men, there are all sorts of dreams this world would sell you on. Some of them are noble and some of them are silly. Men, desiring to be the type of man that can lead a local church is not silly. It’s noble.

This doesn’t mean you have to preach like me or like Jason or anybody else. And it certainly doesn’t mean you have to quit your job to do ministry full-time. And it doesn’t mean that you ever even have to be an elder, a pastor, an overseer. Rather, I’m talking about being the type of person that could, by the grace of God, help lead a local church.

What I want to say to you is that if you are twenty-four years old, I want you to be dreaming and praying and training so that when you are thirty-four, by the grace of God, you might be the type of man described in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

And when you are thirty-four, you’d be dreaming and praying and training so that when you are forty-four, by the grace of God, you might be more of the type of man described in that passage. And when you are forty-four, you’d be thinking about when you are fifty-four, and at fifty-four: sixty-four. And so on and so forth.

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim. 3:1). And it starts today, men.

Think what an impact this church will have if in ten years there are so many elder-qualified men we just have to send them away to other churches because we have so many. There is a famine of biblical masculinity, and I want to be a church with storehouses.

Well, mini-sermon is over. Let’s get to the main sermon.

The Apostles’ Creed

We are going through The Apostles’ Creed. Last week Jason so helpfully took us to Genesis 3 to talk about the importance of belief. In that sermon, we learned that belief—right belief, true belief—is the way we have intimacy with God. This week, we are taking up the phrase in the Creed, “creator of heaven and earth.” In full, it says, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”

And for our passage, we are going to an ancient song that the people of God have sung for 3,000 years. The song celebrates that God is the creator of heaven and earth. And this song also answers the question: God made it all, so what? What does that mean for us? Psalm 8 answers this question.2

Follow along with me as I read from Psalm 8. Then I’ll pray and we’ll study this together.

Psalm 8

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

1 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion 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 along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Introduction

The main point of this psalm is clear. The opening verse and the closing verse are the exact same thing.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (vv. 1, 9)

This flags the main point. Verse 1 and v. 9 say, “Look! Look! Don’t miss what I’m about! I’m about THIS!

What is “this”? The main point of Psalm 8 is to invite people into the joy of knowing how majestic is the name, the reputation, the character of our God over and against everything else that calls itself god. That’s the point of the Psalm 8—to send an invitation to joy—the joy of knowing the majesty of God. I say that because of the word “how.” When the David asks, “how majestic is your name,” it’s inviting us to contemplate something.

And notice that is says, “in all the earth.” The God Psalm 8 is talking about, and the God The Apostles’ Creed is talking about, is not a tribal deity. He is God in Israel and God in Moab. And he is God in Uzbekistan and the United States. And that is majestic.

But we can be more specific about God’s majesty; Psalm 8 celebrates particular majesty. I’ve titled this sermon the Majestic Vise of Psalm 8. I’ve spelled “vise” with an “s” and not a “c.” Vice spelled with a “c” means the opposite of a virtue; it means immoral behavior. But vise with an “s” means a tool that presses something into its rightful place—like a vise-grip. You put something in a vise, say two pieces of wood that you have glued, and then you crank them together and hold them there until they become what you intended for them to be.

Psalm 8 is like that. It’s a vise-grip, a majestic vise-grip. It curbs against two very real temptations, two very great sins Israel was prone to, and so are we. When this psalm teaches us that because God is “creator of heaven and earth,” it is teaching us that we are not God. And also, though we are not God, we also are not insignificant.

Let me say it this way: the temptation, on one extreme, is to think that we are God. And the temptation on the other extreme is to think that we do not matter at all, that our lives are meaningless, and hardly worth living. Neither is true. The particular majesty of God’s name and reputation is a particular majesty that functions like a vise-grip. And rather than being an oppressive vise, the vise-grip of Psalm 8 is the thing that holds humans in their proper place, the place where we can thrive.

For the rest of our time, I want to look at these two sides of the vise-grip. Then at the end, I’ll mention something about what is hinted at in v. 2.

Vise 1: The Majesty of the Creator that Cares.

First, let’s talk about vv. 3-4 and the first side of the vise. The first side of the vise is this: The Majesty of the Creator that Cares.

Follow along with me as I read vv. 3-4,

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

On my phone, I have an “app” that sends me updates on the phases of the moon. I added that app in the fall because when I ride my bike in the early mornings—often when it’s still dark—I like to know when the moon is full. I’ll ride no matter what, but when the moon is full, in the early morning, you can see everything better.

The ancients knew this better, at least better than the most of us. King David would have spent more time at night looking up at the stars than ever I have or will. And he would have contemplated their hugeness. And yet, there have been times in my life when I’ve seen more of the stars than David could have ever known.

I remember in seminary, there was this guy named AJ. AJ was, by degree, an astrophysicist. One time a seminary professor asked AJ to give a little presentation on the majesty of creation, particularly on the hugeness and complexity and beauty of the universe. And AJ showed pictures from the Hubble Telescope, pictures of huge galaxies shaped like swirling spirals. And AJ told us of billions of stars, some that would make our star look like a little star. I learned things David might have guessed at, but didn’t know. It was awesome.

I saw AJ working in the library the next day, and I said, “Hey, AJ, have you ever looked through the Hubble Telescope?”

He looked at me like I was an idiot. And he said, “The Hubble Space Telescope is in space. No one really looks through it.”

I said, “O yeah, I meant something else… Hey, did you finish your Greek homework? I had a question about that and you are really smart?”

And what’s the point of bringing the majesty of the universe up in Psalm 8? There is a reason. There is a side of a vise that presses on us. That side of the vise says, Look at the stars. Look through the Hubble Space Telescope. And know that you didn’t make that, because you are a man. But God did. And he did it with his fingers. Not his arm. His fingers, says David.

And notice that last clause: “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” This is making a statement. Just like Jason talked about last week. Sometimes questions make a statement. And the statement is this: The God who made all of this is so much more glorious and awesome than you could every know and yet, that same God, he cares for you. He pays attention to you. He is mindful of you. The bigness of God does not mean his remoteness.

Therefore, church, do your problems feel big? This side of the vise says, You’re not God, but the real God is bigger than your problems; and he cares. The majesty of this side of the vise is that God is the creator that cares for his people. He is mindful of them. And this side of the vise presses us to be part of what we were made for, namely to not be God, but to be cared for by him.

Let’s look at the other side of the vise-grip.

Vise 2: The Majesty of the Creator that Entrusts

The second side of the vise is the majesty of the Creator that entrusts. And by entrust, I mean this: God creates a beautiful world and as the crown of creation he creates man, and then he entrusts creation to man so that man watches over creation. That’s what I mean by the majesty of the Creator that entrusts.

Follow along with me as I read vv. 5-8,

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion 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 along the paths of the seas.

Have you ever made anything? You ever built an entertainment center? Or have you ever crocheted something? Or have you ever made any children? If you have, then you might feel very protective of those things. You don’t want people messing them up. That’s natural and appropriate, at least to a point.

One aspect of the particular majesty of God in Psalm 8 is that God makes everything and it is awesome. And then he entrusts creation to be cared for by man. Our lives are not meaningless. Our lives are not insignificant. Let me state it positively. Our lives matter. Our lives are significant. We have a job to do. What is that job? Everywhere there is anything, make it better for the glory of God. And wherever sin and the fall and the curse that set in after Genesis 3 is at, we are to push back that curse so that creation can thrive under the Lordship of Jesus. That’s meaningful work.

Look at the exalted language of the passage: we are just a little lower than the “heavenly beings” (or angles, or God himself; it’s difficult to know how to translate this word, though the point is clear). And we are crowned with “glory and honor.” And God “gave him dominion” (that’s the same word from Genesis 1:26). And God has “put all things under his feet.” This means that men and women are in charge. They are in charge of sheep and oxen. Every animal on the earth. And every animal in the sky. And every animal on the sea, so the psalm says. This is poetic language to say this: wherever there is something created, Man is supposed to rule it.

Now, let’s be careful here. When I say rule it, I don’t mean “own it.” The passage says, “the work of your hands,” meaning God is the owner. He just entrusts it to us for care. We are stewards. It’s sort of like the fact that I have a retirement account that I’ve been putting into for many years, and there is this guy that I have entrusted to take care of that account. His name is Luke. He’s a good guy. But Luke doesn’t own my money. I entrust him with his. He is supposed to watch over it, and yes I’ll even say this, he is to make it thrive. He’s supposed to do things with my money the way I would want him to do it.

And so it is with creation. When God gives man dominion, we are supposed to do with creation what God does with creation, namely make it thrive. Everything is supposed to get better when we touch it: science gets better. Agriculture gets better. Language gets betters. Politics and government are supposed to get better. Children and education are supposed to get better. That is a meaningful and significant calling—to be entrusted as rulers of creation.

Therefore, if you have 4,000 employees working for you, great. Make them better. If you are a stay at home mom, and you have four children that are your direct reports, great. Make them better. Your life matters. That is the other side of the majestic vise.

Let’s transition to the last point.

3. The War & the Warriors

This point is about the war and the warriors. I said at the start that I would come back to v. 2 at the end, so let’s do that now. Follow along with me as I read,

2Out of the mouth of babies and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

I spent a good bit of time working on this verse and there are a few things I’m still not sure about, a few thing that are mysterious. But I want to make one point from this verse and I’m confident that I know enough about it to make that point.

Four observations about this verse:

  1. Babies and infants say something (“out of the mouth of babies and infants).
  2. There is a war. The passage speaks of God’s “foes,” “enemies,” and “avengers.” And he speaks of “babies and infants” in opposition to these enemies. In other words, there is a war and there are warriors: there are enemies against God, and there are babies and infants for God.
  3. God triumphs over his enemies. This is the meaning of “established strength” and the meaning of “to still the enemy.” Some translations say “to silence.” God will triumph
  4. The way that God triumphs over enemies is through weak, insignificant, not strong and not powerful, babies and infants.

Of this much, I am sure.

I’m not sure exactly what these babies say, and I’m not sure exactly the way in which they triumph over God’s enemies. I’m not sure about those things. But I am very sure that there is a war and there are warriors, and in this war between God and his enemies, God has chosen the weak and the feeble and unimpressive to gain victory over his enemies. I think this is the main point of v. 2. God is majestic for using weakness to triumph over his enemies.

I’m not sure if you know this or not, but Psalm 8 is picked up in three very significant places in the NT: the book of Matthew, 1 Corinthians 15, and Hebrews 2. We simply do not have time to cover the way that the majesty of God in Psalm 8 explodes in each of those passages.

But we do have time for one. In Matthew 21 there is a connection with us right now. In Matthew 21, Jesus is going to the cross. He is moving towards Good Friday and Easter. And so are we. And in Matthew 21, Jesus has just come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and the crowds shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (v. 10).

This is what we call Palm Sunday, the week before Easter. And then shortly after that, Jesus goes into the Temple, which had become a circus with merchants, and Jesus takes a whip, drives them out, and says, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.’” (v. 13). And then Jesus heals the bind and the lame (v. 14).

And in vv. 15 and 16a we read this,

15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?”

What’s Jesus going to say to them? I’ll tell you, he quotes Psalm 8:2.

And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”3

Woah. The great theme of the Bible, that God triumphs over his enemies though weakness, is on display. The weakness of these children. And then in just a few days, the weakness of the perfect Man, the God-man, goes to the cross, dies, in weakness and triumphs over his enemies.

I’m not sure if you saw this or not, but the Psalm says in v. 1 and v. 9, “O LORD, our Lord.” That pronoun is significant: “our Lord.” He is “our Lord.” Because the Psalms are the hymnbook of the people of God, the psalms assume things. It is assuming that people reading and singing this have been transferred from God’s enemies to his friends. No one, naturally speaking, should call God their Lord. From our place in the New Testament, we know that only through the death of Jesus does he become our Lord. That that is the gospel, the good news: people that abused creation and the creator and were enemies of God, become reconciled to him and now rule creation with him. That is good news. It gives our lives meaning and significance.

Let’s close with this thought.

Conclusion

Some of you know that I used to live in Arizona. I have a friend in Tucson named Greg. Greg loves the Grand Canyon. I don’t know how many times he has been, but it’s several. He has an awesome story of going down the South Kaibab Trail, staying at the Phantom Ranch, and nearly being snowed in, and an epic climb back up the Bright Angel Trial with his family—all with young children. It’s an epic story.

Greg has told me, and I’ve said this here before, that no one goes to the Grand Canyon to feel large. No one stands near the south rim, looks out over miles and miles of breathtaking beauty and power and feels large. We go to the Grand Canyon to feel small. In the words of the Psalm, we look at the stars and moon and Grand Canyon to feel small.

And we realize there is this duel reality going on: on the one hand, we are not God; we didn’t make stuff; God did. And at the same time, because God has entrusted creation to us, our work and our mission in this world, matters. These are the two sides of the vise that press upon us in Psalm 8. And these are the realities that we affirm when we affirm the Apostles’ Creed, that “[We] believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”

Since we are studying a Psalm, which is a song celebrating the majesty of our God, it is especially fitting that we close in song. So, I’ll close in prayer and invite the worship team to come back up. Let’s pray…

1beardedgospelmen.net (Accessed 2/24/2015).
2In the background of my sermon manuscript, at various points (especially point 3), I’m indebted to the three sermons by John Piper on Psalm 8 posted at DesiringGod.org.
3There is a slight translation issue between the Hebrew OT (the MSS) and the Greek OT (the LXX). For time purposes, we did not explore why Jesus’ quote was slightly different that the ESV of Psalm 8:2.

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