Psalm 8: Fully Alive

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

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honour.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

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

– Psalm 8

One of my favourite quotations is from St Irenaeus, who was bishop of Lyons in the second century.  Irenaeus said, ‘The glory of God is a man [we should add ‘woman’] fully alive.’ It reminds me of another quotation from another bishop, 1800 years later when William Temple said, ‘It is a great mistake to suppose that God is only, or even chiefly, concerned with religion.’

Religion is a pretty ambiguous phenomenon. I don’t think God is particularly interested in us being particularly religious. I do think God wants us to flourish and be the people he created us to be.  Jesus said ‘I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10).

The Bible has a high view of humanity. We’re not accidents of a blind evolutionary process, emerging from the primordial soup, but made ‘a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honour.’ If you struggle with self-esteem that’s not a bad verse to pin up on the mirror!

The Psalmist also reminds us that we have a high calling, to be rulers over God’s works (v. 6), which is of course a call to look after creation rather than exploit it.

The Psalm begins with a survey of the heavens.  We know much more about the ‘heavens’ than King David ever did, we stand on the shoulders of giants and know so much more about this incredibly vast and expanding cosmos. As we get to know more about the universe, it can feed that sense of insignificance that is so prevalent in the modern world and we can catch ourselves asking, ‘What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?’

The Bible’s answer is that however you feel about things, you are significant and you are precious. Not only did the God behind this awesome universe create you in his own image but we know much more than King David ever did. We know that God the Father sent his one and only Son into the world that we might know his love and be reconciled to him and be adopted into his family forever, that we might have life in all its fulness, that we might come fully alive. No wonder the Psalm ends as it begins, ‘Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!’