Unit: Psalms (Part 2)
Theme: Godly Heart
Lesson Text: Psalm 8; Psalm 131
Supplemental Text: Isaiah 66:1-2; Proverbs 3:34; Micah 6:8; James 4:10; Hebrews 2:6-8
Aim: Humble yourself before God; then he will lift you up.
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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the Study by Mark Scott, Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_November13_2022.
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By Mark Scott
Psalm 8 from the first book of Psalms (chapters 1–41) and Psalm 131 from the Psalms of Ascent (120–134) can easily be juxtaposed. Psalm 8 celebrates the worth and dignity of humankind as cocreators, while Psalm 131 celebrates the humility of humankind. Psalm 8 pictures God as majestic and victorious over his enemies. Psalm 131 pictures God as a tender mother holding a child who climbs up in her lap. King David provides evidence he knew both sides of God.
Exalted Humanity/Majestic God
Psalm 8 starts and ends with identical lines. “Yahweh Adonai” is majestic (mighty, famous, superior) in all the earth. This majesty is displayed in the physical universe (vv. 1b, 3, 78). God’s glory (splendor) is set in the heavens. The moon and stars were finger play for God. He set them in place. He allowed humans to take care of flocks and herds, animals, birds, and fish, all of which he created.
The irony is that God chose to share his sovereignty with humans, evident by his working through the tiniest of people (i.e., children and infants—those who were being nursed) and through his Son, who, for a time, would be made a little lower than the angels. One could argue that this made God even more majestic.
Our majestic God worked through rather unimpressive things—like kids (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Children and infants have hardly any clout. But God worked through them to establish a stronghold against his enemies. Since this is a psalm of David, one might think of his encounter with Goliath (1 Samuel 17). The little guy won even though his adversary had a giant advantage.
Verse 2 is stunning, especially when we consider its use in Matthew 21:15-16. Jesus cited this verse as justification for the children’s reactions to him during his “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem.
Who is the most exalted human being? Jesus, of course. The majesty of God was also revealed through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In time and space, he was made a little lower than the angels (i.e., during his earthly stay). The Hebrews writer referenced this text in arguing for Jesus being the “God-Man” for all humanity (Hebrews 2:9). Jesus was the best expression of God on earth (Colossians 2:9), but he also was the best expression of man on earth. Jesus was what humans were to be all the time. In fact, the phrase a little lower than the angels literally means “lower than the gods [Elohim].” (See John 10:37-38.) Humans were intended by God to be like Jesus. They were crowned . . . with glory and honor. God intended for them to reign over creation similar to how he reigned over the universe. Humans will even judge the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). The New Century Version translates Psalm 8:6a, “You put them in charge of everything you made.”
Humble Humanity/Tender God
Psalm 131 is one of the Psalms of Ascent, meaning it was to be sung by Israelites as they traveled up to Jerusalem (or maybe more specifically, as they went up to the temple mound). The closer they got to God (with his presence in the Holy of Holies in the temple) the more aware they became of their own smallness. They realized God was great and they were not.
No one can be arrogant in the presence of God. This is why David said, “My heart is not proud . . . my eyes are not haughty [raised too high or exalted].” Since God was so exalted, David did not concern himself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. At first pass, this might seem like David was saying he had no interest in expanding his mind or exploring the intricacies of the universe. But several passages contradict that thinking (e.g., Psalm 19:1-7; Psalm 139; and the other psalm that is part of this lesson).
David actually was saying he was content with letting God be God. David was content to just climb up into God’s lap. The image is that of a weaned child—a child who goes to his mother for closeness rather than nourishment. The best posture for David (and the nation of Israel) was that of hope. We might not understand everything in life, but we can humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord so that he can lift us up (see James 4:10).