A Psalm of Majesty

A Psalm of Majesty

Apr 02, 2017

Passage: Psalm 8

Preacher: Jason Wolin

Series: The Psalms


Welcoming Team

I want to pause and just remind us to be thankful that we have not just a church home but a physical home. As many of you know we support Vladamir and Yulia Vlashenko in Ukraine who are part of the SGA network. This week we received a letter from Pastor Valery Antonyuk, president of the Ukrainian Baptist Union:

The SGA network is currently planting 50 new churches in large cities of Ukraine, and working with the teams that began this ministry.

This is real stuff. It's so hard for us to imagine living in a war. But it's real. It's living in daily fear. It's taking risks to care for people. It's living without assurance of food or supplies. Let's pray for these brothers and sisters in Christ and join them in praying for the end of the war.

Well, Easter is just two weeks today, and so I want to remind you to mark on your calendar April 14th which is our Good Friday service. Also we want you to invite your neighbors, friends and coworkers to the service. Easter is a great opportunity to invite people who are open to the idea of God but have not given their life to him. They have some openness to the idea of Jesus' life work but perhaps they don't understand the fullness of it. So invite them to the resurrection service and hopefully they will have some increased understand and God would move in their heart to accept him. Sometimes it's easier to invite someone if you have something to hand them so if you want, we've made invitation cards that you can either email or physically hand someone.

By the way, Easter is a red-alert, all-hands on deck event. There are so many people who need Christ that attend Easter services. Try to have a conversation about Christ with someone you don't know on Easter and maybe God would turn that into a gospel opportunity.

Now because we are in the countdown to Easter, this Sunday and the next two Sundays we will be focusing on Psalms that have to do with either Christ's death, prophesies about his ministry or resurrection.

Today we will look at Psalm 8 and next week we will look at Psalm 118 both of which look at Jesus' triumphal entry.

Then for Good Friday and Easter we will look at Psalm 22 and Psalm 16 which speak of both the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So that's our Psalms road map.

Introduction to Palm Sunday

Psalm 8 and Palm Sunday are connected. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday and we will celebrate the triumphal entry which took place one week before Jesus' crucifixion.

But why do we celebrate this? Why is this part of the liturgical calendar? In order to understand Psalm 8 we have to answer this question.

Understanding the triumphal entry begins by disabusing ourself of our knowledge of how the story ends. When we come to the last week of Jesus' life we know it ends in crucifixion. But we have to constantly remind ourselves that the death of Jesus was just an incomprehensible, inconceivable, unimaginable, staggeringly disorienting conclusion to the story. Despite the repeated warnings, not a single disciple saw this coming.

It would be just as shocking to them as it would be for us to have Jesus return to earth physically in 2017 only to be crucified a second time. We would be horrified by that. It would baffle and confuse on so many levels. Our gears would be spinning. We'd be shell-shocked by that. But that was just what it must have felt like for them.

The Messiah was not there to die. He was there to setup his kingdom. And that is what the triumphal entry is all about. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that donkey, I think the people knew exactly what was going on. There was no mystery as to what he was doing. There was no peculiarity. He was offering himself to be their king. He was offering himself as the promised OT Messiah.

Now this makes sense on several levels. The easiest way is to just think about the big picture of Jesus' life. What is he doing? What's his whole life about? Exactly this - establishing his kingdom.

  1. Jesus begins his ministry by identifying with the message of John the Baptist which was what? "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
  2. And then all through his teaching ministry he teaches about his kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount is all about kingdom ethics and kingdom values and what it takes to get access into that kingdom.
  3. All through the center of the gospels you have these metaphors and similes that talk about what the kingdom of heaven is like: The kingdom of heaven is like a seed, it's like wheat and tares, it's like a mustard seed, it's like leaven, it's like a treasure hidden in a field, it's like a net that catches fish. You can see it all the way through.
  4. And the disciples of course are picking up on this. This message is certainly not lost on them. They are saying, "Is it at this time that you will setup your kingdom?"
  5. When Jesus is on trial before the religious leaders and before Rome he is on trial for what? For attempting to setup a kingdom.

So big picture, Jesus life is certainly about establishing and offering his kingdom, but the high water mark of that offer is the triumphal entry. The entire ministry of Jesus climaxes in this last week of his life. All the religious and political and social forces are pushing this to a head. It's sink or swim. It will either end with him on a throne or a cross.

Timeline and Geography

So the triumphal entry very simply then is Jesus offering himself as king to the Jewish people. And here's how the events unravel.

Jesus is approaching Jerusalem for the feast, but it's not without a certain bit of intrigue. Weeks earlier Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. And that caused absolute horror and indignation on the part of the religious leaders. They concluded after the raising of Lazarus that Jesus had to die. And this was not a quiet hush, hush plan. They made it public. They put WANTED posters all over the city. There is a price on his head, so much so that there was a bit of a buzz going on around town.

Do you see what's going on here? There is a bit of a question as to whether Jesus would come to passover or not. The pressure was so intense, so significant. And so really it was a bit of a power play. Who was stronger? If Jesus stayed away the religious leaders win. If Jesus approaches, well, he's not scared of them.

So Jesus' decision to approach Jerusalem for the feast it's no small deal. He's entering into the lions den and everyone knows it. He's taking these leaders head on. He's not scared of them. And the people are thinking, "Here's someone who can stand up to these guys. He's going to be our king!"

Now how Jesus approaches Jerusalem is fascinating. Jesus travels down from Galilee in the north and makes his way toward the city. It says very specifically in the text that Jesus stops just short of Jerusalem late Friday night in a little city called Bethany which is where Lazarus and Mary lived.

Now let me show you where Bethany is.

This is some approach footage coming up the back side of the Mount of Olives and when you crest the horizon, you see this famous city in all it's splendor. Now the modern walled city of Jerusalem is similar in shape to how it was in Jesus day. The walls were slightly different shape but it's the same basic idea.

Now we said that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem Friday night. That is significant. Because the very next day, Saturday would be Sabbath.

The Jews had very clearly defined a Sabbath day's journey as 2000 cubits or less than a half mile. Now that didn't mean you walk a half mile and you had to sit down. It meant that there was a perimeter around the city.

And the Jews would have had roadside markers that indicated that you had reached that point. Now as it happens Bethany is right outside the Sabbath zone, about a 1.2 miles.

So let's put it all together- Jesus was traveling with a band of pilgrims and arrives in Bethany Friday night. Some of those traveling with Jesus undoubtedly continue into the city. Now what question is everyone asking? Everybody has been asking the question, "Do you think he will come to the feast at all?" Now these guys have the answer: He is coming, and he's coming Sunday morning.

Now as you can imagine, this is not at all to the religious leader's liking. The Sadducees who basically run the temple are freaking out. To add insult to injury, we read in Matthew 21 that even the little children are running around in pure innocent excitement shouting Hossana, which is a Messianic reference from Psalm 118, "Save us." Their innocent little mouths are just proclaiming what is bvious to them. In their simple minds here's a guy who can do miracles. He must be Messiah. I will praise him as that. I want this guy to be my king. The religious leaders want this to stop now. But how? You can shut up an adult through intimidation, or veiled threats but that doesn't work on kids. They just laugh at you and run away and keep doing it. And it just infuriates these leaders. So they march straight up to Jesus raging with indignation.

"Jesus, you need to stop these children. They are blaspheming. And Jesus' response to them, very interestingly is quoting a line from Psalm 8.

Now why did Jesus quote Psalm 8 and what point is he making? This is so cool. Let's read Psalm 8 and see the big point he's making.

Relationship to Psalm 8

This Psalm is all about the Majesty of God. That's rather obvious just from the way the Psalm is written. The psalm begins and ends with its main point. Verse 1: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

We talked a little about the Hebrew names for God last week. When David begins O Lord, our Lord - the two words for Lord are not the same in Hebrew. The first one, with all caps, is a translation of the name Yahweh — not a generic name for God, but the name God chose to give himself when he revealed himself to Moses in Exodus 3.

Think about this name that God gave himself. Imagine if you were in the position to name yourself. What would you choose? Many an emperor has been in this position before. They say to themselves, "Self, How would I like to be known?" I will help that memory along by naming myself. And so you get names like Alexander the Great. King Edward the benevolent. Sulieman the Magnificent. Would you call yourself if given the chance? John the athlete? Rebekkah the Beautiful. Rachael the Genius. Dave the musician?

What does God choose to name himself? I am who I am. The name YHWH is built off that statement. That's a bizarre name until you start to think about it.

Why does he name himself this? Not an adjective or a noun but a state of being verb. He's communicating his absolute existence.

  • He simply is.
  • He was not created.
  • He will not die.
  • He will not change.
  • He is absolute.
  • He depends on nothing.
  • He has no competitors
  • He is above all
  • He is the point of all things everywhere.

So the Psalm begins “O YHWH, our Lord (our Master, our King, our Ruler), how majestic is your name in all the earth.” That’s the main point of the Psalm.

Now that is the main point, but between verses 1 and 9, David wants us to see a very counterintuitive way in which is POWER and majesty is made known.

God Defeats His Enemies Through the Weakness of Babies

The way Jesus uses this Psalm in the triumphal entry is pure genius. Think about it. Jesus has enemies. The religious leaders want him dead. The religious leaders want him strung up and extinguished.

And if you want to destroy your enemies, the human way to do it is through power. You use your power to crush your enemy. And certainly God has power. The Psalm begins, you have set your glory above the heavens. Your significance, your glory, your weight is measured by your creation. If we guage the measure of a man by how much he can create in his lifetime, well, God wins by a long shot.

In verses 3-4, David describes God as the majestic Creator who makes stars with his fingers. “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

The point of these two verses is that God is infinitely great, and man, by comparison, is nothing. “When I look at all this, what is man, that you care for him?” You create the stars with your fingers. Man is infinitesimally small compared to a tiny little planet.

Just this week we got images back from a probe that was sent to Jupiter August 5th 2011.

So man is so small compared to a planet, not to mention a star, not to mention billions of stars.

So it's almost absurd to think that God could possibly even have something that classifies as an enemy. What man could possibly be a threat to a God whose glory is displayed in the heavens like this?

If it were up to me, if I was in Jesus' position, and these Pharisees were out to get me, I'd wait for that perfect dramatic moment, I'd wait for that moment when the entire Roman detachment came to arrest me and I'd choose to leverage the full weight of that power and silence my enemies. I'd turn them into rabbits or goats or something.

But Jesus chooses to silence his enemies not by using his power (although he could have). He chooses to silence his enemies through the use babies.

“Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.”

Talk about a contrast! God is the GREAT I AM. The eternal one. He is the greatest of all beings. None could be stronger, wiser, greater. And then in verse 2, we see babies. Babies are weak; they seem to have no wisdom or knowledge. They are utterly dependent on others. They are insignificant in the world’s eyes.

These babies are somehow defeating the enemies of God. They are opening their mouths and saying or crying something. And whatever they are saying or crying is powerful enough to still the enemy and the avenger: “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you [God] have established strength.” Whatever it is that is coming out of their mouths, it is subduing the enemies of God.

In other words God is winning the war on terror through weakness.

God Rules His Universe Through the Weakness of Men

This is a theme you will see all over the Bible. God exhibits his strength by saying, I am so powerful, I am so worthy, I am so majestic I can literally silence my enemies through something as weak and foolish as babies.

I can use these human screw ups, these weak, frail needy people to rule my world and silence my enemies. It's like the expert swordsman defeating his enemies blindfolded with his left hand. By using weakness it further establishes his strength.

This is actually the point of verses 3-8. What is man that you are mindful of him? Verse 6 says, “You [O God] have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.”

God lets man rule his creation. That's crazy man is like a baby. He is as nothing compared to God. And compared to the works of God’s fingers man is infinitesimally small. Look at vs 5-8

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

So here it is again, this peculiar mark of God’s majesty: God not only defeats his foes with the weakness of children, but he rules his world with the weakness of men.

The glory of God’s strength is greater because it is established through human weakness. The glory of God’s wisdom is greater because it is established through human folly. What man regards as weak, God makes the means of victory. What man regards as foolishness, God makes the means of triumph.

God’s strength magnified in human weakness. God’s victory achieved through childlike lowliness. God’s rule of the world established through humble servanthood.

Connection to Triumphal Entry.

So let's return to the story. The Pharisees are indignant. They are so angry at what they hear.

  • Do you hear what these are saying, Jesus?
  • They are calling you the Son of David. They are calling you the bringer of deliverance and salvation.
  • They are calling you the king of Israel. Do you hear this?

And how does Jesus answer? “Yes.” Now that is a silencer. That's not what they were expecting to hear. “Yes, I hear what they are saying. And? What's your point? It's appropriate. I receive what they are saying.

  • They are not ignorant. You are ignorant.
  • They are not blaspheming. You are blaspheming.
  • They are not foolish. You are foolish. .”

This theme of children being used to establish the strength of God should sound familiar, scribes and chief priests? You know your Bibles. Does the weakness and folly and insignificance of children lifting up their voices remind you of something?

So Jesus goes on in verse 16 and says to the chief priests and scribes: “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” In other words, he quotes Psalm 8:2.

Why did Jesus cite this Psalm at this moment? Two things happen when he quotes this Psalm. First of all, it comes true. The enemy is silenced. The chief priests and scribes say no more. The day belongs to the children. What they say holds sway. What the chief priests and scribes say falls to the ground. So Jesus makes clear that this psalm is coming true in his ministry. God is defeating his enemies through the weakness of children and man.

The kingship of Jesus, the Messiahship of Jesus, the power and lordship of Jesus will triumph in weakness.

Jesus and his Divinity

But something else happening much more significantly. Jesus is making a claim here. This Psalm is not a prophecy about Jesus. This Psalm is Jesus leveraging a Psalm about God and applying it to himself. Jesus is using this Psalm to make a claim about his divinity.

Let me show you how this works. The way Jesus uses this Psalm would have just absolutely infuriated the Pharisees. You see these children Sadducees? You know what they are doing? They are doing the same thing the children of Psalm 8:2 are doing. They are praising God. IN Psalm 8 the whole point was, "The MAJESTY of God." God has prepared praise from the mouths of little tiny children. And that is what is happening right now. Little tiny children are praising God.

“Hosanna to the Son of David!” That is rightly directed praise. I am Messiah. "Before Abraham was I am."

Jesus uses Psalm 8 to point to his divinity. Oh YHWH our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth. Oh LORD/Jesus our LORD how majestic is your name in all the earth.

Jesus, the God-man defeats his foes with the weakness of children, and he will save the world and rule the world on the path of weakness. Christ crucified looks foolish and weak. But all of Scripture aims to teach us that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).