Rev. L. Althouse
March 5, 2006
Background Scripture: Psalms 8 Devotional Reading: Genesis 1:26-31.
While sailing on a cruise ship across the Indian Ocean one night some years ago, the captain invited everyone to the open deck and said he was going to have the crew douse all the lights for 10 minutes and we were to gaze at the heavens above.
Actually, as he said that, I looked up into the night sky: the panoply of stars and planets was spectacular. But, when all the lights were turned off, the tiny explosions of light were overwhelming. Without the glow of metropolitan lights, the sight was unbelievable. All around us there were audible sighs and exclamations.
In my mind I heard the Psalmist exclaiming: “When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him …” (8:3,4a)
I thought also of Baron von Huegel, walking at night on the Wiltshire Downs and, looking up into the night sky, finding no other words than “God, God, God!”
As I write this in my study, I see a large reproduction of Van Gogh’s magnificent painting, “Starry Night,” the dark sky filled with blazing orbs of light and swirls of cosmic energy. Critics disagree as to what Van Gogh intended with this painting, but for many of us it is a truly spiritual work that calls us to adore the Creator revealed in his creation, one of the major themes in the Psalms.
In Psalms 8:3,4 we encounter a tremendous mood swing that many, if not most of us have experienced at some time. The wonders of creation turn our minds to the great Creator who called them into being. Those thoughts may reassure us and/or unsettle us. Blaise Pascal said, “The silence of those infinite spaces terrifies me.”
I am more likely to respond with wonder than terror, but both are different apprehensions of awe in the presence of God’s magnificent works. Still, as we contemplate God the Creator, our minds may return to the nagging, familiar question that never quite goes away: If that is God, then what am I?”
A grain of sand
When I look into a starry sky or examine the strata of the Grand Canyon, I cannot frame the words to answer. I used to think that humans were like grains of sand on a vast desert. But, when I realized that what I see on the clearest of nights is but a speck of the universe that lies beyond our most powerful telescopes and read that science is postulating other parallel universes, I realize a grain of sand is not an adequate image.
The Psalmist, then, records yet another mood swing: “Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands …” (8:5,6)
He assures us that we are the greatest of God’s creations: “a little less than God.” But, careful, careful. The psalm is not about the creatures, but the Creator. We praise him because he has created us in his own image, that there is a real affinity between him and us. Yet our response must not be one of arrogance or even self-congratulation, but worshipful praise and adoration.
What am I? What are you? Creatures who adore the Creator: “Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is THY name in all the earth.” (8:9)
This farm news was published in the March 1, 2006 issue of Farm World.