So many stars: Psalm 8

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Today’s reading: Psalms 1-8.

How many stars can you see in the sky? Under ideal conditions, about 2500. Almost every one of those stars lives in our own neighborhood, the Milky Way Galaxy. But it’s a huge neighborhood. The Milky Way Galaxy stretches out over 120,000 light years in diameter. It contains about 200 billion stars. And it’s only one of an estimated 170 billion galaxies in the visible universe. David didn’t know the number of stars when he wrote Psalm 8, but he was still awed by them (and I bet he saw many more stars in the dark skies of his time).

When I consider 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, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8: 3-5

Psalms is usually thought of as being about the half-way point of the Bible, and I like this psalm for the way it looks back at all we’ve covered so far. But it troubles me for the difficulty in answering David’s question. Why does God, greater by far than the vast greatness of all the stars, take notice of me?

The psalm begins and ends with praise of God’s excellent name. In between it covers several of the themes of the Old Testament, including:

God’s preeminent position. He is beyond, over, and above everything. He existed before anything else.

Creation. The stars that amaze us were created by God, giving proof of his greatness.

Opposition. God’s praise goes forth to the consternation of his enemies, but those enemies exist. The same Satan who tempted Eve and troubled Job roams about today. Men and women who follow Satan’s lies also become enemies of God.

Man’s dominion. God’s mindfulness of man is a mystery, but his plan for man is clear. We are given stewardship of creation, to use it according to God’s will.

I don’t know why God cares so much about us, but I do know that he put the stars in the sky so that we would be awed by them and in turn praise him. When we glorify him, he inhabits our praise. The stars help make a home for the LORD in our hearts. Next time you have a chance, go out and gaze upon the night sky, and glorify God.

“O Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name—Yahweh, the absolutely existing one—in all the earth.” There is no place in all the earth where God is not Yahweh—where he is not the absolute one. Everywhere everything depends absolutely on him. He has no viable competitors anywhere. He is above all things everywhere. He sustains all things everywhere. He is the ground and goal of all things everywhere. He is greater and wiser and more beautiful and wonderful than everything everywhere. “O Yahweh, 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. And the aim is that we stand in awe of him and worship. – John Piper

Image by j-dub 1980 on Flickr, CC by-sa 2.0

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