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The Glory of God and an Examination of the Self-Esteem Movement

Psalm 8:1-9

Living Commentary Series

Paul J. Bucknell

_________________________

Psalm 8:1-9

Purpose

Psalm 8 enables us to experience the glory of God and examine the Self-esteem movement. In order to appreciate and live for God's glory, we must make room by eliminating the wrong notions associated with the self-esteem movement. Psalm 8 features 3 arguments of man's fraility against God's glory. See Psalm 8 study questions here!

A. The Eternal Glory of God (Psalm 8:1, 9) -The Two Supports
B. The Temporal Glory of God (Psalm 8:2-8) - The Bridge or Span

Pittsburgh Bridge over the Allegheny RiverPittsburgh is found in western Pennsylvannia and well know for its bridges. Because of the three gorgeous river valleys converging together at the heart of the city, big and beautiful bridges have been built.

A bridge has two distinctive features. There are the two supporting sides and then there is that which connects the two, the bridge itself. We perhaps should add that there is also the difficult terrain in between the two sides. This is the reason the bridge was built.

Psalm 8 is like one of those ornate bridges. The whole bridge represents the full glory of God. Its two sides stand for God's eternal glory outside of creation, strong and immoveable as the eternal shores which support the bridge. The bridge arching across the rough ground is where the glory of God is revealed in time and space. David in Psalm 8 unites them together as if in a great praise song.

A. The Eternal Glory of God (Psalm 8:1, 9) -The Two Supports

God's glory is revealed to us in Psalm 8 as the two supporting sides of the bridge of glory. They represent God's eternal glory. If we take a close look at the beginning and end of the Psalm, we see some important repeated words.

O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Thy name in all the earth, Who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens! (Psalm 8:1)

    O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Thy name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:9)

What do you observe? Psalm 8 virtually begins and ends in the same way speaking of God's majestic name. In between these two verses, many things are referred to, but in the end, they do not matter. We end where we started by meditating on the splendid eternal glory of God. (Click below for larger diagram).

Psalm 8 Structure Forms a Bridge with Psalm 8:1,9 as eternal supports.

God was before time and will never change. His glory stands splendid from all eternity. Absolutely nothing ever created can taint it. The picture of the bridge enables us to see how everything created in time and space is absolutely dependent upon God's glorious purpose. Since everything was made to bring glory to God, all will be accountable to how well it did. This will be done on Judgment Day.

Today, we often ignore the glory of God in the way we build things. We are not only speaking of the atheist who denies God's existence, even though he is fully dependent upon Him for all things. We also refer to those who aspire to do great things for God but really do them for their own purposes.

Man strives to build the biggest and greatest, whether it be a tower, a city, a cathedral or a business. We equivocate aspiration, sacrifice and nobel efforts with good. They do a masterful job. From the outside, everything is solid. But in the end God lets a heavy rain come and down it all comes. Please note how Jesus Christ closes the famous Sermon on the Mount.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall. (Matthew 7:24-27, NASB).

Can you feel the recent tumble of the giant Enron company? Just let a little of the truth come out, and we see that the boasts of man are but vapors.

The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass.(Isaiah 40:7, NASB).

Man's boastings are in vain. At best they are temporary marvels of man who in most cases did not consult with the owner of the materials, nor the owner of the land nor the top architect about their plans. What a shame. We simply haven't reached the place of searching our motivation for our unending number of projects.

There are only two things in this world: God and everything else.

We can call the universe as everything outside of God, whether we know or don't know of its existence. Since we haven't found the end of the universe, it would be mere arrogance to assert that what we know is all that exists. This galaxy could be just the front hall of a massive house for all we know. We might not have even stepped into the grand entrance room. But whatever it is, however large it may be, we can call it 'everything else.'

We could also call it as the scriptures does, 'all creation.' This works simply because anything other than God has been made by God and fully sustained by God's Word. This would include spiritual beings like angels and demons too.

The scriptures have another name for this 'everything else' or 'all creation.' It is also called 'heaven and earth'. This is what is used here in Psalm 8:1. God's majesty is spilt all over the earth and displayed all through the heavens. The word 'heavens' speaks of everything made that is not the earth. Usually we look upward, but we could look downward far beyond the earth and the heavens continue to spread out seemingly without end. The earth is just like a speck in the enormous heavens. And yet because God desired to make a special work on earth, it is especially mentioned.

Where is the man that strives to glorify God through everything he does?

God's person and work stand beyond judgment. They are two bastions of truth that in their perfect quailty can never fall or fail. The eternal shores are supports that can never be moved. Even if all of time and all of the universe is thrown in, nothing can touch the glory of God. His glory remains steadfast, spendid and can never be sullied.

God is awesome in His majesty. "How Majestic is Thy Name..." Nothing that has been created or can be created can alter God's mighty Name. The supports are solid. They are eternally firm. We might throw a million accusations and railings against His glory. We can have the most powerful men despise God and His purpose. We can kick for eternity against the glory of God, but we are but dust which flies away in the wind quite unknown to all. God's glory is absolutely beyond the influence of anything. Listen to the God's response to the kings of the earth as they reproach God.

Let us tear their fetters apart, And cast away their cords from us!?
He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them.
(Psalm 2:3,4).

We are essentially saying that God's foundation, His majesty and glory, does not rest on what He has made. They are eternal. The earth and the heavens are platforms to see His glory. His works are mirroring His glory.

Just like a fireworks display, we like to find a good seat and watch. I took 4 of our children down by the river this year and watched them shoot the beautiful display off the river barge. We were viewers.

The display in this case was put on by the city government. But if we were alert, we would have seen something beyond the colors and noise. We would have seen the glory of God. Who made color and sound. Who made the medium by which the color could travel or the receptors in our minds to perceive the changing shapes and awesome colors?! God did. God is awesome

Even with all our knowledge we have gained in the last century, we must admit that God's glory is beyond what we can observe. God's glory is above the heavens. Isn't this what it says in 8:1? This is the extra phrase different from verse 9.

His splendor is untouchable. It is eternal and without fully being known. We might get excited that the scientist has discovered the genetic makeup of some small part of our body, but still our knowledge is severly limited. Our greatest scientific researchers are like boys playing with some pieces of a toy building set.

Journal of Splendors Above
We ought to start a journal on all the things that we do not know! Then we could begin to realize our true humble place in God's vast creation.

We ought to start a journal on all the things that we do not know! Man's professional journals detail what man thinks he has discovered. This is great. But if we started recording the things that we do not know, then we will gain a much clearer picture of God's glory that is beyond splendor. I could pay attention to the fireworks display and soak in a little part of it. However, I must confess that I missed most of it. And today, it stands as a simple impression in my mind.

This is the way it is with God's glory. It is much greater than all the things we know or could know.

Summary & Application

We see that that the splendor of God has always existed. The only difference is that before creation, there were no viewers other than God. His plan was glorious before it was ever carried out in time. It didn't have to be carrried out. But now the heavens and earth are places to make God's glory known.

There is no greater purpose than to consciously enjoy and reflect God's glory. Each day the show goes on and on.

Jesus never said, "I'm bored!" This statement is a great confession of absolute ignorance of God's glory. It is like watching television all day and after being asked what you saw. You said, "Nothing much."You watched it, but you never reflected on its deeper meaning.

God has revealed His glory, but we have only processed information without reflecting on what we have seen. This denigrates mankind. If each day, we could but gain a greater glimpse of the display of God's glory than the day before, we would be doing well.

Are we more eager about having projects than to be involved in projects that God has called us to participate in? Do we deny our Creator's right over our lives? Do we think we can gain greater fulfillment in life other than through the purpose God has for us?

God has a special way of bringing everything that has been created to glorify Him, even those who detest Him. The question before us is whether we will consciously glorify Him with our wills or later discover how God majestically used His wisdom to bring glory to His name through our rebellion?

B. The Temporal Glory of God (Psalm 8:2-8) - The Bridge or Span

2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast established strength, Because of Thine adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
3 When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?
5 Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God (or angels), And dost crown him with glory and majesty!
6 Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

We have discussed how God's eternal glory holds the world together. Verses 1 and 9 declares the majesty of God. Now, however, we need to look beyond God to what He has made, the part of the bridge that spans out through space and time. We will find this discussed in verses 2-8.

We should remind ourselves that the supports on either side do not need the bridge to stand; the middle part, however, definitely needs both supports. Mankind has greatly messed up their lives by ignoring this main fact. We could make an interesting study by analyzing each time period of this earth and state ways in which that era thought they were the support rather than the supported. We won't do this. We have plenty of such sins in our own age so there is no need to speak of the past.

We could talk about evolution which denies there is God. But since this doctrine is being torn apart by its own people, we don't need to do this much more. For years they insisted they lived apart from God's glory and purpose. Today, however, the design of creation is manifesting God's glory, and they are struggling to handle it.

Each generation is most blind to its own faults.

Today we need to speak about another more subtle form of error. This false doctrine isn't really that subtle, but for us in this generation it is. Each generation is most blind to its own faults.

This particular form has evolved from certain popular psychiatrists. They tell us that man's perspective of himself is the most important thing in the world. If one has a good perspective of oneself, then all is well. If one has a poor image of oneself, then many bad things occur.

There are two branches of the self-esteem movement, much like evolution. One side is atheistic. They do not pretend that there is a God. They can be more open in stating that man's chief goal is to serve oneself by gaining a good image of oneself. The other side believes in God. The problem is that they are worse than the former for they take God and use Him in their formula to gain a good image of themselves.

We are not denying that this self-esteem movement has some truths. This is what makes it so acceptable and convincing. This movement is accelerating the relativism of the day. People don't believe there are absolutes. They are evaluating their lives not from God's perspective, but from man's. The bridge, then, is pretending to exist on its own without any real recognition that it serves a purpose higher than itself.

Whenever any scheme or purpose, whether it be large or small, national or personal, separates itself from centering itself around God's glory, we see man attempting to steal God's glory.

Don't be too concerned as if man is really doing it. For after all, we find that the bridge will crash in due time. God has cleverly incorporated evil, rebellion and the attempted theft of His glory into His great plan so to bring greater glory to Himself. Remember God's glory is above the heavens! God used the most hideous moment of earth's history to accomplish His greatest work of love! Note how God does this in Acts 2:22-24.

"Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- 23 this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24 And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power."

The self-esteem movement explains that we are but innocent victims, caught in the evil snare of others who crushed our chances of being well–balanced. Its weakness is found in the way our weaknesses and strengths are determined by our perspective of ourselves rather than by God's judgment. Self–esteem theology teaches that we get our prime values and reference points from man.

This doesn't sound like the Gospel to me. This is the reason the word 'sin' is now rarely used among Christian circles in the Western world. The Gospel has lost its core values. We now want to make people feel good about themselves. We sense it less important and maybe counterproductive to tell people what God things about themselves and what they are doing. The truth of God, they believe, might even damage them by having them think worse of themselves.

Psalm 8:2-8 reveals three major false perspectives that mankind has of himself. When man thinks too highly of himself, he will always think lowly of God. Only when man corrects His view of man, will he find room for God in His life.

1. The Right Way (8:2)
Doing things God's way is what counts!

"From the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast established strength, Because of Thine adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease."
(Psalm 8:2)

Glory comes to God when we focus on doing what God wants in God way. Man's self-confidence interferes with the way God accomplishes His greatest works through weak and broken people.

If we looked carefully at Psalm 8:2, we would find that God mocks man's arrogance. God claims to establish His greatest show of strength through the weakest of human beings.

Now even if a person doen't have much experience with children, he knows that one will not find strength in them. Children are not enlisted in the army to fight the enemy. If anything, their presence are counted as a liability.

God's point, however, is that He delights in using small, weak, and helpless things to accomplish His greatest feats. God can actually use these little children to fight against His enemies! He does this to let people know it is His cleverness and not man's.

Doen't man tend to take the glory for a work rather than reflect it back to God?! Following are two incidents that show how the LORD bypasses man's cleverness and uses unconventional ways to accomplish His great works.

Scene #1 The Leaders and the Children (Mattew 21:15-16)

Jesus in Matthew 21:16 quotes this verse because simple little children without all of that education, sophistication, power and wealth, exercised greater prudence than the religious leaders of that day.

"But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, ?Hosanna to the Son of David, 'they became indignant, and said to Him, Do You hear what these are saying?? And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABES THOU HAST PREPARED PRAISE FOR THYSELF'"" (Matthew 21:15-16).

The religious leaders were taken back by the way these children were praising Christ. These wise men should have praised God for all the wonderful things that they saw with their own eyes. But no. Their theology was so entwined with pride that they were only able to see evil. If man with all his cleverness couldn't see what glory was to be given to God, then He would use little children.

Scene #2 The Humble Steps of a Famous Leader

When Billy Graham was just starting off, a few people came to Billy Graham telling him that he should take this national radio spot. He was so tired and already had a full schedule. He couldn't see him taking on such a thing. Then when he heard that he needed $93,000. for 13 weeks! A few people had recently started a fund for this with a few thousand dollars. They told him that he only needed $25,000 to get started. Other donations would help by then. He finally told these two persistent men that if God gives him $25,000 by the end of that day, he would do it. They gave up in despair.

People don't do things this way! During that night's meeting in Seattle, he announced the challenge before him. He said he would be in a tent after the meeting if anyone wanted to give to this project. Some threw in bills into the old shoe box, others had promised notes. It all added up to $23,500. Everyone exclaimed, "It's a miracle!". But he said some hard words, "No, it's not a miracle. The devil could send us $23,500. It's all or nothing."

When he got back to his room, there was some mail. There were three letters that had money. One contained a check for $1,000 and two for $250 totalling up to $1500. "Now," said Graham, "I'll grant you it's a miracle." He was ready. ['Seasons of Refreshing' by Keith Hardman, pp. 256-7.]

We see weakness not strength here. Men are so willing to seize such opportunities of greatness. Billy, however, was willing to follow God and not himself. He saw that his life existed for a greater purpose than himself. He was fitting into the place God had for him rather than making a place for himself.

God uses the weak things to do His great works.

2. The Right Perspective (8:3-4)
Having God's view of us is what counts.

Having God's view of us is what counts. Thinking on how we or others perceive us will not lead us to Christ. Adopting God's view of our lives makes us godly men determined to glorify God.

"When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained;
4 What is man {Enosh}, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man {Adam}, that Thou dost care for him?"
(Psalms 8:3,4).

We normally think too high of ourselves. God has spoken powerfully to me through these verses. Before I used to understand them as man being great, the top of God's creation. But as I studied these verses, I found out the opposite. Man is fragile, weak and quickly disappearing. Isn't this what it says?

Verse 3 speaks of God's mighty power. He doesn't refer to man here, does He?! When God speaks of might, he speaks of the vast heavens with their great bodies including the moon and the stars all carefully placed.

I was talking to someone about a book that listed the most influential men of the world. The more I thought of it, the more silly it was. Just think how much the moon influences everyone with the tides and seasons. Think about the sun without which we could not even exist if it was in any other trajectory than its present one. That is influence.

Everyone knows man is fragile, but we don't want to admit it. We believe we are the greatest. Even in Job, when God pointed out greatness, he didn't talk about man but a few dinosaurs that He had made. Interestingly, one person suggests the Behemoth of Job 40 is the Diplodocus, the kind that the famous Andrew Carnegie had discovered.

I could not rightly understand the glory of God until I saw my feeble life. There was far too much pride in me to have any room for the glory of God. When God showed this to me, my heart was so humbled. I stole so much glory from God. I repented. If God is speaking to you today in a similar way, I encourage you not to fight God but to humble yourself in His midst. This is getting God's perspective.

When we look at verse 4, we find the right perspective of man.

What is man {Enosh}, that Thou dost take thought of him?
And the son of man {Adam}, that Thou dost care for him?

Two Hebrew words are used to describe man in Psalm 8:4, Enosh and Adam. Enosh comes from a word meaning: incurable, desperate, woeful, sickly. Adam, literally means red which represents the soil he was made from.

We ought to be incredulous that God would even deal with a creature like man. Yes, God has cast His care upon Him, but why. Sure God keeps tab on all His creatures, but compared to the great things He has created, man is nothing. As we said in Isaiah 40:7, "The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass."

So we find that we will never get a right perspective of ourselves or of others if we try to do it independently of God's statements about man. God's judgments will always bring us back properly focusing on His glory rather than man's.

When people find meaning or importance independent from God's Word, it is like ripping away the bridge from its supports. There is no doubt that we are impacted by how people treat us when we are growing up.

God says this in His word. But God says a lot more about the importance of our relationship with Him and that this relationship with God shapes our relationship with man. Remember, if you love God, then you love man. If you lie to your brother, you do not love God. The first commandments have to do with our relationship with God, not with man. This is of primary importance. We need the right perspective!

3. The Right Heart (8:5-8)
The right motivation is what counts!

5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
(Psalms 8:5-8, NIV).

We are rebellious sinners by nature. Christ's death was not to show how cute or valuable we were. Instead God displays His great and marvelous glory through His overwhelming gracious dealing with lowly and rebellious creatures as ourselves.

This is where we see the glory of the bridge work. We see it all along of course, but only if we have the right way and the right perspective. God is able to use weakness. God delights in associating with humble man. What miracles! Man is not inherently great but fragile. I recently spoke at a funeral of an eleven year old girl who died from liver cancer. Man's life is so frail.

Although verses 5-8 seems to speak of man's glory, it doesn't. Let me explain. The image is taken straight from the creation account in Genesis 1. We read in Psalm 8:6 that God made man a ruler over His works and put everything under man's feet. This was an honor but we should understand two things.

1) Man's honor was given to him
2) Man abused this honor.

1) Man's honor was given to him

The key thought here is that man is not honorable by nature; he was given this honor to rule. His glory rests in what God has given to him. Man is not glorious in and of himself. When we think properly of man, we will find that man has been endowed with a high calling and good gifts.

"Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow" (James 1:16-17).

We tend to be so prideful of our noble position and abilities where in fact, we should be very humbled. God gave us anything that we have. We are stewards by calling. We care for the things God has given us to do.

We certainly should be thankful to God for this privilege but never prideful. He could have called and designed any other creature to do these things. We are not sure how God made these other animals, but we do know man was made from dirt. We have no life on our own and each moment totally depend on His breath just to breathe.

2) Man abused this honor.

Man was given a grand honor of overseeing this world, but we see him quickly failing in his responsibilities. Given all and yet he turns against His Maker's only rule. Man fell from God and became God's enemy.

Although verse 5 does seem to start speaking differently than what we have been saying, man's great failure over the millenniums is being overlooked in light of the Second Adam that rescued mankind and restored that rule though in a modified way (cf. Romans 5:12-21).

Psalm 8:5 speaks primarily of Christ in Hebrews 2:9-10.

"But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings."

If there is any glimpse of glory in fallen man, it rests not in Himself but totally in Jesus Christ. We are so sinful and decayed, that our only hope is to hide in Jesus Christ. It is in this Gospel that we learn the eternal God sent His only Son to die for man. He stepped down to take on the form of man. Even more, Jesus Christ died on a despicable and painful cross. And why? To help the arrogant man that more than often assumes any troubles are God's fault!

Hebrews 2:9-10 very clearly announces that God chose to be extra special to mankind rather than to angels. Angels never had a second chance. If they fell, it was for eternity. But for man, God opens a door for him to join Christ and actually share His inheritance.

What can we say? He brings many sons to glory. Can anyone say that these sons, even onHebrews 2:9-10 Bringing many sons to glory.e, is worthy or deserving of such treatment? Not at all. We are all so unworthy. In fact we deserve great judgment. Verses 6-8 make a purposed connection to creation and to the rule God had given to mankind. Christ now has all things under Him, including all animals and things. Restored man, those that are in Christ, will also share this glory. We must remember that this is a shared glory, not an inherent one.

The right heart enables us to see our unworthiness and need of Christ. If it wasn't for Christ, we would suffer eternal death. But He saved us. We praise God for sharing His glory with us. We are humbled to be rescued, restored and then be able to share in the glory of Christ.

Summary & Application: The Bridge over the Rough Terrain

There are two parts to a bridge: the supports and the span. The supports (verses 1 and 9) represent God's eternal glory. They never change. They are untouched by what goes on in time. The bridge or span is the glory brought about in space and time. Man tries to live in ignorance of God's purpose for man. This is like the bridge boasting it does not need supports to hold it up. God, however, reaches into space and time and brings about a greater show of His glory by rescuing man and sharing glory with those sons He redeems through Christ's blood.

Every bridge has a purpose. It is easier not to have a bridge. If there is no rough terrain to cross, then there would not be any bridge. But the bridge does make everything look much more glorious. God saw fit to create space and time to display His glory.

Man, however, has arrogantly, again and again, generation after generation, insisted that we don't need God, or that if we believe God, that He serves our purpose. This is so unfortunate. We must repent from anytime and all the times we have attempted to steal God's glory.

We are called to be His people and completely bring in every area of our lives to conform to His holy purpose. And lastly, we are called to live expressly to bring glory to God's Name. The more we focus on bringing glory to God, the more He can use us. His whole purpose of this universe is to bring glory to His Name so that even in our weakness we can seek to make His Name great. There is no other higher calling than this.