Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Look at God's World

Psalm 8 seems to have a phrase missing. It reads
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?

Grammatically, it seems to me to lack a linking phrase that says why the initial observation leads to the subsequent question. The reader is left to infer the connection.

It might mean, "When I look up at all the stars that you made, it is so unbelievably big that it makes me feel small, so I wonder, what are we people worth to you?"

Or maybe, "When I look out into space, it seems so infinite compared to my finite experience, it makes me wonder how I could possibly matter at all."

Or it could be, "When I think about all of the beauty that you created, then realize how plain I am, how do I possibly compare to that?"

Or even, "The universes you created are unimaginably complex, and I am so simple by comparison, you must not think much of me."

But I think the best way to read it is just to leave the pause in there and just let our minds wander over it for a few moments before we go on: "God, when I think about the immensity of all you have made, every single star in the cosmos ... (pause) ... what are we to deserve your attention at all, let alone your love?"

It is a staggering claim, isn't it? To say that the One who created all that is has a particular concern for you and me is audacious! Maybe even impudent? And yet that is precisely the claim this Psalm makes. Not only that God pays attention to human beings, but it goes on to say that God elevates human beings to a kind of "favored creature status" by giving us the rest of creation to care for.

My prayer yesterday was, "Are you sure that's such a good idea, Lord?" I mean, we don't do so well at taking care of things given to us sometimes. If we need a power line there, it doesn't matter that a tree is growing in the same space, just cut apart the tree and make room for the power line. If we need a development there, it doesn't matter if there is a hill in the way, just flatten the hill to level the ground for the development. If we need more parking there, it doesn't matter that there is a beautiful green space in the way, just pave it over so we can cram more cars in.

Humanity's callousness with the environment lends even deeper incredulity to Psalm 8. "What are human beings, that you are mindful of us?" Truth be told, we're not all that great. I know that there are those who will minimize humanity's impact on the earth, and they have a retinue of scientists to quote that back up that viewpoint, just like there's a whole slew of scientists saying the opposite. But simple observational common sense goes a long way in this particular conversation. We simply don't do a good job of caring for the natural world a lot of the time.

It starts with looking. "When I look at ..." When was the last time you did that? When was the last time you just sat and looked at a tree, the stars, another person, birds at a bird bath, or something else in God's wonderful world? To look with no agenda other than observation is to begin understanding the pause in the middle of Psalm 8.

When I look ... What am I?


Anonymous said...


Psalm 8 was the first Psalm that I memorized and it is arguably my favorite Psalm along with Psalm 139.

With respect to making inferences, I have always had a positive outlook. Most of the examples you used seemed a bit on the negative side to this reader.
When I look whether day or night I am amazed of the beauty and enormity of it all.
What am I? According to Him, I am many things, but most importantly I am conformed to His image.


(BTW, thanks for the expanding my vocabulary: retinue. I can't recall coming across that one before today.)

Anonymous said...


I wish to flesh out a little bit to my response above. Because I am impatient, a poor writer and keyboarder, I find it at times difficult to convey my thoughts in a clear and concise way. (I would love to be able to write and comminucate in the way that you and Thomas Sowell are able to. Sigh!)
My response to the "What am I?" question is born from a lesson that my mother always preached on, and a book that I have read recently.
My -protective- mother, always and I mean always, taught my sister and I to not let anyone define who or what you are. This was due in part to racism, and the soft bigotry of low expectations that was prevalent when we were younger. Another factor was that as children of God, we were who He says we were. Why allow other created beings define you instead of the Creator?
In a book that is an excellent read and that I highly recommend, Conformed to His Image by Kenneth Boa he touches upon that we should see ourselves as God sees us. When we are able to see ourselves in this context, we are better able to appreciate how and why we are special to Him.
Though we may not be all that great when it comes to the environment or a sundry of other issues, we are still


Martin said...

Phillips, Craig, and Dean sing one of my favorite songs, and the verse says "Who am I that you are mindful of me? That you hear me - when I call." I often think about how insignificant my life is, and what I do is. That I can solve as many computer problems that are thrown my way, and more will be there tomorrow. But for as much as God cares for me in my insignificance, I can at least care for others who are equally insignificant.