St. John’s University, Collegivelle, MN, 56231 2006
Friday, June 26, 2020 A Psalm about Creation
By Ray Cook Furr
1O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. 2Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. 3When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 4what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? 5Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. 6You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, 7all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. 9O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
When you read this psalm, you are immediately reminded of the creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2.There is an excitement that lifts you to another plane of life. We have all been there. I experienced it when I flew over the vast Grand Canyon for the first time. I was in awe when I went diving on the Great Barrier Reef and came face to face with the most unusual and amazing marine life. I gasped for air when I stood on a tall rock at Pikes Peak and gazed over the massive Rocky Mountains. I felt it again when Grayson Hanchey shared in his devotional a picture of an unmapped star that he and his Grandpa photographed through a telescope.
So when the psalmist says 1O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! We know exactly what he is saying. I can imagine him sitting under the stars in the desert somewhere in Israel. Imagine what he would have thought if he had ever seen the beauty of the snow-covered Swiss Alps. He had not experienced the great Arctic icebergs floating in the northern icy waters. He may have seen part of the Great Rift Valley that runs from Lebanon to Mozambique in Southeast Africa.
The Psalmist is in a state of worship and he wants us to join him. This passage is the basis for two of my favorite songs. The great hymn, How Great Thou Art, and a Michael Smith praise song, O Lord, Our Lord How Majestic is Your Name in all the Earth. I remember the first time I sung these songs. I was at a Billy Graham Crusade in Baton Rouge, La. The stadium was packed and we sang How Great Thou Art as one large, joyful congregation. Everyone was singing at the top of their voices. I didn’t want the song to end but when it did, a large, elderly man precisely expressed my sentiment, “I feel like popping my suspenders and going to heaven.”
I experienced the other song when I went as a chaperone to Lynchburg, Va. on a weekend retreat for the state’s middle schoolers. When the music started, the kids who already knew the song jumped up singing and dancing:
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. O Lord, we praise your name. O Lord, we magnify your name; Prince of Peace, mighty God; O Lord God Almighty
By the third pass, I had it down and joined with them at the risk of embarrassing my son. What a wonderful worship experience.
But, like the Psalmist, when I think about the majesty of God and the wonder of this massive creation, I am also drawn to the question—who am I in all of this? Why does the almighty Creator care about me? How can the Lord God of the ages know me? From the cradle to the grave, my existence is so small. I feel like I am a single grain in a 100,000 acre wheat field. It’s impossible to look into the vast expanse of space or gaze across the earthly seas and not ask “Why do you love me Lord?” Then the Psalmist reminds me that the Lord has made us in God’s image, just a little lower than God and given us the responsibility of overseeing (dominion) and tending this extravagant creation. But what does dominion mean?
I was fishing in a tank near Winters, TX after a big rainstorm. I wasn’t catching any fish so I started scanning the ground. We were told the area was inhabitant by a large tribe of Native Americans. It wasn’t long before I found an arrowhead. I announced my discovery to my friends and they soon put down their fishing poles and joined me searching for arrowheads. We found all kinds of tools—hide scrapers, part of a tomahawk, and pieces of handmade utensils used by a tribe hundreds of years ago. As I reflect on that experience, it reminds me that we are not the first to walk the same paths and we won’t be the last. In Boy Scouts, we had a rule: “Leave the place you camped in better condition than when you arrived.” To have dominion is to take good care of God’s creation for those who come after us. After all, it’s not our creation.
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889) was reflecting on God’s creation when he wrote God’s Grandeur:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Questions to Ponder
Take a moment to reflect on one of your most meaningful worship experiences. Where were you? What conditions and elements aided this experience? Were you with friends or family? Did they have the same experience?
Who am I that I was made in the image of God? I heard the great preacher/teacher Fred Craddock once say that he was tired of hearing people say “Well he or she is just human” when someone makes an error. For example a gymnast has made a perfect landing in all her meets, but when she takes an extra step in a competition to gain her balance someone in the audience will say; “She’s just human.” Or a wide receiver makes the same clutch catch without fail, but drops one in the end zone; “Well he is human.” Craddock said since we are created in God’s image, we should celebrate when we do well. When someone sings a beautiful song we should say “Well, after all, she is human.”Or a pitcher who throws a great game we should take “Yes, he is human.” We may be small and feel insignificant in this vast universe, but Jesus reminds us that we are created in the image of a God who knows us by our name and numbers every hair on our heads. Our very best reflects that we are created in a holy image and that’s something to celebrate.
God ordered us to be stewards of this wonderful creation. There will be generations who follow in our footsteps as we have followed our predecessors. What are you doing to ensure that we leave this earth better than you found it?