Live as the Crown of Creation

DEVOTIONAL READING: Psalm 144:3–9 (KJV) BACKGROUND SCRIPTURE: Psalms 8 (KJV); 100 (KJV). PRINTED TEXT: Psalm 8:1–9 (KJV); 100:1–5 (KJV). GOLDEN TEXT: Psalm 8:4. How to Say It
ADONAI (HEBREW). Ad-owe-nye. AGRIPPA. Uh-grip-puh. BABEL. Bay-bul. EZEKIEL. Ee-zeek-ee-ul or Ee-zeek-yul. HEROD. Hair-ud.

Daily Bible Readings
Monday, July 8—Sing of God’s Abundant Goodness (Psalm 145:1–7) Tuesday, July 9—All God’s Works Give Thanks (Psalm 145:8–13) Wednesday, July 10—The Lord Watches Over All (Psalm 145:14–21) Thursday, July 11—Everything That Breathes Give Praise (Psalm 150) Friday, July 12—Praise God, All Creation (Psalm 148:1–6) Saturday, July 13—Thanks for God’s Wondrous Deeds (Psalm 75) Sunday, July 14—Worship God Who Made Us (Psalm 100)

Visual for lesson 7.

Use this poster to illustrate God’s care for all people of every race.

Lesson Aims
After this lesson each student will be able to: 1. Summarize God’s position with regard to creation, His work in creation, and our place in that creation. 2. Understand his or her obligation to praise the Creator. 3. Praise God from a prepared heart for His goodness, mercy, and truthfulness as Creator.

Why Teach This Lesson?
In a Bible study in the book of Job years ago, we came to 9:9, where Job mentions three distinct constellations of stars: the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades. I asked the class how many would be able to go outside later, look up into the night sky, and identify those same three groupings. I don’t recall a single hand

going up! Here before us in our text was a man, having lived some thirty-five centuries before, who was able to do something that we “moderns” could not. Job’s ability in this area was not trivial, since it helped him remain humble before the one who is the Maker of all things. Remembering our proper place in the created order is a special challenge today. The theory of evolution and our ever-expanding knowledge base tempt us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (cf. Romans 12:3). Today’s lesson will help your learners to address that problem.

Introduction
A. “A Short, Exquisite Lyric” C. S. Lewis (1898–1963) possessed one of the sharpest intellects of the twentieth century. Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, he was a prolific writer of science fiction, fantasy, poetry, and prose. His works have been hailed as some of the finest literary products of all time. C. S. Lewis was an intellectual giant who found no satisfaction in the atheistic philosophies of his time. C. S. Lewis became a Christian. Among Lewis’s many works is a book entitled Reflections on the Psalms. In it he refers to Psalm 8 as a “short, exquisite lyric.” As Lewis came to appreciate this psalm’s depth of insight into the natures of God and mankind, so may we as well. Our own appreciation of Psalm 8 will then help us meet the challenge of Psalm 100 to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Today, it’s “all about praise” as we explore Psalms 8 and 100. To offer praise to our Creator: what could be more basic? B. Lesson Background King David, who lived about a thousand years before Christ, wrote Psalm 8. We are not entirely sure of its historical context; its address “to the chief musician” is tantalizingly brief. One conjecture is that this Psalm came to David while he was still a shepherd, and he wrote it down later for his musician after becoming king. Lying on his back under the open sky with his flock of sheep, the young David may have marveled at the arrangement of stars splashed upon the ebony canvas of the heavens above. He may have pondered his own apparent insignificance within the vastness of creation. Such thoughts may have inspired him to write the psalm. The author of Psalm 100, on the other hand, is unknown. The author may have composed it for the specific purpose of leading people to worship. This possibility certainly suits its title: “A Call to Praise the Lord.” Perhaps you will recognize it as a call to worship or as part of a praise chorus that has been used in your own church on occasion.

I. The Majesty of God (Psalm 8:1–3)
Praise that is acceptable to God has its foundation in understanding His position with regard to our own. David is about to teach us what he knows in this regard. A. God’s Excellent Name (v. 1a) 1A. LINK TO PSALM 8:1. → KJV; Psalm 8 begins with a celebration of God’s name. Notice the appearance of Lord twice. The first (seen with small capital letters as “LORD”) is literally “Yahweh,” a name so holy that the Israelites stopped using it, fearing that they would accidentally commit some blasphemy. The second word translated as Lord is literally “Adonai,” which means something like “governor” or “ruler.” So translated in terms of how the original reader would have understood it, the meaning is something like “O Yahweh, our governor.” In this brief phrase, then, David has addressed God by a very holy name (which he calls “excellent” or “majestic” in the phrase to follow), and has recognized one of God’s most important functions. By implication, David is humbling himself as one who is to be governed.

B. God’s Revealed Glory (v. 1b) 1B. LINK TO PSALM 8:1. → KJV; This half-verse can be understood in two ways. First, there is a sense in which God’s glory is revealed through that which we view around us. Although David’s view of the heavens was not as complete as ours, he beheld God’s glory nonetheless. As David looked into the night sky without the aid of a telescope, could he have had any inkling of the distance to those stars? Could he have imagined the size of a star, or even what a star actually was? To him, a star was a mysterious twinkling point of light in a dark sky. Yet even with that limited perception, David recognized the glory of God in creating such wonders. A second way of understanding this half-verse focuses on the word above. To those who lived in the ancient world, what was visible in the night sky may have been merely a “preview” of what was above even that. The ancient mind may have sensed that there was a greater realm of glory known to God, but invisible to mankind. In either sense, God’s creative power, even if incompletely revealed, compels us to recognize His glory. C. Unsolicited Praise for God (v. 2) 2. LINK TO PSALM 8:2. → KJV; Persuasive testimony comes from unlikely sources! At Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, children greet Him with shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:15). This acclamation irritated the chief priests and scribes. When they complained to Jesus about what the children were proclaiming, He quoted the first half of Psalm 8:2 to them (Matthew 21:16). Upon hearing this response, these “experts” in the law could hardly miss the unspoken jab from the second half of Psalm 8:2: Jesus was implying that they themselves were the enemies of God. Earlier Jesus had taught that those who would come to Him needed to do so in the manner of a child approaching someone he or she instinctively knew to be superior (Matthew 18:1–4). That admonition calls for self-humility. [See question #1.] D. Visible Testimony About God (v. 3) 3. LINK TO PSALM 8:3. → KJV; David’s mind turns again to the testimony of God he has witnessed in the night sky. Its splendor should remind the reader of its Source. Unfortunately, the Israelite people got themselves into serious trouble at this very point. Early in their history, just before entering the promised land, Moses had warned them specifically not to bow down in worship of the created heavenly bodies (Deuteronomy 4:19). Yet some eight hundred years later, they will find themselves cast into exile because of doing just that (cf. Jeremiah 7:18; 8:2; 44:17–30; Ezekiel 8:16; Acts 7:42, 43). How ironic that such a majestic part of creation should have led God’s people closer to Him, but instead they allowed it to have the opposite effect! [See question #2.]

II. The Position of Humanity (Psalm 8:4–9)
Verse 3, just considered, serves as a lead-in to verse 4. It is the magnificence of the night sky (v. 3) that leads David to contemplate his own apparent insignificance (v. 4). A. A Humble Question (v. 4) 4. LINK TO PSALM 8:4. → KJV; Many Bible scholars believe that this verse may have two “layers” of interpretation: David, in speaking of man in the strictly human sense, may at the same time be speaking prophetically of the Messiah who is to come. Note the phrase son of man, which Jesus will later use to describe Himself in the Gospels (cf. also Daniel 7:13). On the other hand, this phrase is also used extensively in the book of Ezekiel to refer to that prophet’s frailty and mortality.

The writer of Hebrews quotes from this section of Psalm 8 in a context which many commentators and translators believe applies to Jesus. Others think, however, that Psalm 8:4–6 as used in Hebrews 2:6–8 applies to mortals instead—so we see the two “layers” of interpretation in the New Testament as well. For deeper study, compare the translations of the King James Version and the New International Version with that of the New Revised Standard Version at this point. [See question #3.] B. A Confident Answer (v. 5) 5. LINK TO PSALM 8:5. → KJV; If David’s question in verse 4 was full of humility, then his answer in verse 5 is full of confidence. God created us to be a little lower than angelic beings for a time. Remember that the Bible describes only humans as being created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26, 27). Ultimately, we will sit in judgment on angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). The second part of verse 5 also speaks to humanity’s place in God’s created order, surely an important issue if we are to have a Biblical view of mankind. To be crowned with glory and honor reflects the result of being created in the image of God (again, Genesis 1:26, 27). Our greatest attribute was not attained by our own effort; it was a gift from the Creator. C. A Careful Description (vv. 6–8) 6. LINK TO PSALM 8:6. → KJV; Again, is this referring to humans only, or to humans as well as the coming Messiah in two “layers” of meaning? Assuming that it refers “at least” to humans, this verse reveals great privilege and great responsibility. God set the world and the forces of nature in place, then He put us in charge of His creation (Genesis 1:26). However, the entrance of sin into the world upset this ideal plan of God. Now humans must struggle constantly with nature to earn a living (cf. Genesis 3:17–19). We look forward to the day when the ideal of Psalm 8:6 and Genesis 1:26 will be restored (see Revelation 21:4, 5). While we wait expectantly for that day, we should note that Psalm 8:6 has implications for ecology and stewardship of current resources. 7. LINK TO PSALM 8:7. → KJV; David gives a more detailed description of mankind’s responsibility. Interestingly, the first animals he mentions are sheep. Perhaps David still had the heart of a shepherd. Some contemporary movements have sought to make animals equal to human beings in value. This is not Biblical. Animals were not created in God’s image. They do not possess an eternal spirit, as humans do. 8. LINK TO PSALM 8:8. → KJV; The description moves from land-bound creatures to those of the air and water. The picture is now complete: humanity’s dominion is (or, ideally, should be) extended to all earthly creatures. This dominion, of course, is not a license for abuse or cruelty. Christians should have a proper perspective concerning their ideal position in God’s created order. Particularly questionable is the theory of evolution, which places us in a position of being no more than the most highly developed member of the animal kingdom. As wonderful as it might be to think of one’s self solely as the top of that heap, such a “status” cannot compare with the Biblical fact of being created in the very image of God. Humankind is the crowning achievement of creation precisely because we alone are created in God’s image.

WHALES OR SOULS?
Bumper stickers can be thought provoking. One admonished, “Forget whales; save souls!” Obviously, the owner was making a statement about the sometimes twisted priorities of ecologists. The extinction of whales is a legitimate concern, and humans who prey upon them for greed or sport should be restricted and restrained by law. But inordinate expenditures of money, time, and effort to “save”

mere mammals of the sea must be viewed as excessive when contrasted with the usually meager investments made for world evangelism. It’s a matter of perspective. Christians consider human life to be of greater value than animal life. Despite his shortcomings, Captain Ahab is worth more than Moby Dick. Mankind is superior to the animals, for we alone are made in God’s image. Godly people should pursue a balanced viewpoint on environmental issues. Clean air and water, preservation of natural resources, and protection of threatened species—all of these causes are worthy to a degree. Our primary concern, however, must be the welfare and eternal destiny of Homo sapiens. Saving whales may be a good thing, but saving souls is the best thing. —R. W. B. D. A Potent Reminder (v. 9) 9. LINK TO PSALM 8:9. → KJV; David repeats the phrase with which he opens the Psalm. These two identical phrases thus form “bookends” that reinforce a straightforward theme: God is so wonderful that the excellence of His name extends to the entire earth! The second use of David’s exclamation becomes more profound than the first, though, when we think of all he has had to say in verses 2–8. While we’re thinking about the excellence of God’s name, we should note God’s concern that His name not be used carelessly or disrespectfully (Exodus 20:7).

III. The Praise We Offer God (Psalm 100:1–5)
Psalm 8 humbles us. As such, it prepares us to offer the praise encouraged by Psalm 100. A. Joyful and Glad (vv. 1, 2) 1. LINK TO PSALM 100:1. → KJV; God calls all people to praise Him. This praise should come from our lips naturally; it should not be coerced. We will see why when we consider verse 3 below. Interestingly, this praise is to come from all ye lands, not just Israel. (Psalms 98:4 and 117:1 give similar instructions.) But in many lands God—the true God—is not known. In some He is known only partially, for in those lands the Son is not recognized as one with the Father (John 10:30). How shall these lands praise Him? The answer is in Romans 10:14. 2. LINK TO PSALM 100:2. → KJV; Serving with gladness does not mean serving with a giddy silliness, which is devoid of reason and propriety. It means, rather, that we willingly and wholeheartedly offer ourselves to God, without reluctance or hesitation. There is no “I wish I didn’t have to do this” in the psalmist’s heart. Remember, to serve the Lord with gladness and to enter into His presence with singing for worship are privileges the Creator has granted, not a monotonous obligation. Do we view worship as a privilege, or are we mainly just “going through the motions” while we think of where we’re going to eat lunch after church is over? [See question #4.] B. Humble and Meek (v. 3) 3. LINK TO PSALM 100:3. → KJV; The people who came to worship were to do so in the proper spirit: the spirit of humility and meekness. That spirit comes when we recognize who God is and who we are. God is the Creator and we ourselves are not! That may sound a bit “obvious.” But it must not be obvious to everyone since the Bible offers several examples of people who get themselves into trouble when they try to elevate themselves to positions that belong only to Him. Eve accepted Satan’s temptation to eat the forbidden fruit upon hearing his promise that “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5). Herod Agrippa I allowed others to see him as a “god” and paid the price (Acts 12:22,

23). The tower of Babel was an attempt by humans to become more than they ought (Genesis 11:1–9); modern science has the potential of leading us down a similar path unless we exercise care. We avoid these dangers when in humility we recognize that God is the Creator and we are not. This includes recognizing that we have many limitations, we are guilty of past sin, and we will continually be plagued by sin throughout this life. A proper understanding of the natures of God and mankind is fundamental to our worship of God. It also is necessary for us to understand our proper role in serving God and to appreciate God’s desire to have a relationship with us. And along with that understanding is the recognition that the pasture—the place in which we have our existence—is also His, and He has put us in it. C. Prepared and Reasoned (vv. 4, 5) 4. LINK TO PSALM 100:4. → KJV; This verse recalls the layout of ancient Jerusalem and its temple. The city itself was walled on all sides for protection, and entrance was only through a limited number of gates. Within those walls was the temple, the focal point of ancient Israel’s worship after its construction by Solomon. The temple consisted of, among other things, a series of courts. People would gather for worship in these courts. (Access to some courts was restricted, based on a person’s status.) Even nearly ten centuries after its initial construction, the rebuilt temple of Jesus’ day still served as the focus of Israelite worship (see Mark 13:1; John 2:13–17; and 4:20). Note that the psalmist challenges the reader to enter the gates and courts with—meaning “already having”— a spirit of praise and thankfulness. In other words, the psalmist’s challenge is for the reader to “be prepared” to bless God’s name when arriving at the place for worship. This wasn’t necessarily easy, as the psalmist’s world was full of pressures that would distract from being prepared for worship. Trips to Jerusalem could be time-consuming and dangerous. Bringing an animal to sacrifice each time could be an expensive proposition. Leaving part of the family behind to watch the farm was something to think about. Even so, the psalmist desires the reader to be ready to worship. After all, if a person arrives at the place of worship having a negative spirit because he or she is dwelling on all the time and trouble it took to get there, then what would be the point of even coming? [See question #5.]

WORSHIP WARS
Volumes already have been written concerning the ongoing conflicts in the church at large (and in nearly every local congregation) over the subjective issue of worship styles. It mostly boils down to disagreements as to personal preferences—nothing as important as “thus saith the Lord.” The breaches in Christianity, however, seem to have dichotomized disciples into the younger contemporary camp and the older traditional camp. Can these diversities be reconciled without splitting churches? Some feel that the senior saints (supposedly more mature) should forfeit their hymns and formality in the interest of unity and outreach. Others are adamant that the “Boomers and X’ers” should put aside their secular and sensational proclivities and give sober, objective praise to God with optimum decency and order. Will these “worship wars” ever end? Some congregations have achieved at least temporary armistice by bending and blending their style of worship to please most folks in both camps. Other local bodies offer different styles at different hours (even different days) to give appeasing options to opposing groups. Some sort of compromise seems to be necessary. Whatever it takes, we must keep “the main thing” (honoring God) “the main thing.” —R. W. B. 5. LINK TO PSALM 100:5. → KJV; The psalmist closes by setting forth three reasons why we are to worship with thanksgiving. Imagine what it would be like to worship a fickle god: sometimes he is good, sometimes he is not; his mercy runs hot and cold, depending on his whim; his truthfulness cannot always be counted on. Such were the “gods” of the surrounding

peoples in the psalmist’s day. But the God we serve, who promises to take the true believers home for all eternity (John 14:1–4), is not that way. He is the perfect “promise keeper”!

Conclusion
A. “Unbridled Enthusiasm”? We all have seen the unbridled enthusiasm of fans at sporting events. Sadly, enthusiasm to praise our Creator is often absent from our worship services. Although it is right that we do things “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40), that need not translate into that which is lifeless and dreary. Will your praise be enthusiastic this week? We also see that offering praise that really “means something”—both to God and to us—is more complicated than we may have first thought. We are also now more aware of where Satan’s points of attack may come as he tries to distract us from meaningful praise. Advance preparation for worship should be a key. B. Prayer Father, thank You for creating us in Your image. Make us so aware of who You are that we cannot contain our joy. May our worship and service bring You joy, and may You rejoice in Your creation. Remind us that our worship must be meaningful to You. In Jesus’ name, amen. C. Thought to Remember Live as the crown of God’s creation!

Learning Activities for Users of the King James Version
This article contains an alternate lesson plan emphasizing learning activities. Classes desiring such student involvement will find these suggestions helpful.

LEARNING GOALS
After this lesson each student will be able to: 1. Summarize God’s position with regard to creation, His work in creation, and our place in that creation. 2. Understand his or her obligation to praise the Creator. 3. Praise God from a prepared heart for His goodness, mercy, and truthfulness as Creator.

INTO THE LESSON
CHOICE: Singing. Begin your class today by having members sing Psalm 8. Michael W. Smith has written a version widely recognized. Include the enthusiastic clapping! Play a tape or CD and have the class sing along. CHOICE: Debate. Have your class prepare a debate on the nature of God and the nature of man. On one side, the universe could be described as formed by chance and natural elements. The other side would contend that God created the universe. In regard to man, one side would declare that man is created in the image of God and thereby endowed with dignity and honor. The opposing side could take either of two extremes: they could portray man as the accidental result of meaningless evolution and therefore an inconsequential blob of protoplasm, or they could pursue the opinion that man is god-like among the products of evolution and his decisions are all that there is.

INTO THE WORD

CHOICE: Discussion Questions. Lead your class in a discussion by asking the following questions: What is God’s name that is so excellent? (8:1) How does the praise of babies silence enemies? (8:2) What do the heavens tell us about God’s power? (8:3) Why is God concerned about mankind? (8:4) What difference does it make if it is “God” instead of “angels”? (8:5) What is an appropriate view of creation, since God has given us “dominion” over it? (8:6–8) What do these verses suggest in regard to testing products on animals prior to human use? (8:6–8) Why is our worship not more typified by “joyful noise”? (100:1) What songs help you to connect gladness and singing? (100:2) What does 100:3 say about the so-called “self-made man”? How are thanksgiving, praise, and blessing connected? (100:4) Why are God’s mercy and truth described as eternal? (100:5) CHOICE: Illustration. Ask class members to illustrate each verse, or suggest that they attempt a drawing that would capture the essence of the chapter. The images in both chapters are graphic and visual. For example, Psalm 8:1 could show “I AM” written in billowy, glowing clouds shining with the glory of God. Verse 2 might show children at Jesus’ triumphal entry praising God with palm fronds and shouting “Hosanna!” Provide unlined paper and pencils or markers for each class member. Or you might want to do a mural: tape white table-cover paper to a wall, and write or draw on it with colored markers.

INTO LIFE
CHOICE: Write a Prayer. The content of Psalm 8:1, 2 should move the reader to prayerful response. Ask your class members to write a prayer in response to each verse. Read each verse and then discuss its application in daily life. Express that concept in a personalized prayer. For example, these two verses could inspire these words, “My Lord, Your name and character are majestic and glorious above all things You have made. With childlike adoration I offer You the praise of my lips. May my praise silence Your enemies who refuse to honor Your name.” (The directions for this activity are included in Adult Bible Class.) CHOICE: Responsive Reading. Have your class members create a responsive reading based on these two familiar chapters. One technique is to have a refrain that is repeated after each verse, like “His love endures for ever” in Psalm 136. The most obvious refrain for Psalm 8 is the first verse, used as a refrain at the end of the chapter. Have a leader read the chapter with the class repeating verse one after each verse. For Psalm 100, the phrase, “For the Lord is good” from verse 5, expresses a central truth of the chapter. (The directions for this activity are included in Adult Bible Class.)

The Nature of God/The Nature of Man
The Nature of God
Write a short statement of what each of these verses tells you about the nature of God. Genesis 1:1 Genesis 21:33 Exodus 3:13, 14 Exodus 34:5 Deuteronomy 6:4

1 Samuel 7:26 Matthew 5:48 Romans 1:20 2 Corinthians 1:3 2 Thessalonians 1:6 1 Timothy 1:17

The Nature of Man
The Bible is the only reliable source for truly understanding the nature of man. Man’s tendency is to go to one extreme or the other. Some hold that man is better than he actually is; others claim that he is worse than he really is. Paul warns us in Romans 12:3 that one should “not think of yourself more ____________ than you ought, but rather think of yourself with _______________ judgment.” In fact, each truth about man’s nature is held in balance by a corresponding truth. Man is endowed with incredible dignity because men and women are created “in the _______________ of __________” (Genesis 1:26, 27). The heart is also “_________________ above all things and beyond _____________” (Jeremiah 17:9). Every baby is born so pure and innocent that Jesus could say that unless you “become like _______________ _______________, you will never enter the ____________________ of ______________” (Matthew 18:2). Yet he also says that “There is _____ ______ righteous, not even _______; … all have turned away [and] have … become ___________” (Romans 3:11, 12). Man is so free that _______ may come and take the free gift of the water of life (Revelation 22:17), yet at the same time men are “________________ of depravity—for a man is a ________________ to whatever has mastered him” (2 Peter 2:19). How would you summarize the nature of man? 1

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