Sunday, September 27, 2015

'A little lower than the angels'

Michael the Archangel statue, St. Michael's Church (building), Hamburg. (I wonder if the HOA would allow this in the front yard?)

Subject: God's majesty
Target passage: Psalm 8
Date: Sept. 27, 2015

Psalm 8 was the perfect follow-up to our read-throughs of the fraternal twin epistles of Jude and II Peter.

In this sandwich of praise (vv. 1 and 9) David establishes well the wide-reaching magnitude of God. It extols his majesty. It asks the ages-old question "What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?" (V. 4).

II Peter and Jude were each full of cryptic references to angels and more general teachings on the respect of authority (II Peter 2:4-13, Jude 8-10). The two apostles warn us that irrational fixations on things we do not fully understand is not only foolish but the symptoms of some serious spiritual problems. Whether it's a well-meaning Christian who constantly rebukes demons behind every bush, or the person who doesn't take the time to follow politics but makes it a regular practice to cuss out the President, the persistent railing against those "higher" than us is sign that something is wrong in that person's heart. (This can be a complicated subject, so bear with me.)

In Psalm 8, we read for the first time "for you have made him [man] a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor." (cp. Hebrews 2:7-9).

Though God has obviously shared much of his glory and responsibility with man (e.g. Genesis 1:27-31), we have a challenge to avoid two polar extremes: 1) self-glorification and 2) denial of responsibility.

Erring in one direction, we glorify ourselves and claim that our righteous strength stems from our own innate abilities and not through the power of God made possible to us through the blood of Christ and by the Holy Spirit. In this error, we tend to hate authority figures as rivals for our own seat of power! This one is easy to spot. The other one is more subtle.

In the other errant direction, we exhibit a false piety as a means to avoid doing the work the Gospel compels us to do. Assuming that because salvation is "not of works" (Ephesians 2:9) and our works like "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) compared to God's glory, the person who denies his or her responsibility attributes our efforts as predestined commands from God -- that we make no choices of our own than what God put into our head. Though the triune God (Elohim) commissioned Adam to have dominion over the earth and Jesus gave his Great Commission, the responsibility-denier considers any obligation to be "legalism." And forget about making any persuasive appeals for the Gospel! In this, they tend to assail authority figures who teach or represent morality or evangelism.

I believe we should seek the happy medium between these two extremes. As Michael the Archangel said when quarreling with the devil in Jude, "The Lord rebuke you:" This affirmed Michael's limited power while also allowing him to be a conduit for God's power and unquestioned authority. If we're made "a little lower than the angels," then how can we oppose evil by any other means?

Can it be that the only way to even begin to truly know our role and purpose in God's kingdom is to praise him and recognize his awesome power? In doing this, we learn to respect earthly authorities (even if we disagree with them) as we revere the ultimate authority in God.

"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!" (vv. 1 and 9).

* * *

We opened with a hymn: "This Is Our Father's World."

We closed with "Morning Has Broken" (the non-Cat Stevens version, anyway -- which seemed to be the only version I knew!).

Later, we went out to look at the blood moon, as cloudy as it was.

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