Let the Beat Drop: Reflections on Psalm 8

O Lord, our Sovereign,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

    Out of the mouths of babes and infants

you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,

    to silence the enemy and the avenger.

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?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

    and crowned them with glory and honor.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;

    you have put all things under their feet,

all sheep and oxen,

    and also the beasts of the field,

the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,

    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign,

    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

(Psalm 8)

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” Maya Angelou

Psalm 8 is one of several creation accounts found within the Bible. The most famous of these is Genesis 1 and 2, but there are others. As God questions Job in Job 38 he speaks of the creation of the universe. We are given a creation account with a twist at the beginning of the gospel of John.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

One of the things that all these creation accounts have in common is an element of poetry. When God tells us about creation he uses poetry. Why is this? Creation is debated by Christians and atheists. It is even debated by Christians and Christians. When we come to the creation account we want answers. We want details. We want a textbook on the origins of the universe, but instead we are given poetry and song. Why?

I am not sure I have the answer, but I found this quote by Yehudi Menuhin, one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century, and it provides some helpful insight about music, poetry, and creation. Menuhin states, “Music creates order out of chaos: for rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous.” In creation God is creating order out of chaos. What is happening in poetry and song mimics what is happening in creation. Order is being created out of chaos.

Psalm 8 describes the order of things. The Universe is often referred to as the cosmos. It is an ordered system. We might say there is a rhythm or a beat to creation. When things get messed up it means we have gotten out of rhythm, it means we are missing the beat.

Psalm 8 begins and ends with the same refrain.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

The order of all things begins with God. God is sovereign. God is over all. He is the creator of all things. The rhythm and beat of the Universe is established by God.

Amazingly, God invites human beings to partner with him in maintaining and caring for creation. The psalmist is amazed by this. He asks,

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them, 

    mortals that you care for them?”

He then explains that God has given human beings a special place in creation. We are God’s partners in helping maintain the order God has established. The psalmist writes,

“Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

    and crowned them with glory and honor.

You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;

    you have put all things under their feet.”

We live by the beat God has laid down and we get to help others find this rhythm. This is a lot of responsibility because I do not know if you have noticed, but the world is out of rhythm. The world is living by a different beat.

Each day we pass by people on the street who do not acknowledge God as the Sovereign ruler over all things. They have not found the right rhythm yet. We find others who want to mess with the order God has given us. Some want to place more emphasis on the planet than on human beings. Others think they are free to do whatever they want to creation. They think it is theirs to use as they wish. They completely miss the point that God has made us stewards and that God cares about what happens to creation. When we fail to honor God’s good creation we are missing the beat.

People are out of rhythm when it comes to how we treat one another. God has created us in his image. The psalmist says we have been made a little lower than God. Every human being bears this image. We are to treat each other with respect and dignity. We are to love our neighbor as our self. There is an order to life and it is important that we find it, so we can live by God’s beat.

Thomas Merton once said, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” When things get out of whack in our lives it could be because we are not living according to God’s rhythm. We are missing out on the abundant life Jesus has promised because we are moving to a different beat. We must find God’s rhythm. We must adjust our lives according to this rhythm, and we must share this rhythm with others. Many are looking for it and it is up to us to help bring a little cosmos to a chaotic world.

May we take the time to stop and listen to the song God is singing. May we seek to move in harmony with God’s song and bring order and peace to a world that is out of rhythm, a world that is longing for God’s beat.

Scott Elliott is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and Austin Graduate School of Theology. He lives in La Grange, TX and is the minister for the La Grange Church of Christ. He is married and has two sons. He enjoys writing about the Christian faith and posting the occasional film review. His articles and reviews have appeared in RELEVANT magazine, Englewood Review of Books, and other publications.

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