Psalm 8: A Psalm for Worshipers


Shepherding Students Through the Psalms: As we care for students in the complex situations they face, we are so aware that we need resources beyond ourselves—the resources of the gospel. Our students struggle with anxiety and addiction. They face troubling situations at school and family conflict at home. They feel stressed out, left out, and weighed down with heavy burdens. In these situations requiring pastoral wisdom and care, the Psalms are resources of great value for us and for our students. In fact, Jesus himself leaned on the Psalms quite frequently, alluding to them in moments of betrayal (Mark 14, Psalm 41) and deep distress (Matt. 27, Psalm 22). The Psalms remind both us and our students that we can be honest about our struggles before God.

Entering from the foyer, you find your seat and gaze across the room. Final preparations are made as congregants offer greetings and small talk. There is a palpable excitement as the countdown concludes and the lights go down.

The congregation quickly, almost instinctively, rises to its feet. Applause, jubilant energy, and words of praise begin to echo throughout the space. The music emanates loudly as the volume surges into a deafening roar.

Congregational gatherings like the one described above occur regularly around the world. I have participated in many of these services; likely you have as well.

Even when praise and adoration are not occurring within the stone walls of a church, a worship service is at play. These worship gatherings can center around sports, concerts, or other performances. We may hesitate to call them worship services, but there is no mistaking what is transpiring.

Worship is not merely congregational singing accompanied by stringed instruments and muted drum sets. Worship is the overflow of our hearts, outwardly expressing our reverence and love for the object of that praise. Worship can either be either rightly directed at our Creator and Maker, or directed towards something else in idolatry.

As creatures made in the image of our Creator God, our hearts and the hearts of our teenagers were made to respond and cry out in worship, praising him for who he is and what he has done. We do this through verbal praise, but we also worship as we maneuver through the day. Humans are wired to worship.

Ancient Words for Timeless Worship

Psalm 8 paints a stirring picture of the God who is worthy of our worship, beginning and ending by declaring, O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Overflow of the heart manifests in words of adulation and praise to our great God. This is worship.

We see incredible passages in Scripture that are full of praise to God. One of these powerful passages is found in Isaiah 6. The seraphim surround the throne of God, crying out to one another, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” Through experiencing God in all his glory sitting on the throne, the seraphim respond with praise and adoration out of the overflow of their experience.

Both we and our teenagers worship in the same way, though our objects of worship vary significantly. Most of us do not worship rocks chiseled into hand-crafted idols, yet our hearts still chase after empty idols, molding and sculpting our desires and pursuits.

The hearts of the people of Israel were sculpted by idolatry. As their hearts were molded and shaped by idolatrous desires, it overflowed into a physical manifestation of their idolatry occurring within.

One of the more disturbing and shocking of these moments of misplaced worship occurred at the base of Mt. Sinai when Gods people grew impatient with Moses. Rather than wait upon him, Israel chose to construct their own gods to worship. They flaunted their fervor as they sacrificed their most precious possessions and fashioned them into a golden calf (Exodus 32).

Despite being dramatically rescued out of the clutches of Pharaoh, being chauffeured through the Red Sea, being sustained through bread from heaven, and enjoying fresh water from a rock, they chose to worship a god they could fashion with their weather-beaten hands. Their hearts worshipped, but they were not worshipping the God for whom they were created.

John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion,” famously assessed that the human heart is a perpetual idol factory.”1 That idol factory was hard at work in the people of Israel, but it also is working in our towns, our own homes, and in our own hearts.

Rightly-Ordered Worship

Returning to Psalm 8, we see a declaration of worship to a God worthy of the praise of all our hearts. Verses 3 and 4 are stunning; looking up at the stars dazzling against the darkness of space and the moon hanging in the night sky, we remember that the God of the universe placed them there.

So tell the teenagers you serve: God hung majestic balls of fire and gas, measuring over 800,000 miles across (like our sun), yet, he also created you and me. He has performed wonders across the span of time, but he is not too big for us. He loves us. He has crowned us with glory and honor.

Encourage the students in your youth ministry to look around at the stars he has crafted Help them see the vastness of our God and be reminded that he is God and we are not. Instead of lamenting this reality, Psalm 8 reminds us to respond in praise.

Who or what are you worshipping? What about the teenagers in your lifewhat are they worshipping? If you were to ask them what is worshipped in your youth ministry, how would they respond? Together, are you worshipping the God of the universe, or is your heart satiated by a cheap imitation that promises things on which it can never deliver?

Invitations to false worship press in all around us, beckoning our interest. How easily our hearts wander and our affections are given away. We must protect our hearts, reminding ourselves—and the teenagers we love—of the God that we worship and why we worship him.

Psalm 8 gives us a stirring picture of the Creator God we were made to worship. Whether we find ourselves in need or in plenty, in sickness or in health, in joy or in sadness, we need to remember who he is. Slow down and look around—not for another idol, but to remember the Creator. When we do so, we will see Gods fingerprints all around us and our hearts will long to respond to him in worship.

See what the Lord has done and may your heart cry out with the psalmist, O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

Mike Tiland

Mike Tiland serves with Worldview Academy full-time as Director of Operations, Camp Director, and Faculty where he has served in some capacity since 2006. Mike holds a Masters of Divinity degree in Christian Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has a passion for training the next generation of leaders to live faithfully to the gospel of Jesus Christ in all areas of life. Mike has taught youth and adults across the country at camps, retreats, conferences, and seminars. He lives in central Texas with his wife Angela and their three children.

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