As I mentioned in my last blog, my husband and I recently returned from a vacation I have dreamed about taking for many years.
You see, I love the wilderness and the unspoiled beauty of God’s world that can be experienced in the wilderness and my husband has grown to love it as well.
So this year, we went back to the place I was born – Northern British Columbia. In fact, we went as far as the southern tip of Alaska.
We are accustomed to hiking in places where we may not see another human being for ½ hour or sometimes even more. But we are not used to driving in places as remote as this area of the North American continent. There were a number of days where we could drive for 20 minutes or even more
never having encountered another car, truck, or other sign of human life.
One of the things I was struck by as we drove and hiked and walked in this remote area, was the vastness of God’s creation. I’m pretty sure the bears outnumbered us. In this northern wilderness, my husband and I were not even dots on a map. Its easy to feel pretty insignificant in a place like that.
And then at night – I wish a picture could capture those nights – the sky filled with stars so bright and close and numerous, I could not help but proclaim in a way similar to the psalmist, ‘who am I that you are mindful of me?’
That sentiment is the central theme of Psalm 8.
Here is what the psalmist writes in verses 3-4:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
The moon and the stars which you have set in place,
What is man that you are mindful of him,
The son of man that you care for him?
In the parallel set of phrases of verse 4 the psalmist ponders why God cares for us.
Another way to translate the first reference to “man” is “weak creatures.” So we might just as well say, ‘Who are these “weak creatures,” these sons and daughters of Adam – that original, fallen human?’ Why should God single humans out from this vast creation which includes the angels in heaven? Why should he care for us?
As John Calvin writes in his commentary on this Psalm, “God was under no necessity of choosing men who are but dust and clay.”
Curiously, the psalmist does not answer this question. He simply affirms that God is, in fact, mindful of us and cares for us. Or, slightly more literally, God remembers us and takes account of us.
Out of the whole creation, God remembers us. God remembers you.
You don’t have to be in the wilderness to feel insignificant. Sometimes we feel the most insignificant in a crowded room, or maybe even at church.
At those times, we should read Ps. 8 and remind ourselves that we are remembered. The God who formed the oceans, who pushed up the mountains, and made the vast array of plants, animals, and the stars in the sky has chosen to be mindful of us, of you and of me.
Calvin says we should be astonished, deeply affected and grateful at this miracle.
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Ps. 8)
Adapted from a chapel talk given at Calvin Theological Seminary, Aug. 19, 2014.