Psalm 8 celebrates and honors both the Creator and the created order. Echoes of Genesis are easy to notice; perhaps not so obvious is the connection to Job’s whirlwind. The former is realized through the catalog of fauna found in verses 8 and 9 (see Genesis 1:28), while the latter is pronounced in verses 5 and 6 (see Job 7:17). The first signals the hope inherent in life and the full potential of creation itself – as Christians we may see layers of the incarnation and inevitable presence of Christ. The second is a cry to the Creator to explain the uniqueness of the human being – insignificant yet noticed, frail yet powerful. Part of our nature is earth-bound, while another aspect of our identity is eternal and among the heavens.
“What is human kind that you should be mindful of them?”
Job in his lament will utter the same. God answers Job with a whirlwind tour of creation, reminding Job of his frailty, not his greatness. It is in that sublime moment when the paradox of our faith draws into focus, for it is not in the ascent that we find our true identity, but in the descent. It is in the recognition of our dependence and interdependence, the acknowledgment that it is not-all-about-us that we find freedom. In this new consciousness we, like Job, get our first taste of true liberation. We are set free from the prisons of our own perceived glory.
Even still, the psalm reminds us of our glory, does it not? Let us look at the prerequisite human attribute mentioned by the psalmist. Before the psalm launches into the ordered hierarchy of Creation and humanity’s role within it, the psalmist gives the reader a clue as to the right nature of a human being who is to have dominion of the Earth. The attribute is not power, or knowledge, or even wisdom. The attribute held up by the psalmist is the innocence of a child.
Out of the mouths of infants and children
your majesty is praised in the heavens.
Robert Alter translates the verse thus in his wonderful rendering of the psalms:
From the mouths of babes and sucklings
you founded strength.
It is through humility, the selfless awareness and passivity of a child, that the human being finds her rightful place on Earth. It is through such innocence that we may truly live into our covenant relationships with both our Creator and Her creation. Only when we have assumed the humility of one such as a child will we reach the requisite level of emptiness to actually ingest the wisdom of God.
Jesus mentions children often, citing them as the gatekeepers of the Kingdom. His words conjure the lyrical prose of Isaiah “and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). Much is revealed about the nature of a God whose preferred instruments are the voiceless, the powerless, the meek, and the humble. Jesus Himself was this way, an empty cup and an open heart, ready to receive the revelation of God and not be blinded by temptations of status and promises of glory. During this season of preparation and renewal, it would serve us well to remember His true innocence, and perhaps, to practice it ourselves.
Holy Creator, Faithful Redeemer, and Relentless Sustainer,
You gather us together as your own children; help us to live into that role more seriously. Let us die unto ourselves so that we may completely trust in you, and thus become what you intend for us to be, and nothing more. We begin this journey by giving you thanks, for you are everything. In a world increasingly bent on flippancy and irreverence, make us innocent.
In the name of the One who calls us forward, Jesus the Christ. Amen.