As I look back at Psalm 3 through 7 I find them all to be about the psalmist’s problems. Psalm 3 poses the question whether God will protect the psalmist from his enemies. The writer of Psalm 4 wonders when God will bring him comfort. Psalm 5 is a record of requests being brought to God but with no record of an answer. Psalm 6 poses the question of how long pain and suffering must be endured, and Psalm 7 struggles with why an innocent and supposedly righteous person is surrounded by trouble. While it may be said that each of these psalms praise God’s righteousness, comfort, and protection in times of trouble, the primary focus of these five psalms is life’s struggles.
But then there is Psalm 8.
At first glance Psalm 8 seems to have nothing to do with the psalmist’s problems. It is a song of praise to God, acknowledging his majesty, his glory, and his power. It is unlike the psalms preceding it, and some might even say, unrelated to them. But if we think of the book of Psalms as connected and related chapters instead of the opposite, we will see that Psalm 8 is much like a ray of sunlight poking through dark clouds in the midst of a terrible storm.
In fact, Psalm 8 reminds me of a scene in one of the movies from The Matrix Trilogy. Neo, the hero, is flying a transport toward the machine city, a fortress filled with enemies. He is surrounded by frequent explosions from the attack of the many enemy ships and rockets flying at him from the machine city (if I remember correctly). The darkness of this scene is overwhelming, being punctuated only by bright explosions and the cold glow of the machine’s lights. In fact, throughout all three of the movies the sky is nearly always dark making everything appear to be covered by a dark haze. But in this moment, while trying to evade the massive attack, Neo pilots his ship up into the clouds eventually breaking through into a clear sky filled with dazzling sunlight. The movie’s soundtrack pauses, and for a moment there is silence; for a moment there is hope. Neo and his passenger both gape in awe at the peaceful beauty of their surroundings before plunging back through the clouds to re-enter the dark battle.
I am fairly certain that the writers of The Matrix movies had no intention of providing a nearly perfect picture of the role Psalm 8 plays thus far in the Psalter, but I think they did. The psalmist left his problems behind for a moment to sing a song of pure praise, acknowledging the greatness and majesty of God. And not only does he affirm God’s majesty, he also affirms that our praise of his majesty is part of the stronghold God provides in the midst of trials.
But if you are at all like me, your first, and natural, inclination in the midst of life’s many struggles is not praise: it is feelings of anger, frustration, or even self-loathing and self-pity. Sometimes it goes further. Sometimes I have an appetite for anger and frustration, almost as if I need them so I can feel satisfied. While I realize the appetite for such feelings is unhealthy, most likely even sinful, I also think they might be normal. But don’t misunderstand me, by “normal” I don’t mean to say they are acceptable and desirable, but merely that they are a natural response to life’s troubles. It is these types of feelings and concerns, these natural responses to life’s troubles, that I think the psalmist is voicing in Psalms 3 through 7.
But then there is Psalm 8.
Psalm 8 shows that the only respite afforded us in the midst of suffering is praise of God. The psalmist flies above the clouds of life basking in God’s glory, leaving his suffering and questions behind for a moment. He is renewed with hope, and reacquires a vision of God’s love. This continues in Psalm 9 as his praise shifts from God’s nature to God’s judgment on the wicked. It is a glorious scene of hope coming after many psalms of despair. But the opening of Psalm 10 abruptly cuts off the praise as the psalmist poses the question, “Why, Lord, do you stand far off?”
But lets not get ahead of the story. For a moment, let us remember that there is Psalm 8.
Let us remember God’s glorious majesty. Let us remember the beauty of God’s created world. Let us remember that we, of all creation, were made in God’s image. Let us remember and sing praise. For a moment let us break free through the dark clouds of our strife-filled days and live in God’s stronghold made of our praise.