Alfred Place Baptist Church

Psalm 8: How Majestic is Jehovah's Name in all the Earth

Psalm 8:1 For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

 2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

 3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

 5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour.

 6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:

 7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,

 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

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

Although all the psalms are inspired they differ in their themes. A psalm like this is one of the most beloved – what we call ‘inspirational’ – not because it is more inspired than any of the others but because it centres on the majesty and glory of our Creator. It is well done. It is everything that a hymn of praise should be. It is full of the glory and grace of God. It rehearses how great God is in his character and in his achievements, how this God in involved in our world. The whole spirit of this psalm is replete with doxology and reverence. It is worth considering more than once.

In every part of the earth today in a million assemblies hundreds of millions of men and women have worshipped this God and prayed, “Hallowed be thy name.” To them God’s name is majestic and it has been magnified in all the earth. David could never have envisaged that 3,000 years after his days and under the shadow of New York’s skyscrapers, and in the midst of the paddy fields of China, and in the farmlands of Patagonia, and in the Australian outback, and in a scientific observatory in the Antarctic men and women would sing, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” And our voices too have been raised to sing his praise. How great Thou art!

1.      GOD’S NAME IS MAJESTIC BECAUSE HE SET IN PLACE THE HEAVENS, THE MOON AND THE STARS.

I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,” (v.3), David says, “They are your heavens.” They do not belong to themselves; they are not simply a part of space. They are yours, O Lord! They are yours by right of creation. Your fingers made them. He uses this anthropomorphism to remind us that the Lord is a personal God, and that he was intimately involved in the creation of the moon and the stars. He set them in place. He designed them and so you would expect to see evidences of his handiwork everywhere, and we do.

Consider the way God fixed the exact distance of the earth from the sun; it is just the distance it must be to support life. If the earth were further from the sun, the planet would be too cool for a stable water cycle. If the earth were closer to the sun, the planet would be too hot for a stable water cycle. We are alive today because of that. The atheist says that it was just luck.

The air we are breathing at this moment has the correct mixture of gases: 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, .93% Argon, .035% carbon dioxide and .035% other gases. If the atmosphere had 25% oxygen or more, spontaneous fires would break out because oxygen encourages flammability. If the atmosphere had 15% oxygen or less, we would suffocate. If the atmosphere had more carbon dioxide, the earth would become warmer. If the atmosphere had less carbon dioxide, plants would starve. The atheist says that that is just luck.

Or again consider the tilt of earth’s axis (23.5 degrees) which gives us our moderate seasons. If the tilt was greater – for example, Uranus has a 98 degree tilt – such a tilt on earth would cause periodic continental flooding and long periods of darkness. If the earth’s tilt were less – for example, the planet Venus has no tilt then that lack of tilt would cause equatorial areas to grow much hotter and the ice caps to expand. The atheist says that that is just a matter of luck.

Again the proximity of the moon is exactly where it should be. If it were a fifth of the distance away, tides would completely submerge continents twice a day. If there were no moon, the earth would wobble, as the planet Mars wobbles. The moon stabilizes the earth like earth’s anchor. The atheist says that that is just a matter of luck.

The rate of the earth’s rotation is exactly right. If it were a tenth of the present rate, plant life would burn during the day and freeze at night. If it were faster, wind velocities would rise to catastrophic levels. For example, the planet Jupiter has a 10-hour rotation period and thousand mph winds.

The thickness of the earth’s crust is correct. If the crust were thicker, or thinner the oxygen content would either be too small or too great. If the crust were thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would be tumultuous. The atheist says that that is just a matter of luck,

The water vapour level in the atmosphere is exactly as it has to be. If the water vapour level were greater, a runaway greenhouse effect would develop. If water vapour level were less, rainfall would be too meagre for advanced life on the land. The atheist attributes that to luck.

The colour of the sun is correct. If the sun were more red, the photosynthetic response would be insufficient. If the sun were more blue, the photosynthetic response would be insufficient. The atheist says it’s because of luck.

The force of gravity is exactly right. If this constant force were just a bit stronger or weaker, we wouldn’t have life as we know it. This is because the existence of stars depends on the gravitational constant, and without stars, there would obviously be no sun, no light, and no heat. The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. If this speed were a little more or less, then the stars would be either too bright or too dim, and life as we know it would be greatly altered. Come on atheist! Is all this because of luck? I have given ten points which our life on earth depends and there are millions more, not just in the macros world of the solar system and other galaxies but in the micro world of the atom, and all you have to attribute to is good fortune. What faith in fortune you display.

I see it all as the Bible sees it, the work of an infinite personal God planning and working mightily, ticking off with his fingers (as it were), his plan for the heavens and the earth that he has created all by himself, “the
distances of earth from the sun and the earth from the moon . . . the composition of the atmosphere . . . the thickness of the crust of the earth . . . the colour of the sun . . . the actual speed of light . . . the tilt of the earth . . . the rate of its rotation . . . the time it takes to move around the sun . . .” and so on in all their glorious interdependence What an extraordinary combination of fine-tuning at the micro and macro levels. As the famous former atheist professor Antony Flew said a few years ago, “I think that the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries. I think that the argument from design is enormously stronger than when I first met it.” Yes. Here is the planning of a personal God and his wonderful accomplishments.

David says that God set the stars in place. Our earth is dwarfed by the size of four of the other planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, which are all gas giants. Neptune is in fact 318 times bigger than planet earth, and yet it is not Neptune but the earth that is the focus of God’s attention. Then there is our sun which is a part of great galaxy of similar suns, and this galaxy is called, of course, the Milky Way. Nobody knows how many stars or suns there are in the Milky Way; estimates range from sixty billion to perhaps four hundred billion stars in the Milky Way. The Hubble telescope has so far detected 80 billion other galaxies in the universe. So the number of planets in the universe is like the grains of sand on the seashore. My heavenly Father made them all. So, God’s name is majestic because he made the earth, the moon, the sun and the heavens.

We search the starlit Milky Way,
A million worlds in rhythmic sway,
Yet in our blindness some will say,
“There is no God controlling!”

But as I grope from sphere to sphere,
New wonders crowd the eye, the ear,
And faith grows firmer every year:
“My God is there, controlling!”

We probe the atoms for their cause,
Explore the earth for nature’s laws,
Yet seldom in our searching pause
To think of God controlling.

Each flash of fact from out the night,
Each burst of truth upon my sight
That quickens awe or adds delight,
Reveals my God controlling.

2. GOD’ NAME IS MAJESTIC BECAUSE HE DESIGNED AND MADE EVERY LIVING THING.

They are, David says to God, “the works of your hands . . . all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas” (vv.6-8). Let’s look at the living things in order

A) God made the animals, the flocks and herds and the beasts of the field. What an extraordinary and magnificent God he is. He designed every animal! Do you realize the magnitude of that? You may play that family game at Christmas in which you have to write down twenty objects in different classifications beginning with the same letter. We are told that on the sixth day God made all the animals. Consider that claim; look at it alphabetically; ‘A’ – what animals did God make beginning with the letter ‘A’? There is the Antelope, the Anteater and the Aardvark. ‘B’? There is the Beaver, the Bobcat, the Bison and the Badger. And then we go on . . . the Cheetah and the Cow and the Chinchilla; there is the Dog, the Donkey and the Deer; there is the Elk and the Elephant; there is the Fox and the Fruit Bat; there is the Guinea Pig and the Gnu; there is the Horse, the Hare, the Hippopotamus and the Hog; there is the Ibex and the Irbis; there is the Jaguar and the Jackal; there is the Koala Bear and the Kangaroo; there is the Lynx, the Lemur and the Leopard; there is the Manx Cat, the Marmoset, the Monkey, the Mouse and the Mongoose; there is the Nanny Goat (or we are into African or Latin words); there is the Orangutan, the Onyx and the Ox; there is the Panda, the Possum, the Pig, and the Persian Cat; there is the Quokka and the Quoll (small marsupials found in Australia – take my word for it); there is the Rat, the Rabbit, the Rhinoceros, the Roadrunner, the Reindeer, and the Rockhopper Penguin; there is the Sheep, the Snow Leopard, the Sloth, the Skunk, the Siberian Tiger and the Squirrel; there is the Tiger, the Tapir and the Terrapin; there is the Uromastyx Lizard – there really is. I didn’t make it up! There is the Vole, the Vampire Bat and the Vervet Monkey; there is the Wallaby, the Wolf, the Weasel, the Wolverine, the Walrus and the Wild Cat; there is the Xenerus which is a genus of armadillos in which the tail is almost without plates – you have to believe me, I looked it up; there is the Yak and the Yellow-bellied Marmots; and last of all there is the Zebra. “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25). Glory be to God for dappled things! As Mrs. Cecil Alexander wrote,

“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all.

He gave us eyes to see them and lips that we might tell

How great is God Almighty who has made all things well.”

B) God also made the birds of the air; birds are simply remarkable creatures. We only have to watch the flocks of starlings, a thousand or more birds in close formation, here in Aberystwyth at the end of the afternoon, circling around the pier on the promenade and coming home to roost. It is a fabulous sight. Birds can create a sense of peace and joy. When through the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee, “How great Thou art!”

Let me tell you about some of the birds which God created. There is the Arctic tern that flies over more of the planet than any other creature. It is the longest distance migrant. It breeds in the constant summer north of the Arctic Circle, and then it migrates southwards the length of the world to reach the Antarctic pack ice, 11,000 miles away for its constant summer time. Back and fore it flies, from pole to pole.

Again, there is the hummingbird whose heartbeat has been timed at 1,000 beats a minute – that’s 16 beats a second. Hummingbirds migrate from the United States to Central and South America to feed on the plants there. Some of them fly the 500 miles straight across the Gulf of Mexico. After 250 miles above the sea there’s no turning back! What a feat of endurance for a bird so tiny. The peregrine falcon may be the fastest bird on earth. Its dive, or "stoop," on an intended victim has been timed at 180 mph.

The great gray owl hunts entirely by sound. It sits on a larch branch surveying a snow field; it has extraordinary super-stereo hearing – one ear is placed higher then the other – and it hears a tiny movement beneath the surface of the snow and swoops on it.

The bird with the keenest sense of smell may be the turkey vulture. In the rain forest of Trinidad, David Attenborough conducted an experiment. He buried some meat in leaf litter. Well within an hour,
vultures had detected the smell from above the tree canopy and over half a mile away, and they located the meat by their sense of smell.

The Antarctic Penguins are the deep sea champions among birds. They can dive to depths of over 1,300 feet, and speed through the sea in search of fish and squid. Emperor penguins can stay 11 minutes under water during a dive. How these birds manage to survive at such depths is a mystery. The Emperor penguin is better adapted to the cold than any other animal on earth. It is the only bird that can survive the Antarctic ice cap in winter. There is a splendid film about their lives.

A sand grouse is the busiest eater in the bird world. It needs to find several seeds every second to get enough food to survive. It pecks up each seed individually, and each bird will consume between 5,000 and 80,000 seeds a day. Some seeds are so small that it takes 5,000 to make up just one gram. Then there are the albatrosses which can live for up to 60 years. How wonderful the Creator must be to think of such diversity in all his creation!

One other point – though we could talk all day about birds – since fragile birds are more vulnerable to danger, God gave them an amazing gift. Many birds are able to put half of their brain to sleep, while the other half stays awake and alert. The eye that serves the sleeping half even closes, while the eye that serves the waking half of the brain stays alert, searching for danger. After the first sleeping half is nicely rested, it wakes up, and the other half goes to sleep. Of course, these birds can also put both sides of the brain to sleep at the same time, just as we do. Evidence of the clever design of this half-brain sleep ability can be seen in the fact that where two birds sleep next to each other, each bird will put the half of the brain that faces its partner to sleep. Once that half is rested, they change places, so the other half of their brain can sleep. So God designed and made the birds of the air. How bleak the world without the song of the birds.

Morning has broken
Like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken
Like the first bird.
Praise for the singing!
Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing
Fresh from the Word!

C) God also made “the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas” (v.8). What swims the paths of the seas? The very first mammals that God created were “the great creatures of the sea” (Gen.1:21), and these are the largest animals that have ever lived. God didn’t begin by making a single cell living creature; God started with the whale! Of course God also made the whelk, and the plankton on which the whale lives. Each species has a natural source of nourishment and this provision was adequately made by the Creator. God wouldn’t make a creature without also providing for its constant needs. So God made the great blue whale, a creature of the sea of such leviathan proportions that, to quote David Attenborough, ‘its tongue weighs as much as an elephant, its heart is the size of a car and some of its blood vessels are so wide that you could swim through them.’ It is, I say, the most gargantuan beast the earth has seen, or ever will see, bigger than the most cumbrous dinosaur. Yet how little we know about great blue whales. Where do they go to breed? What path of the sea do they take to get there? How is it that they can break off one of their songs and then pick it up at exactly the same spot six months later? These great creatures of the sea are actually mammals which routinely must come up to the surface to breathe.

Then another is the giant squid, whose eyes are the size of footballs and who trailing tentacles can be sixty feet in length. It weighs nearly a ton and it’s the earth’s largest invertebrate, and yet no person has ever seen a giant squid alive. Zoologists have devoted careers trying to glimpse a living giant squid and have always failed. We know about these squid from their being washed ashore dead – especially on the South Island of New Zealand. God made all that swim the paths of the seas. All the world has this curiosity with the mighty creatures of the deep. When a whale lost its way and swam up the Thames a couple of years ago it made headlines in the media for days. It is our God who has made everything in the ocean’s depths; “every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kind” (Gen.1:21). According to one estimate there could be as many as thirty million species of animals living in the sea, most still undiscovered. When a whale dies and sinks to the bottom of the sea as many as 390 species of marine life have been found dining off it!

Our Saviour gives us an example of the miraculous instant creation of fish when he fed five thousand men. You will remember how multitudes have followed him and he has taught them all day until they are hungry for food. So Jehovah Jesus proceeds to feed them by taking five loaves and two fishes. He begins to tear them apart and to put them in trays which his disciples distribute to the sitting crowds. Christ never stopped tearing the food apart; there was always more, until all the crowd was satisfied and twelve baskets of fragments were left over. Our Master was not creating fish spawn, or baby fish the size of minnows, but fully grown fish that had been dried or cooked ready for eating. One boy would eat two fishes with his bread for a meal. A grown man would need at least three, and there were five thousand sitting on the hill, not counting the women and children, and all were fed and there was much left over. So Jesus rapidly created maybe as many as twenty thousand fully formed fish. Who are you meeting in the gospels? This is the incarnate Lord whose praise David sings in Psalm 8.

So I have said to you that God’s name is majestic in all the earth because he made the earth, the sun and moon and stars in the heavens. Then it is also majestic because he made the animals and birds and the fish of the sea. Now very briefly this:

3. GOD’S NAME IS MAJESTIC BECAUSE HE HAS SET HIS GLORY ABOVE THE HEAVENS. (v.1).

We see God’s glory in his creation. The heavens declare the glory of God. The sunsets, the mountains, the sky at night declares his glory, but they do not limit or contain his glory. Though vast they are finite and measurable. They are a huge structure which declare to us night and day the glory of their Maker, but they are not infinite. God’s glory is. It is immeasurable; there are simply no measurements that can declare it. There is no angelic ‘clapometer’ to measure it! God only knows the glory of God. So above the glory of the earth and all its creatures great and small is the glory of God. Above the glory of the sun, moon and stars is the glory of God. More glorious than the Milky Way and billions of galaxies like it, each one of course unique and we have breath-taking photographs of some of them from the Hubble telescope, yet above the glory of all of them is the glory of God. God has set his own glory above the heavens. How majestic is his name in all the earth.

4. GOD’S NAME IS MAJESTIC BECAUSE THE LIPS OF INFANTS AND CHILDREN SING HIS PRAISE.

David is speaking about babies, and he had had many children, and he had held them in his arms and marveled at them when they were a day or two old, their little hands and feet, and the way their tiny fingers gripped his finger. What hopes he
had about their future. He longed for them to know the Lord and serve him and live consistent godly lives, as he had tried but often failed to do. These babies had been months in their mother’s womb. There had been the fusion of a sperm and an egg and a human cell had multiplied and divided, the organs had known where to go in relation to the other organs, no one knows how, the heart soon pumping, the spinal cord, the brain, the eyes, the limbs and so the unborn child developed for nine months. The instructions that are found in the DNA of the first cell contain enough information to fill a thousand books each of 600 pages, and this is not in special children but in every baby. What an extraordinary God to have conceived that!

Into the world they emerge and immediately they cry. I think of them calling on the name of God, “You made me. You gave me life. You are the one who’s brought me into this fallen world. Save me or I perish.” The longing in the newly born for deliverance and safety and home. How often that cry for redemption changes and becomes a cry of abuse, and hunger and sickness in this fallen world. There are enemies of God all around us; God’s foe and avenger is never far away. Such enemies of the Lord don’t want our God. “Who is the Lord that I should obey him?” they cry. The Serpent was there in God’s Garden, unafraid, coming to destroy our first parents, their enemy and God’s enemy. What will God do? Do you think he would simply snuff him out in the twinkling of an eye? That’s what men expect. That’s what men want. The comedian Eddie Izzard said this week that if there were a God then he’d have hit off Hitler’s head. But God hasn’t hit of Eddie Izzard’s head, or yours, has he? He has been longsuffering with you putting off the day of judgment and giving you another day of grace, and another, and yet another, waiting for you to cry out, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

So the God who could instantly destroy the enemy and the avenger is patient with them. He chooses to defeat his enemies and show his mighty power by the means of babies, and not just the symbol of cute sleeping babies with clean diapers, but with the very words that come from the lips of babies; “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger” (v.2). The meaning is not that he takes care of babies and loves them, or that he just says, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.’ He does, but that is not what David comments on here. God makes the words that children say so trustingly and simply become the means of divine triumph. God conquers his foes through the weakness of the weak. The weakness of God is stronger than the strength of men. His Son nailed to a cross, dying in weakness, is the means of cosmic redemption. God does not need 20,000 fighting men to serve under Gideon to defeat his enemies, just 300. God uses clay pots.

What could be weaker than a little child? When you think of God the warrior, and wonder why he doesn’t go round the world hitting the heads off rapists, poisoners and torturers, then remember that man’s weakness is God’s power. God is making what comes out of their lips strong and convicting and unforgettable, and by them he defeats his enemies. They are moving their lips and with their little voices they are saying words that that are powerful enough to silence the foe and the avenger.

The Lord Jesus towards the end of his ministry entered the temple and whipped out the money-changers, and then healed the sick. The little children watched all this and were greatly moved and they shouted out loud, “Hosanna to the Son of David . . . Hosanna to the Son of David!” The chief priests were angry and turned on Jesus wanting him to rebuke them – if he really were a man of God. “‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise”?’” (Matt. 21:16&17). The Lord Jesus knew Psalm 8. Our Lord had learned it. Our Lord said that it referred to him. That God, before the foundation of the world, had ordained that he would send his Son into the world. This God ordained that children would praise him, when the enemies of his Son, the chief priests, longed to kill him then they would cry Hosanna and say, “He is the son of David.” So the children put to shame Jesus’ enemies. With every great evangelist there has been intense interest in his preaching by children. They have sat at the front as Whitefield preached and listened enthralled to his words, and wept when men have thrown stones and tried to destroy him.

If the words of weak children can be powerful how much will your words silence the enemies of Christ? How much will his preachers, called and gifted by him, filled with his Spirit, be all sufficient to speak on his behalf and silence the voice of his enemies?

You see the argument from the lesser to the greater? There was a mean school teacher who would scorn the existence of God. He would say often, “There is no God . . . There is no God.” And finally a boy took his life in his hands and raised his hand. “Yes?” the teacher said. “Sir, next time you say, ‘There is no God’ would you mind adding, ‘as far as I know.’” What was he saying to his teacher? The man was limited by his own knowledge. If the sum of the knowledge of the entire universe is 100 how much of that knowledge does the most clever man possess? He wouldn’t have a hundredth of that knowledge. He doesn’t know enough. He could not say dogmatically that there was no God. In fact through the bias of enmity towards God in every heart it will be prejudice that makes him declare his atheistic creed so vehemently. God has hid such things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes, and children’s words have been powerful in silencing the foe.

I told you of David George’s son, Hywel, whose testimony to Jesus Christ is known through the whole school and in one class they were discussing Extra Terrestrials and outer space. “Well, Hywel, what does the Bible say about this?” asked the teacher with a smile. “Not much,” replied Hywel, “it concentrates on the earth, and on men and women and their relationship with God.” Amen. “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (v.2).

My daughter taught for many years the reception class in a school in Wiltshire, a rather posh school where Prince Charles’ wife sent her children. Catrin taught them according to her Christian convictions, read Scripture to them and prayed and never had any objections to this from staff or from the parents. They all knew that she was a follower of Jesus Christ but she was also a good teacher who ensured that by the end of her year all the children could read and write. She was greatly respected by the P.T.A. and as the music teacher in the school accompanied performances of Oliver and other musicals. One year they school went on a trip to Bristol Zoo and after they had had a good day seeing all the animals the Zoo staff taught them about the animals and God’s creation. One man who was not a Christian stood before them and asked them, “Now children. Where does the rain come from?” They looked at one another and all of them knew the answer. It was such an easy question. They answered, “God.” A
nd then with growing assurance and conviction and volume they all said, “God . . . God sends the rain . . . God sends the rain.” Her fellow teachers grinned across at Catrin knowing her Christian stance, and she smiled back with her thumb up. The man in front of the class was nonplussed. Instead of the answer, “Clouds,” the children had taken him to the first cause of everything, that God is the author of the sunshine and the rain. As the harvest hymn says,

“He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft, refreshing rain.”

The man was silenced, and finally mumbled, “I don’t know if he sends all the rain” (the doctrine of limited providence), trying to cover his embarrassment with some humour. “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”

One of the greatest Christians of all times and a profound theologian in the church was Augustine of North Africa. He had been wild and profligate in his life until at last he became utterly sick of his guilt and immorality. He tells us of his conversion and the part some children played;

“I flung myself down under a fig tree–how I know not–and gave free course to my tears. The streams of my eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to thee. And, not indeed in these words, but to this effect, I cried to thee: ‘And thou, O Lord, how long? How long, O Lord? Wilt thou be angry forever? Oh, remember not against us our former iniquities.’ For I felt that I was still enthralled by them. I sent up these sorrowful cries: ‘How long, how long? Tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour make an end to my uncleanness?’

“I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl I know not which–coming from the neighbouring house, chanting over and over again, ‘Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it.’ ["tolle lege, tolle lege"] Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon. For I had heard how Anthony, accidentally coming into church while the gospel was being read, received the admonition as if what was read had been addressed to him: ‘Go and sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.’ By such an oracle he was forthwith converted to thee.

“So I quickly returned to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had put down the apostle’s book when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: ‘Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.’ I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.

How majestic is our God, that he can convey life-changing truth through the lips of a child.

25th January 2009 GEOFF THOMAS