Around 1978, as new Christians, my wife, Linda, and I discovered some music that played an important role in our seeking to follow Jesus. Keith Green’s music was different from the praise and worship music we were familiar with. His songs about repentance, the costs of discipleship, and the struggle to give everything to Jesus were both heartfelt and hard-hitting. We were drawn to both the music and the man.
Born in 1953, Keith was about my age. He had been a child actor, a preteen singer-songwriter, and a late-sixties hippie. In 1975 he converted to Christianity, along with his wife, Melody. Once that happened he never turned back. In 1979 the Greens moved to Texas to start a community called Last Days Ministries. Keith continued to write songs while also ministering to people in need, including the homeless and pregnant women.
Though Keith died in a plane crash in 1982 at age twenty-eight, his music continues to speak to listeners today. Many of his songs are scripture put to music. I especially love his 1982 setting of Psalm 8:
Oh Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is thy name in all the earth.
When I first listened to Green’s version of the psalm, it struck me in a new way with the truth of God, his creation, and our place in it. The glory of nature echoes the glory of God:
For when I consider the heavens
the work of thy fingers.
The moon and the sun which thou
For what is man, that thou
dost take thought of him,
And the son of man, that thou
dost care for him?
Psalm 19 talks about the heavens too: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” Nature itself reveals truth and knowledge to us, and every creature tells us something about its creator. As G. K. Chesterton says in his 1925 book The Everlasting Man:
What we know, in a sense in which we know nothing else, is that the trees and the grass did grow and that a number of other extraordinary things do in fact happen; that queer creatures support themselves in the empty air by beating it with fans of various fantastic shapes; that other queer creatures steer themselves about alive under a load of mighty waters; that other queer creatures walk about on four legs, and that the queerest creature of all walks about on two.
By observing nature, both in the heavens and on the earth, we see God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and majesty. I have often stood in awe gazing at the star-flecked night sky, and the more I learn about the universe, the more I discern the hand of a divine creator.
Hallelujah Lord our Lord,
Oh how I love you.
You’ve made man a little lower
than all of the angels,
And crowned him with glory to rule
over your creation.
Under that night sky, I have echoed the words of King David: “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” Contemplating such a great expanse, I find God’s attention and dedication to us tiny humans astounding.
Not only did God create us and crown us, he made us his image-bearers. It is this that gives human beings their unique place in nature. After he created the earth, God did not become a passive viewer. He maintained connection with his creation and in particular with humankind, loving and cherishing each human being. He gave humanity the task to nurture his creation, to create new life by being fruitful but also to care for and protect his masterpiece so it would remain a place where all creatures could thrive.
Despite God’s commission, humans do not do such a great job of creating that place of joy and peace on earth. So God does something amazing and wonderful to call us back to his original intent: he sends Jesus. God steps out of himself and becomes one of us. He does this out of his infinite love for us, demonstrating that there is no length to which he will not go out of love for each of us. Throughout his ministry, Jesus calls his listeners back to God’s will for creation, urging his followers to heal rather than harm, nurture rather than ravage, and make peace rather than war.
Jesus promises that he will come again and usher in the kingdom of God, the new and perfected creation. We will have new bodies that will never get sick and die. As it says in Isaiah 65: “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Peter picks up this refrain in his second letter: “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. "And these promises echo once again in the prophetic words of Revelation:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
I hope you take the time to listen to Keith Green singing Psalm 8, expressing the beauty of God’s creation and the gift of being image-bearers. Our God is involved in creation and in our lives. He has given us work to do on earth as we await the new heaven and new earth that Jesus will bring. God has placed everything into the hands of Jesus. No matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, this psalm lifts our hearts and eyes to God, his creation, and the best that is yet to come.
Hallelujah Lord our Lord,
Oh how I love you.