HYMNS OF THE REVELATION OF GOD
THE PSALMS COME FLAMINGLY FROM THE SOUL OF AN EXPERIENCING PEOPLE. THE ancient Israelites were uniquely gifted in the capacity to feel. And in no aspect of their life is this quality so evident or so rich in contribution to humanity as in the lyrical expression of their religious experience.
The psalmists found God most of all in the world within, that inner realm of immediate awareness wherein they felt themselves confronted by an Other, searching, comprehending, condemning, rebuking, challenging, and comforting. But they also found Him in the world without. In physical nature they saw His glory. In their national history they felt His presence. In their law they heard His voice.
In the present section we are concerned only with the first of these realms of the outer world in which the psalmist found God, and more especially with those psalms which have the best right to be called hymns of nature. They are Pss. 8; 19:1-6; 29; 104; 147; 148.
Ps. 8 is a hymn of the night. The psalmist has an awed appreciation of what every nature lover in Palestine felt, the living beauty of an Oriental night. There is a universal quality in the psalm, for there are no national limits to the God whose glory fills heaven and earth. And when the psalmist deals with "man" as he does in verse 4, it is not man as Israelite that he has in mind, but man as man, a universal.
The most distinctive thing in this psalm is the revelation of God in nature, and it is this which determines its classification. At the same time it heightens the importance of the psalm when we note that it has a most appropriate worship setting in the Festival of Tabernacles. This is implied by its central theme, the creation of the world. The Festival of Tabernacles, with which Israel's New Year coincides, is the festival of the renewal of creation. The psalm, like Ps. 134, is a vigil liturgy,1 appropriate for a night service in connection with that festival par excellence of Israel. Just such a night service in the Temple, participated in by the pilgrims to the Festival of Tabernacles2 with gladness of heart, is described in the book of Isaiah:
Ye shall have a song in the night
As when a holy feast is observed. (30:29.)