The First two Psalms set the general tone of the Psalter by reminding us of the word of the Lord applied to life, and the triumph of God’s kingdom through his chosen servant Jesus. The Psalms that follow this, three through seven are intensely personal and deal with David’s struggles with his own sin and the animosity of his enemies. But here again in Psalm 8 we have a psalm of wisdom like the first Psalm. There are only three Psalms that bear the superscription “al gittith” which is translated in the NKJV on an instrument of Gath. No one is certain what this Hebrew expression means. The three Psalms are all by different authors, David, Asaph, and the Sons of Korah. They differ in their purpose but they are all hymns, which celebrate deliverance, victory, the strength of the Lord and rejoicing. Maybe it’s a reflection on Gath and David’s victory over Goliath. In any case, even if its just a tune or instrument from Gath, it reminds us that David a mere boy and the youngest of the family was used to defeat the mighty enemy of Israel, and verse two celebrates the power of the Lord to work through the young and the weak. In any case this Psalm teaches us the dignity of man as a special creation of the true and living God. The curious thing about the Psalm is that it teaches the most important truth by its implicit design. It shows us that while man has a manifest destiny as created in the image of God his greatness is totally and exclusively encompassed in the greatness of the true and living God The Psalm begins and ends with the exaltation of the Lord. It is only in this context that man has any value or meaning at all. Thus we see in this Psalm first of all the majesty of the Lord and then the mandate of man as created in his image. The majesty of God is seen in his person, providence and power.
I The Majesty of God
A His Person
Note verses 1 and 9, O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! When the Psalmist says O LORD our Lord, he uses two different names for God as you can see by the use of capital letters for the first LORD. This is the name Yahweh, the personal name of God by which he revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush. This name identifies him as the God who is there. This is exactly David’s point. The God of Israel is the Creator and therefore the God of all the earth. The excellence or majesty of his name relates to the fact that he is not just another God of another religion; He is not a tribal deity. He is the incomprehensible God of eternity who made all things. His glory is set above the heavens.
B His Providence
In his providence our great God has chosen to demonstrate his greatness by overcoming sin, evil and corruption by the use of the weakest instruments so that the glory may go to Him alone, verse 2, From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. We have seen David is an example of this, but this scripture finds a special fulfillment as Jesus applies it himself in Matthew 21:16, “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’?” Perhaps an even greater fulfillment is in the birth of the redeemer as a tiny infant.
C His Power
In verses 3 and 4, the Psalmist also exalts God’s power as he sees the puny nature of man in contrast to the greatness, which is displayed in the marvel of the created universe, When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? It is but the work of his fingers, yet it is overwhelming. Psalm 144: 3, which is also a Psalm of David, celebrates this same thing, O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him?
II The Mandate of Man
In the context of God’s greatness we see man’s destiny as expressed in verses 4-8 through the mandate, which is given to him by God, What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: 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. We are kings in the earth, each and every one of us. Though we are made lower than the angels, that is we have inferior powers, yet we are exalted above them. In fact they serve us, ministering to the heirs of salvation, and in the world to come Paul writes in I Cor.6: 2 and 3 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know that we will judge angels, how much more the things of this life? Now the question always arises is David speaking of the original state of man or is he speaking of Jesus here. This Psalm is clearly applied to Christ in Both I Cor. 15, and Hebrews 2. An amazing amount of material has been written trying to decide which is correct. The answer is both. Man’s destiny as originally created is unfulfilled. It was God’s plan that it would be fulfilled only in Christ. So Adam, who is given dominion in Genesis one, stumbles before the race begins. He fails to do what God has commanded him to do which is to exercise dominion as God’s representative. Instead he tries to do it on his own. Christ is the last Adam who fulfills man’s destiny. Thus this Psalm must be seen in the context of God’s overall plan of redemption. It’s meaning is incomplete without Christ. Looking at the two places in the New Testament where this Psalm is applied to Christ helps us to understand this. in I Corinthians 15:27 Paul quotes Psalm 8 in discussing the cosmic significance of the resurrection in God’s plan of the ages, For he ”has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. The purpose of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is seen in his subjugation of his enemies and ultimately in his subjugation of all things. Thus Psalm 8 is fulfilled in Christ. This is admittedly a difficult passage, but I believe that the subjugation of the Son of God to the Father does not refer in any sense to the absolute and eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. This does not change. But rather it refers to the fact that the incarnate Christ, the last Adam having brought all into submission to himself is now subject to the Father as man was intended to be. This is the focus of Paul’s argument here as he says in v.21, Since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. In Hebrews 2: 5-9 we read, It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.” In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. The Son of God became lower than the angels, or in other words became man in order to fulfill man’s destiny. Notice the author of Hebrews is speaking of the world to come in verse 5. This present world is lost, forfeit and condemned together with the first Adam. And indeed we not only do not see all things under man as they ought to be, but even Jesus, the Son of God and last Adam is not yet in full view as reigning over all. That will not occur until he comes again. However we see that he has died for us and risen again, and this is the guarantee not only that he will reign but also that we will reign with him. It’s especially helpful to see that the author of Hebrews at this point mentions the fact that Jesus delivers his people from the fear of death in 2: 14 and 15. The fear of death is eliminated when we see our destiny as God created us, and Jesus fulfilling that destiny. We were born to reign, and in Christ we shall reign forever.
Summary of Psalm 8
Psalm Eight reminds us that the God of Israel is Lord over all. His great power is glorified in using the weakest of earthly means to accomplish his goals. God’s majesty in creation abases man. Nevertheless man’s essential dignity is established by the regal role that God has given him in creation. Because of the first Adam’s transgression this destiny is unattained by sinful man. Our dignified destiny is presently realized only in Christ, the last Adam, and fully manifested only in the world to come.