Today we turn to Psalm 8, which is another psalm of David. However, unlike psalms 3 to 7 — which were psalms of lament — this one is a psalm of praise to God who made all things. And David marvels at the fact that the Lord who made all things cares for us; and he has bestowed great honour on us. However, as we’ll see, this psalm, like the previous ones, speaks to us of the Lord Jesus who was made lower than the angels, but who is now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death for us and for our salvation.
The psalm begins and ends with an expression of praise to the Lord. David writes:
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
There’s God’s special covenant name again: LORD in capital letters. This is the name God revealed to his people and it was the name by which he was known. And David is saying that their God, the LORD, is Lord. That is, he’s the king who rules over all. So, David the earthly king is saying that the Lord is the true king, the one who rules over the heavens and the earth. And when David speaks of the majesty of God’s name being in all the earth, he’s saying that the greatness and glory of God is displayed throughout the world, because everything in the world speaks to us of God and his perfections. As David will say in another psalm, the heavens declare his glory and the skies proclaim the work of his hand. Without words, they speak to us and say to us that the LORD is great.
And so, God’s majesty is displayed in all the world; and he has set his glory above the heavens. It’s above the heavens because — of course — the Lord himself is above the heavens and the earth. He’s not part of the creation, but he’s above it and beyond it; he’s the transcendent God who rules over all as the glorious and all-powerful and the completely majestic and marvellous God.
Verse 2 acknowledges the existence of God’s enemies. Not everyone praises the Lord and gives him the glory he deserves. There are — in every generation — many who do not believe and who do not honour him. Instead of giving thanks to him, they suppress the truth about him because of their sinfulness. But what the proud do not acknowledge, the Lord has made known to the little children and the infants and others like them who are not proud, but humble. Though they are weak they know better than the arrogant; and they praise the Lord.
Verses 3 to 8
And the psalmist himself is humble, because he feels his own smallness and insignificance in comparison to the splendour of the world around him. In verses 3 and 4, we can imagine David looking up at the night sky and being overwhelmed by the sight of the moon and the stars in all their vast array and magnificence. They are so great and glorious; and he is so small in comparison. And he is astounded that the Lord who made the moon and the stars is mindful of the people on earth. It astonishes him that the Lord thinks about them and cares for them. The Hebrew word he uses for ‘man’ in verse 4 denotes our weakness and frailty. We are mortal. So, why should God care for and be interested in mortal men and women who are so weak and frail compared to the moon and the stars which do not change? Why does he care for us?
And why should the Lord bestow such honour on us by making us just a little lower than the heavenly beings? The Hebrew word translated ‘heavenly beings’ can refer to the angels; but it can also refer to God himself. So, God, the LORD, has made us just a little lower than himself and his angels. And he’s crowned us with glory and honour. The word ‘crown’ implies that he has given us the right to rule. And sure enough, in verses 6 to 8, David says that the Lord made us ruler over the works of God’s hands and he’s put everything else under us: the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.
David is no doubt reflecting on Genesis 1 where we read that God created man in his own image. So, we were made a little lower than God, because we were made to be like him. And he made us to rule over creation, because he commanded us to fill the earth and to subdue it; to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature on the earth. When he made us in the beginning, he — as it were — put a crown on our heads and commanded us to rule over the rest of his creation on his behalf.
And when David looks around him at the grandeur of God’s creation, he’s amazed at God’s kindness to us, that he should give such glory and honour to such weak and frail creatures as us.
And so, once more at the end of the psalm, we have this expression of praise to the LORD who is the Lord and King over all and whose majestic nature — his greatness and glory — is displayed in all the earth. Though David speaks in the psalm of the glory and honour which the Lord has bestowed on us, he doesn’t praise us. This is not a psalm of praise to humanity. No, it’s a psalm of praise to God, the LORD, who made all things and who has been so kind and generous and good to us.
The writer to the Hebrews helps us to understand the full significance of this psalm and how it speaks to us of the Lord Jesus Christ. The whole of the Scriptures speak to us of Christ. Isn’t that what the Lord told the Jews who were against him. He said they searched the Scriptures because they thought that by them they would possess eternal life; but what they didn’t realise is that the Scriptures testify about him. And when the Lord was on the road to Emmaus, he explained to those two disciples with him what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. The whole of the Scriptures tell us about him. And the writer to the Hebrews explains for us how this psalm is about him.
Listen to what he wrote:
[T]here is a place where someone has testified:
‘What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honour
and put everything under their feet.’
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
He quotes Psalm 8 and then makes a point which we all know to be true from our own personal experience that we don’t see everything subject to us. There are many things which are outside of our control; and the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and the living creatures on the earth are not completely under our control, because often they’re wild and dangerous and they’re a threat to us and to our safety. Sure, we can’t even control our gardens, which are filled with weeds and other plants which threaten to take over; and our farmers will tell us how hard it is to make a living from the land; and it’s only by the sweat of their brow that they’re able to produce our food. And, of course, the New Testament makes plain that we’re oppressed by other forces too. There’s the Devil who comes at us with his temptations; and often we give in. There’s the unbelieving world which wants us to conform to its wicked ways; and often we give in. And then, there’s our own sinful flesh, which works in us to get us to do what’s evil; and often we give in. Instead of ruling over all things, there are powerful forces which are against us and which get the better of us.
And the psalmist even acknowledges that things are not right, because back in verse 2 he referred to God’s enemies: those who refuse to acknowledge the Lord or to give him the glory and honour he deserves. So, while God made us to subdue the earth and to rule over it, sin entered the world and God’s good creation was spoiled. And now, instead of ruling over all things, our life is hard and difficult and it’s a struggle.
So, at present we don’t see everything subject to us. However, we do see Jesus, who is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, who was made a little lower than the angels whenever he entered this world as one of us. And because he suffered death on our behalf — in obedience to his Father’s will — God the Father raised him from the dead and exalted him to the highest place, crowning him with glory and honour in heaven above, where he now rules and reigns over all for the sake of his people. And he’s extending his rule, he’s extending his kingdom, throughout the world through the preaching of the gospel, by which he calls sinners out of the world and into his kingdom. And all who come to him — confessing their sin and seeking forgiveness — receive eternal life, because — according to the gracious will of our Father — he tasted death for all his people, so that, even though we may die, nevertheless we will live with God forever and forever in glory.
And the day is coming when he will return to raise the dead. And on that day, he will subdue his and our enemies once and for all; and he will bring his people — all who trusted in him — into the world to come where we will reign with him forever in the new heavens and earth.
When God made us, he made us in his image to be like him. And when God made us, he made us to rule over his creation. But because of Adam’s sin, we fell from our position as rulers over all. But in the new creation, we will become like God and we will reign over all. And so, God’s plan for the human race will be fulfilled at last; and it will be fulfilled because of Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels and who died to pay for our sins and who was raised and exalted over all for us.
The psalmist was amazed that God should care for us. But it’s even more amazing, isn’t it? It’s even more amazing, because he cared for us so much that he did not spare his Son, but gave him up for us and for our salvation. And so, with the psalmist, we want to praise the Lord and to declare to one another how great he is.