While he 8th Psalm is relatively brief, the words are pithy and deep; composed with the one great aim of magnifying the glory of Jehovah. The reach of the poem is great stretching from the eternal throne, the home of the triune God, to the perfection of the universe with its myriads of stars and galaxies, to the position of mankind , the crown of creation and his eventual redemption and glorification in the new earth. From the heavens above to the earth beneath; from the eternal past to the eternal future the Psalmist exalts the constant magnificence of the Glory of God.
Expositor Derek Kidner sees this Psalm as a perfect example of a hymn:
“This Psalm is an unsurpassed example of what a hymn should be, celebrating as it does the glory and grace of God, rehearsing who he is and what he has done, and relating us and our world to him, all with masterly economy of words, and in a spirit of mingled joy and awe.”
Good hymns should reflect something of the Psalm 8; The Glory of God, The grace of God revealed in man, the wonder that God thinks upon humanity and the ultimate revelation of glory in the eternal state. True Biblical worship should not be designed to entertain. Such worship teaches the sinner about God, exalts the his holy name, confesses sin and claims assurance and hope. Songs which focus upon the feelings of the creature while they may have some personal value do not constitute true worship.
From beginning to end the tapestry of this Psalm is woven with the thread of God’s glory. In the first verse, the glory of God is above the heavens while in verse 5, the glory is placed upon the head of man, the creature. The 9th verse takes the worshipper back to the beginning as the excellency of the eternal and holy name of God is praised.
As this is a song that takes us from eternity into time before returning to eternity; we must say that these words describe the eternal state and the history of the universe. God is writing history as speak with a view to exalting his holy name. He will not fail in this:
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
1: THE DECLARATION OF THE GLORY OF GOD
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
The song begins with a declaration, exalting the name of of God. The writer exclaims the holy name of God from the outset:
“O LORD, our Lord…” He employs two names for God. In the first instance the name is Jehovah, the holiest and most sacred of all the divine appellations. This was the name which the ancient Jews refused to pronounce. Refusing to insert vowel points for this name, the pronunciation was prohibited. When the scribe read aloud from the Scriptures he pronounced the lesser name for “Lord”, adonai, when he came to this name “Jehovah”. Here in this text the two names are employed. David declares that Jehovah is his Lord. He submits himself and he acknowledges God’s ownership over him.
Having confessed this personal relationship David proceeds to exclaim, “how excellent is thy name in all the earth.” God’s very name is to be revered. A worthy study is the contemplation of the names of God. They teach us ever so much about His character and attributes. At the head of the list is Jehovah and its variants (Jehovah Shalom meaning The Lord Send Peace, Jehovah Tsidkenu meaning The Lord Our Righteousness, Jehovah Shammah meaning The Lord is There, Jehovah Jireh meaning The Lord will Provide, etc…).
This name is established above the heavens. This takes us beyond the galaxies and constellations to the throne of God. This is the location where the angels constantly cry “Holy Holy Holy…”. In the highest place of all, in the sacred halls of eternity, there is no name to compared to that which belongs to the inimitable and incomparable God. Let us declare his glory here on earth!
2: THE EDUCATION THROUGH THE GLORY OF GOD
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
The Psalmist now moves from heavenly bliss to earthlings as he describes the humbling method that God uses to reveal His glory here on earth, by the mouth of babes and sucklings. On one level the babes symbolise the weak and the foolish things that God raises up to promote His will in the world. The shepherd who became King, the fishermen who became apostles and persecutor who became the missionary among the Gentiles.
Literally, however, these words were fulfilled when the Lord was walking and teaching in the temple in the days prior to His crucifixion. As He cast the money changers out of the temple the children sang His praises in the precincts of the temple to the disgust of the Pharisees In response the Saviour recited these very words from Psalm 8 (Matthew 21:15-16). Throughout His ministry the Saviour taught truth using the example of children. He rebuked the disciples for driving the mothers away and He showed them that one must become as a little child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
The highest Glory in the universe cannot be understand by human logic because that is twisted and distorted by depravity. God teaches and reveals his glory in ways that humble and defy ordinary human wisdom, that no flesh might glory in his presence.
3: THE QUESTION BY THE GLORY OF GOD
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
David remains on earth in this section as he proceeds to examine the puzzle that he is presented with Why. He looks up admires the handiwork of God. The phrase, “the work of thy fingers” is used of a woman who has amazing needlework skills. The craftsmanship of God is both both incredible and amazing.
With this in mind David now begins to question God’s place for humanity in the world. Why would God place such an honour upon man in making him the crowning piece of creation? Thomas Aquinas, the Roman Catholic Theologian, wrote that man was placed at the midway point in God’s creation. We are neither angels who are spirits without bodies, nor are we animals which bodies without spirits. We are both spirit and body or as some theologians would argue, we are spirit, soul and body with three constituent parts. This makes man both unique and special. We cannot fly with the eagles, nor run like the cheetah. We are not as powerful as the elephant nor can we swim like the fish. Yet these animals have been placed under the stewardship of man. Man is unique as only he, out of all creation has been made in the in the image of God. We are higher than the natural creation and we are just a little lower than the angels. The word angel in this place, it is argued, is often translated God. We are just a little lower than God in his economy and world order. Even depraved man has a unique place in creation. A place that he disdains and treats irresponsibility and will be held accountable for.
Paul in writing to the Hebrews, however, shows us that this Psalm writes pre-eminently of Christ (Hebrews 2:6-9). Man could not have been exalted more highly when God gave His son to the likeness of sinful flesh in order that humanity might be redeemed by His death and suffering. He took on the lowly place of his creatures to raise man up from the dunghill of sin.
But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
What are we that God should think upon us? Physically weak and morally corrupt, yet God has preserved our race and has devised the most amazing method of redemption in reclaiming us for his own.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…”
4: THE JUBILATION IN THE GLORY OF GOD
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
David concludes his hymn by transporting us to the vastness of eternity. He foresees a day when man will have dominion over all the works of God’s hands. This was so in Eden but it is not so today. There isa wildness and unpredictability in nature that cannot be tamed. There are animals which are feared and which cannot be domesticated. There are viruses and diseases that are incurable. Age and death take their toll on all of our lives. Ma,n try as he might, does not have dominion in this world. He is a fallen creature struggling to control this fallen world and universe.
Yet one day we will have dominion. This will occur when Christ’s Glory is revealed at the last great day. Paul anticipated this when he wrote:
“But now we see not yet all things put under him…”
This inference is that one day all things will be under the control of Christ. In 1st Corinthians 15:24-26 the Apostle related that all Christ’s enemies and death itself will vanquished by the Son of God.
At the end of the Apocalypse John saw the New Heaven and the New Earth. This new and final period will be ushered in by the return of Jesus Christ. Then Jesus will reign, nature will be bereft of the curse, the universe will be redeemed and man will reign with Christ forever.
Then the Glory of God will be revealed in a sinless universe through the constant eternity in a universe that will be without sin.
“O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”