In a book whose title means “Songs of Praise”, it is surprising that Psalm 8 is the first actual praise psalm, but it is. For many of you, this psalm will seem familiar as v1 and 9 have been used in songs (Sandi Patti had a popular one), and verses 4-6 appear in the New Testament a few times (check out Hebrews chapter 2). Let’s start by reading it. Note that God is being directly addressed in this psalm; He is the “you” throughout. If you like to listen to music versions here are two links of artists who sing it. Acoustic version by Zach Fitzsimmons or here is another version by The Corner Room.
For the director of music. According to gittith1. A psalm of David.
1 Lord, our Lord,Psalm 8 (NIV11)
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
The refrain of this psalm uses specific words of royalty and sovereign rule. Lord. Majesty. Glory. These words are royal words. English royalty uses titles such as His/Her Majesty. They have the House of Lords. We’ve talked before how glory refers to the idea of a king’s reputation. The psalmist wants us to focus on God’s complete sovereignty and rule over “all the earth”. God is the ruler of everything.
Though this psalm begins and ends praising God for his glorious rule, it centers on his care for creation and specifically humanity. God created the world and everything in it (described in Genesis 1 and here), and then He created mankind. He created us in His image. And He cares for us. He placed the original humans in a garden paradise, and walked with them in the evenings. Part of what it means to be created in God’s image is that He has made us rulers over His creation. The psalmist says it as, “He crowned them (humanity) with glory and honor.” (There are those royalty words again.) But we see it back in the original creation story as well.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.Gen 1:28 (NIV11)
The Psalmist is almost quoting this verse in Psalm 8. This was God’s first command to humanity: rule over creation and care of it. This idea is restated in Genesis 2:15 where God puts the man into the Garden to work it and take care of it. Think about that. God who is ruler of all, created the heavens and the earth. Then he created humanity and gave us authority over his creation. He shares his rule with us. And as the psalmist says: What is man that you are mindful of him? That you put everything under his feet? No wonder the psalmist erupts in praise.
Yet some people disregard this command. Instead they believe God is going to destroy it all in the end, so why bother caring for it? But Psalm 8 is a reminder that the earth is God’s, and God cares for it. Not only that, but He delegated it’s care to us. When we care for His creation, all of it, it is a way of magnifying His name in all the earth. It glorifies Him. And not caring for it, is direct disobedience to the position He gave us and His first command to us.
One of my commentaries (The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary) that I read talked about a connection that this Psalm has with Job. It started back in Psalm 7 where the commentator connects the psalmist’s declaration of righteousness to Job’s declaration of righteousness and the central theme of God’s righteousness that both have. With Psalm 8, he finds specific references to the Psalm in the book of Job. (Job: 7:17; 19:9; 31:36-37; 42:6; 30:19) Look up those verses and see what connections you draw. Also, look up Hebrews 2 and 1 Corinthians 15 and the end of Ephesians 1. See how the NT authors use this Psalm to talk about Jesus and how he exercises the rule that God gave Him. What connections with suffering do you see in these passages?2 I’m not giving answers here, just space for further study, connections, and conversation.
Enjoy God’s creation today. Be a good steward (another royal position!) of what He has given us. Praise Him today because as the psalmist says, “How majestic is His name in all the earth!”
May you be blessed by God’s Word today.
1Gittith is probably a type of stringed musical instrument.
2The New Interpreter’s Bible: 1 & 2 Maccabees. Introduction to Hebrew poetry. Job. Psalms. (1996). United States: Abingdon Press. 706-713.