The psalms are filled with wonderful descriptions of the greatness of God. Psalm 8 is no exception. Or is it? Let’s take a look at this ancient hymn so we can increase our praise vocabulary and encourage one another by focusing on God instead of ourselves.
This psalm begins and ends with the same exclamation of adoration: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1 and Psalm 8:9). David wants to direct our attention to the one who is called both “LORD,” (or Yahweh, the special name for God that means “I Am”, a reference to God’s eternal self-existence) and “Lord” (or Adonai, the title that refers to God’s sovereignty over all creation.)
How long have humans been in existence? Whether you’re an evolutionist or a creationist, either way we’ve only been here a fraction of the time that God has been around, because He has existed from all eternity and is the only one who can say, “I am that I am.” And even though humans have accomplished much over the centuries, when was the last time we created something out of nothing?
Calling God “LORD” and “Lord” in the same breath gives us plenty for which to praise him! But David doesn’t stop there. He then proclaims, “You have set your glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1b) and a few verses later he writes, “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? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:3-5).
At first glance it may appear that David’s focus has shifted from God to man and that we should start thinking about our greatness rather than God’s. Certainly God has endowed mankind with much dignity, giving us the tremendous responsibility of ruling over his world as God’s vice-regent.
If we didn’t have the New Testament, this might be the logical place to conclude our thoughts on Psalm 8. Yet Jesus and the apostles did not see this psalm as primarily a description of the greatness of man. Rather, they viewed Psalm 8 as mainly a description of the one and only God-Man, Jesus the divine “Son of Man.”
In fact, there are four New Testament passages that see Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 8. Jesus himself quoted Psalm 8:2 on Palm Sunday when the chief priests were indignant at the praise he was receiving from children shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:16). Furthermore, the psalmist’s statement that God “has put everything under his feet” (Psalm 8:6) is quoted by Paul twice (1 Corinthians 15:27 and Ephesians 1:22) as a reference to Jesus.
But the longest and arguably most compelling New Testament reference to Psalm 8 is found in Hebrews 2:5-9, where verses 4-6 are quoted as a testimony to the magnificence of Jesus. He is the one who “was made a little lower than the angels” through the incarnation. Furthermore, “because he suffered death,” Jesus is now “crowned with glory and honor” and is the only one capable of “bringing many sons to glory” through the salvation he accomplished on the cross.
When reading Psalm 8, how tempting it is to think too highly of ourselves. Jesus, Paul and the writer of Hebrews want us to realize that only Jesus is worthy of glory spoken of in this psalm. May we never forget that it is only by the grace of God that we are privileged to share in that glory. Unlike the divine Son of God, we receive such honor as a gift from above. In stark contrast, Jesus possessed this glory from eternity past and temporarily set it aside to become “the author of [our] salvation.”
For this act of mercy we will forever sing with David, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9).