by Shane Scott
1 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (ESV)
Just as our songbooks contain various categories of songs, Israel’s book of praises contained various styles of psalms. Some are hymns of thanks, others are expressions of lament, and others summarize the wisdom for living. Psalm 8 is a hymn of praise, beginning and ending with the same expression of adoration for God:
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1, 9)
There are many reasons to praise God to be sure. This psalm focuses on one aspect of God’s praiseworthiness – his work as creator. God’s glory is revealed in the moon and stars (8:3); the sheep, oxen, and beasts of the field (8:7); the birds of the heavens and fish of the sea (8:8).
But above all, the psalmist expresses awe and gratitude for God’s creation of humanity. Compared to the vast stretches of space, it seems unlikely that God would be mindful of us (8:4). And yet, not only has God created us, he has crowned us with “glory and honor,” a “little lower than the heavenly beings [“God,” NASB or “angels,” NKJV]” (8:5). And just as God declared in Genesis 1:26, he has given mankind “dominion” over the works of his hands. “You have put all things under his feet” (8:6).
The majestic power of God displayed in creation is so potent that it can establish sufficient strength in the praise of nursing babies and developing toddlers “to still the enemy and the avenger” (8:2)!
As Christians, we understand that the Psalms point to our Lord (Luke 24:44), so that we can take these ancient hymns and transpose them to a higher key, centered on Christ. The New Testament usage of Psalm 8 is a beautiful example of this transposition (in the citations that follow, I will italicize the references to Psalm 8 in each passage). Since this psalm praises God for crowning mankind with glory, honor, and dominion, it is only natural to apply it to the man who is the supreme expression of God’s dominion, the Lord Jesus. So, the writer of Hebrews refers to Psalm 8 when he describes the incarnation:
“For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. It has been testified somewhere, ‘What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet‘” (Hebrews 2:5-8a).
And, as the writer goes on to say, while Christ has dominion over everything, that dominion has not been finally and completely acknowledged. Not everything is actually “under his feet” to use the language of Psalm 8:6. There is a “now” and a “not yet” aspect to Christ’s dominion:
“Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:8b-9).
This dominion will be realized in its entirety when Christ has subjected all enemies, including and concluding with death. “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet'” (1 Corinthians 15:25-27).
In the meantime, you and I have a job to do, taking our cue from the children who saw the mighty works of Jesus in Jerusalem:
“But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant, and they said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Matthew 21:15-16).
As the psalmist declared, God’s majestic power will strengthen us to “still the enemy and the avenger” – not by violence or vitriol, but by praise. Let’s get to work!