Psalm 8: Part 1 of 2 (series: Lessons of Psalms)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Thursday, February 10, 2014
Tom Lowe

Psalm 8—Repair of man comes through man.

Title: To the chief Musician upon Gittith. A psalm of David.
Theme: A messianic psalm emphasizing the humanity of Christ and His ultimate victory as man.

1 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
2 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.
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

Messianic psalms are called that because they are quoted in the New Testament in direct reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 8 is quoted three times in the New Testament. In fact, the Lord Jesus himself quoted from this psalm—“And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” (Matthew 21:16). He was telling the chief priests and scribes that it would be a good idea if they would read the scripture so that they would understand why the children were praising Him with shouts of ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ (Matthew 21:19).

The beginning and ending of the psalm suggest that it is essentially a psalm of praise. However, the middle of it qualifies it as a so-called nature psalm, that is, a psalm of creation.

Man is the king of the earth, appointed to rule it for God. Nevertheless, the greatness of man’s status is no cause for the praise of man. David stands amazed that the great God of creation, the great and glorious Jehovah, would pay any attention to frail people on earth. David understands that God glorifies Himself in the heavens, but how can He glorify himself on earth through such weak, sinful people? That God, in His remarkable condensation should focus attention on us is proof of our dignity as creatures made in the image of God. The grandeur of men and women can be found only there. Apart from knowing God, we have no understanding of who we are or what we are to do in this vast universe.

The gittith mentioned in the title is probably a guitar-shaped harp associated with the city of Gath and the Philistine nation.

1 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

‘Magnificent’ or ‘Majestic’ would be a better translation than ‘excellent.’

“O LORD our Lord” is literally, ‘O Yahweh, our Sovereign. David is definitely an Israelite who knows his God as Yahweh, and he acknowledges Him as the universal sovereign ruler. It is from this awesome truth that the assurance of faith springs. ‘It just blows my mind,’ that I am in the care of the One who controls everything and whose will as Sovereign no one can oppose or invalidate. Not only has the Lord set His glory “above the heavens” (beyond the earth’s atmosphere), but He has also decided to share His glory with His creatures on earth. The glory of God dwelt with Israel in the tabernacle and temple, and it was especially revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ—“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Wicked people crucified the “Lord of Glory” (1 Cor. 2:8), but He was raised from the dead and has returned to heaven in power and glory (Phil. 2:5-11).

“Thy name” refers to the revealed character of God, which encompasses all His divine attributes. David seeks to give unto God the ‘glory’ His name deserves. How bright His glory shines even in this lower world! He is ours because He made us, protects us, and takes special care of us.

The name and knowledge of God is not to be confined to Israel, but is to be published “in all the earth,” which shows that this psalm speaks of the Messiah (a Messianic psalm). The name of the Lord, in this instance, is identical with the Lord Himself.
2 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 majestic glory of God can be seen stamped across the heavens, but it is also seen when He takes the insignificant ‘babes’ of the earth and uses them to confound the ungodly. When children grasp and rejoice in the simple truths of God, His glory is truly seen. Maybe David was present when the simple faith of a child silenced an arrogant opponent! Some have taken the phrase ‘babes and sucklings’ to refer to man in his weakness. The sincere praise of these ‘babes’ is set in sharp contrast to the scheming of God’s enemies. The idea is that the Lord has ordained that the weakest shall confound the strong—“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27). ‘The foolish things’ are the things believed to be foolish by people. The expression here refers to those who were lacking in learning, rank, wealth, and power, and who were considered fools, and were despised by the rich and the great. But these are the very ones that God uses to publish his gospel, and to ‘put to shame the rich and powerful.’ Jehovah is so great that He can entrust His praise to infants and children and still not be robbed of glory! Jesus quoted this verse after He cleansed the temple—“. . . And Jesus said to them, Yes; have you never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings you have perfected praise?” (Matthew 21:16).

God has often used the weak and helpless to praise Him and help defeat His enemies. David himself was only a youth when he silenced Goliath and defeated him (1 Sam. 17:33; 42, 43), and he brought great glory to the Lord (1 Sam 17:45-47).

The Lord made the truth of this verse clear when he said, “… Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

The word ‘still’ is used here to mean ‘to silence men who criticize and grumble against God.’

‘Sucklings’ among the Hebrews were babes old enough to speak.

‘Ordained’ means ‘founded’, or ‘prepared, and perfected.’

‘Avenger’ refers to one who desires revenge and is disposed to be quarrelsome, and is apt to complain to God about their circumstances.

Sometimes the power of God brings to pass great things in His church, by very weak and unlikely instruments, so that the excellency of His power might more evidently appear to be of God, and not of man. He does this in order to put His enemies to shame.

3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

We are to consider the heavens, so that our affections are directed to things above.

This is a nighttime psalm, for he speaks only of the moon and the stars; the heavens at night calls forth this praise of God’s glory. When man (frail man) is compared with all the expanse above, how insignificant he seems.

The heavens are a creation of God—“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. (Ps. 33:6-9). He made the starry heavens, and the heaven of heavens, the third heaven, the seat of the divine Majesty, and the habitation of angels and glorified saints; and He made them out of nothing, not out of any pre-existent matter.

The allusion to the magnificence of the visible heavens is introduced for the purpose of illustrating God’s condensation, who, though the mighty Creator of these worlds of light, makes man the object of regard and the recipient of favor.

‘The work of thy fingers’ denotes the Lord’s personal involvement in creation. God spoke the worlds into existence, but David saw creation as coming from God’s fingers and hands (v. 6), the work of a Master Craftsman. The phrase suggests the deftness and artistry as well as the might of a Creator before whom all the great things of our world are like nothing at all (Isaiah 40:12-17). God completed His creation before He made Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden, so everything was ready for them, to meet their every need.

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