Psalm 8:1-9 (text); Hebrews 2:5-9
June 7, 2015
Dear Congregation of Christ: Summer is almost here, and we look forward to these next three months. How will you spend your summer? More and more people today choose to go to remote places where there are wonderful beaches, big mountains, big waterfalls, and other beautiful sceneries. It is so natural for human beings to enjoy looking at nature.
As Christians, when we go to see these places, our minds always turn to how wonderful and majestic God’s creation is. We don’t and we can’t separate creation from God, because God is the only Creator of heaven and earth and all things. Psalm 8 is a song of praise of God our Creator. But before we start studying Psalm 8, let us first look at a short introduction to the whole Psalter.
The Psalter is an extremely important part of the church with its prayers, songs, emotions, and doctrine. During the early church and the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation, the Psalms were almost exclusively sung in the churches.
The Book of Psalms is a collection of 150 poems that were gathered together by Jews for their worship services, festivals and commemorations. The title “Psalms” comes from the Greek word for the book, but the Hebrew title is “Praises,” confirming its main use as songs of praises in public worship. This is one of the reasons why when evangelicals today speak of singing Psalms, they always think “Praise and Worship.” This is because many of the so-called “praise choruses” consist only of the praise portions of the Psalms.
This book has been a part of the canon of Scripture for thousands of years. The Spirit-inspired authors of the Psalms include David (75), Asaph (12), the sons of Korah (11), Solomon (2), and Moses (1). So the Psalms are as much God’s Word as Genesis, the prophecy of Isaiah, the Gospel of John, or Paul’s epistle to the Romans. The collection is divided into five “books,” with each book ending in a doxology or praise of God. Psalm 150 is both a doxology of Book 5 and of the entire Book of Psalms.
Reading the Psalms engages a variety of thoughts and emotions, which include, as John Calvin rightly noticed, “griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities.”
So we come to Psalm 8, a psalm of praise by King David. With this psalm, the people of God celebrate the majestic name of God the Creator and Lord of the universe. They not only marvel at God’s wonderful creation, but also at how God focuses on an insignificant part of creation: man, whom God created in his image and gave him dominion over all the earth.
This Psalm comes after King David’s introduction of two men, the righteous and the wicked (Psa 1); the installation of himself as the king in Zion (Psa 2); and his laments because of those who want to kill him and of his own sinfulness (Psa 3-7). New Testament writers cite verses 5-6 in several texts, because all of them see Jesus in Psalm 8. Jesus himself refers to these verses in his controversies with the hostile Pharisees.
Today, we focus on the theme, “The Lord’s Majestic Name is Praised,” under three headings: first, By the Weak and Little; second, By His Immense Creation; and third, By “Glorious” But Fallen Man.
By the Weak and Little
David opens the psalm by praising God, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” By referring to God as “our” Yahweh and Adonai, he has an intimate relationship with God. Yahweh, “Lord” in all caps, is God’s covenant name he revealed to his servant Moses. David then is in a covenant relationship with God. Adonai, small letters “Lord,” means God is his ruler and master.
Because of Adam’s fall into sin, God’s name is not yet praised “in all the earth” when David wrote this. This was fulfilled partially when Christ came, but fully only in the coming age. On that day, the wicked in Psalms 1-7 who violently oppose God will be conquered and destroyed.
David mentions “babies” and “infants,” not only adult people, as praising God’s majestic name. How can they? Babies cannot talk. They are weak, little, helpless, and completely dependent on their parents and ultimately on God for their survival. They eat only when they’re fed; they can’t get up and walk; they can’t clean themselves; and they can only express that they need something by crying loud.
How then are they able to praise the Lord? It is in just looking at tiny infants that we realize how perfectly made they are by God: tiny human beings when they come out of the womb. Complete with tiny little eyes, ears, nose, mouth, ears, ten fingers and toes, heart, lungs, stomach and kidneys. Every infant is a perfect miniature of an adult human being! David exclaims in wonder of God at this, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (Psa 139:14-15).
If infants can only speak like us, they would also be shouting praises in adoration of God. This is why little children, after seeing Jesus heal the blind and the lame, shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” These little children knew who Jesus was: the Messiah, the Savior. But the Pharisees did not. They rebuked Jesus because he did not restrain the children from acclaiming him as Messiah. But Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2, saying, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praised?’” (Matt 21:14-16)
Praise God and his Son Jesus Christ for their wonderful works of creation and redemption! Do you praise him morning and evening, as David did? Do you praise God for saving you by sending his own Son to rescue you from your own sins? For giving you good health, work, family, friends? And do you still praise God when jobs are hard to find, when your health fails you, when your children go astray, when you feel weak and little and helpless, like nursing babies? Do you still praise and thank him in all these difficulties, trusting that he works all things for your good?
The Bible uses the weak and little and insignificant to reveal God’s power and majesty. He singles out the poor, the widow, the orphans among us, and provides for them. James says that God has “chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom” (Jas 2:5). God chose Israel, a small, weak, insignificant nation as his own people. By God’s might, Gideon’s 300 destroyed thousands of enemies in battle. King David was a weak little teenager when God gave him wisdom and strength to kill Goliath. Jesus referred to the kingdom of heaven as full of people who believe and trust God like little children. So he welcomed them and blessed them.
Young men and women, never think that you have nothing to offer to God in his church. Paul told Timothy not to let anyone despise his youth, and Timothy became the pastor of the church in Ephesus in his youth. Older people, never think that you’re too old for serving God. The elders of Israel and of the church today are called “elders,” because ideally, elders have a lot more wisdom in teaching and ruling in the church. Together, all of those in the church—babies, teens, adults, old folks—we serve the church. We pray together, sing together, listen to the preaching together, and study together, in praise and wonder of God’s majestic name.
And every time we do these services and activities as a congregation, the devil and his wicked angels are silenced. Enemies of Christianity, haters and persecutors of those who believe in Christ and his Word, are silenced. From the garden of Eden to the end of the world, haters of God have tried to destroy his people, and they have failed miserably. And they will fail till the end of the world, just as Jesus promised. In return, they will be the ones who will be destroyed by God’s righteous wrath.
By His Immense Creation
From weak and little infants whom God created, David shifts his focus to God’s creation, specifically on the night sky: the moon and the stars. The vast expanse of just our own Galaxy, the Milky Way, stretches for billions of light-years. Have you seen pictures of the Milky Way taken by powerful telescopes and by the space station? Its splendor is indescribable. And the Milky Way is merely one small majestic galaxy among billions of galaxies and nebulae in the universe!
This takes us back to the days of creation. On the first day, God spoke and there was light. On the fourth day, God spoke and there were the sun, moon, stars and other heavenly lights to light the night sky. Therefore, David sings in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Just looking at the heavens demands praise and awe of God from man.
When Jesus was born, the blinding glorious light of the Lord shone around the shepherds in the field, and they were terrified. The Apostle John prophesied that Jesus is “the true light, which gives light to everyone.” Jesus afterwards taught that he is the Light of the World. And in eternity, even these great lights of the sun, moon and stars will give way to the light of God’s glory. The new heaven and the new earth will not have light-bearers in the sky, because “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb… there will be no night there” (Rev 21:23).
But even the immensity and glory of this universe cannot compare with the infinite glory and immensity of God. In fact, even the whole universe cannot contain God, because he is present everywhere in the whole universe. This is why King Solomon praised God in his prayer at the dedication of the first temple, “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built?” (2 Chron 6:18). Even with the immensity of the universe, it still has boundaries, while God doesn’t.
Therefore, David cannot but burst out in praise of God, at the beginning and end of Psalm 8, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” And then he is even more awestruck when he realizes that God focuses much more on man rather than on the whole creation, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers… what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that your care for him?” (verse 4)
By “Glorious” But Fallen Man
In spite of man being a speck in a vast universe, God considers man the crowning glory of his creation. Who are we, puny, insignificant organic entities, to command God’s care, love and attention? “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings.” Here, “heavenly beings” is elohim, the same word translated as “God” in many places. Sometimes, also “gods,” or “angels.” Septuagint prefers “angels.”
God “crowned [man] with glory and honor.” How? God made man his representative, vice regent, or steward on earth. God ordained his immense creation to be subdued and under the dominion of this insignificant piece of creation. The Lord has “put all things under his feet.” Of all creation—the beasts in the fields, the birds in the air, the fish in the seas—only man was created as God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). He shares in God’s attributes of holiness and righteousness, and has personal knowledge and communion with God.
Tragically, in sinning, man fell from this honor and glory bestowed upon him by God. So he forfeited his perfect state of holiness, righteousness and communion with God. His dominion over the whole creation was tarnished. From that sad day until the end of time, man has been in constant warfare against God. Does God have a plan to restore him to his original state?
In Psalm 110:1, David sings, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” The right hand of YHWH is a position of divine authority and power. David calls someone “my Lord” or Adonai, which means that this Lord is greater than him, the king of Israel. Who is this Adonai seated at God’s right hand? None other than the man Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who is now seated on his heavenly throne. This is confirmed by Jesus himself (Matt 26:64), Luke (Acts 7:55-56), the Apostles Peter (Acts 2:32-35; 1 Pet 3:22) and Paul (1 Cor 15:25; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1).
In verses 4-6, David is in awe that God made man just a little lower than “angels” and gave him sovereign rule over his own creation. But the writer of Hebrews clearly applies these verses to Christ, when he writes:
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 (Heb 2:8-9).
When Christ came down from heaven, he assumed our human nature. For about 30 years from birth to death, “a little while” compared to his eternal divine nature, he was “made lower than the angels.” At his resurrection from the dead, the writer of Hebrews applies David’s words for man to Christ, “crowned with glory and honor.” He suffered death for our sins to reconcile us to God.
After he ascended into heaven, he is now sovereign over all creation, although we do not fully see this yet. At the end of this present age, he will return to make all his enemies his footstool and present all his people before his heavenly Father. That day will be the completion of all things:
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 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 Cor 15:24-27).
Beloved People of God: Give God all the glory and praise for his majestic creation! And that includes you! As Christians, you are united to Christ in his perfect life, death, resurrection and ascension, and God crowned him all glory and honor. Therefore, in the difficulties and sufferings in this life, always be mindful that the crown of glory and honor awaits you as well, as Paul has promised, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” For this reason, we have hope and “wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” And not only us, but also “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption” (Rom 8:18-25).
Not only that, but in eternity, God will restore us to a perfect reign together with Christ over all his creation as his representatives. We now already reign with Christ, “seated with him in the heavenly places” by faith (Eph 2:6; Rev 20:4), but Paul assures us of a complete restoration of our dominion over all things, “if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Tim 2:12; Rom 8:17). And when we do endure, we will sing with the multitudes in the new heaven and new earth, “And you have made them a kingdom and people and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:10). Amen.