Psalm 8: Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!
You have set Your splendor above the heavens!
From the lips of children and infants You ordained strength because of Your enemies,
To silence foe and avenger.
When I consider Your heavens,
The works of Your fingers,
Moon and stars,
Which You have fixed,
What is needy man, that You take thought of him,
And the son of Adam, that You care for him?
Indeed, you made him a little lower than the angels,
And with glory and majesty You crowned him!
You made him ruler over the works of Your hands;
All things You put under his feet:
Sheep and oxen, all of them,
And also beasts of the field,
Bird of heaven and fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through paths of the seas.
Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! Amen!
Prayer: May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Kinsman. Amen.
Sermon: People of God, the psalms do not belong merely to the people of Israel; in Christ they are our songs. Since the days of David, the Psalter has been the center of prayer and singing for the people of God.
“The Psalter was the hymnal of the church. The same is true of the early church. Psalms were chanted and sung in churches during the early centuries…one of the great liturgical achievements of the Reformation was the development of Psalms that could be sung in congregational worship.”
I remember the first time I was introduced to this idea of singing the psalms. The college I attended had daily chapel services. Like any standard conservative evangelical colleges we only sang hymns. As always I cherished singing the 18th and 19th century hymns, but I noticed that one of my fellow students never sang. He was an accomplished pianist and I knew he loved music, so I finally confronted him for not singing the hymns. His answer to me was simple: “I only sing the psalms.” I had never heard of such a thing. He told me he was Reformed. I had never heard of such a thing, except for the fact that I needed to stay away from them, and he told me that he was from a Scottish Presbyterian background. This was all very new to me. Of course, at Providence, we are not covenanters…we do not believe in exclusive psalmody; we believe that just as God blesses the preaching of the Word of God, which is preached by a fallible man, God also blesses the music written by fallible man. Still, we are a psalm-centered Church; we are a Church that believes that singing infallible psalms is still one of the church’s greatest weapons against the enemies of God.
We have sung, recited corporately, and now we look into Psalm 8. This is one of the great doxological psalms. Psalm 8 is an example of a praise psalm. And the “typical features of praise psalms are a call to worship, an enumeration of the reasons for praising God, and some concluding doxology or a renewal of the call to worship God. We find these divisions very clearly in Psalm 8.” The structure of this psalm teaches us right from the start that doxology is based on God’s acts in history. The Biblical God reveals himself in His manifold and mighty acts, so that everything in this world has God’s mark upon it. Or as Van Til puts it: “Every fact in this world, the God of the Bible claims, has His stamp indelibly engraved upon it.” So, right from the beginning, Psalm eight teaches us that God is not absent from creation, rather God manifests His might, power, and glory in creation to be displayed before the entire world.
The context of this psalm is given in this obscure phrase: “To the choirmaster: according to The Gi-ttith.” What is the Gi-ttith? This word is derived from Gath, which is one of the five central Philistines cities. We do know that “Gath” means “wine-press.” Many scholars stress that the context of this psalm is a reference to “the grape harvest associated with the Feast of Tabernacles.” This was to be sung at a joyful time of the year; a time when the wine is abundant and the people were filling their bottles; it is a psalm given to celebrate God’s goodness and abundance provided for His children. This is a time of joy for the children of Israel. It is a time to sing a new song; it is a new song that celebrates the death of the old song. We all know the old song. It was sung by the serpent in Genesis three. In Genesis one the world was brought into existence by the Trinitarian song, but the sin of Adam caused the song of creation to die. But this psalm sings a song of restoration; a song of hope that the old song is now going to die, so the new song must rise.
After the fall the world went wild and man was unable to control it, because they were a threat to the world, but in this psalm there is a hope for a new man. Psalm eight points to the solving of this cosmic problem of sin, by presenting a song of redemption and praise to Yahweh, the Creator. Our tendency is to say that if only we have the right person in office then everything will be fixed. But the psalmist has something more foundational in mind: the solving of the world’s problem begins with worship of God.
The expectation of the psalmist is that the world would be restored and that it would exceed the greatness of Eden because it will have a new King.
Note how the psalm begins and ends the same way: “Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” The Excellency and majesty of God are the central themes of this psalm. This is clearly a creation psalm, but as we will see it is also a redemptive historical psalm with a fuller meaning for us today than when it was first sung. “Yahweh” is the covenantal name of God; the living God, the great “I am” of redemption, whose glory is set above the heavens; it is far surpassing the glory of any other god.
How is this glory displayed? The Psalmist says: “From the lips of children and infants You ordained strength because of Your enemies, To silence foe and avenger.” This is a fascinating verse filled with a wealth of teaching concerning children. The idea here is that God who is exalted above all has ordained that the smallest and weakest of all his image bearers be the source of great danger to Yahweh’s enemies. It is a threat to God’s enemies to have children praising God; it is a threat to have our children educated within the context of Christian education; the enemies of God know that tongues of children and infants were created with the ability to stop their mouths. This is one reason why we keep our children in the worship; why we do not fragment the body during this worship hour, because they possess this God-given gift of frightening the enemies of Christ with their voices. This is why we as parents want to instill a psalmic atmosphere in our homes for our children. Martin Luther put it this way: “God builds an impenetrable wall with the slobbering babblings of children.”
There is a logical connection between verses one and two. God makes His splendor and majesty known through the children of His people. Remember that this is a song for God’s covenant people and their children. “Our children through baptism bear God’s name and are soldiers in the holy army of God even in their infancy.” We know that these are war songs and God makes it very clear that children are also involved in this war. In the New Covenant, Jesus called these children unto himself. He treats the children of these people as believers. When the Pharisees are complaining, Jesus cites Psalm 8:2 to make his point. He shuts the Pharisees’ mouths by pointing to children. God works in and through His people from the least to the greatest. He doesn’t wait to start working in our children when they turn three; God is always already working in our children even before we can understand their words. Don’t be skeptical about the spirituality of your children.” They are claimed by the God who made heaven and earth.
The Psalmist now goes from infants to the vastness of the cosmos. When he considers the heavens and the works of Yahweh’s fingers…the moon and the stars, which is a reference to day four of creation. But where’s the sun? There is no sun. This is an evening psalm. This is an active prayer, that is, David, to use Richard Pratt’s language, is “praying with us his eyes open.”He is actively engaging the world around him and singing a song of praise, because David knows that “the God who created all things put man at the center of it to reign over the world as a king over God’s overarching Kingship.”
The Psalm continues: “What is needy man, that You take thought of him, And the son of Adam, that You care for him?” The word for “man” is the word “Adam.” Who is this “man” that David refers to in this passage? Is he referring to Adam in the garden? Is he referring to Israel’s king? Or is there a further meaning here? The psalmist hoped for a restoration of the world that He knew could no longer be obtained through the first Adam. David knew that this restoration of the world, this new song would only take its full meaning when another Adam would come; when another Son of Man would come. This is a prophetic psalm. The Son of Adam is the last Adam. The promise of a new Adam came in Genesis 3 when God promised to crush the head of the serpent through the seed of the woman. If Adam had crushed the head of the serpent in the garden, he would have protected the garden and brought it to its full maturity, but Adam’s failure to mature became the eternal promise of the Second Adam to succeed in preserving, guarding the new garden and crushing Satan.
This is an incarnational psalm. This is a psalm concerning the rule of Jesus, the last Adam over all things. The psalmist says: “Indeed, you made him a little lower than the angels, And with glory and majesty You crowned him!” Jesus was made a little lower than the angels in His incarnation, so that He should be crowned in his exaltation. Was Jesus ever “a little lower than the angels?” Was the Son of Adam ever in a state of humiliation? Did the Son of Man ever descend to take the form of a man? Yes. During his incarnation; during His time on earth this was His status. But listen to how Hebrews describes His status after His death, resurrection, and ascension: “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.” For how long was he a little lower than the angels? For a little while. And why was He a little lower than the angels for a little while? So He might taste death for us. So that He might receive all glory and honor and power, and so that He might be elevated to a place above every king, so that at His Name every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Before Christ, humanity was a little lower than the angels, being taught by angels; humanity was in a state of infancy, but after Christ, after the Last Adam, those in Christ are united to Him and share in His status. Jesus is crowned, we made in the image of God are crowned. Jesus is ascended, we image bearers are ascended. According to Ephesians two, we are seated with Him in heavenly places. Do you want to know what Psalm 8 teaches us? It teaches us that Jesus is crowned and that He has dominion over all things in heaven above and earth beneath, and because Jesus, the Son of Adam is above all and has dominion over all, we His children have graduated from infancy to maturity; from being tutored to now being Yahweh’s ambassadors.
Psalm 8 is a dominion, war psalm. It is much more than a psalm calling us to take pleasure in creation. We must take pleasure in creation, because it is God’s creation. But Psalm eight calls us to look at creation and say: “This is my Father’s world, and my Father has given this world to His Son and all His children.”
The Psalm concludes the way it began: “Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” Why is Yahweh’s Name majestic in all the earth? Because a more excellent Name has been given; a name that is above every Name. “This Jesus manifests His glory in all the earth. Psalm 8 is a new creation psalm; an old psalm made new in Christ. Yahweh’s goal for creation is fulfilled in the Son of Adam.”
How shall we then live?
This psalm teaches us that this is our story. We rebelled in Adam and we sang the old song with all the strength our sinful flesh could muster, but Christ changed our song and restored our souls, so we may sing with Him a new song. Life is not intended to be seen from the perspective of the old song, but the new. We need to forget those things which once reflected our lives and move to those things that reflect the life above. We need the lips of children and infants to defeat the foe and avenger. Satan is still about seeking to devour us, to tempt us, to take us back to the old way of life, but this is no longer our song.
The Psalms provide for us the songs of victory. In the Psalms, Yahweh is our hero, and when we sing them, our voices and our lives become more and more attuned to the ways of God. This is why it is our vision and our great desire at Providence that even though most of us did not grow up with psalmic passion, our children will, and their children’s children will even more and we will the rest of our days. My encouragement to you is to make this a priority in your home. Take the psalms we teach you on Sunday, practice them at home. If you don’t play an instrument, play the audios we send you each Wednesday; familiarize yourselves with it. Remember what you sang five years ago and compare it to what you are singing now. I guarantee you if someone gave you a copy of Psalm 45 a few years ago, you would laugh at them, but now I hear your children whistling it and I even hear you singing. Paul says that we are filled with the Spirit to sing Psalms and hymns and spirit-songs…so, by God’s grace let us do our best to make the walls and ceiling shake when we sing, and we can be confident that the Lord will hear us and will cause our enemies to tremble.” In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
 Peter Leithart, http://www.leithart.com/archives/000500.php
 Robert Rayburn, observations on Psalm 8.
 Cornelius Van Til. Quoted in one of his apologetic works. I do not recall the source.
 Gained a few insights from Jason Farley’s sermon on Psalm 8; can be found at wordmp3.com
 Quoted in Jason Farley’s sermon on Psalm 8.
 Rich Lusk, Psalm 8.
 Largely from Rich Lusk…
 Pratt, Pray with Your Eyes Open, available on Amazon; very powerful book in my life.
 Rich Lusk.
 Helpful thoughts from Rich Lusk.
 Hebrews 2:9