This is one of my favorite psalms in the psaltery because it speaks to the mystery of man (and thereby, the mystery of God). I call this the “What is Man?” psalm. I have prayed this psalm in various moods. Sometimes when I was feeling insignificant and I wanted to remind myself of the divine favor that man has with God. Other times I have tried to use this psalm as a defense to the Lord to stay his hand because I am so insignificant that I am not worth his troubling about. Other times I have simply gone to this psalm in a state of contemplation and wonder. I feel that while this psalm can serve many purposes it is this last purpose that fits the intent of the psalm.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
(Psalm 8:1 ESV)
I love the way this psalm opens. We cry out to the Lord and lay claim to his strong and majestic name. He is not just “the” Lord, he is “our” Lord and it makes all the difference, hinting at this intimate relationship that will be further elaborated on between this omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being that man, in his frailty and seeming insignificance can claim ownership of.
The Lord’s name is majestic in all the earth. The earth itself cries out his majesty so that we are without excuse (Romans 1:20; see Matthew Henry commentary). There is no place where you cannot find God and where nature does not proclaim his greatness. But the earth cannot contain him, not even the heavens, for his glory resides above the very firmament itself. He is higher than the highest heights.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
(Psalm 8:2 ESV)
The Lord is mindful of the lowly (Psalm 138:6). I think this verse is important because it shows us a very important truth about the concept of strength. Humans are mistaken if they think strength lies in their physical power (Psalm 33:17). All strength is derived from God. God is strength. And to prove it he shows his strength in children, to humble the mighty man and by way of instruction to demonstrate that God is the God of strength. Therefore, let no one boast in themselves but boast in the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:17). We Christians should heed this warning as well. Let us boast in our weakness that we may be strong in God (2 Corinthians 12:19) and therefore kiss the Son lest he be angry and we perish in the way (Psalm 2:12).
When I look at 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,
and the son of man that you care for him?
(Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)
What is man that you are mindful of him Lord? Moreover, that you visit him (have visited him many times) and love him? We live on a pebble (and that is being extremely generous) suspended in the vast depths of the universe. This universe whose depths are beyond understanding. It’s difficult to comprehend but perhaps we should just simply contemplate and worship.
As a little bit of an aside, I would recommend star gazing every once in a while (it’s biblical!). It’s hard if you’re in a city because of the light pollution but if you can get out of town and find a place with less light pollution I believe it’s very worthwhile.
As there are vast mysteries without so I also believe there are vast mysteries dwelling within us, we who are made in the image of God, that I believe must speak to the mysteries of God himself, as deep reflects deep. Perhaps the depths of the soul are even greater than the known universe. Who knows but there is much rich material for contemplation and meditation in just these two verses.
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
(Psalm 8:5-8 ESV)
Again, glory and honor and praise and thanksgiving to God for this wonderful gift. But with this gift we must be responsible and be faithful stewards of the earth. Also, as these creatures submit to us so we too as created beings must submit to our Lord, Jesus Christ (credit Matthew Henry).
O Lord our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8:9 ESV)
A beautiful note to begin and a beautiful note to end. Thank you Lord for these bookend verses and amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, you contain the universe itself and all of its mysteries and intricacies and splendor. You are majestic and your glory reigns over all. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
*ESV=English Standard Version