This Psalm is an unsurpassed example of what a hymn should be, celebrating as it does the glory of God – so say’s Derek Kidner in his commentary on this Psalm. He continues rehearsing who He is and what He has done, and relating our world to Him.
David starts this Psalm telling his readers, or his singers how great God is - Majestic – Excellent is Your name in all the earth! This Lord, who has set His glory above the heavens, is no other than our Lord. His praises are sung in heaven and we are privileged to echo them, even from the cradle. Later, Isaiah uses a similar turn of phrase in chapter 6 - ‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above Him were seraphim, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of His glory.’’
David reinforces the fact that the praise that we give to God will silence the foe. It is good that when we are going through times of trouble, or discouragement, or even when we are facing a walk through the valley, we can summon sufficient strength to praise our Lord, and the enemy will flee.
I don’t know where David was when he penned these words, neither do I know the circumstances, perhaps it was at a time when he was reminiscing about his times in the field as a shepherd. Unlike us in our modern city, when we look up to the sky, much of it is obliterated by light pollution, but not so for our Psalmist – verses 3 and 4: ‘When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?’ When we see God’s handiwork as we look at the moon and the stars, surely this makes us want to give Him praise. Isaiah, later in his book states that when God created the heavens and the earth He planned no meaningless and empty universe, but a home for His family – of which we are – Praise God.
When we think of the human race, it amazes us – at least it amazes me – that God is interested in people such as us. Yet God has never given up on us, no matter what we have said or done, providing we have come to Him in repentance. We note from these two verses that not only is God mindful of us but even more amazing – He cares for us. It was man that God made in His image, and He gave man dominion over the land and the animal kingdom. Think about it, He could have chosen the angelic beings that surround His throne, but no He chose human kind.
I guess it should come as no surprise that although we have been given dominion over God’s created world; we are unable to tame ourselves! James takes up this thought in verse 7 of chapter 3 where he says: ‘All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.’
The writer to the Hebrews also takes up the thoughts of this Psalm when he writes: ‘It is not to angels that He has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: ‘What is mankind that You are mindful of them, a son of man that You care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; You crowned them with glory and honour and put everything under their feet.’
In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church he also made reference to this subject as he wrote in chapter 15 - ‘Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, 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 He ‘has put everything under His feet’. Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under Him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When He has done this, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put everything under Him, so that God may be all in all.’ So we come full circle. As we reiterate the first verse ‘Oh Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! The original singers together with each of us will be sung with fresh understanding. Let me conclude as I began and quote again Derek Kidner who says ‘It also renews the primary emphasis, which is on God and His grace. For man’s dominion over nature, wonderful though it is, takes second place to His calling as servant and worshipper, to whose very children the name of the Lord – that is. His Glory and goodness has been revealed.
We have much to praise God for and we should not take the privilege for granted. Having re-read Psalm 8 we have been reminded of our responsibility for this world that God has graciously placed us in.