October 19, 2017

Psunday Psalms: The First Song of Praise

King David, Chagall

Psunday Psalms
Devotional Thoughts on the Psalms

* * *

When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and stars that You put in place,
what is man that You have been mindful of him,
mortal man that You have taken note of him,
that you have made him a little less than divine,
and adorned him with glory and majesty;
You have made him master over Your handiwork,
laying the world at his feet,
sheep and oxen, all of them,
and wild beasts, too;
the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea,
whatever travels the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name throughout the earth!

– Psalm 8:4-10, Tanakh (JPS)

* * *

If we have been reading the Book of Psalms, starting at Psalm 1, we will notice a dramatic change of mood when we arrive at Psalm 8. This composition is the first song of praise in the book. In it, the psalmist praises God who reigns in heaven and on earth and expresses wonder at the human being through whom God’s rule is enacted on earth as it is in heaven.

This has been God’s plan from the beginning. Psalm 8 is a meditation on Genesis 1, particularly Gen. 1:26-28

Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”

God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them
male and female God created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” (CEB)

John Walton has convincingly argued that the Bible’s first chapter describes how God built his cosmic temple, appointed human representatives (“in his image”) to rule on his behalf as royal priests, and in the end sat down on his throne (“rest”) to take up his rule over the universe.

We have seen already in our study of Psalms that Psalm 2, one of the two psalms that introduces the book, tells us that this book is going to be about the God who rules and who will triumph forever, despite all the opposition arrayed against him. The powers of sin, evil, and death shall not ultimately stand against the Lord and his Messiah.

Psalm 8 therefore is not merely a reflection on God’s plan for humans at creation, but a reminder of the Human (“son of man”) who came and was declared God’s Son and Lord of all nations through the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:1-5). That is why the author of Hebrews, reading this psalm, understood it in the light of Jesus.

God didn’t put the world that is coming (the world we are talking about) under the angels’ control. Instead, someone declared somewhere,

What is humanity that you think about them?
Or what are the human beings that you care about them?
For a while you made them lower than angels.
You crowned the human beings with glory and honor.
You put everything under their control.

When he puts everything under their control, he doesn’t leave anything out of control. But right now, we don’t see everything under their control yet. However, we do see the one who was made lower in order than the angels for a little while—it’s Jesus! He’s the one who is now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of his death. He suffered death so that he could taste death for everyone through God’s grace. (Heb. 2:5-9, CEB)

The majesty of God, for which we praise him, is most clearly seen in the One who died and was raised to renew us all into the Image of God in a new creation.

May your Kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as in heaven.

Comments

  1. I like that the writer of the letter to the Hebrews wrote, “Instead, someone declared somewhere…” It makes me feel that I am in good company when I say things like, “It says somewhere in one of the books of the Bible that…” (and then I paraphrase.)

    I do love Psalm 8.