Psalm 8 A View of God

Sep 22nd, 2009 | By | Category: Psalms, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

The Eighth Psalm is a familiar one and perhaps one of the top ten, normally speaking. Of the first 50 Psalms, the five that are preached on most frequently are Psalms 2, 8, 19, 23, and 45.

Psa. 8:0 To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.

Some King James margins say that the Eighth Psalm was sung with a turbulent pace.

Psa. 8:1 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

“O Jehovah our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” A startling aspect of verse 1 is that it is expressed in the futuristic present tense. In other words, the fulfillment is still future, for the excellency of Jehovah’s name has not yet occurred. David spoke prophetically with such enthusiasm that we would think he was speaking in the present tense. Actually, however, he was speaking according to the Holy Spirit of the time when everything will be fulfilled. From that standpoint, we can see that verse 1 has a dual future application—(1) when men believe, honor, and serve God, and (2) when they behold, understand, and thus glory in both His natural works and, figuratively, His work in the Kingdom.

Psa. 8:2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

In order to begin to understand verses 3-8, we will have to read several Scriptures, as follows: “And [the scribes and Pharisees] said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” (Matt. 21:16)

“For David himself said by the Holy Spirit, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.” (Mark 12:36,37)

“And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand.” (Luke 20:42)

“For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.” (1 Cor. 15:27) “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.” (Eph. 1:22)

“But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Heb. 2:6-9)

Of the nine verses in Psalm 8, these Scriptures are particularly pertinent to verses 3-8, showing that the Psalm is prophetic. While there is a very good and wholesome natural lesson, we see that the Eighth Psalm was quoted in the New Testament as being of the Holy Spirit, the implication being that it is prophetic in nature. The prophetic application was given by Jesus in the three Gospel Scriptures and by the Apostle Paul in the subsequent three verses. First, we will consider verse 2, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” The first three texts—those from Matthew, Mark, and Luke—pertain to verse 2. These three New Testament Scriptures mean there is a particular, peculiar, and valuable hidden lesson.

Going backwards, we will start with the end of verse 2: “because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” The context of the Matthew, Mark, and Luke Scriptures is during our Lord’s ministry, when the “enemies” were the scribes and Pharisees, who represent a class that is not only hypercritical but, being blinded, does not receive the truth. The expression “that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger” would be in today’s jargon “that thou mightest shut their mouth.” The scribes and Pharisees thought they were learned exponents and explainers of the truth, yet they did not know some of the simplest things. Thus we can see why Jesus occasionally addressed them in a blunt manner, as though they were dull of comprehension, “Hast thou not read the scriptures?” (cf. Matt. 21:42; 22:29).

The first part of verse 2 is unique: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies.” In other words, “Thou hast ordained strength out of the mouth of babes and sucklings.” When this concept is understood, it will shut the mouth of enemies, for they will see the result that the gospel has on people who are supposed to be unlearned.

When the truth is understood, when the “enemies” see that they have been dumb and blind, when they see the marvelous effect the gospel has on people who are supposed to be unlearned, their mouths will be shut. The “babes and sucklings” will be way ahead in understanding. After Jesus finished his ministry, the people observed—and even the scribes and Pharisees had to take note—that unschooled disciples like Peter, John, and James spoke boldly and with authority very much like Jesus and, in addition, performed miracles. Then along came the Apostle Paul, who, although he had schooling, was nothing to look at in appearance. He was small, his eyesight was poor, and his voice was not that of an orator, but he was a logician and preached with strength.

The lesson in verse 2 is on “babes.” As an illustration, Adam Clarke talked about the “Boylean vacuum” in his Commentary. In the 1600s, a British physicist by the name of Robert Boyle expounded on this phenomenon; namely, when babes suck the breasts of the mother, they get milk, but if an adult tries to do the same thing, he is not successful. To repeat the peculiarity: only a babe can extract the milk from the breasts of the mother. In other words, for infants and children who need that nourishment from the mother, the Lord performs a miracle. Adults can produce a partial vacuum but not the thorough vacuum of a babe that sucks out the milk without straining.

Spiritually speaking also, the mouth of a “babe” is a phenomenon. Every individual who consecrates and becomes a Christian is initially a babe, no matter how learned or advanced he is in other matters. A certain phenomenon occurs in the initial development of the Christian that is so radical even the public notices the effect—an effect that does not occur in an adult Christian. As an illustration, when Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, his departure was sudden, visible, and startling. He came out with his goods, his family, and his nephew to go to an unseen land. John Bunyan is another example. He was a drunkard and a reprobate, but when he got the truth, such a miraculous change took place that the townspeople were amazed. Not only is the initial change very obvious, but the power in the early phases of a Christian’s development is unique. We ourselves noticed the miraculous nature of this “first love” when we initially learned about God and His plan and magnanimity (Rev. 2:4). That first love made us very different, so that we enthusiastically told our parents, best friends, coworkers, etc., what we had learned. We thought the truth was so marvelous that all would understand and embrace it, but as we witnessed to one person and then another and another, we found that very few responded to the wonderful message.

In our initial development, God’s power in our life was more manifest because what we left behind was fresh in our minds. Having just come out of the world, we had to acknowledge that our coming out was not because of any brilliance on our part but because something had happened to open our eyes to understand these truths. Once we consecrated, the truths were so logical that we thought everyone should see them. But then we began to appreciate the power of Satan in blinding the minds of men lest they see the glorious gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). In the early phase of our development, we were being fed, and we had to acknowledge that the one God used to introduce the truth to us had something very unusual which attracted us. As time passes and we become more and more mature, the danger is that we may begin to think we were called because we were better than others—more honest, upright, brilliant, etc.—which is not the case. Stated succinctly, the danger is that we will become high-minded. All of these thoughts pertain to verse 2. “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings,” who are being fed with the “milk” (simple doctrines) of the truth, God “ordained strength” (1 Pet. 2:2).

This “strength” is what others witness, for they clearly see that a change has taken place. And this strength that we had when we initially came into the truth was not our own but something God gave to us. In beholding us, others may have thought we were losing our mind, but they had to notice the abrupt change.

The strength obtained from the milk of the Word enables the baby Christian to develop and grow to teenage years, young adulthood, and (hopefully) maturity—and then to pass the final exam and attain the divine nature. The purpose of God’s choosing these individuals who have no viable talents and in whom this miracle occurs is to shut the mouths of those who are learned and think they are wise and who are admired by peers and elevated to positions of honor in the religious and the political world or in other avenues of influence.

When Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem in his Triumphal Entry, it was the children who spoke about the Messiah, not the adults. “And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” (Matt. 21:15,16). The chief priests and scribes could not understand what was happening. Similarly when the ass spoke to Balaam and asked, “Haven’t I been your faithful servant all these years?” he should have stopped in astonishment and thought, “This donkey is talking to me!” But instead Balaam began to reason with the animal. He actually had a conversation with the ass and did not realize for the moment what was happening. In another instance, Satan used the serpent to do the talking. Thus animals can be used for both good and evil purposes. God used the mouth of the ass to speak to its rider to provide a prophetic application as well as practical instruction.

Of course the adults at the time of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry were not completely quiet, for many who accompanied Jesus as he entered the city had just witnessed the raising of Lazarus from the dead after four days in the tomb. The startling point is that the children, who did not have any special schooling, were shouting “Hosanna!” with spontaneity. And that was our reaction when we first came into the truth. We just had to tell the glad tidings to others, and the words seemed to come out in a spontaneous fashion when we witnessed. Therefore, verse 2 shows the class who, if they go beyond drinking the milk and grow up into adulthood and maturity, will become the kings and priests of the next age.

Comment: Matthew 11:25,26 is a cross-reference for Matthew 21:15,16. “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.”

Reply: Whatever God does is good, and He has a good reason for the methodology He uses.

Psa. 8:3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

Now we come to the part of the Psalm that is better known, for there is a sublimity just from a natural standpoint. One lesson in verse 3 is that the heavens are the “work of thy [God’s] fingers.” In looking at the heavens, we are very impressed, especially on an unusual night when the stars are very visible. The fact the sun is not mentioned shows that David viewed the heavens and mused at night.

“Which [the heavens] thou [God] hast ordained.” Notice the emphasis on God: “thy heavens,” “thy fingers,” and “thou hast ordained.” The implication is not only that God is the Creator but that He is the sole Creator, and that is one of His peculiar honors. He is a jealous God, and that glory He will give to no other being but Himself as the Emperor and Founder of the universe (Isa. 42:8).

Psa. 8:4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” What would have elicited this expression from David even from a natural standpoint? Man is so much lower than God that these tiny, little beings are like dust. When David saw the heavens and the order of the universe—so beautiful and impressive with a time element involved—he thought, “What are we down here?” Man cannot tell the stars to stop shining; he just beholds the glory.

“What is … the son of man, that thou visitest him?” Here the Holy Spirit was particularly calling attention to not merely the fact that God created man and originally made him in His own image, from which man has fallen, but that there is a spiritual application. Inferentially, the “son of man” is a reference to Jesus. The three Scriptures read earlier from the Apostle Paul’s writings—1 Cor. 15:27, Eph. 1:22, and Heb. 2:6-9—incorporated recognition of verse 4.

Q: There seems to be a distinction between “man” and the “son of man.” Since verses 6-8 mention that man was given dominion over the animals, the fowl, and the fish, does “man” refer to Adam?

A: Yes, there is a double application, natural and spiritual. From that standpoint, “man” refers to the first Adam, and the “son of man” refers to the Second Adam. Even the natural plane is wonderful when we see what Adam could do. He not only had dominion over the animals, the birds, and the fish but also gave them names. It is even more startling to realize that Adam must have been near a seashore in order for God to show him the various kinds of fish, including the whale, for naming. Of course God gave additional names to some of these, but the names Adam selected were recorded and preserved to indelibly fix them in the minds of men. Those names were handed down from generation to generation. Initially, not only was Adam’s dominion one where he could command animals, fowl, and fish and they obeyed, but also it was a dominion of respect. When man disobeyed, the dominion became one of fear of the superiority of man, especially when man had weapons and became the enemy.

Comment: God visited Adam through the Logos, but the term “son of man” indicates a different time period.

Reply: Yes, the First Advent was a different time frame. And in the Kingdom Age, Jesus will come as the Second Adam, the “Lord from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47).

Psa. 8:5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

The article “a” is not in the Hebrew. Therefore, this verse should be translated, “For thou hast made him little, lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” The point is that human beings are like pygmies or Lilliputians compared to the angels. From the natural standpoint, man is crowned with mental and moral capabilities. He can reason, analyze, and worship God. Moreover, when Adam was given dominion, he was crowned as a king with honor and respect. Even after he fell, people probably realized he was the progenitor of the human race, and no doubt respect was paid to him as having superior qualities, even though they were slowly degenerating. From the spiritual standpoint, Jesus was made little in coming down here, being born in the flesh as a human, and coming forth from the womb of Mary.

Crowned with glory and honor, he was noticeably different from anyone else, having superior wisdom. For example, it was said of him in regard to the words that came forth from his lips, “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). And four days after Lazarus died, Jesus raised him from the tomb. Many things happened that made his ministry so wondrous, but that crowning with glory is almost insignificant compared to what will occur in the future when he is endued with power from on high during the Kingdom Age. To get life at that time, every knee will have to bow to Jesus, and every tongue will have to confess that he “is Lord, to the glory of God” (Phil. 2:10,11).

Q: Hebrews 2:8 reads, “We see not yet all things put under him [Jesus].” Since this statement is still true today, when will it be fulfilled?

A: We will not see all things put under Jesus until the end of the Millennium when he turns the Kingdom over to the Father after the “little season” (Rev. 20:3).

Psa. 8:6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

“Thou hast put all things under his feet.” Verse 6 is prophetic, for “all things” are not yet under Jesus’ feet. This verse will be fulfilled in due time, as stated in Scriptures quoted earlier (Eph. 1:22; 1 Cor. 15:27; Heb. 2:6-8).

In the natural picture, the animals were originally in subjection to Adam. No doubt even after he disobeyed, a certain dominion was still visible, but it was diminishing and changing into a different type of dominion.

Psa. 8:7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

Psa. 8:8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

The “beasts of the field” include both domesticated and wild animals. Initially, however, all of the animals were domesticated in the sense that they were mild and obedient to Adam. As time went on, man’s dominion over wild animals was accomplished through the spear and the gun, and the dominion over domesticated animals was achieved by a process of bringing them under subjection and training them. Even today this inherent quality is possessed by man. For instance, porpoises and whales in captivity are amazingly playful. The fact children can even put fish in the mouth of porpoises shows that this trait persists, and it is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see the fulfillment of Isaiah 65:25, “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.”

Psa. 8:9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

Verse 9 repeats part of verse 1. Thus this thought opens and concludes the Eighth Psalm. While it is expressed here in the present tense, the fulfillment is future. Therefore, the tense could be called the futuristic present tense, for God’s name is not excellent yet in all the earth. In spite of the fact that Jesus’ name has been perhaps the most well-known name among all mankind over the many generations of earth’s history, verse 9 implies universal respect.

The Eighth Psalm is an exultant Psalm. We especially appreciate verse 2, which shows that the great God of the universe, with all His wondrous attributes of wisdom, justice, love, and power, considers babes. We are reminded of Isaiah 57:15, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” God’s very name is holy, yet He dwells in the heart of the lowly and the contrite. Now we see the spirit of the Heavenly Father—with all His power and might and wisdom, He is a God of love. And Jesus is the same in character development, for he said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…. for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:28,29). Jesus was meek and lowly in heart while down here but not in glory. While on earth, this disposition rubbed off and became a part of Jesus’ very character, and we want to be the same.

How wonderful are the sentiments of this Psalm, revealing that God even considers us! We view the term “visiteth him” in verse 4 from our perspective. God sent Jesus on a mission down here for a temporary time of 33 1/2 years at the First Advent. From God’s standpoint, He sent forth Jesus on a visit to us, and from our standpoint, we received Jesus as a visitor.


(2004-2006 Study)

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