Psalm 8 is a wonderful chapter that contains only nine short verses. The writer, presumably the Israelite King David, begins this way: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (vs. 1) If we are not careful, we will miss this part of the psalm. David begins to praise God by using God’s personal name, “Yahweh.” He calls him Adonai (translated “Lord,” meaning, “sovereign one,” and “powerful one”), but not without saying “our.” David understands God to be our covenant God, who continually chases after his people despite their rebellion. He then emphasizes his perfect in splendor and magnificence by calling him “majestic.” David concludes this verse by highlighting the fact that his name has filled the entire earth and that God is the Creator.
The context is crucial in this passage. David, potentially lying out in the field looking up at the starry heavens, bursts out in praise to God because of his amazing artwork (vs. 3; “the work of your fingers”). David is stunned by God’s creation; he’s amazed at how God can silence the enemy by bringing forth praise and strength from babies and infants (vs. 2). God shames the wise and breaks the stronghold of the foe by using what we might deem as foolishness and weakness.
And David doesn’t stop there. He asks the question that many a people have asked for centuries: “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (vs. 4) Many different people ask this question, albeit in different forms. Maybe you have. Maybe you have asked, “What is the meaning of life?” or “Why do I exist? And what is the purpose of all of this?” I’m convinced that John Calvin was spot on when he said, “It is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face.” In other words, we will never understand humanity and our existence unless we first confess that we are God’s creatures and that we have special responsibility. Other formulas of philosophy, (e.g., the theory of evolution, secular humanism, etc.) may try to answer these questions with man at the center, throwing even the possibility of God out of the window. And that’s the danger: dehumanization or, to use biblical terms, the obscuring of the image of God in us. And isn’t that what sin is anyway? Is it not the removal of God from the equation?
And yet there is beauty here amidst the danger of man-centered thinking. The beauty is Jesus Christ and his work on the cross. The New Testament sees this passage as being fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus became the perfect human in our place because we tried to do life without God. He stepped into the world in order to be the Second Adam, the true sinless human person, who obeyed God perfectly. He is the one who is crowned with glory and honor (vs. 5) and achieved for us a special status before God. Jesus is the one putting his enemies under his feet (1 Cor. 15:25). The danger is thinking that we are the center of the universe. We do have special status, but Jesus gives us that status. And that’s the beauty of it all.