Judges 21; Acts 25; Jeremiah 35; Psalms 7-8
PSALM 8 IS A PRICELESS JEWEL that celebrates the glory and goodness of God disclosed in creation. With a wonderful brevity, David provides a heady mixture of awe and barely restrained joy. Without overlooking the evil in the world (Ps. 8:2), he focuses on elements of the created order that reflect God’s majesty. Even the heavens are inadequate to the task (8:1b), yet God has ordained that his praise should be on the lips of children and infants (Ps. 8:2). “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1, 9); appropriately, the psalm begins and ends with God himself.
In large part, the psalm focuses on the place of human beings in this God-constructed, God-centered universe. The central rhetorical question is, “[W]hat is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Variations of this question carry different overtones, depending on the context. The question may beg for respite (Job 7:17), hide in shame in the face of human sin (Job 25:6), or undermine human arrogance (Ps. 144:3-4). In the context of Psalm 8, the question expresses stunned awe as the psalmist glimpses the surpassing greatness of the universe and reflects on human smallness and massive significance: astonishingly, God is “mindful” of “man,” which means much more than that he “remembers” us (as if Omniscience could forget!). Rather, the word has overtones of compassion, as the parallel line shows: he cares for us. What is glorious is the relationship. Indeed, here is one of these human beings addressing this great and majestic God personally: “that you are mindful … that you care.” One commentator reminds us that the appropriate inference Isaiah draws from the glory of God’s ordered heavens is not his remoteness but his “eye for detail” (Isa. 40:26ff.). The universe was not designed to be vast and meaningless, but to be a vast home for God’s people (Isa. 45:18; 51:16). Indeed, the vision of Psalm 8 harks back to the creation account (Gen. 1-2). This creature, this small being, this God-blessed human, is designed to serve as God’s co-regent over the entire created order of this planet (Ps. 8:6-8).
Two further reflections: First, this account of human beings is vastly removed from contemporary visions that picture us as the accidental byproducts of cosmogony, neither significant nor intrinsically good or evil. Second, the Epistle to the Hebrews, reflecting on Psalm 8, recognizes how far short we human beings fall from our purpose in creation, and finds hope in the fact that we see Jesus as the prototypical Man of the consummated order still to come (Heb. 2:5-13).