A coming king and a bunch of crying babies? Psalm 8 can seem kind of confusing. But when we look closer and understand its context, we can see that it’s actually a beautiful meditation on the image of God. Join Tim, Jon, and Carissa as they discuss this important poem.
We see God’s chosen people in Psalms 3-14. And some of them are expected. It’s not just the righteous or the upright, but it’s the afflicted, the poor, the innocent, the crushed, the helpless, the orphan, infants, and babies. This is all about people who are helpless to change their circumstances. And God’s in the business of raising up and exalting people like that.
In part one (00:00-10:45), Tim, Jon, and Carissa discuss Psalm 8, a beautiful meditation on humanity’s place within the cosmos and the purposes of God.
Oh Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the land,
you have set your splendor above the skies!
From the mouths of infants and nursing babes,
you have established a stronghold,
Because of your adversaries,
to stop the enemy and the avenger.
When I consider your skies,
the works of your fingers,
moon and stars, which you established;
What is human that you remember him,
and the son of humanity that you attend to him?
Though you have made him little lesser than elohim,
yet with glory and majesty you have crowned him!
You made him a ruler over the works of your hands.
All things you have set under his feet,
sheep and oxen, all of them.
And also beasts of the field,
birds of the skies, and the fish of the sea,
what crosses the paths of the seas.
Oh Yahweh, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the land!
This poem is based on the portrait of humanity found in Genesis 1:1-2:3, and it explores the themes of the image of God and humans as God’s co-ruling partners in the world with unique imagery and poetic flourish. In this poem, Yahweh is seen as the Creator-King, and the land and the skies are seen as a physical manifestation of Yahweh’s power.
In part two (10:45-26:45), the team begins to explore the frequent references made throughout the New Testament by Jesus and the apostles as they sought to explain who Jesus was and how he brought the story of the bible to its fulfilment.
Matthew 21:8-11, 15-16
Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh; Hosanna in the highest!” [from Psalm 118] When he had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”...But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant and said to him, "Do you hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read the Scriptures? ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise.’"
Jesus concludes that Psalm 8 is about how God is enthroning a “son of man” figure, who embodies the ideal humanity of Genesis 1. But the “heralds” that God has chosen are little children and those of low social status.
1 Corinthians 15:23-27
For just as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Messiah the first fruits, after that those who belong to the Messiah when at his coming, then comes the end, when he hands over the Kingdom to the God and Father, when he has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must rule until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For “he has put all things under his feet.” [from Psalm 8]
In Paul’s mind, the “Adam” of Genesis 1 was not the ultimate fulfillment of this poem or of the role God created for humanity. Rather, the Messiah Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, is the “true human” or the “son of man.” Paul takes the elevation of humanity over creation in Psalm 8 as a forward-pointing, messianic image that was fulfilled in Jesus.
In part three (26:45-46:30), Tim, Jon, and Carissa explore the composition and design of the beginning of the book of Psalms. They see this design as the key to understanding why Jesus and the apostles interpreted Psalm 8 the way that they did.
Jesus and the apostles were raised to read the Psalms scroll as a coherent collection of poems that advance a set of themes and messages as they progress from beginning to end.
Within the book of Psalms, there are five smaller books, the first of which contains Psalm 8. Within each book, key themes and phrases repeat to create a bigger picture or unit of thought. Psalm 8 is the centerpiece of a subsection of the first book of Psalms, Psalms 3-14. Psalm 8 is meant to stand out for what it communicates in the middle of the other psalms, which function like bookends with mirrored messages.
The introduction to Psalms leaves us with a cliffhanger. Psalms 1 and 2 introduce us to a king who God’s people desperately need, a king from David’s line who will bring God’s rule over hostile nations and rescue the poor and afflicted.
Throughout Psalms 3-14, David and the afflicted ones run from their enemies, crying out to God, who promises to deliver and exalt them above their adversaries.
Psalms 3-7 focus on moments of incredible weakness for King David when he was on the run from King Saul and Absalom. Instead of rescuing others, David finds rescue and refuge in God.
Psalms 9-14 are a group of psalms by David, but they’re not only about him. David includes himself among a group called the “poor and afflicted ones,” who trust that God will deliver them.
In the middle of this section, Psalm 8 stands as a beacon of hope. God will rescue his chosen, afflicted ones from their enemies, and he’ll do it through unexpected, weak creatures—the nursing babes of verse 2. God loves to exalt the helpless and the powerless, those who have come to the end of their resources and taken refuge in him.
In part four (46:30-54:30), the team explores the two primary movements within Psalm 8.
The first half of the poem (8:1-3) opens with a focus on Yahweh’s divine royal power. This is in contrast with the “mouths of babies” he uses to build a stronghold and to bring an end to enemies, adversaries, and avengers. It’s a riddle, the meaning of which only becomes clear when the images are connected to the surrounding Psalms. The coming promised king will also come in weakness and affliction.
In the second half of the poem (8:4-8), the psalmist speaks of the exaltation of the human from Genesis 1-2 to a place of authority as God’s co-ruler over creation.
Psalm 8 invites readers to consider the alignment of all of the “weak exalted” figures, especially in light of God’s coming king. Psalm 8 challenges our presuppositions. When Yahweh comes to his people, how will he arrive—in the strength we expected or in humility?
In part five (54:30-end), Tim, Jon, and Carissa discuss the image of God’s weak, exalted human king depicted in Psalm 8.
The king in Psalm 8 is afflicted, yet he rules over the afflicted ones. God wants to rescue humanity toward its calling, and he is committed to bringing his people back into their calling of ruling the earth.
Psalm 8 brings encouragement for its afflicted readers. If you’re afflicted, God wants to raise you up and give you refuge.
Show produced by Dan Gummel. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
Powered and distributed by Simplecast.