Notes on Psalm 8: How Excellent Is Your Name!

(1a) To the Chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.

  • We don’t know the occasion of this Psalm, but it takes a joyful turn after the last few which have been Psalms of trouble. The Psalm is directly attributed to David, and his grasp of God’s greatness and Man’s position in God’s plan is masterful indeed. Psalm 8 represents some of the loftiest poetry that can be found in Scripture and it is certainly intended to awaken a sense of wonderment in God’s people. It is a celebration not only of God’s majesty but a celebration of the greatness He has created to be in Man, as Man works in partnership with Him. Here we see the other side of the coin from the complaints about “workers of iniquity.” We see the glory in Man which God originally created him to have and which we know Man will again enjoy with God when the fullness of His Kingdom comes.
  • We can speculate that this was a psalm intended for public worship, as it is the first one which speaks with a corporate voice: our Lord. Until now, all the Psalms have been personal – some of them intensely so.
  • The significance of the word gittith is unknown, but there are at least two theories. The word comes from Gath, which was a town of the Philistines. It therefore could have been music on an instrument of Gath, which is not impossible as David had spent time among the Philistines. The second theory perhaps is more likely, that it means a song of joy. “Gath” means a winepress, and a song of the winepress was a song of joy at harvest time. It is worth noting that the other two Psalms mentioning gittith are also songs with joyful elements.

(1b) O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth! You have set Your glory above the heavens!

  • The psalm begins with a confession that the LORD (the Divine Name YHWH) is our Lord. There is a recognition here of the relationship that Israel has with the Creator. This is reflected in Judaism’s most basic prayer, the shema: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD.”
  • His Name is said to be excellent throughout the earth, meaning that the glories of what He has done are obvious. For the Jews, the name of a person or a thing has a special significance, as it reflects the person’s character as well. When a person remains faithful to God he is said by the Jews to have sanctified God’s name because he has valued God’s name more than anything. David’s great sin was a matter of allowing the LORD’s enemies cause to blaspheme His name.
  • God’s glory is so great that it cannot be contained by the earth – the heavens themselves are too small an expanse to contain His Glory!

(2) Out of the mouth of babes and nursing children You have ordained strength because of Your enemies, that You might still the enemy and the avenger.

  • There are many instances of children with a solid faith, and nothing is more precious to God. Perhaps David is also thinking here of himself and how as a teenager he had strength to fight the enemies of God.
  • What does it mean that God has appointed strength? There is a clue in the way Jesus interpreted this verse – on what we call Palm Sunday He said that God has ordained praise. (How wonderful it is when children praise the Lord!) And so from God’s perspective, strength and praise are related. Spiritual strength is released to us as we worship the Lord. The strength is found in praise. Praise to God has the effect of silencing the enemy. How does this work?
  • First, when we praise Him, His presence draws near and the enemy is thrown into confusion. There are many examples of this in the Bible. Secondly, when we praise Him our hearts are focused on Him and we no longer are listening to the enemy’s voice speaking to us.

(3) When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have appointed,

(4) What is man, that You are mindful of him? And the son of man, that You visit him?

  • The glories of the universe God has created cannot even be described – chiefly because we do not understand them. Even though the total sum knowledge of the human race is doubling every few short years we have only understood the basics of just a few topics. David did not have the scientific understanding of these matters we have today and could only catch a glimpse of the beauty of the heavens and perhaps something of their vastness, but he knew nothing of the distance of the stars, nor of what lies beyond the confines of our own galaxy. The planet Jupiter, if hollow, could contain 1,000 Earths. Yet Jupiter and our own Sun are mere specks in the vastness of space, where distances are measured in light-years: the distance that light can travel in a year. And light itself travels at some 186,000 miles per second, or 7 times around the Earth in a second.
  • How big is the universe? It’s only in the past several years that scientists think they know – perhaps well over 100 billion light-years across. But as vast as it is, David describes it as the “work of God’s fingers.”
  • What is Man indeed? For all his boasting, he is only dust. He has not even explored or tamed this own world, let alone the regions beyond! Why should God care about him?, wonders David.

(5) For You have made him a little lower than the angels (lit. elohim or God), and have crowned him with glory and honor.

(6) You made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet:

(7) All sheep and oxen, yes, and the beasts of the field;

(8) The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passes through the paths of the seas.

  • As little as Man is, God made him to have dominion over all that He has made. He made him a little lower than the angels, literally than God Himself. We know that in God’s economy or scheme of creation that Man is superior to the angels and everything that is made. The Bible teaches us that we shall even one day judge the angels. The Devil or the cherubs and seraphs in all their might cannot compare to men who are made in the image of God, especially when, in the glory of the Resurrection man shall be made perfect, shall be made like God and be able to look upon Him with unfiltered gaze. At that time redeemed mankind shall radiate with the glory of the risen Christ who is within them and upon them! Even in the Garden, Adam and Eve were clothed with glory and honor and only when they sinned did they become aware of the need for another covering.
  • It is Man’s glory to rule for God over His creation and in Christ this shall be fulfilled. He gave this planet to Man and He will rule it as the God-Man together with His Kingdom of Priests ransomed out of every nation under Heaven. Rev 5:9-10 says, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.’”

(9) O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!

  • After reviewing the greatness of God, and how well He does everything, David concludes the Psalm as He began it, with a cry of amazed praise to God!