Psalm 8 is the first psalm of ‘praise’ in the book of Psalms. We have had laments and two psalms of introduction but the prayer expressed in Psalm 8 is an awestruck ‘WOW’. God is great, just look at all he has made!
In the context of the Ancient Near East, the ‘wow God is creator’ is an important contrast with the attitude of people living around Israel. They would have worshipped aspects of creation, such as the moon and stars. The psalmist sees these as “…the work of your fingers” (v3).
The theme of creation, coupled with the relationship between God, humanity and creation, flows through to the end where, in v9, the ‘WOW’ of verse 1 is repeated; “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
Stargazers might seem, at times, out of touch with the real world; but this psalm injects a challenge to see God as he is – this is what the ‘stargazer’ does. This view of our ‘awesome God’ then yields to the wonder of the relationships between God and humanity and, people and creation.
It is just possible that keeping our sight on ‘right relationship with God and the world’ is implied in the strange word – Gittith – which is part of the introduction and occurs at the start of just three psalms. Theories about the meaning of ‘gittith’ range from an instrument (the majority view), to a ‘working song’, to a tune.
The idea of a working song, particularly one sung while treading grapes in a wine press, caught my imagination. I liked the idea of celebrating God’s goodness, power and love while doing hard work with joy. It seemed a fitting way to use music to stay focused on the true source of all the things we enjoy.
There are however some other things, that struck me:
v2 – Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies… Children often see things with a clarity adults, with the sophistication gained through ‘growing up’ can miss. Understanding who God is, and exercising the trust a child has in a loving parent, enables God to defeat what the enemy wants to do in our lives. In particular, the clarity of a child enables us to say ‘wow, God is good’; that statement is the foundation of faith.
v4 – The sense of awareness of God’s care and concern for humanity, despite our ‘frailty’ …what is mankind that you are mindful of them, or human beings that you care for them? God has not forgotten or abandoned what he has made.
v6-8 The responsibility humanity has, as a God given role, to look after and care for the world in which we live. We are to be ‘gardeners’ and not destroyers of the natural world through our greed.
For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.
1 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honour.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® All rights reserved worldwide.
Lord, thank you that you have revealed yourself in the wonder of nature and also through Jesus Christ. You are great. Help me to see with the clarity of a child your love and goodness and not let my adult tendency to cynicism distort my understanding of who you are.
Lord, I want to see people as you see them with all their gifts and potential. You don’t give up on me, help me not to give up on others!
Deep within me, I want to be a nurturer and carer. It is too easy to be selfish. Help me see when I am in danger of ‘losing my soul’ because I have been trapped the pressure of ‘my needs’.
Lord, you have given me a ‘calling’, as a human being, to care for the world around me. Help me not to contribute to its destruction.
Help me also to stand up for people who are weaker than me, and the wisdom to know how to do it in ways that reflect your character.
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!