Saturday, March 14, 2009

Psalm 8 - Christ’s Exaltation

  Psalm 8 is the second of the Messianic psalms. While Psalm 2 presents the King-Messiah in rejection, Psalm 8 presents Him as putting all things under His feet. The occasion of David's writing this psalm is not specified. Jewish tradition supposed that it was written when David brought the ark up to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite, as mentioned in 1 Chronicles 13:12-14. But there is nothing in the psalm to link such an occasion.

The Lord is exalted as being the most high and having dominion over his created works, mankind for the most part is missing from the psalm. Instead, the animal world and babies hold prominence save the Lord Himself. Victory over the enemies of God can be accomplished by the least of the earth – the babies and animal world because God Himself is the one who brings victory.

Though God could easily destroy the enemies of David by changing the moon and stars which govern the climate of the earth, God reserves victory over His enemies whose chief enemy is the Devil, to be performed by the least of mankind – the meek, the bruised and the slain Lamb of God.

Dr. Unger notes of this psalm; "As Son of Man, Christ appears in humiliation, a little lower than the angles (Mt. 21:16; 1 Cor. 15:27; Heb. 2:6-7), to taste death for every man, and is now crowned with glory and honor. Man (the first Adam being a figure of the Second Man or the Last Adam) was given dominion over creation, which was lost by sin, and which is to be restored by the Second Adam (Christ)." (Merrill Unger, Unger's Bible Handbook, p. 275)
I. Exaltation (8:1)
To [the] chief musician upon the Gittith. A psalm of David. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent [is] your name in all the earth. Who has set your splendor above the heavens.

8:1a. To [the] chief musician upon the Gittith. A psalm of David
. This psalm is identified as being written by David. David directs the psalm to be played upon a Gittith, a musical instrument with strings. Although not much is known about the term, it's derivation is from nagan meaning "to play or strike strings." This musical direction to the chief musician to place a psalm upon the Gittith is called out three times in the Psalms; Ps. 8:1 "A psalm of David;" 81:1 "A psalm of Asaph;" and, 84:1 "A psalm for the sons of Korah." In each case the psalmist opens the song with a praise.

8:1b. O Jehovah, our Lord, how excellent [is] your name in all the earth. David starts this psalm with a praise to Jehovah, calling Him "our Lord," indicating that the song is to be performed by a group or to a group, but however it is, collectively they praise Him, acknowledging His greatness. They acknowledge that His name, the name above every name (cf. Phil. 2:9), YHWH "the ever existing one" is Adony - their "Lord" or "Master." This is important because there are those who lord over others whether by private industry as in a boss, or lord, as in a multitude of governmental entities, but there is one who is above every name, and He is YHWH.

The phrase "how excellent" introduces the subject of the psalm and brings to mind not a question, but rather points one to "consider" how excellent or as the Hebrew word stresses, how "great," or "majestic." The adjective stressing the fact that He is the "great one," the "majestic one."

The consideration implies that more is to come concerning what makes Him the greatest in all the earth and the author of this psalm is about to tell us.

8:1c. [W]ho has set your splendor above the heavens
. The rhetorical question is asked expecting no reply, since there is no one, except God Himself that is able to perform such an act. The use of the imperative with the relative pronoun makes this a rhetorical question. The reality is that the glory, splendor, or majesty of the Lord is positionally above the heavens. This phrase means He alone is above any beast or human of the earth and includes any angel of heaven. He is, as the author of Hebrews writes:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For to which of the angels did He ever say: "You are My Son, Today I have begotten You"? And again: "I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son"? 6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: "Let all the angels of God worship Him." (Heb. 1:1-6)

For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens (Heb. 7:26).

II. The Small are the Strong Ones of the Lord (Ps. 8:2)
From the mouth of babes and those nursing, you have intensely established strength, in order to cease those who oppress you, the enemy and the one who avenges.
8:2a. From the mouth of babes and those nursing, you have intensely established strength
. Jesus used this verse when He replied to the chief priests and scribes in Matthew 21:14-16. After Jesus cleansed the Temple, the blind and lame came to Him to be healed and the children cried out "Hosanna to the Son of David!" or "to the Son of David - Save now!" This expression is from Psalm 118:25, a praise psalm for everlasting mercy. The response of the children in Matthew at the Temple made the chief priests and scribes indignant, so they reply "Do you hear what they are saying?" Jesus responds, "Yes, have you ever read, "out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants you have perfected praise?"

The word for babes in the Hebrew means a young child who is able to speak (Lam. 4:4), whereas the word for those nursing is the word for one who sucks or a suckling child. It seems odd that the Lord would use children to establish, or as the Hebrew yasad means "to found," "fix," "establish," or "to laying a foundation." The intensive verb renders this "you have intensely established, appointed or ordained strength."

The Hebrew for strength is the word 'oz and means "might," or "strength." Some translations render this "praise" because both the LXX Old Testament Greek and New Testament Greek use ainos which means "a saying," "a proverb," "praise." But for the Hebrew this is clearly a word that has to do with strength in the sense of physical, material, social or political might. And so the young children are said to be His strength on earth, and I take it to be political might!

For the Lord the least of men are the ones He has chosen in order to demonstrate His strength. He is after all the Lord, the One who chose the least of the tribes of the earth, namely, Abram the childless man whose name means "my father is exalted." And whose name God changed to Abraham "father of a multitude."

This is the same God who chose the young lad David to slay the giant Philistine Goliath with a single small pebble. Both David and Abraham are examples of faith, for it was by faith Abraham believed God, and it was by faith that the little lad David slew the giant. This is the same God who chooses in such a way as to confound the mighty of the earth. For it is God Himself who will some day judge the earth and deliver His chosen ones (Isa. 63:1-6). David has personal knowledge of God's strength because he has seen the mighty power of the Lord in the hands of a little one. This strength is seen by those who have childlike faith – those who believe and walk by faith, for we are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26).

8:2b. [I]n order to cease those who oppress you, the enemy and the one who avenges
. The purpose for establishing strength using little ones is given "in order to make to cease," "to make to rest," as the Hebrew causative of sabbath – "to make a rest," "to cease" is used. The enemies of the Lord are stopped by the little ones! The Hebrew is strong here. The purpose in the Hebrew is displayed in the causative, namely, "make to cease," or "cause to rest," and affects those who oppress the Lord. The Hebrew is tsarar and means "to bind," or "one who shows hostility towards." Those who oppress are found in two classes, (1) the enemy who is singular, meaning either enemies collectively, or "the enemy" as in the Devil; and (2) "the one who avenges," in the sense of individuals or nations who seek revenge on His people Israel; or of Israel who seeks vengeance on their own children which the Lord command them not to do, but to love their neighbor as themselves (Lev. 19:18).

This psalm seems to have an immediate application as David the author was established as a young boy to slew the giant Goliath, which no doubt caused the Philistines to cease their mocking of the Hebrews and totally changed the mood and direction of the conflict. The enemies of the Hebrews at that time were the Philistines, and the enemy of verse two and the avenger are locally viewed as being either Goliath or possibility Saul.

But this is prophecy, so when Jesus used this to quite the chief priests and scribes in the Temple, that is all it did – quite their mouths. The fulfillment is yet future so David writes Psalm 110 concerning the Messiah's reign and it was the little children who recognized the signs of the Son of David – the Messiah King, and they praised the Savior - King. The little children recognize the glory of the Lord, the one who created the heavens and earth and whose name is splendid and above every name. Hosanna in the highest - Save-I pray. Jesus means Savior and the little children recognized the Savior by His works on earth!

Just as God saved Israel out of their slavery in Egypt by Himself (where else has a nation been set free without a battle), and delivered them out of the Babylonian captivity without a fight, He also built His Church by the meekness of countless early Christian martyrs whose blood horrified Rome, but by that same blood found the growth of the Church.

III. Creation Declares the Glory of the Son of Man (Ps. 8:3-5)
When I look at your heavens, [the] work of your fingers, [the] moon and stars which you have intensely established. 4 What [is] man that you will remember him. And [the] son of man that you will attend to him. 5 And you will make him a little lower than [the] angels, and you will crown him [with] glory and honor.

8.3a. When I look at your heavens, [the] work of your fingers
. The author looks to the heavens and sees the work of God. He ascribes the heavens as being a possession of the Lord, since He is the one who did the work. The Bible often uses anthropomorphism when it comes to God. The picture of God using fingers like a man to fashion objects is attributed to God who simply spoke and it was created. Man cannot fathom how God created and positioned the objects of heaven in their place - placing motion and light in the sky. As David puts it in Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork."

8.3b. [The] moon and stars which you have intensely established. The moon was established to rule over the night (Gen. 1:16). These objects of heaven are not there just as ornaments in the sky, something pretty to look at, but the ancients understood them to function in a profound way as they served to bring in the tides and seasons (cf. Gen. 1:14) and to point to the infinite glory of God (Psa. 19:1). The word for establish used here is different from that of verse 2. Here the Hebrew is kun and has the idea of making "firm" or "stable." The moon and stars are established in the heavens as pointing to something we can trust, something we can depend upon. God is someone we can trust and the one and only true God who is able to do what He says he will do. Some day the moon and stars will be removed, but for now they have been established as a beacon in the night revealing how mighty a God He is. They declare His glory.

8.4a. What [is] man that you will remember him
. The psalmist looks to the heavens which declare His glory then looks down at rebellious sinful mankind and asks the question, what is man that you will remember him? The word for man here is 'enosh and means "mortal man," that is, man in his sinful dying state. What is it that the Lord would desire to care for or attend to the needs of mankind? Is it that man is made in the image of the Creator? Is it that God created mankind for a different purpose than the rest of creation? That God has said that He would have a special relationship with mankind, different than His relationship with the rest of His creation?

The action word here is zakar and means "to remember," "to recall." The psalmist contrasts the heavens that obey the Lord and declare His glory, to mankind whose condition is one of disobedience and whose declaration, "glory be to God" is lacking in every way. How is it that God does not destroy all mankind? Why does He put up with so much disobedience? Instead of destroying all mankind, He remembers mankind in a positive sense.

8.4b. [A]nd [the] son of man that you will attend to him
. The word for man in "son of man" is 'adam meaning "man," one from the line of Adam. The term "son of man" is used three ways in Scripture. It is used of Ezekiel, man in general, and of Jesus. The term means "son relating to man," so when Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man, He means by it that He is the proper representative of mankind, for the case of His death, He represented mankind on the cross for the punishment of sin. As the Son of God, He represented the Godhead as the perfect sacrifice, and as the Son of David, He represents the ruling line and is the proper Ruler over all the earth.

The context that follows suggests that the Son of Man here is Jesus and that God the Father will paqad "attend to," "number," care for," him. God cares and attends to mankind, but here the reference is to the care that the Father had for the Son during His time on earth as the suffering servant, His crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension and finally His Second Coming and Millennial rule. The Son of Man's relationship to the Father as the only begotten Son is special and unique, He alone is the only begotten Son. This does not mean that Jesus was born, but rather begotten means "the only one of God." – the unique One.

8.5a. And you will make him a little lower than [the] angels
. Verses 4 through 8 are quoted in Hebrews 2:6-8. The context there is Jesus Christ the Son of Man, who existed before the creation and who is the Second Person of the Godhead was made a little lower than the angels. The Hebrew 'elohiym "God," "gods," "rulers," "judges" is translated "angels" only here, but it is almost universally accepted that this translation is correct. What is meant by this expression? The intensive verb of the Hebrew chaser is thus translated "you will intensely lower him." The intent is not "made" in the sense of the original creation or that God made Christ at all, but rather that God intensely lowered Him from His existing estate. The preincarnate Christ came and took Himself a human nature, lower than the angels, namely, human and remains forever undiminished Deity and true humanity in one person forever. The Hebrew points out that Christ took on an additional nature – man, becoming the unique God-man. The only begotten of the Father.

This doctrine is taught in Hebrews 2, as the author makes it clear in verses 8 and 9 that there is a ranking, an order to all living things that God created. Angles are at the top of the created order, then mankind, then the animals and fish, and finally plants. Man was created to subdue the earth, but through the fall, he lost his ability to rule the earth, and instead Satan is now the ruler of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). The author of Hebrews explains Christ's claim as he says,

For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. (Heb. 2:8b-9)

8.5b. [A]nd you will intensely crown him [with] glory and honor. The purpose for his lowering a little lower than the angels is to die as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This death burial and resurrection is an honorable and glory filled work of God. Jesus was given a crown of thorns (Mat. 27:29; Jn. 19:2, 5) at His death as He was raised up on that cross. In Hebrews 2:9 the perfect passive participle "he, having been crowned" sees the crowning at the cross as a completed act and that an external force performed the act of crowning.

The word for crown used here is the Hebrew 'atar a verb, which has the basic meaning "to surround," "to crown." It is in the intensive so the translation "you [YHWH] will intensely crown him [the Son of Man, Jesus]." A crown is used in Scripture in the following ways: (a) a symbol of ornament, distinction and honor and, (b) a crown is used of eternal blessedness which will be given as a prize to genuine servants of God.

Examples of its use as a symbol, a good wife is her husband's crown (Pr. 12:4); gray hair is a crown of splendor (Pr. 16:31); grandchildren are a crown to the old (Pr. 17:6); Christians are a crown to Paul (1 Thes. 2:19; Phil. 4:1).

For those who believe, God will be a glorious crown for us (Isa. 28:5); everlasting joy will crown us (Isa. 35:10); we receive an everlasting crown (1 Cor. 9:25); we receive a crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8); crown of life (Jam. 1:12; Rev. 2:10); and a crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:4).

For God, those who believe are a crown for Him (Isa. 62:3). Christ's first coming work is not an insignificant thing, for through His incarnation and work on the cross He is surrounded with all glory and honor. Just as man's righteousness is imputed from Christ (it is Christ's righteousness not ours) so it is Christ's glory not ours that we are crowned with. He alone is given all glory and honor.

The final point to be made here is that when Jesus returns everything will be put in subjection under him, but for now He is at the right hand of the Father interceding for mankind. This is what Hebrews 2:8-9 makes clear. We can come before the throne room of God to bring our praise and petitions, to pronounce all glory and honor, because He is functioning as Priest today.

IV. The Lord's Dominion over Creation (Ps. 8:6-8)

You caused him to rule in [the] works of your hands. You have put all things under his feet. All [the] sheep and cattle and also [the] beasts of the field. [The] fowl of the sky and the fish of the sea, that which pass through the seas.

8.6a. You caused him to rule in [the] works of your hands
. God initially created man to have dominion over "the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Gen. 1:26). Through man's fall this dominion was lost, and it is the Son of Man who will have dominion over the things of the earth. The Hebrew causative "you caused him to rule" makes it clear that the Lord Himself will rule and it is by no other authority. The Messiah, the anointed one of God, the only begotten, will in the millennium not only rule over a people, but the whole earth and everything that is in it will praise Him (Isa. 11)!

8.6b. [Y]ou have put all things under his feet
. This prophecy is yet to be fulfilled as Hebrews 6:8-9 explains. How do we know that this is not referring to mankind? Because it is only the Lord who has the authority to have all things placed under his feet. This is a Near Eastern saying that means he will conquer his enemies, ruling and having dominion over their territory. In the millennium even the last enemy, death, will be conquered (1 Cor. 15:25).

Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. (1 Cor. 15:24-26)

8.7-8. All [the] sheep and cattle and also [the] beasts of the field. [The] fowl of the sky and the fish of the sea, that which pass through the seas.
All the dominion that Adam was given and forfeited, is given to the Lord, even the beast of the land and sea.

V. Exaltation (Ps. 8:9)
O Jehovah, Our Lord, how excellent [is] your name in all the earth.

8.9. O Jehovah, Our Lord, how excellent [is] your name in all the earth
. Just as the psalmist starts with a praise of exaltation because of His creation, so he ends, as the Lord is found at the end of His Messianic Kingdom, exalted with His enemies placed under his feet – the last enemy being death (1 Cor. 15:24:28)!