Michael Browne, Bath, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Psalm 8 describes "the world to come", Heb. 2. 5ff, and the Son of man its divine Ruler. The second Psalm showed us the royalty of God's Christ and His sovereignty over the nations j this Psalm reveals the humanity of Messiah and His dominion over creation as Son of man. It is a thrilling portrait of what this world will be like when the Son of man, having silenced all enemies, reigns over a redeemed creation, causing the earth to yield her rich increase, and eliminating the law of fang and claw from the animal kingdom.
Title. "Upon Gittith" (see also Psalms 81 and 84) is usually understood as a musical instrument akin to the lyre, perhaps introduced into Israel by David from Gath (whence "Gittith") where he spent a brief spell in exile when fleeing from the morbid and jealous Saul. If so, it would indicate a poignant spiritual truth, that the highest praises ascend from the lowest valley of humiliation, temptation and distress. Such a thought would be highly applicable to the prophetic movement of this Psalm where, after His derogation upon earth as Sin-Purger ("Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord", Psa. 130, 1), and exile from God ("My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?", Matt. 27. 46), Christ returns with songs of joy to establish the everlasting praises of Jehovah in all the earth. But a more likely meaning is found in the Septuagint where "Gittith" is translated "wine-press". So it becomes a song of the vintage chanted as the blood of the grape is poured into the wine-vat: wine "that maketh glad the heart of man", Psa. 104. 15. As such it speaks of One who endured the winepress of God's wrath against sin - whose precious blood was poured out upon the cross, and thus becomes the effective cause of ceaseless joy not only to us now, but throughout all the earth when He returns to reign.
To Whom Does this Psalm Refer? Many Christians have experienced genuine difficulty in interpreting this Psalm because they cannot decide whether it refers to man or Christ. The truth is that it refers to both! This lyric poem retrospectively looks back to Adam, Gen. 1 26-28, who was granted dominion over God's lower creation. Through sin, he forfeited his position of universal domination with all things under his feet, and the glory and honour that once crowned his brow have now been replaced by sweat, the sign of his sorrow and struggle with a cursed earth, 3. 17-19. But what man lost in Adam he will more than regain in Christ, so the Psalm prospectively looks forward to Christ, Heb. 2. 6-9, who as the representative Man, the last Adam, i Cor. 15. 45, will once more on man's behalf become Lord of all creation, restore the excellency of Jehovah's Name in all the earth, and man's true glory as vice-regent under God.
New Testament References Apply to Christ. Four times Psalm 8 is quoted in the New Testament, and each time it is applied to the Lord Jesus. (1) Matthew 21. 16. Jesus cleanses the temple and accepts the children's praises as Son of David} and "stills" or "silences" the enemy and the avenger by quoting Psalm 8. 2. In thus acknowledging the "perfect praise" of the children, He declares Himself the Messiah. (2) 1 Corinthians 15. 27. In this passage we discover the ultimate triumph of the Resurrected and Reigning Christ who is declared to be the Second Man, the last Adam. Here the "all things" of Psalm 8 which are put under His feet embrace far, far more than beasts, birds and fish upon this planet. It shows Christ as supreme Cosmic Conqueror subject only to Him who put all things under Him - perfect display of His subjection and work as Son - that eventually, His great task completed, co-equal, co-eternal and coextensive with the Father and the Spirit, the ultimate revelation of Deity is that God may be all in all, r Cor. 15. 20-28. (3) Ephesians 1. 20-22. The Ascended Head of the Churchy resurrected and enthroned, with all things put under His feet and given Headship of the Church which is His Body and fulness. (4) Hebrews 2. 6-9. This portion presents Christ as the Glorified Man and His position in the millennial age. In Him fallen man is re-instated and regains, with high distinction, his dominion over the earth. Man, being created a little inferior to angels, j.n.d., thus to hold the reins of government with "all in subjection under him", is in fact not now in this happy position. However, looking away from man on earth to the Man at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Jesus the crowned Sin-Bearer, the inspired writer is satisfied, seeing in Jesus the complete fulfilment of what was said in Psalm 8 concerning the crowning and dominion of man. For it is Jesus (His intensely human name) who for a little while., Heb. 2. 9 R.V. marg., was made lower than the angels, even Jesus, who because of the suffering of death, as man's Substitute, is now crowned with glory and honour. The glory and honour that Adam lost by disobedience and the sentence of death, Jesus, the second Man, has regained by tasting death at Calvary for everyone.
What a cluster of glories sparkle from the applied truth of Psalm 8 in the New Testament concerning the Lord! He is the Son of David; the Resurrected and Reigning Lord; the Ascended Head of the Church; and finally the Glorified Man. And, blessed be His Name, He is our Saviour.
Analysis. Doxology, 1a;
Description of Jehovah's Power, 1b-4; Dominion of the Son of Man, 5-8; Doxology, 9.
Synopsis of the Psalm. In the two main sections there are seen Jehovah and His Glory, w. 1-4, and The Son of Man and His Dominion, vv. 5-8.
Jehovah and His Glory, w. 1-4. The effect of the Son of man's reign on earth is to make Jehovah's Name (and thus the full knowledge of His character) universally revered and praised in it. On earth - His excellent Name; above the heavens - His glory, (possibly referring to the results of Christ's - who is Jehovah become Man - victory borne on high at His ascension and demonstrated in His enthronement, Eph, 1.20-21). His enemies are silenced, v. 2, and pass away, as the high praises of the "babes and sucklings" (new-born souls, a rebirth of the nation of Israel) sing the triumph-song of Messiah's victory. His work, v. 3, in the spacious heavens, establishing the starry constellations in their pre-ordained governmental orbits (the mere work of His fingers!; how puny and ludicrous this makes the "space programmes" of men appear), and, in light of so vast a creation, the wonder of His mindfulness of mere man, a tiny speck upon a tiny globe, whirling in the immensity of all this cosmic grandeur.. But there is a deeper meaning to verse 4. Why, when man has so treacherously rebelled against God and forfeited all honour and glory, should Jehovah still regard him? Can the past be undone and authority again vested in the man? How can God possibly continue to regard this fallen creature? There is no answer until another Man, the Second Man, unfallen and possessed of better hopes, can be found. And this leads us to our second section where we view the Man whom Jehovah has found.
The Son of Man and His Dominion, w. 5-8. Christ, the Seed of the woman, that is, truly human, and so fitted fully to represent man, and as Son of man to restore the glory of the race and the excellency of Jehovah's Name on earth, is God's complete answer! He is the special Object of Jehovah's regard, the delight of His heart, for verse 4 refers peculiarly to the Man Christ Jesus. He is made, for a brief period, a little lower than the angels - marking the wonder of His condescension in becoming man - and crowned as King of all the earth, v. 5; cf. Zech. 14. 9. Here, prophetically, is promised the new rule of Messiah whose administration will possess the power to release from the "thraldom of decay" the whole physical creation, Rom. 8. 21. So the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose, Isa. 35. 1-2, and even the brute creation will be subject to the principles of His reign and be at peace among themselves. The wolf and lamb together, and the lion eating straw like the ox, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain", Isa. n. 6-9.
The coming power of the Son of man was foreshadowed during His earthly life by the mastery that He demonstrated over nature, Mark 4. 39-41 j John 2. 3-11; 6. 5-14, and over the flocks, Luke 19. 30, fowl, Mark 14. 30, fish, Matt. 17. 27, and ferocious wild beasts of the wilderness, Mark 1. 13. All of which is prophesied by David in this Psalm, vv. 6-8. Thus the future reality of all this is sure - it will come and will not tarry. Our hearts exult as we anticipate that happy day and join in the repeated doxology of verse 9 and sing, "Jehovah our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth",
AUTHOR PROFILE: Michael is in fellowship in Manvers Hall, Bath, where he serves as an elder. He worked as a missionary in Hong Kong for thirteen years and since 1972 has had an itinerant Bible teaching and gospel ministry labouring in many parts of the world.