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The Messianic Psalms – Psalm 8


Psalm 8 introduces us to the Son of Man. This is the first mention of the term in the Scriptures and thus, as with all “first mentions” in the Bible, it presents in seed form the principle or essence inherent in it. More will be said about this divine title of Christ in the commentary below. It should be noted that Psalm 2 introduced us to Christ as the Son of God and King of Israel but in Psalm 8 we see Christ as Son of Man and Head of creation. In this way the two psalms are connected in that they both predict Messiah coming into Manhood, the extent of rule, and various aspects of his glory.

Psalm 8 is quoted four times in the New Testament in connection with the Lord Jesus.1 

The Excellent Name

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens! Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, because of Your enemies, that You may silence the enemy and the avenger vv. 12.

Two divine names are stated in the opening: Jehovah2 and Adonai. It is the confession that Jehovah (meaning the Eternal) is “our Adonai” (meaning Supreme Master). Psalm 8 presents the millennial glory of the “Son of Man” reigning over the heavens and the earth. Christ is “Jehovah our Lord” and His name will be excellent in all the earth; His glory will be above the heavens in “that day” (v. 1). Thus the theme and purpose of the psalm is stated in the very first verse.

 When Christ was on earth He was rejected by the rulers of Israel, but praise out of the mouth of “babes and nursing infants” (“sucklings”) silenced the enemy (v. 2). This was fulfilled when the little children praised Him in the Temple to the confusion of the chief priests (Mt. 21:16). If the rulers of Israel rejected the Lord Jesus as Messiah, the little children gave testimony to His person. There can be no doubt that Christ both accepts and is pleased with the praise the children offer Him!  

The point in the opening verse is the emphasis upon the excellency and glory of Christ; the Psalm ends with the same note of praise with which it opens (v. 9).  

The Son of Man

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor vv. 3–5.

There can be little doubt that David, “the sweet psalmist of Israel”3 had Adam and the first creation in view: man is insignificant compared to the greatness of the heavens yet nevertheless God is mindful of him and visits him. When Jehovah created the heavens and the earth He placed the lower portion of creation under the feet of Adam, in creational position man was made “a little lower than the angels” (v. 5).

But whatever the circumstances that led David to write this, the Holy Spirit had the Second Man, the Last Adam, in view. The interpretation of Psalm 8 is not found in Adam or in the Psalm itself but in three New Testament passages:

(1) Christ will come again and He will reign till all is put under His feet. The last enemy to be annulled will be death. (1 Cor. 15:24–28).

(2) All things are to be put under His feet in association with the Church (Eph. 1:21–23).

(3) The “world to come”4 will be put in subjection to Him, however we do not see all things yet put under His feet but we see Him crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:5–9).5 

Adam was made “a little lower than the angels” (v. 5), however Christ voluntarily took this place in becoming man, yet personally of course, He was ever greater than the angels. Hebrews 1:6 is clear when it comes to Christ’s superiority to the angels—His becoming Man did not change this.

The amazing thing which is brought out in Hebrews 2, and which is not mentioned at all in Psalm 8, is the reason the Son of Man took this place of identification with man’s lowly estate, it was for “the suffering of death” that He should “taste death for everything” (Heb. 2:9 DBY). He did this to annul the devil’s power and “set free” those who were in bondage “through fear of death” (Heb. 2:14–15)!

In order to “bring many sons to glory” Christ must first become a man, then go into death for them, for without redemption they could not share that place of glory with Him—how solemn yet wonderful at the same time!

In the New Testament, the term “Son of Man” is used either in reference to His rejection and sufferings, or when speaking of His glorious second coming and Kingdom. Christ’s sufferings and the glories that follow then are the two characteristic features of the title, “Son of Man.” These two features can be seen in the first mention and the last mention of the “Son of Man” in the New Testament (see Mt. 8:19–20 and Rev. 14:14 respectively). What is to be especially noted is that in both of these references, the blessed head of the Lord Jesus is mentioned.  

 In the first mention, the Lord Jesus responds to a statement of a would-be disciple that he was willing to follow the Lord no matter where He went: Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Mt. 8:19–20). The Lord said that the animals of creation have their resting places but He, as the lowly and rejected Son of Man, had nowhere to even “lay his head.” Think of the Savior as He “went about doing good,” seeking lost sinners, at the end of the day, sleeping under the open sky with no pillow for His blessed head! This reveals His lowliness and the vicissitudes He suffered in becoming a Man living among us in a sinful, fallen world.  

 The last mention of the Son of Man is found in Revelation 14:14: “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown.” Here we see the head of the Lord Jesus crowned with a golden crown. The time for the harvest of the earth has come and the earth is about to be reaped with discriminating judgment. He who had nowhere to lay his head on earth, will judge the earth, for He wears the Victor’s crown upon His head. All authority has been given to Him to execute judgment, “because he is the Son of man” (Jn. 5:27 KJV). Here we see His glory as the rightful heir and Lord of all things.

However, it is our privilege now, by faith, to see the Son of Man “crowned with glory and honour” before He is revealed to the world (Heb. 2:9).

The Extent of the Rule of the Son of Man

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas (vv. 6–8). As already mentioned, these verses do not appear to go beyond this lower creation when reading Psalm 8. In the previous section we looked at the New Testament revelation about the Son of Man which clearly shows that the sphere of the rule of the Son of Man is much greater than the animals of creation (as given to the first man, Adam).

Indeed, He has been exalted, as Man, above the angels, with principalities and powers being made subject to Him (Eph. 1:21–22; 1 Pet. 3:22). In fact, in the “age to come” (the millennial kingdom), the Son of Man will rule over the heavens and earth and the Church also will reign in association with Him (Eph. 1:23). We read, “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels” (Heb. 2:5). Today, the world is under angelic rule but in the coming day it will be given to man through Christ! Of course we see Christ already there in that position, waiting for when His enemies shall be made His footstool in power and glory.

The Lord Jesus could tell Nathanael: Because I said to you, “I saw you under the fig tree,” do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man”  (Jn. 1:50–51). Nathanael had confessed The Lord Jesus as “the Son of God, the king of Israel” according to his Jewish hope from Psalm 2:6–7. But the Lord, in bringing in the thought of the “greater things” of the Son of Man, revealed to him a greater and higher extent of rule whereby even the angels would be subservient in the age to come. He would not just be a Messiah for Israel but will rule the universe. It should be reiterated and stressed that Christ is already seated in that position[6] and we behold Him there by faith, “crowned with glory and honor.”

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens! (v. 9). The Psalm ends as it began, extolling the excellency of the name of the One who will have accomplished all of these things. It was David’s natural response of praise, prophetically it will be confessed by the godly remnant of Israel and the redeemed nations of the earth. But we don’t have to wait until then as we can praise Him today!


Endnotes

1.  Matthew 21:16; 1 Corinthians 15:24–28; Ephesians 1:21–23; Hebrews 2:5–9.

2.  Or Yahweh. Either is acceptable to represent in English the divine Tetragrammaton: YHWH.

3.  2 Samuel 23:1–2.

4.  “The age to come” – meaning the millennial kingdom.

5.  J. N. Darby summarized it this way: “In 1 Corinthians 15 we see that it is accomplished in resurrection. In Hebrews 2 we see that the subjection of all things is in the world to come—that they are not yet put under Christ’s feet, but that He is crowned already with glory and honour. Ephesians 1 shows that the church is united to Him in this place of glory, but that does not at all enter into the scope of the psalm. It was part of the mystery hid from ages and generations.” Synopsis of the Bible, Vol. 2, p. 92.

6.  The “hereafter” or “henceforth” in John 1:51 (KJV, NKJV) should be omitted. See note in Darby full-note edition or ESV, NASB etc. This will be realised in power when He returns in glory but it began with His exaltation to the right hand of God.  

By Brian Reynolds

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