Psalm 8 has been called a cosmic doxology, a hymn of praise that calls upon all of creation to praise God. There is a major and a minor theme in this psalm. The major theme concerns the majesty of God’s name displayed through his acts in the whole universe. The minor theme calls for special attention since it concerns the majesty of God’s grace displayed through his exaltation of humanity. What does that mean? God has exalted humanity? This truth is foreign to most Christian ears.
Most of us who call ourselves Christians have a tendency to emphasize the sinfulness of humanity at the expense of the dignity, value, worth, and purpose God has given to his most prized creation. We are certainly wretched sinners deserving of God’s punishment, but the sinfulness and the punishment deserved is not rightly understood unless we see that we have fallen from such great heights. This notion intensifies our awareness of our sinfulness but it also underscores the work of salvation as a restorative work. This generation of Christians would do well to recognize that we have been saved for more than salvation itself–we’ve been saved and are being saved from our sin to lead all of creation in praise to God.
In Matthew 21:14-16, Jesus is encountered by the religious authorities as children cry out in praise to God. What is his response? He quotes verse 2 from this psalm: “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength” (although he rightly translates the last word as “praise” rather than “strength”). He does not quote the remainder of the verse, but it is clear that it applies in his context: “because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger” (v. 2). Praise was ordained from the mouths of those children in order to silence God’s enemies, who would disallow them from praising God as they’ve been called to. Yet so often I find myself in the place of those authorities, judging the praise of others because my focus is on sinful humanity rather than redeemed humanity.
But what a great privilege it is that God has ordained praise from us! I am reminded of my state: “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet” (vv. 5-6). This is only possible because of Jesus the Son of God. He became being in order to restore humanity to its privileged state among creation. “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (vv. 1, 9).