|This study © 2000 by David Humpal
Do you sometimes feel small and insignificant? The burdens of life and attitudes of others can weigh on us and cause to feel weak or unimportant. This may have been the way David was feeling when he sat down beneath the night sky. But as he considered God’s creation and thought about the divine care and mercy, his heart changed from feelings of insignificance to a song of praise. As you read this psalm, you too may see what David saw. God cares about us very much.
Title For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.
Title -- Read through Psalm 8. What are your overall impressions of the psalm? Write down one or more key verses that you find especially meaningful.
David wrote this psalm to be played on the gittith, which was an ancient stringed instrument. From verse 2 we might guess that he wrote it one night while being pursued or taunted by enemies. This may have been a time when he felt very unimportant and insignificant. Sometimes we may feel that way with our job, or our family, or our life. As David looked up to the heavens, his mind began focusing on God, and he was encouraged. This psalm shows us that God is the one in control of everything. If you are feeling small or insignificant, this psalm was written for you.
Taylor wrote concerning this psalm, “The hymn is marked by such originality, imagination, elevation of thought, and artistry in the handling of its theme that it has won for itself a special place in the regard of all readers of the Psalter, ancient or modern.”
vs 1 -- What causes David to think of God’s majesty? What causes you to think of God’s majesty? What do you think the psalmist means by the last phrase “you have set your glory above the heavens”?
As we look at this psalm, we notice that David examines God’s creation -- verse 1 the earth, verse 2 children, verse 3 the heavenly bodies, verses 4-5 man, verse 6 God’s works, verse 7 flocks and herds and beasts, verse 8 birds and fish. As he examines the wonders of God’s creation his heart is filled with praise and he writes from the heart, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Even though David examines God’s creation, he realizes that the glory of God is so far above the created realm. It would be incomprehensible in David’s day to imagine what might be higher than the sun, the moon, and the stars. But whatever it might be, David understood that God was above it all. Even today, three thousand years later with our greater understanding of the distances of the galaxies and the expanse of the universe, we have to join with the psalmist in declaring, “You have set your glory above the heavens.” What is beyond the expanse of the universe might be incomprehensible to us, but God is greater than all of it!
vs 2 -- What children and infants do you think David is referring to? How does praise silence God’s enemies? How do you praise God?
It is hard to know if David is referring to praise from the lips of actual children and infants or if he is thinking of believers with childlike faith. Every time we hear a newborn baby cry it represents the miracle of life that God has created. Every time a child laughs it shows how much God loves his children. Children display an innocence and a trust that all adults strive to obtain. In Matthew 18:3 Jesus said that we must become like little children in order to enter God’s kingdom. It is true that sometimes Christians are ridiculed because of their faith in the most difficult of circumstances. What others may consider tragedy, crisis, or catastrophe, the believer views as simply an opportunity for faith. This kind of worldview must seem very strange and simplistic to those who do not know God. But God wants us to have the same kind of innocence and trust that a child has because we are God’s children and he loves us.
vs 3 -- What does the psalmist call the heavens? How do you feel when you gaze at the nighttime sky and see the moon and the stars? What does this tell you about God?
In verse 3 I imagine David sitting down while watching his sheep at night. As he thinks about God, he looks up to observe the nighttime sky and sees the moon and stars. He thinks of the vastness of the heavenly skies and thinks about the greatness of God. Notice he says, “I consider your heavens.” Have you ever considered God’s heavens? Have you looked in wonder at the nighttime sky and thought about the vastness and power of the one who created the universe? David could not possibly understand how large those stars that he saw really were. Nor could he know the vastness of the distance between them. We modern believers that know these things can feel an even greater awe and reverence at the mighty power of God.
David calls the moon and stars the “works of your fingers,” and he is struck by the creative force, “you have set in place.” Each star and planet was set in its place by God’s hand; each one was created by God’s touch. As he considers this vastness of the creation and the majesty of God, it is no wonder that he realizes his own unimportance in the next verse.
Jamison-Fausset-Brown Commentary points out, “David's original occupation as a shepherd, watching his flocks by night as well as day, would naturally suggest glorious thoughts of God's greatness exhibited in the visible heavens. Affliction it was that elicited his poetical powers. So blessed are the results of sanctified sorrow.”
vs 4 -- What does this verse tell you about man? What does this verse tell you about God? Do you sometimes feel insignificant and unimportant? Why do we feel that way?
David realizes that humanity should be considered too unimportant for God’s care. And yet for some reason, God does care about us. He wonders why should God even be mindful of men and women. We might wonder the same thing. Perhaps you have struggled with feelings of being unimportant. You feel that no one cares about you or knows about your trouble. God does care about you. Even though everyone else may make you feel small and unwanted, God loves you. He is the one who created you and he is the one who is with you.
When we look around creation, we see how God has designed this planet to take care of us. He has given us animals, vegetables, and fruit to eat. He gives us light and warmth during the day. He causes the seasons to change to bring snow and rain in the winter so that the rivers will have water and the groundwater will be replenished. He has created plants to take out the carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with oxygen so that we would have a balanced atmosphere since humans take in the oxygen and exhale the carbon dioxide. God has even caused the craters of the moon to be shadowed in such a way as to reveal an outline of a face which reminds us that God is always watching over us. All around us God has shown that he loves us and cares for us.
Perhaps you sometimes feel like the psalmist did in this verse, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Do you sometimes wonder if God even notices you? Are there times when you feel abandoned by God? Do you feel too unworthy for God to even care about you? David understood how weak and sinful he was, and yet he knew that God would be there for him even with his human frailties. No matter how unworthy or insignificant you may feel, realize that God is mindful of your every need and he really does care about you.
vs 5 -- What do you think the first part of verse 5 means? How has God crowned you with glory and honor?
Even though God created us a little lower than the angels, we have been crowned with the glory and honor of being called God’s children. We, who are weak and helpless, are strengthened and honored. God loves us so much that he sent his son to die for us. God loves us so much that he sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. God loves us so much that he has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.
David realized how insignificant and unimportant are all the dwellers of this earth. And yet God lifts us up and crowns us with redemption. We who are weak are strengthened. We who are helpless are mighty in the Spirit. We who are filled with doubts and worry are filled with faith and hope. In verse 4 David asks how could God be mindful of man, and in verse 5 he ponders God’s mercy and forgiveness. You may feel as David did in verse 4 -- insignificant and alone. But God has crowned you with glory and honor. Do you realize that you are part of God’s kingdom? You are very important to God.
Sclater remarks, “The discovery of the symbol of order in a disorderly world steadies the mind. ... If God gives such care to his stars, how much more to his children?”
We sometimes need to remind ourselves that it is God who crowns us with glory and honor. We realize all too well how unworthy we are to be honored, especially by the Divine, and yet verse 5 tells us that God crowns us with honor and glory. If we try to bring honor or glory to ourselves, we will miserably fail. When we admit that we are sinful and weak in our best efforts and are willing to humbly bow before God, it is then that God is able to lift us up into his presence. It is then that we are ready to receive God’s instruction and learn lessons about love and fairness toward others. As long as we strive in our own ability or strength, we will sense something missing in our lives. But when we admit our own shortcomings and bow before God for help, it is then that we are lifted up to reach our full human potential.
You may view yourself as ugly, stupid, weak, and prone to error. But God views you as beautiful, wise, strong, and prone to excellence. Only when we turn our lives over to God, can he begin to change our negative images of ourselves. When we realize the immense mercy, love, and forgiveness that have been given to us, then we want to reach out to others with the same love and forgiveness. When we allow God to work in our lives, it is then we realize our importance and worth in God’s kingdom -- not because of our skills, talents, or brilliance, but rather because God has crowned us with glory and honor.
vs 6 -- How are we the ruler over the works of God’s hands? What has God put under our feet? What does this teach us about how we should care for these works of God?
From the Garden of Eden, humanity has been given rule over the plants and animal life. Man, small though he may be, has mastered much larger and stronger beasts. There is no real good reason that a horse or an elephant should allow a person to ride him, nor is there any good reason for oxen or donkeys to cooperate in pulling a wagon. Humanity has been given dominion over the planet. With this privilege comes the responsibility to treat God’s creation with care and humility. We have been given an awesome privilege and responsibility. Let us not abuse the gift that God has given us.
vs 7 -- What do you think is the significance to humanity of animals that band together in flocks and herds? Name five products that we use in our everyday life that we receive from flocks and herds and beasts of the field.
In verse 7 we see that humanity has been given the animals of the field that may be herded and used for food and clothing -- the flocks, the herds, and the beasts of the field. God cares about our needs. Isn’t it interesting that the very animals that have proven most beneficial to mankind are also the animals that instinctively live in herds or flocks! One shepherd and a good sheep dog can control hundreds of sheep. A few cowboys can control hundreds of cattle.
If we can realize that God has made all these wonderful provisions for us, perhaps we would stop feeling so unworthy and unimportant. Our family may not think much of us, our friends may shun us, and our co-workers may ridicule us, but God loves us. If we are important to God, why should we feel insignificant?
vs 8 -- What are some benefits we get from the birds and the fish besides food? What about birds and what about the sea is there that is so peaceful? How have you learned about God from nature?
In verse 8 we see the next group of animals under man’s dominion -- the birds and the fish. Birds and fish are not as easy to control or corral as the flocks and herds of verse 7, but nevertheless, God has provided them for us to use. I would like to make a few observations about this verse.
Certainly we use birds for food and clothing. We think of chicken and turkey as two obvious examples, and we use avian feathers for many uses. But I find it interesting that the least useful birds are the ones with the prettiest songs. The song of the chicken and the turkey are not too pleasant. But the songs of the robin or sparrow are beautiful and have been a source of encouragement for many of us when we felt depressed or troubled. God has created these feathered choirs to uplift us with their heavenly strains.
It is also interesting that verse 8 refers to the “paths of the seas.” It would be remarkable if David really understood what he was writing. We now know that there actually are “paths of the seas” -- channels that are more conducive for aquamarine life to travel, which means that finding schools of fish is made that much easier!
vs 9 -- Why did David close the psalm by repeating these words from verse 1? List some ways God has been “your” Lord.
David ends the psalm as it began with the same sentence repeated. I would like to examine these important words and see how we can apply them to our life when we are feeling small or insignificant.
Lord. David sings this psalm of praise to God as he cries out, “O Lord.” When you feel unimportant, cry out to God and he will hear you and lift you up.
Our Lord. God was not just David’s Lord or Israel’s Lord or the Lord of the super spiritual. God is our Lord. He is always with us. We belong to him and he belongs to us. He has made us his children.
How majestic. God is all-powerful. He is higher than all of our problems and stronger than any enemy. He is the eternal ruler and he has pledged to take care of us.
Your name. God’s name is above all names. It is a holy name, a just name, a loving name. Because of his name, his reputation, we know that he will care for us and deliver us from oppression and persecution.
All the earth. God is everywhere throughout the earth. There is no situation that is kept from God’s sight. Wherever we are, God is there. We are never lost nor abandoned. God is ever with us.
The psalm closes as it opens. David has framed these wonderful words of God’s creation with the declaration, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” As we consider all that God has provided for us, maybe we too should join David in singing this refrain of praise.
This study on Psalm 8 © 2000 by David Humpal, all rights
Taylor: The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4, pg. 48 © 1955, Abingdon Press
Jamison-Fausset-Brown Commentary, electronic version © 1997, Biblesoft
Sclater: The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4, pg. 50 © 1955, Abingdon Press