Vol. 3, No. 2 Page 7 February, 2001
Two of the Psalms, numbers eight and forty, focus on Christ's "making himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men."
In Psalm Eight the Messiah is set forth as the last Adam, who was made, during his earthly pilgrimage, "a little lower than the angels."
In Psalm Forty there is, as it were, a door opened so that we can hear some of the discussion which took place in heaven before the Lord came to Bethlehem as the infant son of Mary.
The fact that Psalm Eight is referred to so frequently in the New Testament as being Messianic precludes any argument that it cannot be so. As a matter-of-fact, it is quoted at least four times in the New Testament, and every time it is applied to Jesus. Notice:
When Jesus made his Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem and the Temple at the climax of his ministry the people cried out, "Hosanna to the Son David; blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest." The leaders of the Jews protested the people's saying this because it implied that he was the Messiah, so Jesus quoted Psalm 82 which says, in part, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings you have perfected praise . . ." (See: Matthew 21:1-16.)
In the Book of Ephesians 1:20-22, Paul refers to the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ. He told us that Jesus is now seated in the heavenly realm, "far above all principality and power and might and dominion . . ." God has placed ". . . all things under his feet." This is of course a reference to Psalm Eight, and the exalted position of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Paul set forth the ultimate triumph of Jesus as the last Adam. He stated that ". . . he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet; and the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."
But the most important reference to this Psalm is in Hebrews 2:5-9 in which the author sees the fulfillment of this Psalm in the incarnation and exaltation of Christ.
In spite of all this evidence, there are many who have never seen the Messianic implications of this Psalm, and some commentators will argue that the Psalm was not originally Messianic. They argue this on the following basis:
The Jewish Rabbis never recognized this as a Messianic Psalm. But the Jewish teachers evidently missed a great deal of Old Testament evidence as the coming, nature, and work of Christ.
Some scholars argue that the references to this Psalm in the New Testament are only accommodative. But since the Holy Spirit inspired both the Psalm and the New Testament references to it, then we must admit that it is Messianic because that is how it is used in the New Testament.
"There is nothing whatever in the Psalm itself that is contrary to the ancient opinion that David wrote it, and we find a few things that support such a view. For example, the mention of the night sky with the moon and the stars might indeed be expected from one who often kept watch at night over his father Jesse's flock."1
It is generally believed by scholars that David was probably a mature man when he wrote this Psalm, but there are references to his youth, to the days when he was a shepherd.
The Psalm is organized around one basic thought which is repeated in the first and the last verses. The verses between are designed to offer the proof of what is stated in the proposition of the Psalm which reads in part: "O Lord, our Lord how excellent is your name in all the earth . . ."
The Psalm may be discussed under three headings: 1) the proposition, 2) the proof of the proposition, and 3) the prophecy.
The Basic Truth That the Psalmist Sets Forth Is Found Twice in the Psalm (verses 1 and 9).
This is a profound declaration and leads us to a series of observations.
The word translated "Lord" in this passage is the Hebrew word Yahweh which means the all-sufficient, self sufficient God. He is the God of revelation, that is, making his will known to man, and he is the God of redemption, that is, saving mankind for himself.
Yahweh is "Lord," that is, he is the sovereign Ruler of the universe. This is what is taught by his title "adhonay" which is used here.
The Psalmist, by the use of the name and the title for Jehovah, asserts that Yahweh is the Lord of all. And at the same time he is the God of David and of Israel, because he is "Our Lord." Since the death of Christ upon the cross he has become "our Lord" to all the redeemed including the Gentiles.
Yahweh (Jehovah) has made his name glorious. God's glorious name in this passage stands for God himself. It refers to his character and personality, and asserts that he is glorious, that is, he is great, mighty, powerful, and majestic.
The majestic characteristics of God are recognized throughout the whole earth. This does not mean that every man on the face of the earth recognizes Jehovah as God, but all over the world there are men who recognize that God is the creator of the heavens and the earth.
God has set his glory above the heavens. In other words, the glory of Yahweh is above the understanding and full appreciation of mankind.
Yahweh has glory greater than anything that the minds of all the men upon the face of the earth can possibly imagine. Not even the angels in heaven fully realize the glory of God.
Now the Psalmist Gives the Evidence to Prove his Opening Statement (verses 2-4a).
The proof that Yahweh's name is, in glory, above the comprehension of man is set forth by three witnesses. These are: 1) infants, 2) the heavens, and 3) man himself.
Infants testified to the glory of God (v. 2). The mouths of infants and sucklings testify to the power, divinity, majesty, and kindness of Yahweh.
When Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into the city of Jerusalem, the children vigorously sang songs of praise to him. (Matthew 21:15-16)
Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 18:1-6, "Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Through the children of the flesh, as well as the children of the spirit, God has "established strength," or "perfected praise," as the Septuagint translation reads.
When the children of Jerusalem cried out "hosannas" to Jesus, he accepted their praise, which can be regarded as praise to Yahweh himself.
It is by the mouths of infants and babes that the enemies of God are silenced, and so is the avenger.
The enemy and the avenger would include all those malignant railers who spoke against Jesus both before and during the time of his crucifixion.
When the Lord cited this Psalm in Matthew 21, he was saying that the religious leaders of the time were determined to stop any public hailing of him as the Messiah, and because they did so they were the enemies of God.
The second evidence of the glory of God is that the heavens testify to this glory.
The Psalmist later will declare, in Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork."
The more man studies and probes the second heaven with our telescopes and satellites, the greater is the wonder in our hearts and the greater is our praise of Jehovah.
The heavens are the work of the fingers of God. Here God is given the characteristics of man, that is, doing something with his fingers when he actually spoke the heavens into existence, according to Genesis 1:14-19. This concept stresses the careful design, or planning that went into the creation of the heavens.
The word "ordained" from the Hebrew word konaneta points to the orderliness of the heavens. The stars and planets in vast numbers each move across the sky in perfect accord; there is no clashing or strife between them.
The third evidence that God's name is excellent in all the earth is that God has condescended to human form. (v. 4a)
The contemplation of the vastness of the heavens helps man to keep himself in proper perspective.
The Psalmist asks, "What is man that you are mindful of him . . ." The Psalmist, in asking this question suggests that man is nothing more than the weak creature made of dust that the Book of Genesis portrays him to be.
Yet the question goes on to point out that Yahweh is mindful of man.
Though man is insignificant in the universe, still he has that divine spark that is made in the image of God, so God is mindful of him.
Now We Come to the Prophecy of the Messiah That Is Found in This Psalm (verses 4b-8).
In the first part of verse four, "man" (`enosh), refers to mankind, or to man generically, while the phrase, "the son of man" refers to the Messiah. The author is giving two illustrations of the things at which he is astonished:
That God is taking notice of mankind generally.
That God "visits," or "sends" "the son of man," the Messiah to earth on behalf of man.
In the next verse (5) the Psalmist explains the visitation of the Messiah.
The Son of Man was "made," for a time, "a little lower than the angels." (According to Dr. Smith the verb made, or chasar, does not mean that Christ was created by God, when he came into the world as being "a little lower than the angels," but that something had been taken away from him, something had been subtracted or removed from him that had already existed so that he was changed when he came into the world.)2
Paul explained what was changed in the make-up of Christ in Philippians 2:6 when he says of Christ, "who being in the form of God did not consider it to be a thing to be clung to, to be equal with God."
What the Messiah had subtracted from him when he "was made a little lower than the angels," was his equality with Yahweh.
When one considers the losing of "equality" with the reigning Sovereign of the universe, one comes to understand what the Psalmist meant when he says that the Messiah was "made a little lower than the angels . . ."
The author of Hebrews put the matter this way, Hebrews 2:9, "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."
Only a Being who is superior to the angels, as the Hebrews author argues in Hebrews 1:4-14, could have been made "lower" than the angels.
Adam could not have become less than the angels because he was created a little lower than the angels.
In the order of beings in the universe, angels are above man.
"Actually the Hebrew text states that God made the Son of man to be less than `elohim, the usual Old Testament word for God."3
So, when the incarnation of the Messiah took place, he was "made a little lower than the angels" in that he took on the form of a servant, was found in fashion as a man, that is, he took on human flesh which made him, at the time that he wore that flesh, "lower" than the angels.
During his life-time upon the earth Jesus was subject to the frailties of the flesh, including death. He experienced such things as temptation, hunger, weariness, sorrow, and ultimately death.
The Son of Man was crowned with glory and honor (vs. 5b).
The nouns "honor" and "glory" are used elsewhere in the Old Testament to express royal dignity. (See: Psalm 21:5; 45:3; Jeremiah 22:18; I Chronicles 29:25.)
This was the royal dignity that was bestowed upon Jesus when he ascended back to heaven and took his place at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 1:6)
Peter said that Jesus ". . . has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him." (See also: Acts 2:36; 4:10-12; 5:30-32; 10:36-42; Ephesians 1:20-23.)
The universal authority of the Son of Man is set forth in verses six through eight.
God has made the Son of Man to have dominion over the works of Yahweh's hands.
All things, with the exception of Death, and God himself, and Death will be some day (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) have been put under the feet of the Messiah, and that is the reason he could say, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Matthew 28:18)
All creatures, including those domesticated and wild are also under the rule of the Son of Man.
The imagery set forth here is that as a victorious soldier places his foot upon the neck of a defeated foe to show his triumph, so Christ subjects all things to himself to show his triumph over sin and the grave.
In the beginning Adam was given dominion over all creation, but he lost a good measure of that dominion when he sinned and fell from the grace of God. Consequently, it must be apparent to David that the universal dominion which is envisioned in this was not a reality at the time David wrote the Psalm.
It is in Christ that dominion (spiritual dominion) has been realized, as the author of Hebrews stated in Hebrews 2:8-9 when he said, (8) "You have put all things in subjection under his feet. 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."
The power and authority of the Son of Man was well demonstrated in his miracles during his earthly ministry.
Over the forces of nature in Mark 4:39-41; John 2:3-11; 6:5-14.
Over the wild beasts in the wilderness in Mark 1:13.
Over domesticated animals in Luke 19:10.
Over the fish of the sea in Matthew 17:27.
Over the fowl of the air in Luke 3:22.
Since all things have been put under his feet, Christ now reigns from his throne in the heavens over his kingdom on earth.
Besides text of Hebrews 2:5-9, the expression, "all things under his feet" is found only two other times in the New Testament.
Ephesians 1:22 with reference to the authority of Christ as Head of his church.
1 Corinthians 15:25-27 with reference to the second coming of Christ, and the completion of all things.
Consequently, the three passages speak of the past, the present, and the future of Christ.
"All things were put under his feet" at his ascension back to heaven.
"All things are being put under his feet" since he has received his crown from God and begun reigning over his kingdom.
And "all things will be put under his feet" when he comes again to subdue Death and Satan.
Certainly we can see that the incarnation, the glorification, and the dominion of Christ are all clearly set forth in these verses of the Psalm.
The eighth Psalm closes as it opened: "O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!"
Jehovah is to be praised and exalted as being the Highest of the heavens because he has made the wonderful gift of his Son to mankind.
The sacrificial death of Jesus upon the cross makes it possible for us to one day live in the presence of the Messiah whom we now know by special revelation and by faith in that revelation.
1 James Burton and Thelma B. Coffman, Commentary on Psalms 1-72, ACU Press, Abilene, 1992, p. 45.
2 James Edward Smith, What the Bible Teaches About the Promised Messiah, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, 1993, p.109.
3 Ibid., p.110.