Rev. Marcus is pastor of the First Protestant Reformed Church of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
Have you ever admired God’s wonderful handiwork in creation? Have you ever stood in amazement at how God has worked in some way? Maybe you have seen the stars in all their brightness when you were out in the country or on a camping trip. Perhaps you have been amazed at how God knit together in the womb a perfectly formed baby. You don’t have to look far at all to find something for which to praise God. It is good for us to contemplate God’s greatness in creation. But even more than that, God wants us to think on Him and on His greatness and goodness towards us.
David does that in Psalm 8. He is overwhelmed with what he observes around him. He is not simply overwhelmed by amazing things in creation. Rather, he is overwhelmed with God Himself and what great works God has performed. That’s why David begins the Psalm, “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” Jehovah’s name is the revelation of His goodness and perfections. David is concerned with the excellency of Jehovah’s name. That’s why he ends the Psalm on the very same note, “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth.” Just as David’s thoughts turned to consider Jehovah’s excellent name, ours should do the same.
Excellent in Itself
Recall that the names of God reveal His attributes. We find that phenomenon often in Scripture, when a name that is assigned to a particular person reveals something very important about him. Adam’s name indicates that he was taken from the dust. Eve’s name means that she was the mother of all living. Noah’s name means rest, and points to the fact that God would bring rest through Noah. Abraham’s name was assigned to him to show that he would be the father of many nations. And so it is with many other names in Scripture. Their names had meaning.
So it is also with God’s names. They tell us about Him. What does David call God in this Psalm? What is the name that is so excellent? David addresses God as “LORD our Lord.” Of course, whenever we find the name LORD in all capitals, that stands for Jehovah. God revealed that specific name to Moses from the burning bush in the wilderness. “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM [Jehovah, in the Hebrew] hath sent me unto you” (Ex. 3:14). When God calls Himself “I AM,” He is teaching us that He does not depend on anything or anyone for His existence. He simply is. He always has been and ever will be. Nothing will ever change Him.
Therefore, the name “Jehovah” shows that He is faithful. When He makes a promise, He cannot forget it or change His mind about it. “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal. 3:6). That necessarily implies that all Jehovah’s promises are sure. This is why the name “Jehovah” is associated with God’s covenant faithfulness. The promise God made in the garden of Eden is sure: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). He is faithful to keep His covenant promise.
Confirming His covenant faithfulness, God made the promise to Abraham: “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7). This promise, of course, was brought about through Isaac, through Jacob, and through David, the writer of this Psalm. And, ultimately, Jehovah’s covenant promise was fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ.
When David addresses Jehovah, the faithful covenant God, he adds “our Lord.” David’s confession is personal. Jehovah, the almighty and self-sufficient God, is our God personally. That is, He has devoted Himself to us. He is “our Lord.” As Lord, He is the master and ruler of all creation. And when He rules over the creation, He does it for us. Not only that, He also rules over His people so that He accomplishes all His purposes in them. That is the God that David is confessing in the Psalm. Jehovah, our Lord. What a name! Excellent in all the earth! Not that David was thinking only about this particular name. David was thinking about all the ways God reveals His excellent name. He was thinking about and praising God for all His perfections. Jehovah’s name is excellent. It is mighty and magnificent. Jehovah’s name is excellent in itself.
Excellent in Creation
The way that David came to this conclusion concerning Jehovah’s excellent name was by considering how God’s perfections are reflected in creation. Before penning this Psalm, David may have scanned the creation with his mind and considered how Jehovah’s excellent name is revealed all around him. To be sure, he could have listed many different things. But of all the things that display God’s excellent name, David considers that a newborn baby is one that deserves mention. He says, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger” (Ps. 8:2). God has ordained little nursing babies to give evidence of His faithfulness. Somehow, God knits them together in the womb, brings them into the world at just the right time, and then gives them all the wisdom they need to get their nourishment from the breast. God has ordained these little babes and sucklings to show forth His excellency.
The atheist denies that God’s wisdom is reflected in these infants. The atheist proclaims that the little infant is the product of blind chance. In response, David calls the atheist “the enemy.” God uses the tiny baby to still the enemy. God shuts the enemy’s mouth so that he cannot give an answer. Oh yes, the godless theory of evolution may try to explain how a newborn is knit together so perfectly. It may try to explain how a newborn baby even knows how to get its nourishment as soon as it is born. But it cannot. The enemy is silenced by the wisdom of God shown forth in tiny babies.
Furthermore, God has always been pleased to use these weakest of means to bring praise to Himself. When Jesus cleansed the temple, and the Pharisees and Sadducees refused to praise Him, God ordained praise from the children. “And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” (Matt. 21:15-16). God stilled His enemies with babes and sucklings.
After David considered the infant in arms here below, he then turned his attention to the heavens: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained…” (Ps. 8:3). Imagine David lying on the ground and looking up at the night sky brightly spotted with countless stars. He would recognize that these too are the work of God’s fingers. Like a masterpiece of art, the stars show forth God’s praise. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).
That was David’s response even before the telescope had been created. Today, when the most powerful telescopes are focused on the most distant spots of light, we learn that those spots are not just individual stars, but whole galaxies, with millions of stars in them, each galaxy forming beautiful spirals that speak of order and wisdom in creation. All of them are so far away that we measure distances to them in light years. When we consider that light travels 186,000 miles every second, we can begin to appreciate that a light year is a very, very great distance indeed.
The universe is so great and beautiful; but God is greater and more beautiful. So the heavens help us understand just a little about God’s beauty and greatness. They are dim reflections of His glory. This is why David describes God as the One “who has set thy glory above the heavens” (v. 1). When David considers God’s glory, he sees that nothing in all the earth even compares with God. And when David looks beyond the earth into the heavens, he comes to the same conclusion. As wonderful as the most wonderful creature may be, God is more wonderful. His excellent name is revealed in creation!
Excellent in Salvation
David’s meditation upon God’s excellent name in itself and in creation finally turns his mind to consider His name revealed in salvation.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
David sees how excellent God’s name is and immediately wonders why such a great God would take notice of such lowly creatures as we are.
What is man after all? Is he not made from the dust of the earth? And is not the son of man a frail, sinful, mortal creature? Job expresses almost the same thought:
How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea, the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?
Man is nothing.
Despite our lowliness and sinfulness, God is still mindful of us! He still is faithful to His covenant. He remembers His promises. He remembers us. And because He remembers us, He also visits us. He comes to see our situation in order to help us. This is not just a onetime visitation, but an ongoing care that Jehovah, our Lord and Master, gives to us.
God is so mindful of us in our misery that He sent His Only Begotten Son to visit us. God sent Him to experience our misery. He sent Jesus to save us from that misery. God sent Jesus Christ so that we could be crowned with glory and honor.
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas
God made us a little lower than the angels so that we could ultimately be crowned with a heavenly glory and honor.
We are a little lower than the angels now, but in heaven we shall be equal to them as regards our mortality (cf. Luke 20:36). God made us subject to mortality through the curse so that, one day, we could have dominion over all things with Christ Jesus. We are not the central figures in the humiliation and exaltation mentioned in the Psalm. Rather, Jesus Christ is the central figure. This is evident from Hebrews 2:6-9:
But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast 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 see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
Jesus Christ was made a little lower than the angels when He took on Himself a mortal human nature. In that human nature, He suffered all the pains of hell for us. And because Jesus was obedient to death, God has highly exalted Him. Now He is crowned with honor and glory as the Lord of all.
It is evident that the most magnificent revelation of Jehovah’s excellent name is in the person and work of Jesus. Jesus reveals the attributes of Jehovah more than any other creature. How fitting, then, that God named Him Jesus, that is, “Jehovah Salvation.” Jesus revealed Jehovah’s faithfulness through His coming and through His lifelong work. Jesus revealed Jehovah’s mercy by giving Himself, in order to deliver us from our misery. Jesus revealed Jehovah’s perfect justice when He suffered the very torments of hell for us on the cross. And Jesus reveals Jehovah’s sovereignty as He sits enthroned at the right hand of God ruling over all things.
Though we do not yet see all things put under Him, still He reigns. But the full evidence of the dominion that David talks about in Psalm 8 must wait until the Judgment Day. Then it will be clear that all things are in subjection under His feet. Then the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 will be fully accomplished. The devil and all his hosts will be crushed under the heel of King Jesus. And we will rule with Him: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21).
Is it not astounding that Jehovah should visit us to bring us heavenly glory? That just adds to the wonder of His glory. Truly, the name of Jehovah, our Lord, is excellent in all the earth. Truly, His glory is above the heavens. May that thought ever be in our hearts and minds as we consider the excellency of Jehovah’s name in itself, in creation, and especially in our salvation through Jesus Christ.