The following is a devotion based on Psalm 8.
Take a look outside tonight, and as soon as it gets dark you will understand Psalm 8. The night sky, the moon and the stars (and the quasars and black holes and galaxies and all the stuff we can’t see) all declare the praises of God. All of those things show God’s glory and power as Creator of the universe.
Listen in on a children’s Sunday school class some Sunday morning, and you will understand Psalm 8. The praise of God rolls off of the lips of children and infants, and out of the mouths of their teachers, as they learn about what Jesus has done and how to praise him. The mouths of his creatures declare God’s glory and love as Savior of the universe.
Psalm 8 is a song of praise to our Creator-God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 8 reminds us of God’s glorious creation, that even modern science is barely beginning to understand. Psalm 8 reminds us that the praises of children are a joy to God. Psalm 8 reminds us that as huge and vast as the universe is, God still showed his greatest love and his most awesome creative power in making human beings in his image and likeness. Psalm 8 also reminds us that man is the crown of God’s creation. God gave Adam dominion over all the animals, birds, and fish. God put everything in creation under man’s feet. Man is the head and the crown of God’s creation.
And if that were all there was, you could quit reading right now, content in your “First Article” knowledge of God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
But there’s more. Think about what happens in your life on a daily basis, and Psalm 8 doesn’t quite make as much sense as it did at first. Turn on the nightly news (or check the latest updates on your RSS feeds) and you’ll find some things that seem to contradict Psalm 8. Take a look:
The enemies of God aren’t yet silenced. Day after day atheists and followers of false religions stand up and proudly disparage the name of God. They slander God and persecute his people. And all the praises of all the children have yet to silence the foe and the avenger.
Mankind seems to be losing its battle for dominion of creation. Animals kill people. People kill each other, twisting chemicals and atoms into ever more powerful weapons of destruction. Our God-created bodies are constantly threatened by viruses and bacteria. Nature itself seems to be in rebellion against us, as tsunami and earthquakes, hurricanes and droughts kill thousands of people each year.
Even God’s providential care of the human race might be called into question. Why does he allow these things to happen? Faced with the almost insurmountable threats of disease and famine, war and pestilence, as we daily struggle with the assaults of Satan and our fellow men, we wonder if we are so insignificant that God doesn’t care for us anymore.
So what now? Is the Psalmist right to praise God, or isn’t he?
Mankind is the crown of God’s creation, the head over all things. But what happens to creation when the head is cut off?
Well, that’s exactly what has happened. Read Genesis chapter 3, the story of the fall into sin, and Psalm 8 will begin to make sense again. When Adam sinned and fell away from God, he lost the perfect image and likeness of God in which he had been made. Sin caused a separation between man and God. Because of that sin, Adam and all of his descendants had to die. What’s more, the entire universe, God’s perfect creation itself was cursed. The head was cut off (or rather, cut itself off) and now the corpse thrashes around on the ground waiting for death. Every day, we see the horrible effects of that first sin. Every day, we add our own sins to the wretched heap of pollution poisoning the world.
And then, Jesus came. The Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God begotten of the Father from all eternity, became man. Incarnate, the God-Man. He didn’t just become a man so that he could die. He became a man so that he could fight man’s fight for him, so that he could conquer the forces of evil to which Adam fell prey and which have enslaved mankind ever since. He became man to be the crown of God’s creation, to restore fallen humanity to the place it occupied before the Fall. Jesus Christ became the new Adam, the new Head of all creation, the new Head of the renewed human nature which is His body. Using the word of an ancient Church Father, Christ “recapitulates” mankind ― literally, “re-heads” us ― by doing for us what we through our sin had stopped doing.
Psalm 8 only really makes sense when we see that Christ is at the center of it. Christ was “made a little lower than the heavenly beings” at his incarnation, his state of humiliation when he declined to make full use of his divine power. At his resurrection, he was “crowned with glory and honor,” in his state of exultation, where he lives and rules at the right hand of God the Father, fully God but still fully man. He is the Head of all creation; “everything [is] under his feet.” In the great resurrection chapter, Corinthians 15, St. Paul reminds us that “everything” includes even death.
Adam’s sin brought death to all people. Our sin brings death to us. But now Christ’s victory brings life to all people. Adam lost dominion over creation, but Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, is right now ascended in heaven ruling over all things for the benefit of his people. He is the head, crowned with glory and honor, and we are the body, sharing in his blessings now and for all eternity.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Amen.