A little less than the angels: Who does God say I am – Part 2: Psalm 8

There is nothing like a dark sky. I live in a large town, so light pollution prevents me from seeing the sky on all its glory, so when I do get to see the stars on a dark sky from high altitude I am totally amazed at how many stars can be seen.

Photo by Sam Kolder on Pexels.com

To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
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 honour.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8 ESV UK

I love this psalm.

Back in the days of David there would have been little light pollution, no glaring street lights on all night, no buildings being floodlit, on a clear night the full majesty of the night sky would have been revealed. David would not have known that most of the stars he could see were suns with the potential for having their own solar systems. Today over 4,500 exoplanets have been discovered, and pointing space telescopes at what were thought to be black areas of the sky has revealed galaxy after galaxy. The universe, God’s creation, is big. God’s glory beyond the heavens is being revealed like never before, a look at the pictures on the NASA website shows the beauty and wonder of what God has made.

But where is our position as mere created beings on a small planet in the the far reaches of one of millions of galaxies? As David said, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” To say what man is he goes back to creation, and like with the Genesis account man’s purpose is ties up with having dominion over creation.

Less than God or less than the angels?

There is a problem in the translation, which can be seen if you compare Psalm 8 in most translation to what quoted in Hebrews 2:6-7:

It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
    or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
    you have crowned him with glory and honour,

It says, “You made him for a little while lower than the angels;” in the Old Testament it says, “you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings.” The difference being that the text in the book of Hebrews was not, ironically, translated from Hebrew, but from a Greek translation of the Old Testament which says angels where the Hebrew says God or gods, elohim. The argument is that Jesus, who was greater than the angels became lower than the angels,like a human, in order to redeem humans. Whatever the translation, it shows God’s great care for us humans. That is why I love this psalm.

Dominion not dominate

The creation of humans is here is connected to having dominion, though we have to look at the context: Psalm 24, also attributed to David, says, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that fills it.” Creation belongs to God and it is our task to look after it. I wrote more about our relationship with the planet,and why Christians should be involved on the ecological movement in last Monday’s blog post. Having dominion does not mean we should dominate the planet, but that we should care for it as stewards of God’s creation.

< Psalm 7 | Psalm 8 | Psalm 9 >

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