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Psalm 8

Such wisdom, power and love!

Cynics have long sneered at God’s having made humans the pinnacle of so fantastic a creation. But as reasonable as such cynicism may seem, scripture from the first insisted on a better, counterintuitive story.

 A David psalm.

1 Yahveh, our Lord
how majestic you’ve shown yourself to be
in all the earth!

Your glory outshines suns
and stars beyond counting!
2 Yet you’ve chosen little kids—
mere babes at the breast—
to champion your cause
and silence your bitterest foes.[1]
3 When I look up at the glittering night sky
it’s your handiwork I see—
the moon and stars you made.
4 So who on earth are we, mere humans
that you care for us?
Why give us mortals[2] a second thought? 

5 Yet you made us
the very pinnacle of your creation
with only you[3] above.
And you crowned us with glory and honor—
6 lords of the earth—
putting everything under our feet:
7 sheep and cattle on the hillside
wolves and lions in the wild
8 every bird that flies the skies above
every fish that swims the seven seas. 

9 Yahveh, our Lord
how majestic you’ve shown yourself to be
in all the earth!

David begins by praising Yahveh, whose royal majesty is evident throughout his creation and whose glory surpasses that of the starry sky above. Though the previous six psalms are crawling with God’s enemies, Yahveh is so powerful he silences his bitterest foes with just a children’s chorus.

The poem’s structure makes its central point unmistakably clear, even though it’s only implied. In the Hebrew text, David asks two virtually synonymous questions that bring the poem to a dramatic standstill against the movement on either side of them. Nothing explains God’s having put miniscule humans at the center of his mind-blowing universe except his unfathomable, unstoppable love.

David alludes to Genesis 1-2, where God creates Adam and Eve to reflect his glory and appoints them to rule and care for his creation under him. What would keep a God so wise and powerful from washing his hands of them when they later rebelled? What would make him continue to lavish his care on them? Again, only his love, which was a radical idea in the ancient world, where the fickle gods were believed to care nothing for their puny mortal subjects.

All this prompts David to end as he began, praising God for his incomparable majesty, so evident in his wise ordering of creation.

Your wisdom, power and love are amazing, Lord. You have little kids silence your foes! Give me simple, childlike faith to believe your love is unstoppable. Fill me with that love, and fit me to rule as your faithful servant over the part of the world you’ve put under my care, I pray. Amen.

In your free moments today, pray these words:

Yahveh, our Lord
how majestic you’ve shown yourself to be
in all the earth!


[1] Literally, “Out of the mouth of children and nursing infants you’ve built a stronghold because of your enemies…” This may seem odd in the middle of a creation psalm, but a post-creation fortress was usual in ancient Middle Eastern creation myths. After subduing the forces of chaos in creation, the god built a stronghold to keep them at bay. What is unheard-of is a god’s making little kids his champion defenders.

[2] Literally, “son of man.”

[3] While the word elohim can refer to God, gods or angels, the first choice is right because the psalmist is looking back at the creation account, with God alone standing above Adam and Eve.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.