Psalm 8 Reflections on Humility

Psalm 8

 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 honor. 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!

 For David, humility consisted in acknowledging two things.  First, that he, and the rest of mankind, is very small: “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?” (Psalm 8:3-4).  David is, of course, not alone.  We know how gazing upon the stars on a clear night, beholding the handiwork of God in the heavens, can make one feel small.  And so it is.  It is an amazing thing that, in the vast majesty of the created order, that the Lord would care for ones as small, and seemingly insignificant, as we are.  (This is a good reason to be much out of doors, face to face with God’s creation.)  We need to remember this—for one of the common sins of man is to think far too much of ourselves.  We are not as strong as we think we are.

 And yet the Lord does care, which leads to the second point.  We are made gloriously, a little lower than God himself (the Hebrew elohim can here also be rendered “gods” or “heavenly beings”), crowned with glory and honor.  We have been given dominion over the works of his hands.  In other words, we have been crowned with glory and given the charge to extend that glory throughout the world through taking care of world and its creatures.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but we become humble by remembering that we have been crowned with glory, and that we have been given glorious and noble purposes in life.  If we can imagine ourselves wearing a crown—a crown of the Lord’s giving—then we’ll be far more likely to walk into the Lord’s good and noble purposes.  It will keep us from trivialities and endeavors unbecoming one so crowned. 

 We are very small, and astonishingly glorious.  Both are true.  And they must be held together, for they belong together.  One who believes himself insignificant, and not glorious, will fall into self-loathing and despair.  One who believes himself to be glorious, not realizing that he is small, will fall into pride and self-promotion.  True humility lies in knowing that I am both small and glorious.  I can keep myself from despair by remembering that the Lord really does care for me (8:4).  And I can keep from pride by remembering that I am small, and that the glory I have (the gifts, talents, etc) is a gift from God, to be stewarded for His purposes and His glory.  In the end, for both, the true test of humility lies in being able to acclaim, with David, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth” (8:1, 9).