As I observe Psalm 8, three introductory observations leap off the page. First, it is a psalm of David, written under the Holy Spirit's direction. These are not merely the idle reflections of a creative artist. He was given this song as a gift from God to humanity. These are the words of God.
Second, I note the superscription "on the Gittith." The etymology of this Hebrew term is a subject of debate among scholars. Many believe Gittith is derived from Gath, the ancient Philistine city and hometown of David's most famous enemy, Goliath. The giant he slew hailed from Gath (1 Samuel 17:4, 23). The term could refer to the musical style associated with that culture or a musical instrument commonly used in Gath. Regardless, the expression "on the Gittith" or "according to the Gittith" appears above two other psalms of celebration (Psalms 81 and 84). The Scriptures tell us that after David's victory over Goliath the people of Israel sang and danced as they celebrated the triumph (1 Samuel 18:6–7).
I suggest—and it is only a suggestion—that this psalm was composed by David as a hymn of praise in honour of God who gave David that epochal triumph over Goliath of Gath. As you read the Eighth Psalm, you'll see that it seems to fit that historical backdrop. This is a song of celebration, so if you have a giant to slay—in this case, a personal giant of feeling insignificant—take heart! This song is for you.
My third observation is that Psalm 8 begins and ends with identical statements: "O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth." This repeated praise offers three implications worth noting:
1. The psalmist speaks on behalf of the people of God, not just himself, hence our instead of my. This tells us he represents a group of people as he composes this song of victory
2. The name of YHWH is identified with majestic, which derives from the Hebrew word adar, meaning "wide, great, high, noble." David pictures our Lord as One who is gloriously magnificent, absolutely majestic!
3. The Lord's works and attributes are not limited to Israel or to the Land of Canaan. They are universal in scope. The Lord God is no national or tribal deity secluded from all else
The Passage and Its Pattern
Because seven and a half verses of Psalm 8 fall between repetitions of the same statement, we should understand that the twice-repeated statement is the central theme of the psalm. David worships the living Lord as the majestic and glorious Lord of all. In fact, an outline of the song could resemble a public worship service all of us have attended:
I. Doxology (v. 1a)
II. Worship (vv. 1b–8)
A. Praise (vv. 1b–2)
B. Message (vv. 3–8)
1. Man's Insignificance: "What is man?"
2. God's Grace: "You crown him."
III. Benediction (v. 9)
We'll follow this outline as we examine David's song of celebration, beginning with the doxology:
O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth. (v. 1)
This first word in the Hebrew text embodies the transcendent majesty and glory of God. While most Bibles render the first word as "LORD," it is actually His Hebrew name, represented by the four capital letters YHWH. Because this name was—and still is—so holy to the Hebrews, they never spoke the name audibly. Consequently, no one knows the correct pronunciation! Gentiles typically defer to Yahweh. The second "Lord" is the Hebrew word adonai, which is a title of respect in recognition of authority or sovereignty. The Jews typically pronounce the word adonai when reading Scripture out loud and encounter the Lord's Hebrew name, YHWH. The word translated "majestic" is a superlative, meaning "mightier than everything else."
By combining these three terms, David celebrates the supreme power of God over everything. He declares from the beginning that God has no rival. He is subject to no other power and He reigns supreme.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.