Crowned with Glory and Honor

January 14, 2024 Speaker: Ben Janssen Series: Humanity: Made in the Image of God

Scripture: Psalm 8:1–9

1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Let’s take a trip to see some of the wonders of the world. Would you rather go to the Grand Canyon or the Great Pyramid? Would you prefer to see the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro or, if you could, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Which would be more interesting? A visit to Mount Everest or to Machu Pichu?

Over the years several lists have been put together of the great wonders of the world. Some of them are “natural” wonders, like the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest or the Northern Lights. But many of the things—most in fact—that appear on these lists are man-made wonders, like the Great Pyramids or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or the Great Wall of China.

This week and the next three weeks, we want to do a short series on what the Bible says about humanity, about us human beings. Why talk about us? Aren’t we supposed to be centered on God? Yes, but to affirm the latter is not to deny the former. In fact, if we ignore God’s special purpose for human beings, we will not be as God-centered as we are supposed to be. If we make the false dichotomy that what God does, man must have nothing to do with it, or what man does, God must have had nothing to do with it, then we will end up misunderstanding the point of all of scripture.

Let’s begin here., One of Christianity’s greatest claims is that God became truly human in Jesus. One of the most neglected claims of Christianity these days is that God did this so that in Jesus we might become truly human as well.

We might see this best in Psalm 8, where we are encouraged to see God’s majesty in creation, man’s authority over creation, and Christ’s salvation of creation.

The Majesty of God

First, notice here the majesty of God. Psalm 8 begins and ends with the same words: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. The word majestic expresses the psalmists’ conviction that everywhere he looks, everything he sees, everything that captures his attention and evokes his awe and admiration, leads him to worship the Creator God who is to be rightly credited for it all. This psalm, from beginning to end, is about the majesty of God.

The Creator God

Do you see the majesty of God? This psalm makes plain that the majesty of God is on display for all to see simply by looking at the world that God has made. Are you impressed by the things God has made, the world in which we live our lives? Does the creation lead you to worship God and his majesty?

The Bible scoffs at the atheist who has no problem being impressed by the world he observes but denies that there is a Creator responsible for it all. The Bible even claims that the atheist has suppressed the truth that something about God can be seen “in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). It’s no use arguing here that the atheist is not being honest about what he knows must be true. Trying to convince someone that “way down deep” they actually know they aren’t telling the truth is not what ought to concern us.

What is much more frustrating is that we theists tend to see God only when science seems stumped at the moment. We are quick to say that what cannot be explained is due to the “supernatural,” leaving God in that mirky category and leaving him out of those things that have a “natural” explanation.

This is a serious mistake, because it tends to advance the perception that the entire Christian faith is to be left in the category of religion which needs to be separated from the category of science. We need to recover and insist on our confession that we “believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The Creator God and his majesty are meant to be seen not when we have run out of explanations for some phenomena but precisely when things begin to “make sense.” The majesty of God is there for us to see, not hiding behind realities we can’t see. The Christian, of all people, must not get bored with the world God has made. It is there to proclaim to us his majesty.

The Pagan Option

If we do not see through the universe to the Creator who stands behind it all, the only other option left to us is not the atheist’s perspective but the pagan’s perspective.

In the pagan world, the creation itself was worshipped as God. The material world, so mysterious but obviously wonderful, was believed to be filled with power and significance.[1] The one thing you could not do, at least not for long, was ignore the natural world. That is still true today. We have our houses and our furnaces to keep them warm, but the arctic blast outside right now has captivated our attention, hasn’t it?

So, if you do not see the majesty of the Creator God in the natural phenomena that affects us every day, then the natural phenomena itself—impossible to be ignored forever, bringing awe and wonder to all of us—will become the object of our worship.

When it comes to the natural world, the biblical perspective is what stands out against every other perspective. All of us cannot help but see the majesty, the awesomeness, of the creation. But you know what is even more amazing? The fact that, as the psalmist says in verse 4, the wonders of the world are simply the result of what the Creator God can do simply with his fingers.[2] So majestic is the God who makes with his fingers the majestic creation, verse 2 intimates, he can fend off the strongest display of human power with the collective might of infants! Go ahead and shoot your rockets and missiles; God can silence them with the power of what comes out of a baby’s mouth.

The Creation Project

But this psalm is not written as a celebration of God’s triumph over his enemies. It is written as a celebration of God’s majesty seen in creation, and indeed, in his intentions for his creation.

One can easily see that Psalm 8 is related to the very first chapter in the Bible. Anyone reading either of those parts of Scripture is clearly meant to walk away from it not just with an awe of God, but rather an awe of God because of the world that he made. The thing about this creation, however, is that it is not static. God finishes his work by the end of Day 6, but no one can get the sense that that is that and that there is no more work to be done. No; rather, creation is a project that is intended to go somewhere.[3]

How will it get where it is supposed to go? The psalm tells us that, too.

The Authority of Man

What is Psalm 8 about? It is about the majesty of God, no doubt. You see that in the first verse and the last verse. But in between you will notice that this psalm is just as much “about” human beings as it is about God. And what it has to say about human beings is quite positive, isn’t it? Psalm 8 is not only about the majesty of God, it is also about the authority of man, of human beings.

The Smallness of Human Beings

It would obviously be a misreading of the psalm if we somehow come away from it more impressed with human beings than we are with God, whose glory is established over and above the heavens. Nevertheless, the psalmist evidently does not see the glorious authority of human beings, who have been “crowned with glory and honor” he says in verse 5, as a threat to the majesty of God. By God’s own design, the two go together. Get this: the majesty of God is meant to be seen all the more in the authority he has given to his human creatures.

To be sure, at first glance human beings are not that impressive. When you compare the human being to God’s finger work—like, for example, the moon and the stars!—it can only leave us feeling quite small and insignificant. What can you do, what can you make, that can compare to what God can do with just his fingers? Show us the greatest ingenuity and might of human beings and it will be dwarfed every single time by what God can do, as it were, with his pinky.

Many of us city dwellers would probably do ourselves a lot of good to get back out into nature and feel small again. Get away from the lights and the pollution and just sit there in the darkness of some remote place and stare up into the heavens and get lost in the vastness of the universe we can see; let it lead us to feel even smaller as we contemplate the vastness of the universe that we can’t see. Or, perhaps we need to go on a hike up some majestic mountain and feel so tiny as we gaze out over the enormous space below. There is something wonderfully necessary about getting ourselves humbled by the enormous boundaries of creation and the little space we take up in it.

We might get the same effect by considering the little space we take up in history. Read about some ancient civilization or empire and reflect on the fact that we are here only after so many have come and gone before us. Walk through a cemetery every now and then and remember that we will all soon find ourselves among the realm of the departed. I’m not trying to be unnecessarily morbid. But, as the psalmist prays in Psalm 39:4, it would actually be an answer to prayer for us to know our end, to consider that we have a limited number of days, to live with the awareness of “how fleeting I am!”

A Little Less than God

But the whole point of this exercise is not to end there. That’s just the starting place. For the psalmist is led from there to ask the question, “Why, then, does God seem to care so much about us?”

Many, of course, ask the opposite question: “Why doesn’t God seem to be mindful of us?” There is a reality many experience, that sense of feeling worthless and wondering if God cares. But that sense of affliction does not come from what the Bible says about us. There can be no doubt that God cares for us.

How can we be so sure that the Creator God is “mindful” of us and that he “cares” about us? Because, the psalmist says in verse 5, human beings have been created “a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned with glory and honor.” He is reflecting, remember, on Genesis 1, where he is told of man’s extraordinary creation.

Humans, he remembers from that story, are made just a little less than God. That’s what the Hebrew actually says, though the Greek translation of the Hebrew text says a little less than “angels,” evidently being a bit shy of saying something so extravagant about humans.[4] But the Hebrew is undoubtedly correct, reflecting what the Genesis account says is so unique about human beings in God’s creation. Human beings, the Bible makes plain, are second in all reality only to God himself, and are first in all created reality. We are as much like God as it is possible for a creature to be.

From the perspective of God, there remains an infinite distance between him and us. But, seen from a different perspective, maybe from that of a chimpanzee, we are closer to God than we are to them. Compare us to God and the distance is so far. Compare us to the rest of God’s creation, and we are much more like God than anything else.

The Meaning of the Image

Though the psalmist does not use these exact words, he is undoubtedly referring to the fact that in the creation account we are told that we human beings are made in the image of God. Nothing else in all creation has that characteristic. And it’s a big deal. A really big deal. Again consider: you and I, simply by the fact that we are human beings, are as much like God as it is possible for a creature to be.

But what exactly does it mean to be made in the image of God. Bible scholars have argued about this quite a bit, but the Bible does not tell us exactly. It is simply enough to say that we human beings were created to be like God and to represent God to the rest of creation. If we want to know more, then what we have to do is know more about God, who he is and what he does, so that we can know who we are meant to be and what we are supposed to do.[5]

But here in Psalm 8, the focus is on the fact that, as God’s image bearers, he has given to us the authority to rule over all of his created order. To us has been given the function of dominion over the works of God’s hands (vv. 6-8). It is because we are human beings, made in the image of God, that we are given the remarkable privilege of ruling and reigning over God’s creation.

God has “put all things under” our feet, verse 6 says, and this remarkable authority in no way is meant to jeopardize the majesty of God. In fact, it is meant to enhance it.

The Salvation of Christ

And that’s how Psalm 8 ends. God is majestic: just look and marvel at his creation. And human beings have been given the enormous privilege of ruling over it all.

So, everyone lived happily ever after, right?

The Bible of course tells us a lot about the rest of the story, and the fact that the rule of humanity over God’s creation, meant to be beneficial, seems to have gone sideways. There’s more to the story of God’s world than the seemingly blissful ignorance with which one might read this psalm.

But the Bible itself tells us that we need to read this very same psalm from a different perspective. Just like Psalm 8 is a reflection on Genesis 1-2, so Hebrews 2 is a reflection on Psalm 8. And this passage urges us to read Psalm 8 now from the perspective of the salvation of Christ, the achievement of Jesus in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

Such a Great Salvation

We must not talk about Jesus and salvation in different terms, setting aside the story of God and his world and the authority we human beings are meant to exercise in it. This is the story in which the salvation of Christ is meant to be understood.

Hebrews 2 begins this way: “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb 2:1). In verse 3, he asks, “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” Clearly, the author thinks that what he is talking about is critically important, and as he begins to expound this story of such a great salvation, he turns to Psalm 8 for his text.

The story of salvation, then, is the story of how the Creator God has acted to save his creation and to restore the rightful, beneficial reign of his image bearers over that creation. Is that how we tell the story of salvation? Is that the good news the world hears us telling?

The World to Come

In verse 5, the author of Hebrews begins to make use of Psalm 8. “It was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking” (Heb 2:5). This “great salvation” is all about “the world to come” in which, as Psalm 8 says, God has put everything in his creation under the control of his human beings.

But in this “world to come” we are not to imagine a different world altogether, but the world that now is, only as it was always meant to be. God’s original intention for his creation and human authority over it still stands.

In verse 8, we read that “at present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” Well, for sure. Pollsters like to ask the opinion of American voters on how the current president is doing. What score do you give him? What is his favorability score?

Well, what would be the favorability score we would give us as human beings? How are we doing running the world? Remember, it is a collective score, not just the score you might like to give yourself. Some will be more optimistic than others, but no one is going to give humanity a perfect score. Again, “at present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” It seems there is still a “world to come.” We aren’t there yet.

But we must be looking for as we look for this promised world to come is not just the world itself put right again; we must look for his human agents, his image bearers, to be put right again. That will give us our first glimpse of the new world.

First Glimpse of the New World

So, while “at present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to” human beings, verse 9 goes on to say, in bold relief, “But we see him . . . namely Jesus.” We should feel the sense of excitement here. The one who, like us, “was made lower than the angels,” or lower than God himself as the Hebrew of Psalm 8 says, the one who “emptied himself” when he took on our humanity, the one who was “made like his brothers in every respect,” as Hebrews 2:17 says, we see him. And since we see him, we have caught our first glimpse of the new world that is coming.

What the author of Hebrews is at pains to get us to see is that Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, really did become one of us. He was fully human. In fact, he was more human than you or I have ever been.

You see, what verse 9 is saying, is that Jesus was made “lower than the angels,” a little less than God, “for a little while.” But he has now “become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Heb 1:4). He is “crowned with glory and honor” the way God intends for us human beings to be. He has already taken his place over all creation as a human being. This is the great Christian hope, the change in reality that came upon the world in the person of Jesus.

This is why the whole argument of Christianity is centered on Jesus of Nazareth. All our hope is in him. All hope, yes. But the specific hope I want us to focus on in the next three weeks is the hope of becoming in him and through him the human beings we were always meant to be.

It's a hope that awaits us in the future, yes. But because Jesus has already entered into that future on our behalf, it is a hope that can begin to appear in all sorts of places now, in the present.

The reason we must be excited about Jesus, and the reason we seek to commend Jesus to everyone, is because it is in Jesus that we can begin to be transformed ourselves. And when we are transformed, we can begin to see transformation break out in the places we are called to be.


[1] Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner, The Book of Psalms, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, ed. Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 123.

[2] Ibid.

[3] N. T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters New York: HarperOne, 2010), 74.

[4] Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, ed. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard, Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Books, 1983), 108.

[5] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2020), 568.

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