What Is Man?

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“When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:3-9).

This text is perhaps one of the most powerful poetic expressions of God’s matchless love found in the Bible. Written by David, dubbed the sweet singer of Israel, these verses magnify the truth about God’s care for man. God stooped down to save man from the predicament of sin he had put himself in and from which he could not extricate himself on his own. This is a sharp contrast to a claim by 4th century Greek statesman Alexander the Great who once said that the earth was a little dot in the universe, thus insinuating that man was of no interest to God.

But notice how David amplifies the inferiority of man in contrast to the majestic glory of God, using the Hebrew word “enosh” translated “man.” In most cases where “enosh” appears in the Old Testament, it suggests the frailty and vulnerability of man. Now, David was a shepherd before he became Israel’s greatest king. As such, he could look at the starry heaven in a clear night while out in the field and see there God’s eternal power displayed. His observation of the firmament must have led him to meditate for a moment upon the whole work of creation and moved him to exclaim, “O Lord Our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth.” Yet, as negligible as man is, God placed him over “the works of thy hands” when He created him (cf. Genesis 1:26-28), thus conferring him honour and glory. God elevated him from the insignificance of being “made a little lower than the angels,” to a position of superiority after He “put all things under his feet.”

“What is man ... that thou visitest him?” This part of the psalmist’s rhetorical question concerning God’s concern for man is a prophetic allusion to the coming of Christ into the world. God allowed His Son to leave the security and beauty of heaven for the purpose of paying the penalty for our sins. That happened when Christ died on the cross in excruciating pain, both physically and emotionally. The messianic sacrifice was the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for mankind. Paul said, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ was offered to bear our sins (Hebrews 9:28). In the process, He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). Brethren, whenever you feel the weight of self-pity crashing down on you because of the burden that comes with Christian living, remember that God has an interest in us and has done so much to save us.

Constant Coulibaly

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