In our social media driven world that gives voice to ‘my’ feelings one question surfaces: ‘Who or what are we?’
Shakespeare’s Hamlet put it this way: What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! (Hamlet, II.ii)
Interestingly Psalm 8 paints a picture of the insignificance yet the greatness of humanity framed by the words: O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Between these bookends, the Psalm explores the meaning of God’s majesty together with the meaning of humanity.
Despite the late Stephen Hawking’s pronouncement that ‘science makes God unnecessary’, from the outset the Bible is clear: In the beginning God created heaven and earth… And Psalm 8 speaks of God’s majestic glory throughout creation: When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; (8:3)
Insignificant? Awakened to the greatness and majesty of God, perhaps as the writer looked up at the night sky and saw the myriad of stars etched against the darkness, he voices his response, speaking of the work of the fingers of God. And as he reflects, we can feel the question exploding in his mind, ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?’ (Ps.8:4)
When we honestly reflect on this weighty evidence, we will be even more amazed that the God who put it all together is interested in us, let alone cares for us. For the question of verse 4 is not a question about human greatness but about how something so small and insignificant in the universe could be raised to greatness.
Indeed, Stephen Hawking raised this question in his A Brief History of Time where he wrote: ‘We are such insignificant creatures on a minor planet of a very average star in the outer suburb of one of a hundred billion galaxies. So it is difficult to believe in a God that could care about us or even notice our existence’.
To which Dr. H. Fritz Schaefer III replies: ‘My response to that statement by Hawking, and to others that have said this over the years, is that that’s a silly thing to say. There isn’t any evidence to date that life exists anywhere else in the universe. Human beings, thus far, appear to be the most advanced species in the universe. Maybe God does care about us! Where Hawking surveys the cosmos and concludes that man’s defining characteristic is obscurity, I consider the same data and conclude that humankind is very special’ (Stephen Hawking, The Big Bang and God).
Dr. Schaefer’s words reflect the words of Psalm 8:5-8 where we read: Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
Greatness. In creating us God has placed us only just under the position of the heavenly beings. His intention from the first was to invest in us a royal sovereignty, crowning us with glory and honor.
Psalm 8 takes us back to Genesis 1:26: Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
These words were God’s words to Adam. But as Genesis 3 tells us, we who are the glory of God’s handiwork became the shame of his creation. Because we have failed to honor him in our lives, we lost the perfect dominion he had given us. But, in God’s mercy that is not the end of the story. Psalm 8 is not just a statement of wonder: it is also prophetic.
As we look back with our New Testament glasses on we see that God has potentially restored our rule or dominion through Jesus Christ – the second Adam. Jesus who was and is, man as man is meant to be, set aside his power and glory, and taking on human form gave up his life, thereby conquering the power of sin and death. Now crowned with glory and honor, Jesus will crown all his followers with the same honor and glory.
CS Lewis commented: ‘There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit-immortal horrors or everlasting splendors’.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com