Psalm 8 – Humankind: puny yet majestic
Human beings occupy an interesting place in the universal scale of size. We sit somewhere in the middle of the range of organisms we can see with our own eyes – smaller than trees, whales and elephants; bigger than daisies, goldfish and mice. More significantly, though, the advances of science in the last century or so have shown that we sit somewhere in the middle of the overall scale of size of objects in the universe. We are unbelievably large compared to subatomic particles and inconceivably small when measured against the galaxies. We sit like a race of Gullivers with amazing ability to measure and observe both the universe that dwarfs us and the miniscule world to which we are giants. More puzzling, though, we sit here and wonder what our own significance is. We are the only creature on planet earth that asks questions like “What is a human being?” and “Why are we here anyway?” Other organisms seem to just get on with being what they are, while we expend huge energy trying to figure out what we are, find meaning beyond the physical stuff that comprises our bodies and make ourselves what we aren’t.
Psalm 8 describes one of those moments of human pondering as David looks at the splendour of the moon and stars and realises his own smallness. Yet he is also conscious as he communes with God that human beings, although seemingly insignificant, have a special place in God’s purposes. He knew this because he had the books of Moses including Genesis chapters 1 and 2, which describe creation and which resonate through this psalm. David lived within a grand story that stretched back to creation and forward to a future he could only hazily perceive. The biblical story casts human beings in a different light than could be discerned from science alone. Scientific studies certainly reveal us to be special, a curiosity in terms of our intellectual and creative capabilities, but they cannot tell us the significance of that uniqueness. They are powerless to answer the ‘why’ question. Scripture, however, tells us that we are special because God intended us for a special purpose, to have dominion over everything else he created. We are glorious because we are created just a little lower than the heavenly beings in order to be God’s image, His representation of Himself to His world. Of course we are no longer fulfilling that purpose as we were designed to – we are fallen in sin and need our humanity restored to its original dignity. The writer of Hebrews, in chapter 2 of his book, explains how that has been achieved by Jesus, who became human in order to restore us by dealing decisively with sin. That, however, is another story, or rather another movement in God’s great story.
So, when you look at another human being, pause and take a moment to remember their God given dignity. Whatever flaws you see in them (and they will see many in you too), remember that they were created by God as part of this amazing species of ours. Collectively we demonstrate God’s wisdom, glory and goodness. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are the crowning glory of creation. As you see that reality in the lives of others, remember that you too have significance in God’s purposes. Call out to Him in praise, as David did, and then ask where your life fits within His great story. God is at work in His world, creating a new humanity in which the image of His Son, the perfect human being, is being recreated by the action of the Spirit. Yield to the Spirit and let Him change you, empower you and lead you on. Pray too that you might make Jesus known to those who don’t see Him yet. May they awake from the slumber of the delusion that they are merely insignificant specks in an unfathomable universe or the equally powerful delusion that they are giants who can forge their own destiny. May they too come to find in Jesus the true purpose of humanity, to know, serve and glorify God forever.