SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
March 5, 2006
Made in His Image, Each of Us is Very Special to God
Key Verse: What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. – Psalm 8:4-5
There are basically two ways to interpret this familiar psalm. One way is that used by our fine lesson writer in the quarterly. He assumes that the writer, presumably David, makes no reference to Christ. His observations, then, have to do only with people or “human beings.”
The other approach to the psalm is to include Christ in our search for the true meaning of these beautiful verses. Interestingly, this is the approach used by the writer of Hebrews. Verses 5-9 of Chapter 2 offer this interpretation:
For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. But one testified in a certain place [Psalm 8], saying:
“What is man that You are mindful of him,
Or the son of man that You take care of him?
You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”
For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.
This approach does not violate the integrity of the Scriptures but can broaden our understanding of our God-given role in the scheme of things. Let us use this latter approach to examine Psalm 8 together.
Picture David tending the sheep. He has them bedded down for the night. Stretched out on his bedroll, on his back he gazes into the night sky. He is awed by the glorious canopy of stars. The scene is overwhelming. Its beauty is breathtaking, expressing the glory of the Lord God Jehovah. He cries out, “0 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
David begins to reflect on the littleness of human beings in comparison to the vast universe. The moon and the stars are but a moment’s work for God, done merely with his fingers in the twinkling of an eye. So the obvious question for David is, “What is man?” or “Why would such a great God care about human beings?”
At this point we should pause and pay due attention to the little word “yet.” It is used significantly in several biblical passages. Look it up sometime to see what I mean. In this instance David uses the word to transition to a great thought – how God has honored human beings.
Observe that David has been focused on our littleness in this majestic universe. From time to time we all struggle with our insignificance. Sometimes we allow despair to take over. That happened last weekend to a woman who is the best friend of my secretary.
Thinking that she was of no value to anyone, she attempted suicide, but called her friend, my secretary, when she was near death from an overdose of drugs. Her friend immediately called the police who reached her in the nick of time. Her dad called my secretary to thank her for calling 911. He said, “She would have been dead within an hour if you had not called.”
Her despair could have been overcome by believing David’s “yet.” Despite our littleness, the God who created us has crowned us with “glory and honor.” He expects great things of us. He has created us to live like kings and exercise dominion over “the works” of His hands.
Think not that you are an insignificant nobody; realize that you are somebody greatly valued by the God and Father of the universe. God, David says, has dignified us with unbelievable expectations, so much so that instead of killing ourselves we should get busy fulfilling His destiny for us!
As we reflect on verse 5, we may want to “revise” the Revised Version slightly. The phrase, “a little lower than God,” may be easier to understand as translated in the New King James version: “a little lower than the angels.” Does this violate the original language? Apparently not. Either of the above translations is acceptable, depending upon the commentator you prefer.
The Hebrew word translated “angels” by some, and “God” by others is elohim, one of the Old Testament names of God. Most scholars agree that David’s meaning is well expressed by the phrase used by some translators: “a little lower than the heavenly beings.” That seems to me to be more understandable than either “God” or “angels.” His point obviously is that man is made in the image of God.
Christ comes into the picture when we admit that what David says about human beings is not fully true of us but perfectly true of Christ. The fact is that “all things” are not presently under our feet. Sin ruined our image. Sin robbed us of God’s glory. We are not yet the ruler of creation with everything under our feet. We all shared in Adam’s fall.
By faith, however, we can share his victory over death and his exaltation as the King over all things. This is what Paul says in Ephesians 1:19-22 – that God’s great power has exalted Jesus and “put everything under his feet.” By grace we are “raised up” or restored so that we can “sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Thus we share the dominion of Christ but only when by faith we have been saved by grace!
Some cynic may say, “But all things are not yet under the feet of Christ.” That is true, but only because some of Christ’s enemies have not yet surrendered to his authority. Eventually, when all the dust settles, all things will be under his feet for God has given his resurrected Son all authority in heaven and on earth.
Be not deceived. Whatever “glory and honor” we have comes only through our union with Christ for it is He who has been truly crowned by God with glory and honor. As redeemed sinners, made new by the grace of God, we are called to “reign in life” as Paul says in Romans 5:17, but we do that only “through” Jesus Christ, the reigning King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
God has honored us with privilege of being made in his image and called to exercise good stewardship (dominion) over the earth. This fact should not lead us to pride but to gratitude so that we find ourselves not adjusting our halos but rejoicing in the glory and honor with which God crowned our Savior. Made in God’s image, we are each very special to God. Just remember that He calls his special children to service, not to privilege.
We should never forget that God calls us more to servanthood than to Lordship. As his faithful servants, we can use carefully “the works of his hands” for his glory and the good of others and ourselves. In this spirit, we can exclaim with new meaning David’s words: “0 Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth”!
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