What is mankind? Psalm 8

What is mankind? In the cosmic scheme of things, just where do human beings fit in? Astronomers estimate that there are between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies in the universe. They estimate there may be as many as one million million million million stars in the universe – that is ten raised to the power of 24 for people who count things that way. That is big. Very big. The diameter of the universe is believed to be 93 billion light years across. That is 500 thousand million million million miles. That is also big. Very big.
In a universe which is so very, very big, what is mankind that you are mindful of us?
THE GREATNESS OF GOD
Psalm 8 1 LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
God is the Creator and the Ruler of all. The glory and majesty of God filling the whole earth is a theme running through many of the Psalms. We will come back to it a number of times in future sermons so today let us instead recall Moses’s song of praise in Exodus 15 after the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea on dry land.
11 “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD?
Who is like you — majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
12 ‘You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies.
13 In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
14 The nations will hear and tremble;
In comparison to God, this world and its nations and the people on it are miniscule. God is indeed majestic in holiness and awesome in glory!
LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
In particular the greatness and glory of God can be seen in all He has created.
You have set your glory in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
The greatness of God revealed in Creation is so obvious that even babies and children praise God! When the crowds were praising Jesus in the Temple, and his opponents criticised them, Jesus quoted Psalm 8 verse 2.
Matthew 21 14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
“ ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”
God’s greatness and glory are so evident in Creation that even babies and infants will praise Him. The truth is that children are more likely to see God in all He has created than adults are. We can become so blasé about the wonders of Creation and indeed of Salvation.
Jesus said in Matthew 11 25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
Even babies and children praise God for his glory revealed in Creation. I like the Message version of verse 2
Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.
The glories of the universe should prompt every one of us to praise God.
Psalm 8:1 You have set your glory in the heavens. ….
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
Once in a while it does us all good just to stop for a while and consider the works of God in the heavens and remember that He created them all!
Genesis 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
The heavens declare the glory of God! It is a quarter of a million miles from the earth to the moon. That’s 20 times the distance from here to Australia. It is 93 million miles from the earth to the sun. The diameter of the sun is more than 100 times the diameter of the earth and has a mass around a third of a million times the mass of the earth. That’s big! And God is so much bigger. Talking about the stars, the Bible calls God the father of the heavenly lights. The Sun and the Moon and the Stars reveal just how great God is. It does us all good to reflect and recognise just how great God is! And when we see how great God is, we will be humbled when we stop to think about our place in all of this.
WHAT IS MANKIND?
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Job 7:17 asks the same question. “What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention?
Just what is the place of human beings in this vast universe? In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams created the Total Perspective Vortex. The Total Perspective Vortex is so mind bogglingly terrifying it even gets Capital Letters. It is a small, featureless steel box, barely big enough for one man to stand in. The hopeless victims stand in the Vortex, and are suddenly shown, for the merest instant, the whole of the Universe: the whole infinity of creation, spanning over several trillion light years, and countless millennia, with an insignificant dot saying “You Are Here”. The victims, totally demoralised by their experience, fall dead. The truth is that if any of us were able to glimpse even for one instant the vastness of the universe and the greater glory of the transcendent God who created it all, we would recognise how small and insignificant human beings are in it all. God is so great – we are so small! When we think that each of us is just one among 7 billion 626 million people alive in the world today, then the words of the Psalm writer are even more striking.
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Again I like the way the Message puts this question.
I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your hand-made sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?
Psalm 8 humbles us by pointing to the glory and greatness and majesty of the God who Created and Sustains the whole universe. But then it lifts us up again by pointing to the place of human beings in God’s creation.
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
God is so great! But human beings are not the insignificant specks in the universe which the Total Perspective Vortex would lead us to believe. Because God IS mindful of Mankind. God DOES care for Human Beings. We have been crowned with glory and honour, because we were made in the Image of God as the crown of His creation.
Genesis 1 26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
What is mankind? God cares for human beings because we are created in His image, in His likeness. Supremely this means that we are created as spiritual beings capable of entering a relationship with our Creator God. And God gave mankind the responsibility of ruling over God’s Creation as His representatives, taking care of Creation. Adam and Eve gave every creature its name and every living creature was put under humanity’s care. So God DOES care for us human beings. He IS mindful of every single one of us, all 7 billion 626 million of us all at the same time – and by the way the population of the earth has gone up by around 600 people in the four minutes since I last mentioned that number. God cares for us because He created us.
But like many Psalms, Psalm 8 is looking beyond the present world. It is also a prophecy concerning God’s Messiah, his anointed one, the Son of God who would fulfil so many promises. So it speaks to us also of
THE SUPREMACY OF CHRIST
In particular, Hebrews 2 takes the words of Psalm 8 written about mankind in general and applies them specifically to Jesus. Psalm 8 talks about “the son of man” referring to human beings in general. Hebrews reads that as “the son of man”, the specific title which Jesus applied to Himself 81 times in the Gospels.
Hebrews 2 5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:
“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
7You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor 8and put everything under his feet.”
In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor …
So Hebrews takes the second half of Psalm 8 to be a prophecy about Jesus, not “sons of men” in general but The Son of Man in particular. And other parts of the New Testament echo that sense of the supremacy of Christ. God has place all things under his feet.
Ephesians 1:20 (God raised Christ) from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Following His death and his glorious resurrection, God has placed all things under the feet of Christ. That declaration that God has placed everything under Jesus’s feet is a direct quote from Psalm 8. The same idea can be found in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 and it is spelled out in
Colossians 1 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Jesus Christ is supreme because of who He is, Son of God. Jesus is Supreme because of what He has done as the agent of Creation and because of what He continues to do as Sustainer of the universe. And Jesus is supreme because of what He has accomplished through his death and resurrection, reconciling the universe to God. All things are placed under His feet.
So, in the cosmic scheme of things, what is mankind? What are human beings? In such a vast universe created by an infinitely greater and more glorious God, human beings might seem to be tiny and insignificant. But because we are the crown of creation, all created in the image of God, each one of us is of immense value to Him. But more than that, we are so precious that Jesus sacrificed Himself to save and redeem us. What is mankind? What are human beings? We have been redeemed through the blood of Christ who is supreme over all things. That is how much God loves us. We are infinitely precious to God!

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