What is Man?

One of the recurring themes in news items that cross the wire involves man’s latest achievements. Whether it is space exploration, potential medical breakthroughs, or new world records, reporters find an easy topic and a ready readership in citing man’s various achievements. In this, they are not alone. We must surely admit that preparing a resume filled with accomplishments brings far more joy than confessing our failures. However, our eagerness to do the first combined with our grudgingness to do the latter exposes an all too common flaw: we do not really like to see ourselves as we truly are.

When David penned the eighth psalm, he contemplated man’s accomplishments and place in comparison to God’s. David saw the power of God and the weakness of man. He saw the glory of the created universe and the flawed character of man. He recognized that man’s reign over the things in the world was God’s design and God’s gift rather than some amazing achievement. He saw man as weak and needy yet given authority and purpose, capturing all these thoughts in the simple question, “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” (Psa. 8:4). It is a huge question in many ways, filled with theological and doctrinal nuances. Yet, in other ways, the basic foundation of the question remains straightforward because it expresses an attitude and character not often adopted by mankind. God is mindful of mankind. The Almighty chose to consider us, contemplate our situation, and care about our fate. Yahweh did not only meditate briefly upon our circumstances but stepped in to care for us as well. This is the substance of David’s reflection a thousand years before Jesus went to the cross for all mankind.

However, there is still another element to David’s poem that deserves our consideration. It is grand in scope and deep in depth, but it also maintains a personal element of wonder that we can fail to appreciate. The question David asked does indeed pertain to all mankind, but it also deserves attention on a far more personal level. After all, if we might restate the query: What is brother Rhodes that the Lord is mindful of him, and Kevin that God takes care of him? While the scriptures were penned centuries ago, the applications deserve to be personal. Very personal. It might be easy to see how mankind does not deserve all that God has done, but it is important for each one of us to appreciate that we do not deserve it ourselves. And yet our God has provided for us, cared for us, and given His only begotten Son for us (Jn. 3:16). Therefore, let us all say with David, “O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (Psa. 8:9).

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