Man’s Place in Gods Creation
December 11, 2016 / No. 3858
Dear Radio Friends,
How excellent is the name of our God! His glory is set in the heavens. When we consider the universe: the stars, the sun, and the moon. When we consider that they are but the work of God’s fingers; that God merely said a word and they all stood fast, then we stand in awe before Him. When we compare man in his highest state to God, then we can only utter the question: “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” We are so puny and insignificant in the sight of the all-glorious and all-powerful God who reigns over heaven and earth. There is none like Him in majesty and might. He alone is Creator, and man is but a creature of His hands. God rules over all in His majesty, and man, just as every other creature, is governed by His hand. We cannot so much as move without the will of the sovereign God of heaven and earth. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Psalm 8 makes this comparison of man to God and brings us to our knees in humble adoration of His great name.
But in comparing man to God, David also teaches an amazing truth about man: God made man, or created man, a little lower than the angels. This we learn in the passage we consider today in Psalm 8:5-6: “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.” God created man to have dominion over all the works of His hands. This is God’s purpose in creating man: to place man above all other creatures to rule over them. Mind you: God did not create man and then give him the mandate to rule over all creatures. This was true too. God did give man this command. But the psalmist points out that God created man with the capability and the power to rule over all things. God put all things under man’s feet. This is in the very character of a man. This belongs to his creatureliness. As we continue our series of broadcasts on the upright man, we need to understand this about man. He was created by God to be a head—one who rules. There is no doubt that God created man male and female. This too enters into the whole scenario of things. But the headship, as we will find, the right to rule, belongs first of all to the nature of a man. And that is what the subject of our broadcast today is: man’s place in God’s creation.
MAN’S PLACE IN GOD’S CREATION
I. His Dominion
The inspired psalmist makes an astounding statement about man. God has made man a little lower than the angels. Already that truth is amazing! Man is made to stand before God in a chain of authority and importance that is but a little lower than that of the angels. That chain would then be God, angels, and finally man. But what makes this statement all the more astounding is that David literally writes that God has made man a little lower than God. The Hebrew term translated angels in our Bibles is actually the word “Elohim,” which is the Hebrew word for God. “For thou hast made him a little lower than God,” is what we actually read here. That means that the chain of authority and importance would be God, man, and then angels.
Now, it is difficult to interpret what David means by this statement: “God” or “angels.” I say this because the writer to the Hebrews, in Hebrews 2:7, quotes this verse in the Greek and uses the word angels and not God. We read there, “Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands.” Evidently the inspired writer of Hebrews agreed with the Septuagint’s translation of this Hebrew term in the Greek as that of angels. But instead of debating the issue, we ought to understand that David was making a certain point here with this phrase. The position God gave to man is a little lower or a little lesser than the celestial state of God Himself! And, since the angels are those who go in and out of God’s presence, they too belong to the celestial state. God has given to man, however, the power to rule over the earth under Him. The psalmist expresses the truth of our text best in Psalm 115:16: “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.” God has endowed man with such wondrous gifts that man is capable of ruling this present creation! In that sense man is but a little lower than God and His angels. Now, you will have to agree that this is quite the statement that David makes about man. But that is the point David wishes to make.
Furthermore, this is true of man by virtue of man’s creation. God, as we said, endowed man with wondrous, divine gifts that set man in this position of honor. To say that man has evolved from the animals is really a slap in the face of God, but also of man himself. It is demeaning and degrading. Man was created by God a special creature. No animal possessed or ever will possess the gifts God bestowed on man. First of all, from a natural point of view man was created with a mind and a will; with intellect and volition. No animal was created with these gifts. God, as a personal God having a mind and a will, created man to reflect Him in this way. These were divine gifts bestowed on man. He is a thinking, willing creature. From a natural point of view, man is capable of studying, discovering, and developing the laws that govern nature. For that reason, man was created with the ability to use creation in such a way that he can direct it to fulfill what he desires. No animal has, or ever will have, that ability. God gave that to man by virtue of his creation.
It is in the very nature of man, therefore, to take charge of creation: learn of it, and develop it. This was not merely a command God gave man later, after his creation. Neither was it offered to man after God had created man, and man could either take God up on the offer of leave it. God created man, He made man, a little lower than the angels and crowned man with this honor by virtue of man’s creation. Or, as the psalmist states in verse 6 of our text, “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands.” God created man to have dominion over the works of His hands. And the word “dominion” simply means “the rule.” Man was created as ruler or king of this creation. This is why we read also in verse 5 that man was crowned with honor and glory. He was created the king or the head of this world. There is in man an innate ability, which comes with the gifts of intellect and volition, to rule.
This has shown itself to be true too, hasn’t it? Look at what man has accomplished using this creation! He has probed the depths of the laws of nature that control the workings of this creation. When I was a child, man discovered the nucleus of an atom. Now man is probing the very DNA of a man. Man’s technology has made him capable of ruling the world. Man’s study of the human anatomy has led him to discover medicines and perform surgeries that, when I was young, we would have thought impossible. And we can go on and on in a list of man’s achievements. All this is true because God created man in such a way that he is able to rule this creation! Man was created with abilities far beyond any other creature, far beyond any animal on the face of this earth. Man is the crowning achievement of God’s creation, without a doubt. God has put all things under man’s feet.
That too is a striking statement added here to the end of verse 6: God has put all things under man’s feet. That expression comes from the battles that were fought in the Old Testament. The conquering king would show his victory over another nation and king when, after the battle, the conquered king would lie on the ground and the victor would place his feet on his head. This was a sign of subjugation. The victorious king would show that he had subdued his foe. Well, this is true also of man in relation to God’s creation. Man was created to subdue this creation, to subject it to his rule. And man has successfully done this too. There is no creature in this world that has not been subdued under man’s rule and scrutiny. All things, all creatures, are under man’s dominion. Man is head of all things. This is the distinct honor belonging to man. This is what makes man who he is. It is his nature, his makeup. He was created by God to exhibit headship in this world. Now, this does not exclude, of course, the life and labor of the woman. But we must remember that man was created first, and the woman was created out of the rib of man. She was created to be a help for man in his rule. She was created to assist him in the development of this creation. Man was created, however, as a head.
II. His Honor
But there is more to all of this than merely an innate ability to be head, to be king or ruler. David refers to this ability as the glory and honor of a man. Man, the psalmist declares at the end of verse 5, is crowned with glory and honor. We must remember that when God created man He created him a little lower than the angels. This means man was not merely equipped with the natural gifts of intellect and will. But in paradise these gifts were coupled together with the divine attributes belonging to the image of God in man. In other words, what made these natural gifts honorable and glorious is that they were linked together in man with the ethical attributes of God, those of righteousness, holiness, and knowledge of God. And that knowledge of God was not merely that of intellect, but a true knowledge, by which Adam knew God intimately and deeply loved his Creator. He feared the God who had made him. He admired Him and used this creation therefore to serve his Creator. Man was created righteous and therefore with the ability to rule and develop this creation in a way that was in keeping with the sovereign will of his Creator. Man was created holy and therefore totally dedicated and set apart for the service of God’s name. In his dominion and rule of creation man did this heartily in the service of God. Not only did God create man capable of developing this creation, therefore, but also with the greatest desire to develop this creation in the service of God Himself. For this reason, David says of man, “For thou—God—hast made man a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor.” These virtues were the crown of man! They became man’s glory. They were what made him honorable. On the sixth day of the creation week, after all of creation was completed, God called forth man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. He created man a personal being with intellect and a will. But with this creation God created Adam in his glorious image, that is, ethically capable of serving God without sin and with total dedication. As man took his place in this creation, therefore, he became God’s representative as head over all the creatures of God’s hands.
But that kingship over creation man ruined. He lost the honor and glory of his place in creation. Not that he lost what was innately his by virtue of his creation, that is, his ability to rule over the creation. Man did not lose his intellect and will. These were a part of the natural creation of the man. They are what makes a man a man and sets him apart from the animals.
With that intellect and will, man retained the ability to have dominion over all the work of God’s hands. But he lost the image of God, so that, as a result, his rule over creation became corrupt and rebellious. His honor and glory as head of creation now became dishonorable and shameful. His rule over creation became a disgrace to man rather than a crown of glory to him. Why? Because with the fall of man into sin man became proud in his own achievements. He refused to acknowledge God. In fact, fallen man wanted God out of the picture. Today fallen man is willing to develop a theory that in reality disgraces and insults himself all the more. In order to remove God from the picture, man is willing to say that he is nothing more than a brute beast that has developed out of the monkey. This is how foolish man has become in his unbelief and rebellion against God. In his pride he is willing to make a fool of himself. Man continues to develop this creation, since God created him in this way, but he refuses to develop this creation in the service of his Creator. Instead, man takes dominion over creation in the service of himself and his own selfish goals. Man seeks to be his own king independent of his Maker. Therefore fallen man no longer is honorable and glorious.
But this is not true of those who are in Christ, however. To them has been restored the image of God. Those divine virtues of righteousness, holiness, and knowledge have been restored to them. We can say this, of course, because the writer to the Hebrews makes this point in Hebrews 2:6-9. There he takes this passage of Psalm 8 and applies it directly to Christ.
Everything the psalmist writes here in our text the writer to the Hebrews explains as pointing to Christ. Now, we do not have time to consider this passage as it applies directly in every way to Christ. But we refer especially to verse 9 of Hebrews 2. We read in that verse, “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 should taste death for every man.” This makes reference to the humiliation of Christ. He was made a little lower than the angels in order to suffer death for the sins of all mankind. He subjected himself to death in order that by the grace of God He might deliver you and me from the power of sin and death over us.
By doing so, Christ restored the image of God that was lost in the fall and disobedience of Adam, the head of the human race. Those who are in Christ, therefore, develop this creation once again in the service of their Maker. By means of His death, Christ conquered the dominion of sin over us and set us free from its bondage, so that we might be able to serve God in our labors in creation. The glory and honor of our headship, of our kingship over creation, has therefore been restored. And this too has a direct bearing on how the man of God, the believer, will conduct himself as a head in this creation. The believer will serve his Head, that is, God and His Son Jesus Christ. Our intellect and will are not given over to sin and unbelief. Believers are essentially different from the unbelieving men of this world. Wicked man in every sphere of life reveals a hatred of God and His commandments. He is dedicated to serving self. He is selfish and self-seeking. The believer, on the other hand, uses his headship in the service of God, to please his Maker.
III. His Headship
Now, the psalmist speaks of man’s rule over all the creatures of God’s hand, but what does this headship include? Over what is man head? The answer is all inclusive. Man is head over the brute creation to develop it in the service of God. Man is head in society, in his family over his wife and over his children, and in the church. No sphere is exempt from this rule of man. For example, when man fell into sin, God did not lay this charge to Eve’s account. Adam was the head of the human race, and he was to blame for the fall of man into sin. “For as in Adam all died” (I Cor. 15). The man Jesus Christ is head of the church and covenant, and He suffered to deliver His people from sin. The chain of authority in the home, we learn in I Corinthians 11, is this: God, Christ, husband, wife. God created man to have dominion. God holds man responsible for what goes on in his home and family, in the church, and in society at large. We do not say this to be chauvinistic, as the wicked will claim. We say this in order to impress upon believing men what is their responsibility before God! God holds you responsible, men! And you will give answer to God in the day of judgment. Did you exercise your rule over creation, in society, and especially in the home and church, in the service of God’s name? Were you selfish? Were you self-seeking? Were you abusive? Were you lazy and lackadaisical?
The Word of God here in Psalm 8 must incite us as upright men to take seriously our calling to exercise dominion in the service of our God. This will have everything to do with the role and work of the man in the various spheres of his life. But this for future broadcasts.