You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honor
I. THE DESTINY FOR WHICH MAN WAS CREATED. In certain aspects of his being man seems to be an insignificant creature, and to occupy a comparatively mean position in the universe. The psalmist, who is quoted in the text, refers to this: "When I consider thy heavens,... what is man?" etc. The word translated "man" denotes the weakness and frailty of our nature; and the words translated "son of man" point to man as "formed of the dust of the ground." Yet there are aspects in which man is great; and the destiny for which God created him is a glorious one. That destiny is briefly indicated in this quotation from Psalm 8:8. It consists in:
1. A high place in the Divine regard. As evidence of this we have a twofold fact.
(1) God graciously thinks of man. "Thou art mindful of him;" "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil." God's care of man, which is manifested in the provision which he has made for him, witnesses to his thought of him. What significance it gives to our life when we reflect that the Infinite thinks upon us and cares for us! How the fact tends to exalt our nature! What a consolation and inspiration it should be to us! "I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me."
(2) God graciously visits man. "Thou visitest him." The word used indicates a kindly visitation, as of "a physician visiting the sick." His visitation preserveth our spirits. His visits bring light and refreshment and joy. "His going forth is prepared as the morning, and he shall come unto us as the rain," etc. His visits are redemptive. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people."
2. An exalted rank in creation. "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels." We have already called attention to the distinguished rank of angels in the universe, Man is only a little lower than they. "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him." Man's nature is intellectual He can reason, reflect, etc. It is spiritual. The body is the vesture of that which comes from God and returns to him. "There is a spirit in man," etc. It is moral. He can understand and feel the heinousness of the morally wrong, the majesty of the morally right. Conscience speaks within him. It is religious. He can love, admire, and adore. It is capable of endless progress. If man attains unto his Divine destiny he will for ever have to say, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." Truly, "Thou madest him a little lower than the angels;" "a little less than Divine."
3. A position of kingly majesty and authority in this world.
(1) Here is regal majesty. "Thou crownedst him with glory and honor." The figure of coronation is intended to set forth the royal majesty which was conferred upon man, as of a kingly crown. Amongst creatures in this world he is royal in his faculties and capacities, and in his position.
(2) Here is regal authority. "Thou didst put all things in subjection under his feet," etc. The psalmist in the original passage amplifies this "all things:" "All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field," etc. There is a reference to Genesis 1:26-28," Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea," etc. In this world man is God's vicegerent. He was made by his Creator to exercise dominion over all things and all creatures here.
II. THE FAILURE OF MAN TO REALIZE HIS TRUE DESTINY. "But now we see not yet all things put under him." It is unmistakably clear that at present man's sovereignty in the world is not complete. The scepter has slipped from his grasp. His dominion is contested. He has to contend against the creatures that were put in subjection unto him. The forces of nature sometimes scorn his authority and defy his power. Man has not now complete rule over his own being. His passions are sometimes insurgent against his principles. His senses are not always subordinate to his spirit. His appetites war against his aspirations. Sin has discrowned man. He has lost his purity, therefore has he lost his power. In his present condition he is far from realizing his glorious destiny.
III. THE DIVINE MEANS FOR ENABLING MAN TO REALIZE HIS DESTINY. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels," etc.
1. The Son of God has taken upon himself human nature. "We behold him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus." "Who being in the form of God, deemed not his equality with God a thing to grasp at, but emptied himself, taking upon him the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men." As man was "made a little lower than the angels," so, in becoming man, our Lord also was "made a little lower than the angels."
2. In his human nature he endured death. "That he by the grace of God should taste death for every man."
(1) The death of Jesus was voluntary. In his case death was not inevitable. He was not forced to die. "I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me," ere; "The Son of man came... to give his life a ransom for many.... Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all." The voluntariness was essential to the influence of his death as an atonement and as an inspiration.
(2) The death of Jesus was for the benefit of man. "Taste death for every man." In this place "for (ὐπέρ) does not mean "instead of," but "on behalf of. Alford well says, Where this ordinary meaning of ὐπέρ suffices, that of vicariousness must not be introduced. Sometimes, as e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:15, it is necessary. But here clearly not, the whole argument proceeding, not on the vicariousness of Christ's sacrifice, but on the benefits which we derive from his personal suffering for us in humanity; not on his substitution for us, but on his community with us. He died for every man." The benefits of his death, its inspiring and redeeming power, are available "for every man" - for the poorest, the obscurest, the wickedest, etc.
(3) The death of Jesus for man is to he ascribed to the kindness of God. "That he by the grace of God should taste," etc. Our salvation is to be ascribed to the unmerited kindness and love of God towards us. "The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation unto all men." "When the kindness of God our Savior, and his love toward man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness," etc.; "God commendeth his own love toward us," etc.
3. On account of his endurance of death he has been raised to supreme glory and authority. "Because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." His exaltation to this might and majesty is in consequence of his voluntary humiliation and suffering and death. "He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him," etc. This was necessary to the perfection of his redemptive work. "On the triumphant issue of his sufferings their efficacy depends."
4. He has been exalted to this supreme position as the Head of humanity. Not the angelic but the human nature has God raised to the throne. "For not unto the angels did he subject the world to come, whereof we speak." This Christian economy, this new world of redemption by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, in all its developments, is placed under our Lord. In our humanity, and as our Head and Forerunner, he is enthroned the King in the new realm of Divine grace. Humanity is crowned in him. Through him alone can we realize our glorious destiny. We must:
(1) Believe in him. Our text intimates this. "We behold him... even Jesus." This "behold" does not express an indifferent, uninterested sight of him; but the earnest look of faith, the believing contemplation of him. By faith we become one with him.
(2) Imitate him. The sacrifice of the cross leads to the splendor of the crown. The true sovereignty is reached only by the way of service. "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him." - W.J.
A little lower than the angels.— All the forementioned branches of Christ's advancement, which are here. and Isaiah 53:12; Ephesians 4:10; Philippians 2:10, audio sundry other places inferred upon His humiliation, afford unto us sundry considerable observations, as —
1. That working and suffering are the way to glory and honour.
2. That works of service and suffering were requisite for man's redemption and salvation (ver. 10).
3. That God was mindful of His Son in His meanest and lowest estate, according to that which is written of the Son in relation to His Father," Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell: neither wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show Me the path of life," &c. (Psalm 16:10, 11).
4. That all the members of Christ's body have good ground to be confident, that after they have done and endured what God shall call them unto, they shall be recompensed with a crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4). Christ therefore is to be looked on, as well advanced as debased; in His exaltation and in His humiliation; in heaven at His Father's right hand, as well as on the cross, or in the grave; crowned with glory, as well as with thorns (Hebrews 12:1). Thus will our faith be better settled and more strengthened, as Stephen's was, when he "saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). Thus shall we with much patience, contentedness and cheerfulness, do and endure what God by His providence calleth us unto, knowing that if we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12).
Leisure Hour.The subject of a conversation at which Carlyle was present, but took no part, was the theory of evolution. At length a pause occurring, Carlyle emphatically and with solemnity observed, "Gentlemen, you are well pleased to trace your descent froth a tadpole and an ape but I would say with David, 'Lord, Thou hast made me but a little lower than the angels."
Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.Too much stress has been laid upon the proud upright position of man, and a great deal has been said and written concerning the sublime aspect of his countenance, and the Godlike dignity of his carriage. A moment's consideration will be sufficient to show that though he looks upwards with ease and facility, he cannot, in this respect, claim any superiority. The eagle, which gazes on the sun with undazzled eye, and makes his pathway among the clouds, yields not in dignity of appearance or power of locomotion to man, who merely walks upon the ground. Can man measure his beauty with the antelope, his speed with the horse, or his strength with the-elephant? It is in virtue of his intellect, of his reason, and not of his bodily form. that he ranks above his fellows. It was in mind, not in body, that "God made man in His own image."
(Scientific Illustrations and Symbols.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
All things in subjection.I. GOD WAS MINDFUL, OF THE LIMITS IN WHICH MAN WOULD EXERCISE DOMINION. All God's inanimate creatures serve Him and us by keeping within the limits prescribed for them. The planets have their orbits, the sea its boundary. The limits in which man was to exercise dominion over nature were love and obedience to God. So long as he could say: " O Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth" and render the service flowing from such a homage, so long could it be said of him: "Thou hast put all things under his feet."
II. WHEN MAN STEPPED OUT OF THESE LIMITS, THE WORLD REFUSED TO BE LIMITED BY HIM. Truly, we see not yet, or "not now," all things under him. The physician dies of the disease which he studies to cure; the seaman finds his grave in the ocean he has spent his life in learning to rule. Even the body of the Christian is subject to the laws of death and decay.
III. ONE MAN HAS KEPT WITHIN THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND OBEDIENCE TO THE FATHER AND GOD, AND NATURE THEREFORE OWNS HIM AS HER LORD, He could say: " My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me," and therefore He could move amongst disease without danger of contamination, navigate the sea as its Master, and suspend old laws, or create new ones, at His will. The grave could not hold Him; but, from dominion over this world, He ascended to the throne of the universe, even the "right hand of the Majesty on high." How true of Him: " Thou hast set Thy glory above the heavens." Lessons: —
1. If we would rule, we must be ruled.
2. All may find their way back to their lost limits by the generous love of Christ. "He tasted death for every man."
3. Every Christian, in his glorified condition, will have dominion according to his ability to exercise it for his own good, and that of others (Matthew 26:21).
(W. Harris.)Philippians 2:9). We also by Him; because, we are members of His body and His brethren, we have an interest to all creatures: all things throughout the wide world are ours. The heaven, the earth, the birds, the beasts, the fishes, the trees, the flowers are ours; death is ours; the very devil himself is our slave and subject; God hath put him under our feet.
1. Here we may behold the dignity of Christians; all things by Jesus Christ are under our dominion. Oh, what a bountiful God is this, that hath given us so large a possession! Let us sound forth His praises lot it, and use His liberality to His glory. As God said to Peter, "Arise, kill, and eat"; when the sheet full of all kind of creatures was let down to him from heaven; so doth He say to us all, we may freely eat of all creatures whatsoever; but let us not abuse God's creatures to His dishonour and our destruction. Let us use them soberly, religiously, to make us more cheerful in the service of our God.
2. Let us not stand in a slavish scare of any creature; of the stars, the winds, no, not of the devils themselves; for all are put in subjection under our feet by Jesus Christ that loved us, and hath given us a superiority over all; we shall be conquerors over them all; a singular comfort to the faithful! Satan may tempt and assault us, but God will tread him under our feet.
3. For this dominion let us thank the Lord Jesus Christ. Of ourselves we are worth nothing, stark beggars; in Christ and by Christ we have all that we have. Let us magnify Him for it.
(W. Jones, D. D.)
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