“When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers,
The moon, and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man that thou art mindful of him?
And the son of man, that thou visitest him?”
“The work of thy fingers.” The use of “fingers” here instead of hands, which we might have expected, suggests that it was no great difficulty whatever for God to have created the heavens and the earth and everything within them. God merely spoke the Word; and it was done!
“The moon, and the stars.” These words surely originated with one who was familiar with the night sky, as David most certainly was. It is inconceivable that any man in full possession of his mental faculties can look upon the magnificent glory of the night sky without being conscious of the existence of God and of man’s constant need of his love and favor.
Our English word “consider” comes from two Latin words, “con,” meaning “with” and “sideris” meaning “stars.” Surely a careful look at the starry heavens is an awe inspiring and challenging experience.
“What is man that thou art mindful of him?” “The word here rendered “man” means “frail man,” Humanity in all of its weakness and limitations.”
The infinite contrast between man’s smallness, his unspeakable insignificance in a physical sense and the glory that God has lavished upon him is the burden of this incredibly beautiful Psalm. What is man in a physical sense?
“Amidst the vastness around me, I am lost, and can be of no more consequence than a mote in a sunbeam. If I and all my generation were swept away in the twinkling of an eye, we should be no more missed than a grain of dust blown into the crater of a volcano.”
However that is only part of the story; and the far more important part of it is explained this way:
“In man’s insignificance is lodged a Divine spark; and, lowly as is his head as he stands beneath the midnight sky blazing with inaccessible lights, that head is crowned with a halo reflecting the glory of God even more than the luster of those billions of stars!”
“The son of man.” This is only a variant for “man” in the preceding line; but the reason for human dignity begins to appear in these lines. (1) God indeed is mindful of him; (2) God has actually visited him. What an incredible honor is this? “The Dayspring from on High has visited us”! (Luke 1:78), shining upon us who sit in darkness and the shadow of death! But that is far from being all of it. The very next verse stresses other incredibly tremendous reasons why God is mindful of his human creation.
“For thou has made him but little lower than God,
And crowned him with glory and honor.
Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;
Thou hast put all things under his feet:”
“A little lower than God.” We mention what we considered errors in the English Revised Version (1885) and American Standard Version renditions of the first verse; but here we must confess the superiority of those later versions over older renditions. Those older translations were unduly influenced by the Septuagint (LXX) which mistranslated “Elohim,” reading it as “angels” instead of “God.” More on this below.
Look at some of the other reasons for man’s unique place in the Creation of God: (3) God created him but a little lower than Himself and in his very image! (4) He crowned him with glory and honor, and (5) He put all things under man’s feet, giving him dominion over God’s works!
“But a little lower than God …” The Septuagint (LXX) mistranslated this passage, making it read, “But a little lower than the angels”; and, as the Septuagint (LXX) was the common Bible known by many in Jesus’ ministry, it is thus quoted in Hebrews 2:6-8f. However, “The Hebrew word which the Septuagint (LXX) renders as “angels” is actually “[~’Elohiym],” meaning “God”; and there can be no doubt of the correct rendition. This error, however, has not been a damaging one, because angels themselves are very high beings, and it is also true that we “for a little while” are made lower than the angels also, being at the same time lower than God.
The author of Hebrews 2:6-8 gives a temporal sense to verse 5a, making 5b a contrast rather than a parallel, expressing man’s lordship of the world to come, not as yet realized, it is true, but guaranteed to us by the fact that Jesus is already crowned!
It must be realized, of course, that all of the great honors and privileges with which man was endowed by the Creator are not at all fully realized in our present world because of the consequence of the fall of the Adamic race in Eden and the continued rebellion and wickedness of Adam’s foolish posterity. All of the promises and glories mentioned here were for man, as God created him, not as he became when he repudiated the benign government of God and chose to become a servant of the devil.
Jesus Christ, however, entered our earth life, overcame all sin and wickedness, brought the prospect of eternal life to as many as would receive him, love him, and obey him. He has now sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High in full possession of “all authority in heaven and upon earth” (Matthew 28:18-20).
It would seem that the Psalmist here had no intention of writing a Psalm depicting the Coming of God’s Messiah to bless humanity; but in Hebrews 2:6-8 it is categorically stated that all that was intended in the creation of man was fulfilled only in Jesus Christ our Lord. He was the only human ever born who was in every way and at all times exactly what God created man to be.
Whatever fulfillment of this marvelous Psalm for our human race that may lie in the future, must come though Jesus Christ and through him alone. Even then, mortal men will be saved eternally and share the glory of Christ himself only as they consent to be his followers and obey him.
But for those who do indeed accept the available salvation, they shall actually partake of the glory of Christ himself in the very throne of God.
“All sheep and oxen,
Yea, and all beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
Whatsoever passes through the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”
These words are merely an elaboration of the promise that God would put all things under the feet of men. This enumeration begins with animals that men have tamed, goes on to include the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fishes of the seas.
The Psalm closes with that magnificent exclamation with which it began and which we believe serves as an accurate title of the Psalm.