Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
The enduring popularity of books such as Human Universe by Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen, and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, is a small indication of our continued fascination with issues of human identity and purpose.
Like David, here in Psalm 8, we’ve been asking the question ‘what is mankind?’ for centuries. And from David comes the encouragement that we will answer it best in the context of praise for the greatness of God.
But here’s something we might not expect. The majesty of the Lord – his glory – is reflected in human beings who are themselves ‘crowned with glory and honour’ and given dominion over the works of God’s hands. This affirms what Genesis 1:28 says, when God calls men and women to the tasks of ‘filling’ and ‘subduing’ and ‘ruling’, to extend the blessings of Eden to the whole world.
Cultures surrounding Israel told stories of people being made as slaves of the gods, with the language of ‘image’ applied only to kings. In Genesis, however, all human beings are created in God’s image, giving men and women a status and responsibility not found in other worldviews. We are made from dust, yet made for glory. Compared with the immense greatness of God, we are tiny specks; but in God’s good design for all things, we matter. God declares his creation to be very good, but chooses to cultivate it through the activity of human beings created in his image.
An incredible identity aside, God’s first great commission provides a basis for the whole of life – for family, for ecology, for work, for economics, for culture. And it applies to all people. We do any number of ‘mundane’ things every day – looking after children, going to work, cooking a meal, weeding the garden, walking the dog – not because we’re Christian but because we’re human, designed to represent something of his oversight in spheres that lie within our influence. Of course, that we are such stewards raises all sorts of questions about how we do this appropriately. Still, these are the ways in which we, this very day, embody God’s gracious rule in our various activities, in relationship with others, and in a way that reflects God’s own loving hand – that his name might be majestic in all the earth.
Subscribe to Word for the Week