E. H. Betts, Teignmouth
What is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou visitest him}, Psalm 8. 4.
AN EXAMINATION OF SCRIPTURE shows without the least room for doubt that man is unique in his constitution. In God's thought and purpose he is supreme amongst the creatures, being the image or representative of God Himself, having been made in His likeness. It is the determinate purpose of God to make all this good in man. In Christ, the Son of Man, it is His plan to give him for ever the headship and authority over all things, to the glory of God.
Such teaching we find woven into the texture of Scripture. But the passages which draw our attention to it more directly are three or four.
The Constitution of Man
In Genesis 1. 26 we have the inspired account of the creation of man. It differs in every respect from that of the animals and other parts of the creation. The creation formula used is different. Instead of Might be', and other such simple creative imperatives, we have the deliberative formula 'let us make man in our image and according to our likeness'. We hear the deliberations of the Godhead in counsel 'let us make man . . .'. And how is that making described as having been effected? Only by a fresh creation: 'and God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them'. Just as the work of the fifth day was a step upwards from the creation of inanimate beings (plants, etc.) to that of 'living souls' (and accordingly the word 'created' was there used instead of merely 'made', v. 21), so the creation of man was a step yet higher upwards; and here as we have noted, we have a. the deliberative act of divine persons; b. the use, once more, of the word 'create'; and c. of the result, God saw that it was, this time, not merely 'good', but 'very good': for now creation had been crowned by the bringing in of its head. But d. further still we see how much higher was this culminating act of the creation of man than of all that went before. This we see pointedly in chapter 2, verse 7, 'And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul'.
What was not said when God created the 'living souls', i.e. the animal creation, of verses 20 and 24, is expressly stated with respect to man: 'And God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul', ch. 2. 7. Here it is completely in accord with the genius of the original Hebrew tongue to understand the word 'so' or 'thus'.
'And so man became a living soul'. Indeed in at least one translation it has been rendered accordingly—'This was how man became a living soul', for that was the mode of his creation, for there was included in man's very constitution that which was derived from God Himself. Man is unique.
The Dominance of Man
But man was also dominant. We hear the divine voice continuing, 'and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, . . . and over everything that moveth upon the earth', Gen. 1. 26. The purpose of the Creator is made clear from the commencement. As man was uniquely created, so is his place in the creation to be unique. Under God, and as His representative, he is to wield dominion over creation.
According to Scripture then, man is unique, and dominant. And what says science? Let us cite a most distinguished biologist. Sir Julian Huxley says 'Man is unique in virtue of his power of conceptual thought' and he proceeds to specify a score or more of human characteristics which raise man far above the animals and place him in an order of being distinct and incomparable. Included explicitly is man's dominance over the rest of creation. Man is truly unique and dominant even as viewed from the observational level of science.
The eminent scientist we have above cited is perhaps the foremost champion of evolutionary doctrines. He advocates also 'religion without revelation' and so is a bitter opponent of Holy Scripture. Nevertheless he is compelled to furnish unintended confirmatory evidence of the truth of the very Book he opposes, since according to his scientific observations, as according to the Bible, man is unique, and man is dominant. He does not, however, give the credit to God the Creator for the truly striking assemblage of qualities which raise man above the beasts. We surely owe no apology for differing from him. If God the Creator Himself finds pleasure in the creation of the infinitely varied and variable beauties of form, line, tone, colour, light, shade and harmonies of nature - and He does, for He repeatedly pronounces them all 'good' (see Gen. i, also Rev. 4. 11) - is it not a verification of the Bible story of our origin if we His creatures find similar delights for 'we are also his offspring' says Paul, Acts 17. 28? Our very aesthetic sense - our feeling for the beautiful - is a legacy from God Himself. We love beautiful things because our divine Originator loves them, and we are His offspring. To the poverty-stricken mind of the mere scientist, a beautiful fragrant rose is the end-product of the chance-play of natural forces. To us, if taught by Scripture, it is the handiwork of a God who delights in beauty.
The Paradox of Man
Man, then, derives from God. He was made in His likeness. What light on this great thesis have we outside the creation story of Genesis 1 and 2? In Psalm 8 the Spirit of God takes up the theme, and at once we face a paradox. Man, viewed against the background of the majestic heavenly bodies, the work of God's fingers, is truly little and puny. 'What is man, that thou are mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?'. The writer uses the words 'enosh' and 'adam' which speak of man's weakness and lowly origin. But on the other hand, in strongly marked contrast we read 'Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thine hands, thou hast put all things under his feet', vv. 5 and 6. How is this paradox to be resolved? Well, the Psalm itself gives us, not the solution, but a pointer to it. 'Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger', v. 2. For the express purpose of securing His own glory, God takes up the weak and despised things of the earth. And the result? This is indicated in the first verse of our Psalm (giving the theme, as so often in the Psalms), and reverted to in the last verse: 'How excellent is thy name in all the earth'.
Yet the Psalm furnishes only a moral clue. The full solution awaited a New Testament revelation. It is the 'babes and sucklings' of Matthew 21. 15, 16, who direct us to the real solution - the person of Christ, the true Son of Man. For we cannot agree that in his use of the common forms of poetic parallelism the Psalm writer is merely saying the same thing in different words. That would be to attribute wantonness to the Spirit of God. On the contrary even when the parallelism may be styled identical it is hardly synonymous. No! To say
What is man . . .?
And the Son of Man . . .? far from merely saying the same thing twice carries a real enlargement of thought in the second limb of the parallelism, suggestive of the divine interpretation of the whole paradox.
For when our blessed Lord revealed a significant preference for the designation 'Son of Man' as a title for Himself (for he used it thus eighty times), He was speaking, yearningly perhaps, of a heavenly glory that was once His. He tells us distinctly that as Son of Man He came down from heaven. 'No man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven', John 3. 13, R.V.; and again, 'What and if ye shall sec the Son of Man ascend up where he was before?', John 6. 62. Thus we learn that 'Son of Man' is die designation of One of heavenly standing and glory. And in answer to the Psalmist's question
'What is man ... or the Son of Man?' we discover Him who is the divine and heavenly archetype of the race - the Son of Man, who came down out of heaven.
A third passage, Heb. 2. 5-10, having a direct bearing on our theme can here receive only cursory reference. This passage asserts:
1. It is a moral requisite of the nature of God that the leader (archegos) of man's salvation must suffer and die, v. 10;
2. That this Jesus, the Son of Man, must as racial head -like Adam - be crowned with glory and honour, in order that it might be on behalf of every man that He should fully taste death; and
3. That thus, and thus only, could the many sons be brought to glory, and the full purpose of God for man accomplished.
Son of Man, His incarnation
Opened first the tale of grace;
Son of Man, in new creation,
Leader of a chosen race;
Well may glory
Crown Him in the ordered place!