Ugly events have stained the pages of world history. Exploding out of wrong attitudes, these misfortunes alter society’s order, and often hinder the development of the individual’s personal life.
There are moments of peace and happiness. There are days when we achieve our goals and we seem to advance. Some dreams do come true. However, a thoughtful study of history and the current situation seems to confirm what we already instinctively know. We do not enjoy complete control over our own lives. We feel frustrated, perplexed and even frightened when unexpected occurrences shatter our lives. We sense the sorrow and anger they leave behind and we experience a profound sense of impotence. Thus, the persistent interest of many in astrology, fortunetellers, mediums and channels. No wonder men and women cry out in despair, ‘Is this really life? Is there not something better?’
Mark Twain, the American author, well known for his sometimes irreverent humour, once wrote, ‘Such is the human race. Often it does seem such a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat’.1 Without humour Sigmund Freud stated, ‘I have found little that is “good” about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash … that is something that you cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think.’2
Through the centuries philosophers have brooded on the mystery of the human condition. If there is a God, did He make human beings for a life of this nature? Is human existence limited to a few years on this small planet in a vast universe? Some maintain vigorously that man is no more than an animal, perhaps a little more developed, but still just an animal.
God answers the questions related to our confusion. We were not created for the tragedies that have surrounded our race. The creation of man and woman was God’s exceptional work. They were the crown of his creative actions. Psalm 8 touches on the subject of God’s purpose concerning the place he intended men and women to occupy within the creation. This hymn of praise recognizes God’s greatness as Creator. It begins, ‘O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth, You who set Your glory above the heavens.’3 The psalmist’s language highlights the Creator’s wisdom and strength.
It is precisely the vision of God’s power displayed in the whole cosmos that leads the psalmist to think about the comparative insignificance of human beings. He draws a clear contrast. Firstly, ‘When I consider Your heavens the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars that You have ordained’, and, secondly, ‘what is man that You are mindful of him?’ Job said to God, ‘Man who is born of woman … do You open Your eyes on such a one?’ The smallness of men and women stands in stark contrast to the formidable creation.
It is difficult to read Psalm 8 and the first chapters of Genesis without coming to the conclusion that human beings are the Creator’s most important work. God did create the human beings in His image and likeness. He did give to Adam and Eve a position of authority. Yet, we do not see today, men and women enjoying the privilege that God assigned to them. History and contemporary life confirm this fact.
In spite of the apparent unimportance of human beings within the cosmos, the psalmist reveals that God designated a surprising role for human beings. The poet writes, ‘… You have made him a little lower than the angels’ (elohim).4
The psalmist realizes how insignificant human beings can appear to be. Simultaneously, he recognizes that God placed him in a position of eminence and authority, ‘You have crowned him with glory and honour’. The psalmist is sure about God’s original purpose for men and women. They should occupy a position of glory and authority in the creation. A hundred years ago a Scottish scholar commented on the phrase, ‘… Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour’, indicating that the ‘general meaning is obvious: Thou hast bestowed on man such honours as Thou has bestowed on none of Thy creatures; Thou hast set him at the head of the created universe’.5 This dominion was not something they seized for themselves. It was a gift from God. Even before the act of creation, God reveals His thoughts about men and women when He states, ‘let them have dominion’.
The glory and the honour that they received in the moment of their creation reflect the desire of God himself. Perhaps, as a potential first step towards an expanding role in the universe, they were to exercise dominion over all things on earth for God’s glory. The narrative of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden is like a first chapter in a story that would move on into surprising dimensions of glory. From a human point of view, the evil one temporarily thwarted the full development of this intention. Even when God allowed the creation to be subjected to futility, he did so ‘in hope’. God cannot and will not be frustrated. He will bring ‘many sons to glory’, Heb. 2. 9-10
To undo the work of the evil one who provoked the human being’s fall, God did not spare ‘his own Son, but delivered him up for us all’. In view of this overwhelming display of love, it is not surprising that the apostle adds, ‘how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?’ The term ‘all things’ is one of Paul’s synonyms for ‘universe’. This may well be a glimpse of the permanent fulfilment of the divine desire stated in Genesis, ‘let them have dominion’.6
Mark Twain missed the point. The issue is not whether Noah and his family caught or missed the boat. It was God, in surprising grace, who would not destroy completely the human race in spite of the prevailing corruption and violence. God invited them into the ark, for He is determined to take these who are saved, in union with His Son, to their eternal destiny of glory. When this message is rejected, no wonder there is a tendency to agree with Freud’s unfeeling appraisal of the human race. The truth is that human beings are very special to God. There is no doubt whatsoever about His intention. God plans to live with them for ever.
There is something better!
The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations is licensed from Columbia University Press. Copyright 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New King James Version, Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
John Brown, Hebrews, Geneva Series of Commentaries (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1862,1994), p. 93.
Bible references: Psalm 8; Job 14. 1, 3; Genesis 1. 26; Romans 8. 20, 32; Hebrews 2. 10; Colossians 1. 16.