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Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
Condescension of God.
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. 6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: 7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; 8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. 9 O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
David here goes on to magnify the honour of God by recounting the honours he has put upon man, especially the man Christ Jesus. The condescensions of the divine grace call for our praises as much as the elevations of the divine glory. How God has condescended in favour to man the psalmist here observes with wonder and thankfulness, and recommends it to our thoughts. See here,
I. What it is that leads him to admire the condescending favour of God to man; it is his consideration of the lustre and influence of the heavenly bodies, which are within the view of sense (v. 3): I consider thy heavens, and there, particularly, the moon and the stars. But why does he not take notice of the sun, which much excels them all? Probably because it was in a night-walk, but moon-light, that he entertained and instructed himself with this meditation, when the sun was not within view, but only the moon and the stars, which, though they are not altogether so serviceable to man as the sun is, yet are no less demonstrations of the wisdom, power, and goodness of the Creator. Observe, 1. It is our duty to consider the heavens. We see them, we cannot but see them. By this, among other things, man is distinguished from the beasts, that, while they are so framed as to look downwards to the earth, man is made erect to look upwards towards heaven. Os homini sublime dedit, coelumque tueri jussit—To man he gave an erect countenance, and bade him gaze on the heavens, that thus he may be directed to set his affections on things above; for what we see has not its due influence upon us unless we consider it. 2. We must always consider the heavens as God's heavens, not only as all the world is his, even the earth and the fulness thereof, but in a more peculiar manner. The heavens, even the heavens, are the Lord's (Ps. cxv. 16); they are the place of the residence of his glory and we are taught to call him Our Father in heaven. 3. They are therefore his, because they are the work of his fingers. He made them; he made them easily. The stretching out of the heavens needed not any outstretched arm; it was done with a word; it was but the work of his fingers. He made them with very great curiosity and fineness, like a nice piece of work which the artist makes with his fingers. 4. Even the inferior lights, the moon and stars, show the glory and power of the Father of lights, and furnish us with matter for praise. 5. The heavenly bodies are not only the creatures of the divine power, but subject to the divine government. God not only made them, but ordained them, and the ordinances of heaven can never be altered. But how does this come in here to magnify God's favour to man? (1.) When we consider how the glory of God shines in the upper world we may well wonder that he should take cognizance of such a mean creature as man, that he who resides in that bright and blessed part of the creation, and governs it, should humble himself to behold the things done upon this earth; see Ps. cxiii. 5, 6. (2.) When we consider of what great use the heavens are to men on earth, and how the lights of heavens are divided unto all nations (Deut. iv. 19, Gen. i. 15), we may well say, "Lord, what is man that thou shouldst settle the ordinances of heaven with an eye to him and to his benefit, and that his comfort and convenience should be so consulted in the making of the lights of heaven and directing their motions!"
II. How he expresses this admiration (v. 4): "Lord, what is man (enosh, sinful, weak, miserable man, a creature so forgetful of thee and his duty to thee) that thou art thus mindful of him, that thou takest cognizance of him and of his actions and affairs, that in the making of the world thou hadst a respect to him! What is the son of man, that thou visitest him, that thou not only feedest him and clothest him, protectest him and providest for him, in common with other creatures, but visited him as one friend visits another, art pleased to converse with him and concern thyself for him! What is man—(so mean a creature), that he should be thus honoured—(so sinful a creature), that he should be thus countenanced and favoured!" Now this refers,
1. To mankind in general. Though man is a worm, and the son of man is a worm (Job xxv. 6), yet God puts a respect upon him, and shows him abundance of kindness; man is, above all the creatures in this lower world, the favourite and darling of Providence. For, (1.) He is of a very honourable rank of beings. We may be sure he takes precedence of all the inhabitants of this lower world, for he is made but a little lower than the angels (v. 5), lower indeed, because by his body he is allied to the earth and to the beasts that perish, and yet by his soul, which is spiritual and immortal, he is so near akin to the holy angels that he may be truly said to be but a little lower than they, and is, in order, next to them. He is but for a little while lower than the angels, while his great soul is cooped up in a house of clay, but the children of the resurrection shall be isangeloi—angels' peers (Luke xx. 36) and no longer lower than they. (2.) He is endued with noble faculties and capacities: Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour. He that gave him his being has distinguished him, and qualified him for a dominion over the inferior creatures; for, having made him wiser than the beasts of the earth and the fowls of heaven (Job xxxv. 11), he has made him fit to rule them and it is fit that they should be ruled by him. Man's reason is his crown of glory; let him not profane that crown by disturbing the use of it nor forfeit that crown by acting contrary to its dictates. (3.) He is invested with a sovereign dominion over the inferior creatures, under God, and is constituted their lord. He that made them, and knows them, and whose own they are, has made man to have dominion over them, v. 6. His charter, by which he holds this royalty, bears equal date with his creation (Gen. i. 28) and was renewed after the flood, Gen. ix. 2. God has put all things under man's feet, that he might serve himself, not only of the labour, but of the productions and lives of the inferior creatures; they are all delivered into his hand, nay, they are all put under his feet. He specifies some of the inferior animals (v. 7, 8), not only sheep and oxen, which man takes care of and provides for, but the beasts of the field, as well as those of the flood, yea, and those creatures which are most at a distance from man, as the fowl of the air, yea, and the fish of the sea, which live in another element and pass unseen through the paths of the seas. Man has arts to take these; though many of them are much stronger and many of them much swifter than he, yet, one way or other, he is too hard for them, Jam. iii. 7. Every kind of beasts, and birds, and things in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed. He has likewise liberty to use them as he has occasion. Rise, Peter, kill and eat, Acts x. 13. Every time we partake of fish or of fowl we realize this dominion which man has over the works of God's hands; and this is a reason for our subjection to God, our chief Lord, and to his dominion over us.
2. But this refers, in a particular manner, to Jesus Christ. Of him we are taught to expound it, Heb. ii. 6-8, where the apostle, to prove the sovereign dominion of Christ both in heaven and in earth, shows that he is that man, that son of man, here spoken of, whom God has crowned with glory and honour and made to have dominion over the works of his hands. And it is certain that the greatest favour that ever was shown to the human race, and the greatest honour that ever was put upon the human nature, were exemplified in the incarnation and exaltation of the Lord Jesus; these far exceed the favours and honours done us by creation and providence, though they also are great and far more than we deserve. We have reason humbly to value ourselves by it and thankfully to admire the grace of God in it, (1.) That Jesus Christ assumed the nature of man, and, in that nature, humbled himself. He became the Son of man, a partaker of flesh and blood; being so, God visited him, which some apply to his sufferings for us, for it is said (Heb. ii. 9), For the suffering of death, a visitation in wrath, he was crowned with glory and honour. God visited him; having laid upon him the iniquity of us all, he reckoned with him for it, visited him with a rod and with stripes, that we by them might be healed. He was, for a little while (so the apostle interprets it), made lower than the angels, when he took upon him the form of a servant and made himself of no reputation. (2.) That, in that nature, he is exalted to be Lord of all. God the Father exalted him, because he had humbled himself, crowned him with glory and honour, the glory which he had with him before the worlds were, set not only the head of the church, but head over all things to the church, and gave all things into his hand, entrusted him with the administration of the kingdom of providence in conjunction with and subserviency to the kingdom of grace. All the creatures are put under his feet; and, even in the days of his flesh, he gave some specimens of his power over them, as when he commanded the winds and the seas, and appointed a fish to pay his tribute. With good reason therefore does the psalmist conclude as he began, Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, which has been honoured with the presence of the Redeemer, and is still enlightened by his gospel and governed by his wisdom and power!
In singing this and praying it over, though we must not forget to acknowledge, with suitable affections, God's common favours to mankind, particularly in the serviceableness of the inferior creatures to us, yet we must especially set ourselves to give glory to our Lord Jesus, by confessing that he is Lord, submitting to him as our Lord, and waiting till we see all things put under him and all his enemies made his footstool.