The third question answered by the psalmist in Psalm 8 is this, “What is man?” The context of his question is considering man in light of the heavens - the moon and the stars of the firmament. Think on this for a moment as you get your mind into the right frame to think as the psalmist did. The following is from Jon Courson’s commentary on the Bible.
If the sun were hollowed out, one million three hundred thousand earths could fit inside. But the sun is small compared to the star, Anteres, because if Anteres were hollow, it could hold sixty-four million suns. Anteres, however, is nothing compared to the star, Hercules, which, if hollow, could hold one hundred million Anteres. Yet the star, Epsilon, dwarfs Anteres, for if it were hollow, it could hold three million Hercules.
The numbers involved in comparing earth to the star Hercules are pretty much beyond our understanding. It would be multiplying 1,300,000 X 64,000,000 X 100,000,000. That number written out is 832,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That is 832 septillion earths could fit inside the star Antares. I’m afraid we are not capable of honestly assessing how big that number is. But . . . it is something we should consider when thinking about one human on the face of one of those 832 septillion earths that it would take to fill up just 1 star in God’s created universe. Pretty insignificant is what we would have to surmise when thinking about this.
That is what the psalmist is thinking - what is man in light of the universe? The God Whose creative genius and power made this earth with only His words - is far greater and more astounding than even Anteres. Yet God does take thought of mankind. Yet, says the psalmist, You, God, have made Him a little lower than God. When we truly consider this, we are left with our mouths hanging open. God made us to be image bearers! We can know Him and respond to Him - and even reflect His glory in our lives. We are truly crowned with glory and majesty.
In verses 6 and 7 we see all that God intended for man to do. We were made not just as image bearers, but also as co-regents with God to rule over this earth. All that is no the earth is put under mankind’s feet - with a list of sheep and oxen first as domesticated animals - and then the beasts of the field - birds of the heavens - and all sea creatures as well. That is how we were originally made. It is enough to make the psalmist repeat what He said at the beginning of the psalm about how Jehovah, our ruler has a majestic name in all the earth.
If we were not to have the New Testament - this would simply be a song that reminds us to praise God for His person - His creation - and for His wonderful gift of life and dominion to mankind. But even without the New Testament this rings a little hollow to those who live on earth now. It is hard to consider that we rule over the beasts of the field when we are terrified of many of them who are predators. Allow a man to happen on a grizzly bear or one of the huge cats like a lion or tiger - and our thoughts don’t turn to mastery - but rather to terror at what they can do to us. The same is true when we face great whales, killer whales, or sharks in the seas. And let’s not even get started with what nature can do - with things like tornados, hurricanes, lightning, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. It certainly does NOT look like we “rule” over all things. But then we are reminded of sin and the Fall of mankind.
We did rule over all things at one time. Then we chose sin rather than obedience and fellowship with God. We decided we could run the earth better than God. We wanted to be our own god - making our own rules and doing things as we see fit to do them. The end of that foolish experiment is the world in which we live today.
Psalm 8 - in fact this very part of Psalm 8 is quoted in Hebrews 2:5-8 where we read this:
For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying, "WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? "YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET." For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
We certainly do not see all things subjected to him - to man. But why does the writer of Hebrews quote Psalm 8 then? It is because he is about to tell us what we DO see at this present time.
But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9
What we DO SEE is JESUS! We see Him made a little lower than the angels. Jesus Christ is God - fully God - and yet He was made a little lower than the angels when He came in the incarnation. He is the God-man - perfect God and yet man. He humbled Himself as a man - and subjected Himself to suffering and death. He chose to pay the penalty that we deserved because we had sinned. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus also “tasted death for everyone.” He faced not just death in general - but death as the punishment for sin. It is because of this that Jesus was crowned with glory and honor. You can read it all in Philippians chapter 2, verses 5 through 10. And it was because of this death that the grace of God was given to us. Salvation from the certainty of God’s wrath poured out in punishment for our sinful rebellion against Him.
So we ask again, in light of the second chapter of Hebrews, the question of this psalm - What is man? The answer is both beautiful and majestic as well as horrific and tragic. The answer is both devastating and fear-inducing as well as astounding and that which should cause us to worship our Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity. Man is the special creation of God, crowned with glory and majesty and given wonderful dominion over all God has made in this world. Man is also an infinitely tragic figure as he chose to throw it all away for a lie that he could be as God. Man is encased in a world that now reminds him daily that he has lost his exalted position, as death, destruction, decay, and ultimately damnation is his lot left to himself. But - by the grace of God - and by One Who was made a little lower than the angels, even though He is God - there is the hope of redeeming grace. There is One Who has suffered and died the death man deserves - so that man may by grace receive a life he does not deserve.