This piece was written by Dr Peter Orr – a lecturer at Moore College.
We will be looking at Part two this week.
2. Human life is valuable because in its dominion it displays the glory of God (vv.3-8)
In the psalm, David actually hesitates as he considers the position of humanity. He looks at human beings in relation to the universe and in fact to God himself. He looks at the vastness of the universe and he can’t fathom why God should care for mankind when we seem so insignificant. And the universe is only the work of God’s “fingers” (verse 3). The image is that God spun this vast universe into existence off the end of his fingertips.
But it is this vast, powerful God who creates the universe so effortlessly that gives humanity its dignity: “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” (vv5-8).
In these verses, David is echoing Genesis 1 and he underlines the dignity of humanity over and above the animal world. Our dignity stems from the fact that God has crowned humanity and given us dominion over all of creation. Nothing in creation is excluded. Humanity was created to rule it all. Human life is valuable because in its dominion over the rest of creation it displays the glory of God
And so, because of this placement and positioning by God, human life is more valuable than animal life. The fundamental difference between a day old baby girl and a day old kitten is that the baby girl has been given this position above the rest of creation. Human life is valuable because in its dominion over the rest of creation it displays the glory of God.
Yet there is a problem with all of this. It just doesn’t seem to fit with our experience of the world. We don’t seem to be able to control the world like this psalm supposes. This psalm just doesn’t seem to fit what we know of our world, which is ravaged by sickness, disease and death. And so really this psalm awaits a greater fulfilment. Someone of whom these words could be truly said. Someone who is “humanity” personified.
Perhaps as David was writing this psalm he was not so much reflecting on everyone around him, but rather looking forward to someone who would fulfil all that human beings were meant to be. And that is precisely how the New Testament writers understood it.
3. Human life is valuable because of Jesus! (vv.1-9)
Hebrews 2:5-9 reflects on Psalm 8 in relation to Jesus. In 2:9 the writer names Jesus as the one who fulfils this psalm. He fulfils the psalm by becoming a man, undergoing the suffering of death and then, being raised from the dead, he is crowned with glory and honour. Jesus is the man supreme, the true son of man.
The writer also notes that even now we don’t see this world as it should be: “at present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (v.8). People still die; people still rebel against God. This is not the world of glorious, perfect dominion that the psalm promises us. But the writer has already alerted us to that in 2:5; he is applying the psalm to “the world to come”. We will not see Psalm 8 ultimately fulfilled until this world is restored by Jesus when he returns to consummate his rule.
And so Psalm 8 shows us that human life – even in its weakest form – gives glory to God. We were created with a dignity given by God but our dignity is marred. As such, when we look at humanity we can’t help but get a confused picture. And so there is a tension that runs through each human being… except one. Because there is one who fulfils this psalm perfectly. Jesus has been crowned with glory and honour. And although we do not see everything subject to him, when this world is renewed he will be seen as its rightful king and Lord.
So, crucially, this is the ultimate answer to our question. Why is human life valuable? Human life is valuable because God became a man in Jesus. Jesus remains a man and always will remain a man. God has crowned and glorified humanity in Jesus.
When we have no objective truth to appeal to all we can appeal to is economics: “It does not seem wise to add to the burden on limited resources by increasing the number of severely disabled children”.
It will increasingly fall to Christians to care for the weak because our society will no longer have any reason or desire to do so. And so it is crucial that we, as Christians, take the message of this psalm to heart and see that all humanity is valuable.
Because of Jesus we can love, cherish and value all men, women and children. May God help us.