When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You have set in place,
what is man that You are mindful of him,
and the son of man that You care for him?
Psalm 8: 3-4
When the Psalmist David looked up at the night sky, he marvelled at the vastness of the expanse above him. It made him feel small and insignificant in comparison, so much so that he posed the question: what is man that You are mindful of him and the son of man that You care for him? In other words, in comparison to the unfathomable magnitude of this universe, what am I? In passing, the word 'man' (Hebrew 'enosh') is the general word for a mortal/person.
The question, "What is man?" has been the subject of much philosophical thought and scientific study for millennia. Plato acknowledged humans differ from animals in that we have an immortal soul, a desire to acquire knowledge and a tendency to become social and political. In Alexander Pope's satire An Essay on Man, he defines man as, "A being darkly wise and rudely great ... Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err. Alike in ignorance, his reason such, whether he thinks too little or too much." In more recent times, atheist Richard Dawkins has written works such as River Out of Eden, which examines Darwinian evolution, with claims that we are the product of unguided evolution without design or purpose: "DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music."
Made in God's Image
The answer to the question, "What is man?" is found in the Bible, a book like no other in existence. We read of the origin of man in the book of Genesis. God spoke the world into being, but when it came to making man, we read "God created man in His own image" and He "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life", thus distinguishing him from the rest of creation. Man's spirit is immortal and will exist eternally.
A. Bannister from RZIM ministries writes: "Human beings are not just atoms; we are not just matter. We are more than the stuff of which we are made, more than our economic production, our relationships, our biology, our psychology. We are image bearers who carry incredible value and significance—value so high that Jesus was willing to pay the price of his life to redeem and restore that broken image, that the mirror of our souls might be angled at him and reflect the True Image of God as it was intended: and that in so doing, we might be truly human." As Bannister states, that image is broken and this took place when sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden through disobedience. Every human being is born with a sinful nature, which needs God's redemption to make us fit to dwell with Him eternally.
God made everyone with the free will to seek Him on a spiritual level. He is not a tyrannical God who forces people to believe in Him or worship Him. Instead, He provided redemption when His Son died on the cross and offers salvation to every person with immeasurable love. Because He is holy and righteous, He could not sweep sin under the carpet. Because He is love, He paid the debt Himself and offers freedom and eternal life to all who will receive the gift.
The Bible says:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. John 1:12
But this Man (Jesus), after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God. Hebrews 10:12 (italics mine)
God gives us the choice to receive salvation by faith or to reject it. The appeal of Christianity is to accept His invitation or to be eternally under His wrath.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. John 3:36
We are reminded often in the Bible that God is love, yet here we read of His wrath. Unrepentant souls will be punished eternally in the place prepared for the devil and his angels, i.e. hell. God has no desire for people to perish, but to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The Bible tells us our purpose on earth, namely, to do God's will for His glory. Having received His salvation and the Holy Spirit, we are to follow His teachings and serve Him in all we do. The Lord summed up the teaching of the Law:
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22: 37-40
When we love God and our neighbour, we will aspire to glorify Him and accomplish the "good works" prepared for us before time. Good works will never save us, but they are the fruit of this life with Christ, as Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10
'Man' is defined in the Bible as made in God's image, designed with a free will and with the purpose of doing God's will on the earth. May God lead us in His purpose for our lives. We have been created and gifted individually and placed in various parts of the globe for a reason. Much of serving God is practical living and caring for others. Life is a precious gift, a window in time to prepare us for what comes after. The next time we look up into the night sky, let us remember who we are and why we are here.
"Blood Moon" Eclipse, July 2018