Psalms 8: Who am I, and why am I here?

     For those of us who live near a city, we forget about the beauty of the darkness of the night.  When we take a trip away from the glowing lights of a town and city and travel far out into the country or far out to sea, we are first amazed by the darkness.  At first, the darkness seems to overwhelm and surround us, but then, we look to the sky and are amazed to see the beauty and splendor of the universe around us.  The sky is lighted by millions of points of light.  We see the moon, planets, stars, and galaxies.  The numbers are far to great to even count.  Modern orbiting telescopes have extended mankind’s view of the universe.  NASA space based observatories Hubble, Chandra, and Spitzer have broadened our view of the universe, providing wondrous pictures of galaxies and nebula. Through these telescopes, we are able to see points of light billions of light years distant, disrupting our own view of time and space.
     Let us imagine David in a time and place far away from modern light pollution.  He is out in the grassland, feeding his sheep or possibly on the run from his enemies.  He looks up at the sky, and he is amazed by the moon and the stars too numerous to count. Even without the aid of modern science, he intuitively understands the vastness of the universe around us.  He then looks at himself and at mankind.  He asks the fundamental question of all time “What are human beings that you are mindful of them” (Psalms 8:4 NRSV).  I would paraphrase it in a modern way “Who am I, and why am I here?”.  This is a mysterious question, and even in this Psalm the answer is not clear.
     The answer seems to be “Yet you have made them a little lower than God” (Psalms 8:5 NRSV).  The answer seems simple yet mysterious.  What does it mean to be a little lower than God?  Surprisingly, translators have never agreed on how to translate this verse.  In Hebrew, it is the word “Elohim”, which is normally translated God.  However, the early translators of the Hebrew into Greek translated it “angels” and the King James Bible followed this practice.  Some modern translations such as the NRSV have translated it as “God”, whereas the ESV and NIV have translated it “Heavenly Beings”.
     If even the most knowledgeable translators and church historians disagree on mankind’s exact standing in the universe, who am I to make a decision?  The fact that it is a mystery is clear to me.  I know that I was created in the image of God, yet at the same time the distance between me and God is insurmountable.
     In Hebrews chapter 2, the writer quotes Psalms 8.  We are told that Christ himself “was made lower than the angels…so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone”  (Hebrew 2:9 NRSV).  Christ became as man, suffering on the cross, so that this insurmountable distance between us and God would be no more.


About Allen Krell

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