Skip to content

God, the universe and all that: Part 4

From the Sola Panel

This is the fourth instalment of a five-part series (Read parts 1, 2 and 3.)

We’ve been looking at Psalm 8, and we’ve seen the puzzle it presents us with. On the one hand, we are nothing compared to the majestic God who created the universe. On the other hand, God tells us that we are important—that we are created for a purpose in this world.

You know that you and your actions matter, don’t you? You know that what you do or say, how you treat the world and how you treat other people actually matters, don’t you? You know that some things are right and that some things are wrong, don’t you? You know that you will face death one day, like everyone else, and that there’s something scary and horrible about that. What are you going to do about it?

One possibility is that you could just ignore the whole issue. You could just decide that it’s enough to eat, drink and enjoy life as much as you can, minimizing pain as much as possible and maybe along the way, doing great things, loving, laughing and crying, and then dying. You could buy, read and act on Dave Freeman’s book 100 Things to Do Before You Die—carve out your own meaning, define your existence.

But is that really enough? History is littered with the corpses of individuals who have died and suffered under dictators who decided they wanted to define the meaning of their own existence. Maybe you will never be an evil dictator—maybe you will never try to live in a way that hurt anyone. And yet, if you’re honest—if I’m honest, I know I have hurt people. Deeply. Despite the fact that I want to pretend that I can run my life the way I want without any consequences, I also know the guilt of my failures, the pain I’ve cause by my selfish actions and the evil in my heart. And I know that my existence, no matter how full of food and drink and life and love, is not, in the end, going to matter when I die and dissolve into the dust from which I came. I also know that this matters too, somehow.

Back to the song and the riddle of the song. God is great. His creation is enormous. In all of this, what is man? Who am I? Who are you? Why am I so important?

Fast forward hundreds of years.

The claim of the Bible is that this riddle—this puzzle—does have an answer—a profound and great answer. It’s there in the words of the New Testament—where a Christian (that is, someone who knows Jesus Christ) can read the words of the song that we ourselves have just read and not only sees the problem, but also the answer:

It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned him with glory and honor,
putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

(Heb 2:6-8a)

Here’s that song—that problem—that age-old issue of our importance: “What is man?” And then, just to make sure we’re all on the same page, our Christian author highlights the particular problem he sees: “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Heb 2:8b)

We might believe that we have a God-given purpose and responsibility to our lives in this world. But we don’t actually see it. When we look up, we still see those majestic and distant heavens. The original Hebrew song speaks of the greatness of stars—the heavenly lights. Here in this letter to the Hebrews, it’s expressed in terms of angels, heavenly superpowers. But in either case, the point is the same: God is above it all, and we don’t and can’t see with our eyes why and how God should care for us.

And then, when we look around, we don’t see human beings living responsibly, caring for God’s world or for each other, or acting rightly as agents of God’s loving rule, do we. We just see ourselves, trying to define our own existence, hurting and being hurt, loving and hating and dying.

But there is something else—somebody else—who we do see, in verse 9: “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor” (Heb 2:9a). Whom do we actually see? What is the piece of evidence that should make us turn around and take notice? We see Jesus. This is the Bible’s claim; this is the difference and the answer.

To be continued …

Comments on the Sola Panel
Published inHebrewsPsalmsThe Briefing

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • The Named Jew and the Name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • Yes no“Paul within Judaism” and Romans 2:17–29
    My article on Romans 2:17–29 supports one key feature of the "Paul within Judaism" perspective, but undermines another common feature.
  • Photo by Engin Akyurt on UnsplashThe goals of Bible teaching (1 Timothy 1:1–11)
    In gospel ministry and Bible teaching, if you’re not committed to the right goal, or if you have the wrong goal, it’s not just a matter of being ineffective: you’ll be downright dangerous. So what is that goal? What are you seeking to achieve in your gospel ministry and Bible teaching - now and in the future? And how would you know if you’d done it right? This passage in 1 Timothy 1:1–11 speaks to this issue of the goals of ministry and teaching. It challenges us to think about our own aims in teaching, and to see how important it is to get it right. A sermon preached at Moore College Men's Chapel on 14 July, 2021.
  • Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours. Photo by Vadim Sadovski on UnsplashSlow-burn crazy-making behaviours: recognising and responding
    Do you know someone who seems to have drama and problems constantly appear around them? Whenever you relate to this person, perhaps you find yourself feeling vaguely guilty, or uncomfortable, or put down, or obligated to affirm them? Do you often feel like you’re questioning yourself and your actions because of what they say and do? You don’t feel the same way around other people; it’s just this individual who seems to attract these dramas and give rise to these feelings in you. If that’s the case, the chances are it’s not you who is the problem. It’s quite possible that the person you’re thinking of is exhibiting a pattern of behaviours that can be significantly detrimental to you and to others. This pattern of behaviours is hard to pin down; it doesn’t seem too serious in the short term, and indeed it might appear quite normal to a casual acquaintance. However, over the long term, it can cause serious problems for you and others. That’s especially true in close-knit communities, like families, churches and other Christian ministries.
  • Romans Crash CourseRomans Crash Course (video)
    A 75 minute video course in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans designed for church members and leaders.
  • The Mistranslation "Call Yourself a Jew" in Romans 2:17: A Mythbusting StoryThe mistranslation “call yourself a Jew”: A myth-busting story (Romans 2:17)
    This is a story about a scholarly myth and how I had the chance to bust it. I’m talking here about a small but significant 20th century biblical translation: “call yourself” instead of “are called” in Romans 2:17.
  • Breaking news: Religious Scandal in RomeThe named Jew and the name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29
    I've just had an article published in the journal Novum Testamentum. In it, I provide a detailed defense of my new reading of Romans 2:17–29. This passage is not primarily about Jewish salvation - rather it's primarily about Jewish teaching and God's glory.
  • Photo by Joseph d'Mello on UnsplashPreaching the Pastoral Epistles
    A one-hour audio seminar with principles and ideas for preaching the biblical books 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus ("Pastoral Epistles")
  • A Crash Course in Romans: Livestream
    Here's a <90 minute "Crash Course in Romans" I'm running on Monday evening 1 Feb 2021. It's aimed at leaders and any interested members of my church St Augustine's Neutral Bay and Church by the Bridge Kirribilli. Anyone is welcome to watch the livestream.
  • Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on UnsplashWhat’s wrong with the world? Is there hope? (Ephesians)
    Guilt, weakness, spiritual slavery, prejudice, arrogance, tribalism, conflict, war, victimhood, persecution, pain, suffering, futility, ignorance, lying, deceit, anger, theft, greed, pornography, sexual sin, darkness, fear, drunkenness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, workplace abuse, spiritual powers... In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says many things about the problems we face in this world. He also gives us wonderful reasons to find life, hope and healing in Jesus Christ. Along the way, he provides practical teachings about how to respond and live together.
  • What does Ephesians say about reconciliation?
    We humans are not very good at living up close with others. This is especially true when we have a history of conflict with those others. Reconciliation isn't easy. No matter how much you might want healing, it’s hardly ever a matter of just everybody getting on and pretending the hurts didn’t happen. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says some very important, fundamental things about peace and reconciliation, and gives many other very practical teachings about how to live together in light of these truths.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor