Glorified Dirt Creatures

Glorified Dirt Creatures

You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.  – Psalm 8:5
In the above passage David reflects on the esteemed status of man in God’s creation. And, to put it bluntly, it’s startling, especially given our humble origin out of the dirt! In the verses immediately previous he considers the heavens:
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
Man, the son of man – literally, the son of adam,[1] the dirt creature (“The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground…” - Genesis 2:7) – when he stares at the luminaries in the sky, he is overcome by his smallness, even his seeming insignificance. Surely we have all had this experience. And the more we learn about the immensity of space and the majesty of the luminous bodies that race through it, the more intense this experience becomes. We are small indeed.
But David is not simply humbled because he stands in awe of the flaming gas balls in the heavens that we calls stars; he’s humbled because these luminous stars are symbols to him of the luminous beings of God’s heavenly divine council.
But few of us have given much thought to the divine council. Before returning, then, to the symbolic function of the stars, let’s first marvel over the majesty of God’s divine council to which these stars point. Consider the words of the psalmist:
Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,
a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all who are around him? - Psalm 89:5-7
We may be accustomed to thinking in terms of angels and demons, but Scripture has a far more nuanced, expansive, and fascinating understanding of spiritual beings. The above psalm speaks of the assembly of the holy ones, of sapient beings in the skies (it asks about “who in the skies” not what), of heavenly beings, of the council of the holy ones, and the conscious beings who surround Yahweh. In short, Yahweh is not alone in Heaven.
Psalm 82 adds to the picture: 
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment… - Psalm 82:1
Here we learn of a divine council, of gods who surround Yahweh.[2]
Psalm 29 speaks of heavenly beings / sons of God,
Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings [literally “sons of God”],
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. - Psalm 29:1
In the book of 1 Kings, the prophet Micaiah declares, “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left…” (1 Kings 22:19). He goes on to describe God speaking and interacting with theses heavenly hosts, these spiritual beings, who surround Him.
In text after text we see these spiritual beings surrounding God, interacting with Him, and making decisions with Him (see also Job 38:4-5, 7; Jeremiah 23:18, 21-22; Job 1:6-7). Dr. Michael Heiser, a Biblical scholar who has written extensively on the divine council, explains what it means:
When all of these texts are read together, a fairly clear picture emerges. God is consistently depicted on his heavenly throne, surrounded by his staff team who participate in discussing and then carrying out God’s plans. The divine throne room is the place from which Yahweh governs the world with his heavenly council, the place where ‘Yahweh’s decrees directing the human community and the divine world are set forth and through whom they are communicated or enacted (Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets, 163).
What do the sun, moon, and stars have to do with these heavenly beings? More than you might imagine. When we look up at the heavens, we see flaming gas balls (stars) and racing rock balls (planets and meteors). When God’s ancient people looked into the heavens they saw this and much more. Consider carefully the way Scripture speaks:
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years… - Genesis 1:14
And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. - Genesis 1:16
The bold words are significant. The lights in the sky do more than mark the seasons, they are signs that point to a greater reality. And the “rule” they have been assigned provides a clue as to what that reality is. Consider the way Scripture speaks of man:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” - Genesis 1:28
Man is given dominion over the earth. The sun, moon, and stars, which are also symbolic of a greater reality (an unseen reality), rule over the heavens. There are parallel rules in play here. Before we spell out what this means, though, let’s first consider two more passages in Scripture. Psalm 148 and Job 38 connect the dots for us.
Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars! - Psalm 148:1-3
And God, speaking to Job, asks,

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy? - Job 38:4-7

Pay attention to the bold words. The parallel thought lines of the Hebrew poetry connect them. Scripture is showing us to what greater reality the starry hosts point: the divine council of God! To make the connection more explicit, the stars in the sky point to the unseen realm of God, to the divine council of exalted spiritual beings/gods who God has created to govern with delegated authority. They stand as luminous symbols of the luminous beings Scripture calls angels, hosts, gods, heavenly beings, sons of God, and the council of God. 
Now return to David’s awe-inspired words in Psalm 8. He stands looking up at the starry-wondered sky and his mind swirls with thoughts of the exalted spiritual beings who surround Yahweh whom the stars symbolize. Who is man? Why have you so highly honored such lowly dirt creatures, making us but a little lower than your exalted heavenly spiritual beings and giving us such an exalted status as rulers over your earth? These are magnificently big and humbling questions!
But let us tease out an implication that we may have missed in our starry-eyed wonder. We quote a reflective Biblical scholar at length:
The human is both a consequence of Yahweh’s decision in and to the council and a reflection of the divine world as it is embodied in the heavenly assembly. The ben ’adam [“son of man; human one”][3] is like the ben ’elim [son of God; divine one”], a notion expressed explicitly … in Psalm 8…
The creation of the human creature is the establishment of a representative from the divine world to rule the created order. The image of the divine ones is placed on earth to embody and represent the divine ones in subduing, ruling, and governing the earth. The creation of male and female provides for the sustaining of that rule in the perpetuation of the creation.[4]  
Process what you read. The image of the divine ones is placed on earth… This is talking about us! It harkens back to the creation narrative. God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), speaking to His divine council says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). It’s important to note as the creation narrative continues that it is God and God alone who actually creates, but man, the dirt creature, is created in the image of God and of His divine council!
Further, we’ve been given a parallel rule/dominion to the divine council. The divine council has been granted authority by God to rule the heavens (a reality symbolized by the sun, moon, and stars) and man has been granted authority to have dominion over the earth. As Bible scholar Michael Heiser writes, “Humans and intelligent spirit beings are representatives of God in their respective domains.”[5]
And this is what has mystified David in Psalm 8. Man, the dirt creature, has been highly honored by God with a dominion parallel to the luminous spiritual beings in the heavens! And, without taking us too far afield from the focus of this article, the great hope and promise of Scripture is for these two parallel dominions to be reunited (as they were in Eden) in the Kingdom of God. And, surprise of surprises, for the dirt creature – man – to reign over it all with Jesus! 
Michael Heiser writes again,
Angels will actually be in a subservient status to glorified believers in the eschaton [the age to come]. The writer of Hebrews notes, ‘it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come,’ a thought that is to be framed by Paul’s exhortation declaring that believers will ‘judge angels’ (1 Cor 6:3).[6]
In short, Scripture is emphatic that man – the dirt creature – will reign with Jesus over the entire renewed creation and over these spiritual beings. Maybe now you can see why David marveled! What God has in store for His redeemed is astonishing! As Scripture notes, though, we’re not there yet. The author of Hebrews writes,
At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. - Hebrews 2:8-9
So we have God’s promise of reigning with Him and God assures us that that promise will come to fruition in His Son Jesus who was made temporarily lower than the angels (like the dirt creature, man), but who has been exalted far above them in His resurrection and glorification, a reality we will share when Jesus returns and establishes the fullness of His kingdom in the renewal of all things. It’s truly astonishing and thrilling, so great are God’s promises for us! It’s no wonder David begins and ends his psalm, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” – Pastor Conner 

[1] The Hebrew word for man is adam. So, our English Bibles have not translated the Hebrew word for man; they have transliterated it. So, they merely present the Hebrew word (אָדָם) in English letters (ADAM).

[2] It’s important to understand that these little g “gods” are real spiritual beings, but they are created. Deuteronomy 10 says, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God (10:17). So, Yahweh is the God of gods. He reigns above all His created gods/spiritual beings. Scripture, then, details various rebellions of some of these gods in Genesis (see Genesis 3, 6, and 11 – Deuteronomy 32:8-9 and Psalm 82 expand on Genesis 11 to add the spiritual dimension). It’s no wonder Yahweh commands Israel in the Ten Commandments to have “no other gods.” They were not to worship these created, but rebellious, spiritual beings/gods.  

[3] ben ’adam is Hebrew for “son of man,” a phrase David uses to describe mankind in Psalm 8. ben ’elim is Hebrew for son of God, which is often translated heavenly beings. Psalm 8 uses a variation of this idea.    

[4] Miller, Israelite Religion and Biblical Theology, quoted in Michael Heiser, Angels: What the Bible Really Say about God’s Heavenly Hosts, 31.

[5] Michael Heiser, Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Hosts, 30.

[6] Michael Heiser, Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Hosts, 131.


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