What is man, that you should magnify him? and that you should set your heart on him?
From the East proceeded first the light of Divine knowledge, of art, and of science, that threefold cord with which the loins of our civilisation are girded. In what boasted philosopher of heathendom do we find a single sentiment, on the subject in point, equal to the one contained in our text? To a Father the patriarch Job confidently looked, both in his prosperity and adversity; it was not to a God afar off that he poured out the feelings of his heart. It is true he was deeply awed at the infinity and consequent mysteriousness of his Divine Father; but while, on the one hand, he was overwhelmed with majesty and incomprehensibility, on the other, he was soothed and cheered with condescension and love. The Divine character, and the ways of providence, appear to have occupied the thoughts of this large-minded and holy man, to the exclusion of almost everything else. It was not a thing, it was a person towards whom his thoughts and affections rationally and instinctively turned. The law which influenced this good man was moral. The grand centre of attraction, and source of all spiritual life and glory, was God Himself, "the Father of lights." Now wherefore did Job thus seek after God, and look upon righteousness, or moral excellence, as the chief concern of his existence? Because something within prompted him to do so. There are two great generic ways in which God reveals Himself to man. Objectively, or through any physical medium such as His works, or assumed experiences, and subjectively, or in the conscious spirit. There was something more than mere figure in these words of our blessed Saviour, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." "What is man that Thou shouldst magnify him?" The patriarch appears to have been astonished that so vile, impotent, and short-lived a creature as man, should be specially noticed and favoured by his Maker. Whatever his ideas may have been of human dignity and worth, it is quite obvious that they were associated with a strong conviction of human degradation and vanity. And is not this a true estimate, the proper mean between two extremes, one of which exalts man far too high, whilst the other debases him far too low? If we looked no further than the outward nature and condition of man, we could only regard him as a unique kind of animal, inferior in some respects, though superior in others, to his fellow tenants of the earth. Were his animal nature the whole of man, in what would consist his preeminence over "the beasts that perish"? And yet this animal nature is all that our senses can take cognisance of. Considering him, however, in the light of analogy, it is clear that there may be undeveloped faculties and destinies, Of a high and inconceivable order, slumbering in his breast, but concealed from all inspection. Such was the pleasing theme of poetic song and philosophic speculation. These are by no means adequate effectively to counteract the sceptical conclusions of sense respecting the nature and destinies of man. Hence the uncertainty of the wisest and best of the old heathen philosophers. The plain truth is that the world by wisdom knew nothing conclusively about these things. The vantage ground on which the Bible places our feet, has raised us immeasurably higher than the wisest heathen, as such, ever stood. Guided by the torch of heaven, let us consider why God may be said to "magnify man, and set His heart upon him."
1. Man is magnified by the gift of an intellectual nature.
2. In the possession of a moral nature.
3. In being the object of a Divine redemption.
4. In the omnipresent and omniactive superintendence of Divine providence over human affairs.
5. Immortality and future blessedness strikingly illustrate the text. If you believe these things, what manner of persons ought you to be?
Parallel VersesKJV: What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?