For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor.
While the Psalmist refers primarily to man, we learn from St. Paul that the text has a further reference to the Lord Jesus Christ.
I. THE TEXT, AS SPOKEN OF MEN. Perhaps it was not so much in nature as in position that man, as first formed, was inferior to the angels. Nothing higher could be affirmed of the angels than that they were made in the image of God. If, then, they had originally superiority over man, it must have been in the degree of resemblance. The angel was made immortal, intellectual, holy, powerful, glorious, and in these properties lay their likeness to the Creator. But were not these properties also given to man? Whatever originally the relative position of the angel and the man, we cannot question that since the fall man has been fearfully inferior to the angels. The effect of transgression has been to debase all his powers; but, however degraded and sunken, he still retains the capacities, of his original formation, and they many be so purged and enlarged as to produce, if we may not say to restore, the equality. Take the intellect of man; there is no limit to its progress. Use the like reasoning in regard to power, or holiness, or dignity. The Bible teems with notices, that so far from being by their nature higher than men, angels even now possess not an importance which belongs to our race. It is a mysterious thing, and one to which we scarcely dare allude, that there has arisen a Redeemer of fallen men, but not of fallen angels. And angels are represented as "ministering sprints." Believers, as the children of God, are attended and waited on by angels. Then, while human nature is still walled off from every other in its special properties, risen spirits may stand on a par with the very noblest-created intelligence, glowing with the same holiness, arrayed in the same panoply, and gathering in from all the works of God the same immenseness of knowledge and the same material of ecstasy.
II. THE TEXT, AS SPOKEN OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. His being made "a little lower than the angels" is represented as with a view to the glory which was to be the recompense for His sufferings. This is a very important representation, and from it may be drawn a strong and clear argument for the divinity of Christ. We could never see how it could be humility in any creature, whatever the dignity of his condition, to assume the office of a Mediator, and to work out our reconciliation, if an unmeasured exaltation was to be the Mediator's reward. A being who knew that he should be immeasurably elevated if he did a certain thing, can hardly be commended for the greatness of his humility in doing that thing. He must be the king already, ere his entering the state of slavery can furnish an example of humility. And yet in consenting to be "made a little lower than the angels" our blessed Redeemer actually humbled Himself. Who, then, can this man have been before becoming man? We cannot suppose that the attributes or properties of Godhead were capable of being laid aside or suspended. Shrouded and hidden, but not laid aside, was the divinity of Christ. If He could not lay aside the perfections, He could lay aside the glories of Deity. Every outward mark of majesty and greatness might be laid aside. He passes from the form of God to the likeness of men. It is not in the power of language to describe either the humility or the compassion thus displayed. It was literally the emptying Himself, the making Himself poor, "that we through His poverty might be made rich."
(Henry Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.