In the vast universe of wonder, man is the greatest wonder—the noblest work of God. A council of the Sacred Trinity was held respecting his creation, "God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." Every part of creation bears the impress of God. Man—man alone—bears His image, His likeness. Everywhere we see His track—His footsteps. Here we behold His face. What an amazing thought, that the three Eternal subsistents in the glorious Godhead, should have united in gracious design and operation towards the dust of the earth! But thus man was formed—thus was he raised out of his parent dust, from this low original, to be the living temple, and habitation of Divine glory—a Being full of God. The first moment that he opened his eyes to behold the light and beauty of the new-made world, the Lord separated him for His own service, to receive the continual supply of His own life. His body was fitted as a tabernacle for his soul, "curiously wrought" by the hand of God; and all its parts and "members written in this book, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them." Most naturally therefore does the contemplation of this "perfection of beauty" raise the adoring mind upward, "I will praise You; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works; and that my soul knows right well." Your hands have made me and fashioned me.
Could we suppose that man was formed to eat, to sleep, and to die—that, after taking a few turns upon the grand walk of life, he was to descend into the world of eternal silence, we might well ask the question of God, "Why have You made all men in vain?" But the first awakening of man from his death-like sleep enlightens him in the right knowledge of the end of his creation. If I am conscious of being the workmanship of God, I shall feel my relationship to Him, and the responsibility of acting according to it. I would plead then this relation before Him in asking for light, life, and love. I cannot serve You as a creature, except I be made a new creature. Give me a spiritual being, without which my natural being cannot glorify You. You have indeed "curiously wrought" my frame; but sin has marred all. Make me Your spiritual "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus." Give me understanding—spiritual knowledge, that I may learn Your commandments, "Renew a right spirit within me."
But the natural man feels no need of this prayer. No, he is puffed up in his own wisdom. He cannot receive the Divine testimony, which levels him, while he "understands not," with "the beasts that perish," and tells him, that he must "become a fool, that he may be wise." But should he ever know his new state of existence, he will offer up this prayer eagerly and frequently; and every step of his way heavenward he will feel increasing need of Divine "wisdom and spiritual understanding."
How does the song of heaven remind us of this end of our creation!, "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power! for You have created all things; and for Your pleasure they are, and were created." In harmony with this song we must acknowledge, that the "Lord has made all things for Himself"—that He "created all things for His glory." And the recollection that He "created us by Jesus Christ," brings before us the grand work of redemption, and the work of the new creation consequent upon it. He who created us in His own image, when that image was lost, that He might not lose His property in us, put a fresh seal upon His natural right, and "purchased us with His own blood." Oh! let us not be insensible to this constraining motive to learn His commandments. "You are not your own, for you are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."
"Your hands have made me and fashioned me." It is profitable to remember our creation, it is pleasant to see that the divine hand has had much to do with us; for it never moves apart from the divine thought. It excites reverence, gratitude, and affection towards God when we view him as our Maker, putting forth the careful skill and power of his hands in our forming and fashioning. He took a personal interest in us, making us with his own hands; he was doubly thoughtful, for he is represented both as making and molding us. In both giving existence and arranging existence the Lord manifested love and wisdom; and therefore we find reasons for praise, confidence, and expectation in our being and well-being.
"Give me understanding, that I may learn your commandments." As you have made me, teach me. Here is the vessel which you have fashioned; Lord, fill it! You have given me both soul and body; grant me now your grace that my soul may know your will, and my body may join in the performance of it. The plea is very forcible; it is an enlargement of the cry, "Forsake not the work of your own hands." Without understanding the divine law and rendering obedience to it, we are imperfect and useless; but we may reasonably hope that the great Potter will complete his work, and give the finishing touch to it, by imparting to us sacred knowledge and holy character. If God had roughly made us, and had not also elaborately fashioned us, this argument would lose much of its force; but surely from the delicate are and marvelous skill which the Lord has shown in the formation of the human body, we may infer that he is prepared to take equal pains with the soul, until it shall perfectly bear his image.
A man without a mind is an idiot, the mere mockery of a man; and a mind without grace is wicked, the sad perversion of a mind. We pray that we may not be left without spiritual judgment or understanding: this the Psalmist sought in verse 66, and he here pleads for it again: there is no true knowing and keeping of the commandments without it. Fools can sin; but only those who are taught of God can be holy. We often speak of gifted men; but he has the best gifts to whom God has given a sanctified understanding with which to know and prize the ways of the Lord. Note well that David's prayer for understanding is not for the sake of speculative knowledge, and the gratification of his curiosity: he desires an enlightened judgment, that he may learn God's commandments, and so become obedient and holy. This is the best of learning. A man may abide in the College where this science is taught all his days, and yet cry out for ability to learn more. The commandment of God is exceeding broad, and so it affords scope for the most vigorous and instructed mind: in fact, no man has by nature an understanding capable of compassing so wide a field, and hence the prayer, "Give me understanding";—as much as to say—I can learn other things with the mind I have, but your law is so pure, so perfect, spiritual and sublime, that I need to have my mind enlarged before I can become proficient in it. He appeals to his Maker to do this, as if he felt that no power short of that which made him could make him wise unto holiness. We need a new creation, and who can grant us this but the Creator himself? He who made us to live must make us to learn; he who gave us power to stand must give us grace to understand. Let us each one breathe to Heaven the prayer of this verse before we advance a step further; for we shall be lost even in these petitions unless we pray our way through them, and cry to God for understanding.