‘What is man?’ - Pastor Delmar Dabney

The commonly asked question that we will look at today is, “What is man?” Since I believe that the Bible is the source of truth, I am pointing us to the Word of God for our answers to these common questions. Today we are reading from the 144th division of the Psalms.

“Blessed is the Lord my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle — my loving kindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the one in whom I take refuge, who subdues my people under me. Lord, what is man that you take knowledge of him? Or, the son of man that you are mindful of him? Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow. Bow down your heavens, O Lord, and come down; Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. Flash forth lightening and scatter them; Shoot out your arrows and destroy them. Stretch out your hand from above, rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of falsehood. I will sing a new song to you, O God; On a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to you. Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.”

On more than one occasion, the ancient psalmists asked our common question: “What is man?” This one provides an answer: “Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow.” What is man? Now that is a good question. I’ll never forget my first test in my college psych class because that was it. What is man? Yes, I mean it. That was the whole test. “In three hours of writing time, answer the following question: ‘What is man?’”

Perhaps the reason it sounds like a philosophical question is that we like to think no one but philosophers ask such absurd questions. Isn’t it obvious what man is? Don’t you know what man is, simply by being a man or a woman, part of humankind? I thought I was a philosopher then. I thought I knew the answer. I wrote with ease. How young, and how presumptuous and how foolish I was.

No, the mystery of our humanness must never be answered in simple language. It takes the gift of poetry or music combined with the heart and mind of a psalmist to bring that mystery into expression. And that is what the writer of Psalm 144 has done for us. I could cover only a part of it for us in my limited time with you. Take time to read and reread it. His discovery is awesome. And, he will give you some new insights relative to yourself.

Next to the eternal God who made us, we are but a breath, a passing shadow. Why should God think of us? Why should He care? And in light of this consider how He treats us.

On the other hand, looking at God in contrast to what we are, our psalmist calls our attention to the fact that our God is solid. He is our rock and our fortress. He is the One in whom we have taken refuge.

You see, the only way for us to answer the question “What is man?” is to put man next to God. And no one did that better than our Lord Jesus. Know Jesus, friend, and you will know what man is, at least from God’s point of view.

Please pray with me. “Lord, my rock, this is only a simple way of saying it, but thank you for showing me what I am through what Jesus did for me. Accept my praise for his sake. Amen and amen.”

The Rev. Delmar Dabney was a spiritual inspiration in Southeast Texas for many years before his death in 1994. This and other messages from his daily television show, “Coffee with Pastor Dabney,” are featured here regularly. 

shadow