14 Creation is existential! The intensely personal language to which the psalmist returns (“I” and “my”) complements that of the second section. God is concerned with the individuals he has formed for his purpose. Therefore praise is the proper response to God’s grace of discernment, perception, and purpose. The child of God sees God’s presence everywhere (vv. 7–12) and experiences the joy of God’s watchful eye over him. All God’s “works” are “wonderful,” but the believer, more than any other part of God’s creation, senses that he is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Though God’s grace toward him is like “knowledge … too wonderful for” him to comprehend (v. 6), he lives with a personal awareness of God’s gracious purpose (“I know that full well”). The psalmist reveals a unique awareness of God’s grace toward him and responds with a hymn of thanksgiving (“I praise you”).
Ver. 14. I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.—Man adoring his Maker:—
- The expressive declaration—“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
- The wonders and mysteries of the human frame are little thought of, or understood, by the children of men; yet surely we may say, “The finger of God is here.” Our body is a congeries of wonders from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot. The different parts are so finely, delicately, and exquisitely made that it seems as if the least thing must disjoint, disorder, or derange them. Our life is an affair of beauty, symmetry, utility, and of mystery. The configuration and the construction, the composition and the articulation, the perforations, the compressions, the expansions, the attrition, the compensation, the exhaustion, the restoration, the secretion, and the excretions of the body all prove it to be “fearfully made.” The mouth, the eye, the ear, the head, the brain, and the lungs, with the heart contracting four thousand times in an hour, and sending out with unerring accuracy at every contraction one ounce of blood, are all proof of the fact. The varied apparatus for breathing, for nourishing the system, for moving the limbs, for the reception of aliment, and for the ejection of waste, all demonstrate the truth of the text. The varied secretions of the system, and the gastric juice, all of them being different in consistency, in colour, in taste, in smell, and in their uses in the animal economy; some of them thick, others transparent, some bitter and others sweet, all adapted either to cleanse, to lubricate, to defend, to digest, or to nourish, are so many confirmations of the statement that we are “fearfully made.”
- The language of the text also applies to the soul. Man is not only an animal, but also a spirit. That spirit is in the body, but not of it. So different from it, it yet influences it, and is influenced by it. It is lodged in it for “an appointed time,” and then to leave it, to be again reunited indissolubly to it, and there to abide for ever. This is the most wonderful part of man; it is mind, spirit, soul; the breath of God “breathed into his nostrils, and man become a living soul.” The first man, Adam, was made a living soul. Mentally, he is fearfully and wonderfully made. As a spirit he possesses the power to think, to learn, to know; he is capable of intermeddling with all wisdom, of receiving continuous supplies of wisdom and knowledge. What a power is this! It allies us to angels, to Deity! Do we value sufficiently our mental endowment? Are we careful to improve our power of reflection? Do we act as thinking beings—as creatures who must go wrong unless we exercise our minds in relation to the past, the present, and the future?
- Socially; we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” We are linked one to another, all the world round, and from generation to generation. We are ever being brought under the influence of others, and in our turn influence those around us. We may forget it, may doubt it, or deny it, and neglect it, yet it is so; all through our existence, in childhood, youth, manhood, or old age. This influence is being ever exerted, wherever we are, whatever we do, wherever we go—at home, abroad, in quiet or in active life. Oh! how it becomes us to be guarded, lest our being shall be a curse to any immortal spirit instead of a blessing; lest we lead them astray, and cause them suffering here and hereafter; or lest it be thus with ourselves! Let us indeed “watch and pray, lest we lead or fall into temptation.”
- Morally, man is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” These natures of ours are distinguished by a moral sense, as well as by a mental power and a social influence. We are gifted with a sense of right and wrong, of which we can never be divested to all eternity. We can understand the difference; can choose the evil and reject the good; or we are at liberty to choose the good and repudiate the evil. The choice is our own act; the praise, the blame our own. We may be driven to choose between conflicting duties; never obliged to choose between criminal acts, or to act criminally at all. We may be virtuous or vicious; range ourselves on the side of heaven or hell; walk with the wise, or choose to be the companions of fools. Do we regard aright this fearful responsibility? Do we live as if thus distinguished from the rest of the terrene creation?
- A becoming resolution. “I will praise Thee.” Let us not forget that we have much to praise God for. He is our Maker, He has blessed us with existence, and it will not be His fault if that blessing be turned into a curse. He it is that has so long held our souls in life. He has rightly framed us. He has endowed us with reason, He has favoured us with health, He has provided for our comfort, and supplied our ever-recurring necessities. We should praise Him for His marvellous wisdom, skill, power, and benevolence in thus building our “house of clay”; and endowing us with such mental powers, and for putting us into such social relations with each other, and in blessing us with such astounding spiritual possibilities for time and eternity; fully meeting and providing for the wants of our fallen spiritual natures as He has done also for the physical. We should praise Him for opening up to us through Jesus Christ His Son all the stores of Divine wisdom and knowledge, and giving us through Him free and constant access, “the fulness of the Godhead,” “the unsearchable riches,” the riches of His grace, the treasures of His love, and the immensity and eternity of His love. (Thomas Lord.)
The growth and perfection of the natural man’s body and mind:—
- The progress of man’s natural and intellectual life from its first principles to maturity.
- Practical lessons.
- Here, then, you will find, if you have hearts to perceive, overwhelming proofs of the power, the providence, the wisdom, and the goodness of God.
- If God has made these wonderful provisions for the formation and growth, the perfection and happiness of man; if He has endowed him with talents for comprehending the excellence of the work and the glory of its Maker, with a principle of self-action, deliberation, and choice of measures, man is bound to employ his parts and properties of body and mind with a special regard to God’s glory, as the main end and purpose of His own creation.
- The formation, increase, and maturity of our bodily parts and intellectual faculties, the provisions that are made for their sustenance and development, and the wondrous processes by which they attain to their measure of perfection are strong presumptions of the truth of what the Scriptures teach us of the resurrection of the body: and may be considered as a pledge and assurance that this portion of God’s counsels and prophecies will be fulfilled. (Bishop Bethell.)
Man fearfully made:—
- The expression imports the dignity of man in comparison with other creatures in this lower world. Man is so made that the sight of him impresses a terror on the beasts of the earth. Many of these are superior to man in strength and activity; and, were it not for this dread of man which is impressed on them, our life would be a state of anxiety and terror. Now, if God has given us dominion over the beasts of the earth, we ought to exercise it with justice and humanity. And if man is made superior to the beasts, he should conduct himself in a manner becoming his natural superiority. Reason is the dignity of man. Then only we maintain our dignity when we act as reasonable beings. If passion and appetite triumph over reason, we lose our superiority to the beast, and become as the horse or mule, which has no understanding.
- We are fearfully made, as our frame demonstrates the power, wisdom, and presence of God. Such a wonderful composition as man could not be the effect of chance. It must be the work of an infinite, independent, all-wise Creator. And God demands, “will ye not tremble at My presence? Ye have a revolting and a rebellious heart.” But we need not go out of ourselves. Shall we not tremble at His presence, when we see Him around us, and feel Him within us? He is not far from every one of us. Shall not His excellency make us afraid? Let us fear, love, and obey Him. This is our whole duty.
- We are fearfully made, as the Creator has impressed upon us evident marks of our immortality and accountableness. In the present state we find ourselves capable of progress and improvement: but we never rise to the perfection to which, in a longer space, we might attain. Must there not, then, be another state in which we may reach the perfection of which our nature is capable, but which is unattainable here?
- In respect of our frailty. Such is the tenderness of our frame, that in this rough and dangerous world in which we live, we are always exposed to casualties and wounds, diseases and death. It may, therefore, with much propriety be said, “we are fearfully made.” Let religion possess our hearts, and peace will attend our path, and hope will brighten our prospect. We may take pleasure in infirmities, for the power of Christ will rest upon us. For us to live will be Christ, and to die will be gain. (J. Lathrop, D.D.)
The fabric of the human body:—
Wonderful as a piece of architecture, as Solomon’s Temple was, the fabric of the human body is far more wonderful and far more exquisite in its beauty. It is passing strange that while men can be passionate enthusiasts in the matter of being collectors and students of moths, of first editions of books, or even of postage stamps, such vast numbers of them are content to remain in ignorance of that cabinet of marvels which is nearer to them than anything else, which they carry about with them everywhere, and upon the well-being of which depends not only so much of their comfort, but also the highest effectiveness of their lives. (R. G. A. Bennets, B.A.)
14. “I will praise thee:” a good resolve, and one which he was even now carrying out. Those who are praising God are the very men who will praise him. Those who wish to praise have subjects for adoration ready to hand. We too seldom remember our creation, and all the skill and kindness bestowed upon our frame: but the sweet singer of Israel was better instructed, and therefore he prepares for the chief musician a song concerning our nativity and all the fashioning which precedes it. We cannot begin too soon to bless our Maker, who began so soon to bless us: even in the act of creation he created reasons for our praising his name. “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Who can gaze even upon a model of our anatomy without wonder and awe? Who could dissect a portion of the human frame without marvelling at its delicacy, and trembling at its frailty? The Psalmist had scarcely peered within the veil which hides the nerves, sinews, and blood-vessels from common inspection; the science of anatomy was quite unknown to him; and yet he had seen enough to arouse his admiration of the work and his reverence for the Worker. “Marvellous are thy works.” These parts of my frame are all thy works; and though they be home works, close under my own eye, yet are they wonderful to the last degree. They are works within my own self, yet are they beyond my understanding, and appear to me as so many miracles of skill and power. We need not go to the ends of the earth for marvels, nor even across our own threshold; they abound in our own bodies.
“And that my soul knoweth right well.” He was no agnostic—he knew; he was no doubter—his soul knew; he was no dupe—his soul knew right well. Those know indeed and of a truth who first know the Lord, and then know all things in him. He was made to know the marvellous nature of God’s work with assurance and accuracy, for he had found by experience that the Lord is a master-worker, performing inimitable wonders when accomplishing his kind designs. If we are marvellously wrought upon even before we are born, what shall we say of the Lord’s dealings with us after we quit his secret workshop, and he directs our pathway through the pilgrimage of life? What shall we not say of that new birth which is even more mysterious than the first, and exhibits even more the love and wisdom of the Lord.