David poses a pair of valid questions. The second has two answers, but I do not think that David had in mind the secondary meaning.
What is man? Stop the question there and the whole thing reads very differently. Ask a chemist and you get a small book like Asimov’s The Chemicals of Life. Ask a biologist and you get something else. Ask a naturalist (not many of those left, these days) and you might get Darwin’s Origin of Species. Ask a philosopher and you may be able to cure your insomnia. Ask God and the answer might surprise you. Back in Genesis, God decided to create man — the male and female portions of the species — in His own image. Part one of God’s answer is that man is created after the likeness of God; patterned on Him. Just as a print of the Mona Lisa is not the Mona Lisa, so, too, is man not God. If we stopped there, God’s notice of humanity would make perfect sense. But the story does not stop there. Humanity falls from its perfect state. We make a choice — the prerogative of freewill — and that choice mars the likeness of God; destroys our perfection; makes us unable to commune with God, to walk with Him and talk with Him and simply have a relationship with Him. If we stop the story there, as David likely had, then we might find ourselves asking the same question: What is man that You take thought of him? Back to Genesis, God promises the first woman (who is later named Eve) that one of her male offspring will set things right between God and man. Why male? Maybe because it was the male, Adam, who willfully disobeyed and God required a male to willingly obey to balance the scales once again. We do not know for certain and any answer given, including the foregoing, is just conjecture. We do know that God promises the woman that everything will come right again. And God never breaks a promise. So David’s question now has two answers: (1) God made a promise to mankind, through the woman, that everything would be set right and that man and God could one day return to being friends and walking together and talking together. (2) God’s promise gives Him a vested interest in seeing that mankind continues until such time as He fulfills His promise. That promise is what gives me a secondary meaning to the second question.
David’s second question, What is the son of man that You take care for him? lends itself to a twofold response. The first response is the straightforward one: God cares about the son of man; the scions of Adam, because they, too, are created in the image and likeness of God and are mangled reproductions of His perfection. He, like any artist, wants to get the prints right. Mangled, distorted, barely recognizable reprints are unacceptable — they ruin the narrative that the Artist intended. Unlike human artists, who might scrap the lot, God wants to fix them. He wants to go back and touch up each and every print until it becomes faithful to His intent. He wanted it to express something and He is willing to put in the effort to make it express that thing. We, as C.S. Lewis wrote in the Chronicles of Narnia, are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. We are the son of man.
In a second, and far more interpretive mode, David could be asking about the Son of Man in title case. In this instance, David would be asking about the Messiah. Jesus, when He comes on the scene, refers to Himself often as the Son of Man. Jesus takes up the mantle of responsibility for us and performs the perfect obedience that would make Him and acceptable sacrifice to wash away our sins. Why would God take care for the Son of Man? Because the Son of Man is also the Son of God. God cares for the Son of Man (title case) because the Son of Man is His beloved Son in Whom He is well pleased. I need to remember that this second way of understanding and answering the question is unlikely to be what David had in mind. This is just one of those times that God made someone’s words capable of bearing more than the author originally intended.
And how do I apply this to myself today? God notices me. He sees what I deal with. He knows that my mind is what it is and He wants to renew it. He knows that my body is what it is and He wants to regenerate it. He knows that my Old Man rebels against the New Man that He has placed within me and He wants to stand beside that New Man and give him victory over the old. God notices. God sees. When Hagar and Ishmael were in the wilderness and she thought they were both going to die of thirst, God made sure that she found a well. She called it the well of the God Who sees. He sees. He notices. All the struggles that I fight in silence are noticed by Him. All the times I fall and all the times I rise. He notices. Because I am His ποίημα; His poem; His masterpiece and He is not content with anything less than a perfect communication of His intent through me. He loves us. Oh, how He loves us.