God’s Ultrasound (Psalm 139:1-24)

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Sanctity of Life Sunday was celebrated in South Africa on 31 January 2010. The purpose of this day is to draw attention to the silent holocaust that is occurring throughout our land: a form of mass murder that is taking place, one womb at a time.

The history of this day has its roots in United States. On 22 January 1973 the US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favour of the legalisation of abortion. Since then, tens of millions of human beings have been killed through either surgical or chemical procedures with the full legal protection of the US Constitution. In essence, the ruling was that the foetus was not fully human and therefore it was not afforded human rights under the constitution.

Abortion has always been practiced in this fallen world. In places like Russia and other nations that have historically rejected the Judeo-Christian worldview, abortion rates have been atrocious; holocaust would not be an overstatement. For example, China has been notorious for its abortion practice (even forced abortions) for many years—even prior to the ruling in the USA. But when the USA gave legal sanction to such a murderous practice, it was the beginning of a horrific murderous avalanche for this nation had for three centuries been at the centre of Christian ethics. With this ruling the Supreme Court rejected America’s long held biblical principle of the sanctity of life. When such an unrighteous, unjust act was legalised there, then the onslaught upon the unborn—worldwide—took a dramatic turn for the worse.

Every year in the United States over one-and-a-half million lives are ended by abortion. The former USSR recorded over seven million abortions a year. Worldwide, abortion ends fifty-five million young lives—every year. And they are ended in horrific ways.

The four main methods of abortion are:

  1. Suction: A powerful vacuum pressure sucks the unborn baby and placenta from the womb.
  2. Dilation and Curettage/Evacuation: A surgical instrument is introduced into the womb and dismembers the unborn child.
  3. Prostaglandin: A drug-induced premature labour which expels the unborn child. Salt poisoning is also used in which the child is burned alive in the mother’s womb.
  4. Hysterotomy: A mini caesarean section operation which opens the mother’s uterus where the unborn child is either strangled or left to die by neglect.

But whether burnt, smothered, drugged, sucked, or cut to pieces, the result is death for the newly conceived life.

In addition to this, millions more have been killed by chemical contraceptives.

In 1984, through a presidential proclamation by Ronald Reagan, Sanctity of Life Sunday was inaugurated in the USA to coincide with the decision rendered on 22 January 1973. Thus while secular humanists celebrate this day as being a day marking liberty, those who believe the Word of God mourn the horrendous loss of life that continues to occur.

But abortion is not unique to the USA and the rest of the world. We in South Africa also have plenty of blood on our hands. We too murder babies with legal protection. In fact many boast that we have the most liberal constitution in the world and part of the freedoms that we have enshrined in the bill of rights is the right to murder unborn children.

On 1 February 1997 abortion was made legal in South Africa, despite an overwhelming opposition of the majority of South Africans to such legislation (the Termination of Pregnancy Act). In fact, at the time of the passing of this law over 76.8% of polled ANC members were opposed to such a law—more than any other party, including the Freedom Front which registered a 75.2% opposition in the polling!

Since the legalisation of child killing, it is estimated that 200 South African women each day have an abortion. That equates to 200 deaths of persons each day; 1400 a week; 72,800 each year. Conservative estimates are that since the legalising of abortion that at least 600,000 lives have been ended—all with legal protection. And of course that is not even including those lives that have been ended by the use of certain chemical contraceptives.

But having noted this we must be careful of the danger of making abortion sound evil simply by the sheer force of numbers. The sanctity of life is a transcendent issue, not a numerical one. Abortion is a violation of the law of, and thus a rejection of the will of, God. Abortion is a spiritual issue, which manifests itself in the destruction of flesh and the shedding of blood. It is an attack, not just on humanity but, ultimately on God.

Consider the following.

When the Government announced that they would receive submissions from the public for the purpose of debating this bill they received 157,000 submissions, of which a mere 495 supported abortion. The remaining 99.97% expressed opposition to abortion. But the spokesman for the government, Dr S. A. Nkomo, while acknowledging that most of the submissions opposed abortion on demand, dismissed them because they came “largely from Christians.”

And so what we now have, in the words of one local author, is “tax-funded, state-sanctioned murder.”

We should be clear here that abortion is not a legal issue, but a spiritual one. Jesus said that the devil was a liar and murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Perhaps nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the legalisation of abortion. Voluntary and forced abortion are both acts of murder, which are promoted and sustained by lie upon lie. Such lies as,

  • There is no life until birth;
  • If a child is going to potentially be born with a deformity, abortion is a legitimate option;
  • Abortion is a means to supply researchers with cells to help cure diseases; thus abortion can be an act of “philanthropy”;
  • A woman has a right to an abortion because she has a right to do what she wants with her body;
  • Abortion is a pain-free procedure which leaves one with no regrets;
  • There are too many people in the world and thus abortion is a legitimate—even honourable—form of population control; it is a way to “love our neighbour’;
  • It is wrong to bring a child into this world where he or she will face hunger, a life of poverty, etc. and thus it is better to abort the child;
  • It is better to abort a child than for it to face possible child abuse (As Africa Christian Action notes, “It is illogical to argue that a child is protected from abuse through abortion since abortion is the most horrific form of child abuse.”); and
  • Children are an inconvenience and thus abortion is a safe and easy way to get rid of the problem.

Abortion is a practice that finds its origin in hell. It is evil. It is Satanic. It must be stopped. Sanctity of Life Sunday is one small attempt at doing so. In South Africa this day has been recognised since the last Sunday of January 1998. By God’s grace there will be a day when this day will no longer be necessary. But until then we must engage the good fight of faith. May this study help us to do so.

All murder is an affront to God; it is a satanic attack on His Person by the desecrating of the persons He has made (Genesis 9:6). The devil is not going to sit idly by while his agenda is being exposed and opposed. When you oppose abortion, be prepared for war!

This is not, in other words, merely an issue of biology or medical ethics. Rather this is an issue of momentous spiritual import. It is ultimately a question of kingship, of lordship: To whose rule will South Africa bow—King Jesus or the devil? Abortion is a lordship issue, an authority issue, a sovereignty issue; it is a spiritual issue. We are at war (Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). As one social commentator has written, “People who are disgusted at reports of child sacrifice by satanists should remember that, practically speaking, abortion is just a clinical and sophisticated form of child sacrifice.” It may be more “clinically respectable” but it is satanic nonetheless.

The devil hates God and all that reflects Him. Therefore the devil is hell-bent on degrading and destroying that which is made in the image of God. And the womb is a primary target for such destruction. It always has been.

God is the One who alone gives life and thus He alone is the One who can legitimately take it. But the devil seeks to murder in opposition to God and His will. Since Satan was well aware of the promised Saviour (Genesis 3:15) he was set on destroying the seed of the woman. This was clearly the satanic motivation that propelled Pharaoh to order the murder of all newborns as the children of Israel began to multiply in Egypt.

The history of God’s old covenant people is largely written in blood as Satan sought to block the coming seed. And this continued right up until the time in which Mary was carrying the Christ child. In a remarkable display of the sovereignty of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who came to destroy the works of the devil, was snuck into Bethlehem, under the nose of the satanic state, to be born in fulfilment of prophecy. He was then snuck out of Bethlehem and was taken to Egypt to escape the tax-funded sword of infanticide. Thirty-three years later the Seed crushed the serpent’s head!

Yet we are aware that Satan’s hatred for God and for His creation, especially for His new creation, is unabated. And thus abortion and infanticide (synonyms, in my opinion) continue. Until the Lord Jesus returns to settle justice forever, abortion will be a modus operandi of the evil one. Perhaps if men and women understand who is behind this, they will think twice about do the devil’s dirty work.

The issue of abortion is one of spiritual warfare and it is a war which is being waged in the womb on the most vulnerable of humanity. And make no mistake, that which is conceived in the womb—the result of a sperm united with an ovum—is indeed life; it is a unique individual containing 46 chromosomes. This life may be dependent on the mother for its life, but it is also an independent life in the eyes of God. It should be in ours as well.

It has been estimated that perhaps 30 babies were killed by Herod’s soldiers in Bethlehem upon the death of Christ. There was “weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children” (Matthew 2:18). In one day nearly seven times that many children will be killed in the womb in South Africa! Who will weep for them?

In the battle against abortion we are called to wrestle for flesh and blood, but we do not ultimately wrestle against flesh and blood. Rather, we wrestle for the hearts and minds of people to submit to God’s law-word. Rousas Rushdoony (prior to the US Supreme Court ruling) wrote,

In our time, we have a strange situation: on the one hand, there is a fanatical dedication to preserving the life of trees and animals, and, on the other, fierce protection of abortion “rights,”… We exalt life in a century of mass murderers and vicious rulers. The roots of this are in the separation of life and law from God. Life is now seen as an evolutionary accident, and law is an instrument of rule and authority created by the state. By separating life and law from the totally personal God of Scripture, we have depersonalized both life and Law.

This is a very important observation and it precisely highlights the point that, apart from submission to God’s revelation of Himself in His Word, there will never be a proper appreciation of the sanctity of life. In fact, there can be none.

This war is being waged on the political front in a war of words. The only way that this war will be won—and it will be won—is by the Word of God. We must wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, to change the hearts and minds of those who endorse the killing of children.

One such weapon is Psalm 139, and this is my weapon of choice in this study. May it be unsheathed and wielded in such a way that persons will be protected from the murderous use of chemicals, scalpels and suction machines.

Psalm 139 serves as God’s ultrasound, by which we are exposed to the reality that the foetus is a life. It is a person. It is an individual for whom God is concerned. In this passage, David celebrates the sanctity of life. He celebrates the reality that God forms humans in the womb. Just as He formed man from the dust of the ground, so God forms humans from the cells that He causes to grow in the womb.

It is my contention that one reason that many in our society are so blasé about abortion is due to ignorance. It may be wilful ignorance in many cases, but on the other hand many operate from the perspective, “Out of sight, out of mind.” In fact, American feminist and pro-life author Frederica Mathewes-Green says, “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice-cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg. Abortion is a tragic attempt to escape a desperate situation by an act of violence and self-loss.”

My desire in this study is to create biblical awareness so that at least no one reading will have the excuse of ignorance.

The Lord expects for us to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and such who follow Christ will be zealous to keep His commandments. One of those commandments is, “You shall not murder.” As we have come to appreciate in recent studies, humans have a God-given right to life, and thus no one, except God, has the right to end it. That includes the baby in the womb. But further, this commandment also lays upon us the obligation to protect the right to life held legitimately by others. (I say “legitimately” because some have given up their right to life through the illegitimate taking of the life of another and hence the biblically mandated penalty of capital punishment is to be exercised by the government.) The Sixth Commandment lays upon us the responsibility to do all that we can to protect the little life that is endangered in the womb of one who plans to kill it. Note what Solomon wrote concerning this responsibility:

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?

(Proverbs 24:11-12)

We live in a day of great technology. Ultrasounds provide tremendous insight into what is happening in the womb, and today 3D scans are commonplace, and even 4D scans are now available.

Psalm 139 serves as something of an ultrasound from God’s perspective. It provides us with a look into the womb. By doing so we see a life that has begun and that is being developed. As we view what is happening in the dark we come away with a greater appreciation for the truth that life begins at conception and that even though the child is out of sight it should not be out of mind. It is certainly not out of God’s mind. This psalm very ably leaves us without excuse when it comes to the sanctity of life.

In recent years the prolife movement (a better term would perhaps be “the sanctity of life movement”) has seen some positive developments. In fact, in the USA, those who oppose abortion now outnumber those who support it by an increasingly large majority. What is most encouraging is that those between the ages of 18-29 are the most prolife generation to come along since the Great Depression. In our own country, the Western Cape Health Department is facing a “crisis” (as they term it) because the newer doctors and nurses refuse to perform abortions.

The Western Cape Health Department has admitted a crisis as younger medics are refusing to kill unborn babies. According to Health department head Professor Craig Househam, “Even more worrying, he said, was the fact that it was younger staff in the health sector who were unwilling to perform abortions. This could result in major problems when the older staff retired or left.” … The Nurses union DENOSA, has also supported the right of conscientious objection by nurses … The Western Cape Health Department [says], “The capacity to do first trimester termination of pregnancies at district hospitals and community health centres will be addressed as a priority for 2009/10.” In other words, they are prioritising the killing of unborn babies for the upcoming year.

They are going to find it difficult to fulfil their agenda as more and more young people become more and more prolife. But why is this? What has caused this shift towards being anti-abortion? Well, as Jennifer Senior of the New York magazine noted in December 2009, “This generation is the first to grow up with ultrasound images taped to the refrigerator door. Their understanding of the fetus is dramatically different from those who never had to face those images.”

In other words, no longer is the baby out of sight and therefore it is harder for it to be out of mind. The ultrasound images have made it manifestly clear that what is happening in the womb is a lot more than a multiplication of cells; it is the formation of a person. What has become visible has made abortion unthinkable for many. The penny has dropped, as it were, and most refuse to commit murder.

In an article in the Weekly Standard (“Mugged by Ultrasound”), this point is illustrated by several examples. Consider one.

Kathy Sparks is another convert formerly responsible for disposing of fetal remains, this time at an Illinois abortion clinic. Her account of the experience that led her to exit the abortion industry (taken from the Pro-Life Action League website in 2004) reads-in-part:

The baby’s bones were far too developed to rip them up with [the doctor’s] curette, so he had to pull the baby out with forceps. He brought out three or four major pieces … I took the baby to the clean up room, I set him down and I began weeping uncontrollably … I cried and cried. This little face was perfectly-formed.

A recovery nurse rebuked Sparks for her unprofessional behaviour. She quit the next day. Sparks is now the director of a crisis pregnancy center with more than 20-pro-life-volunteers.

I want to stress the point that in our passion for the sanctity of life we need to be very careful in our assessment of those who are pro-abortion.

Though the Scriptures make it very clear that abortion is murder (see for example the case law of Exodus 21:22-25), most people who commit the sin of abortion are somewhat oblivious to the reality that the life within the womb is a person and therefore to end this life is tantamount to murder. As I have already said, ignorance of the law is no excuse. And yet there is a difference between sins of presumption and sins of ignorance. The Old Testament sacrificial system acknowledges this (see Leviticus 4 and “unintentional sins”). David also made reference to this when he wrote, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression” (Psalm 19:13).

He acknowledged that though all sin is transgression of God’s law, at the same time some sins are committed without an understanding that such an act is wrong.

I mention this because there are a multitude of people who are having abortions who need the light of God’s Word to shine upon what is happening in their wombs.

Many women have been brainwashed by an evolutionary school system and by a God-defying elitist media (news and entertainment) that the life that is in their womb is not actually a life. Further they have been indoctrinated with the lie of, “It’s my body and I have the right to do what I want with it.” As this psalm clearly shows, there are two lives here: the mother and the child who is in the mother. The baby in the uterus is just as “dependently independent” one minute before birth as it is one minute after birth. And so, with such a perspective, the otherwise unthinkable is being committed. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). Apparently we moderns have a lot to learn from the ancients.

A recent article on The News and Advance website illustrates just how unbiblical we have become in the postmodern west.

A loophole in state law is preventing Campbell County investigators from charging a woman they say killed her newborn baby.

Deputies were called to a home in the 1200 block of Lone Jack Road in Rustburg around 11:00 AM Friday. The caller said a woman in her early 20s was in labor. When deputies arrived, they discovered the baby had actually been born around 1:00 AM, about ten hours earlier. Investigators say the baby was already dead when deputies got there.

Investigators tell WSLS the baby’s airway was still blocked. They say the baby was under bedding and had been suffocated by her mother. Investigators say because the mother and baby were still connected by the umbilical cord and placenta, state law does not consider the baby to be a separate life. Therefore, the mother cannot be charged.

“In the state of Virginia as long as the umbilical cord is attached and the placenta is still in the mother, if the baby comes out alive the mother can do whatever she wants to with that baby to kill it,” says Investigator Tracy Emerson. “She could shoot the baby, stab the baby. As long as it’s still attached to her in some form by umbilical cord or something it’s no crime in the state of Virginia.”

The Campbell County Sheriff’s Office and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office worked unsuccessfully to get the law changed after another baby died in the county in a similar case. Emerson says they asked two delegates and one state senator to take the issue up in the General Assembly. He says the three lawmakers refused because they felt the issue was too close to the abortion issue.

Emerson tells us there’s a double standard with the law. If someone other than the mother harms a baby still attached to the mother, that person can be charged.

The baby’s grandmother was home and was the one who called 911. Police say she will not be charged because the baby was born in the middle of the night and the grandmother did not know until late morning. Investigators tell us the baby’s father was upset when he showed up at the home after deputies.

“He was very upset. I think the grandparents were upset. I believe everyone was upset, except for the person who should have been upset, the mother,” says Emerson.

Emerson tells us the woman knew she was pregnant and had received prenatal care. He says the baby was full-term, due Tuesday. The medical examiner says the baby was born healthy. An autopsy is being performed. The baby’s body will then be released to the family.

We need to show compassion towards those who do not get it. We need to educate society that life begins at conception and that thereafter what takes place is the development of life. This is where the ultrasounds have been so helpful. But ultimately we need to preach God’s Word; we need to work towards discipling the nations to submit to God’s Word. Whether or not one ever has access to an ultrasound, the Word of God clearly teaches that a pregnant woman is carrying a life created by God. As helpful as ultrasounds are, the believer is called to walk by faith (believing God’s revealed will) rather than by sight.

The Weightiness of God

Commenting on Jesus’ three days in the tomb, someone once noted that when it is the darkest we should be encouraged that God is doing something miraculous behind the scenes. The resurrection of Christ proves the point. In this psalm, David tells us that in the darkness of the womb, God indeed is doing something miraculous. But of course there is a context to these verses and that is, the immensely personal relationship that David had with God.

O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

(Psalm 139:1-12)

As has been observed by many commentators, this psalm is not a record of abstract observations concerning the personality of God, and it is not merely some “theoretical theology.” Instead, it teems with wonder, love and praise for God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. A. F. Kirkpatrick writes,

The consciousness of the intimate personal relation between God and man which is characteristic of the whole Psalter reaches its climax here. The omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of Jehovah are no cold philosophical abstractions for the Psalmist. He realises most vividly that Jehovah is One Who knows all his thoughts and actions, One from Whose universal Presence he cannot escape, One Who has fashioned his frame and ordered his life. With profound reverence he meditates on these truths in an address to God, recognising their mystery and awfulness, and seeking not to escape from God but to yield himself more fully to His control and guidance.

These first twelve verses set the theological foundation for the abortion question. They point us to the greatness and the glory and the weightiness of God. Again, in light abortion, the glory of God is the fundamental issue. A murderous attack upon the child in the womb is ultimately an attack upon God.

In these verses we have the record of a man who loved God and who thus marvelled at His omniscience, His omnipresence, and His omnipotence. The opening verses highlight these attributes. David marvelled, wondered, at the majesty of God who knew everything about him and whom was always round about him.

David wondered at the truth that the Creator and Sustainer of all took such a personal interest in him. God, who is the sum of all wisdom and perfection, takes an interest in sinners.

This means that those who commit abortion are destroying those whom God knows and whom He surrounds. He feels their pain. He knows what they are going through. He knows their sense of horror as the saline solution replaces the amniotic fluid of the womb and begins to burn them. He knows their sense of terror as the forceps take aim at them to tear their bodies apart. He knows this. He is there.

Abortion, like any other form of murder, is ultimately an attack on the God of wonders who is wonderful. It is an affront to the love of God.

When we have a clearer vision of God, then we will have a clearer and saner view of life. A Scriptural vision of God is the proper foundation for a Scriptural vision of the sanctity of human life.

Proverbs 29:18 teaches this when it declares, “Where there is no vision the people perish” (KJV). It is precisely because many people in our country have wrong views of God that life is increasingly being depersonalised. A society becomes increasingly dangerous to the degree that it abandons reverent wonderment of God. (Per capita, our abortion rate in South Africa is less than half of that in the USA; no doubt we are still feeling the moral capital of Christianity in our country over against a major decline in the USA.)

Alistair Begg has written, “We cannot overstate how important it is for us to recognize the vast difference between believing all is chance and believing that our lives have been created by a personal, purposeful, involved, and loving God. Follow these two roads to their logical conclusion and you will quickly see the fundamental distinction between the believer and the unbeliever. Only a firm set of principles, expressive of a biblical worldview, provides an adequate reason to value life.”

Perhaps the poster child to prove this assertion is Princeton University’s own ethicist, Peter Singer. As a man who rejects any and all belief in God as “irrational” he states, consistent with his God-defying view, “When we reject belief in God we must give up the idea that life on this planet has some preordained meaning. Life as a whole has no meaning. Life began, as the best available theories tell us, in a chance combination of gasses; it then evolved through random mutation and natural selection. All this just happened; it did not happen to any overall purpose.”

When such a worldview is embraced, it is only a matter of time before human life is so depersonalised and devalued that we live like beasts. Perhaps worse than beasts, since there are not many animals in the wild who kill their offspring.

If Sanctity of Life Sunday will become a thing of the past because it is unnecessary, we will need a Spirit-wrought awakening in our land. We will need for God to save sinners and to put His fear, not only in the church, but in the hearts of the unsaved as well. (This, by the way, is the purpose of God-ordained government; see Romans 13).

The Womb of God

Verses 13-16 highlight the fact that life begins in the womb. It is perhaps the clearest passage in all of Scripture that teaches this truth.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.

(Psalm 139:13-16)

Granted that David did not write these verses with abortionists in mind (although abortion has always been practiced throughout history), but clearly (from the standpoint of v. 19), David was concerned with the issue of murderers and thus the application is justified. James Montgomery Boice writes,

These verses plainly teach the individuality of a child while it is still in its mother’s womb. David is not writing about abortion, of course. Nothing could be further from his mind. But no one can read these verses thoughtfully without considering their obvious bearing on this important contemporary problem.

The womb of a woman is there by divine design. The fruit of the womb is a gift of God. But not only is the child in the womb God’s gift, so is the womb itself. Thus, those who contemplate abortion need to reckon on the fact that they are tampering with that which is God’s—in more ways than one. David realised this and thus he wrote vv. 13-16. As John Stott observes, “God can search man out not only because he sees him, but because he made him.”

David marvelled at God’s profound greatness and also at His particular grace. But David went back in time as he contemplated that God’s grace to him, and the display of God’s greatness predated his birth. Even in the womb David experienced the grace and greatness of God. God’s work in the womb is to be marvelled, not murdered.

Of course, the argument made by many is that the size and underdevelopment of the baby somehow reduces its value and therefore it supposedly does not qualify for “human rights.” Therefore, it is not protected by the constitution. Aristotle speculated that the foetus becomes human when it “quickens” in the womb; that is, when the mother feels it move in the womb. Thus, stage of development is the issue, according to him, when it comes to the abortion question. Size determines value. This Aristotelian view has increasingly been embraced by our society. Someone has well noted in this regard, “This country has just ended discrimination based on race. Are we now going to start discrimination on the basis of age? Saying: ‘I’m older than you, I’m bigger than you, I have a voice—therefore I can kill you.’”

Boice observed that up until some forty years ago, a pregnant woman was said to be carrying a baby. However today we speak of “zygotes” and “foetuses.” Quite certainly the reason for the new nomenclature is to minimise what is really taking place when an abortion is sought and/or carried out. To think in terms of an “appendage” or a “piece of flesh” is necessary to justify such barbaric taking of life.

Note David’s references to “you” throughout. He recognised God’s intimate involvement with him when he was alive and being formed in his mother’s womb. Observe his descriptive language of God’s creative work.

He writes of God knitting together with bones and sinews (v. 13), and adds that this knitting together included the “inward parts” (literally, the kidneys). H. C. Leupold comments,

The most deep-seated of all the organs is obviously referred to, whose activity cannot even be detected as the heart can by its throbbing. But it was not mother nature mysteriously at work when the human being began to take shape and form in the body of the mother. God was at work there, weaving together the substances that go to make up a human being.

Dr. Paul Jarret was an abortionist who quite the industry after only 23 procedures. His turning point came in 1974 during an abortion on a 14-week-old foetus. In his own words, “As I brought out the rib cage, I looked and saw a tiny, beating heart. And when I found the head of the baby, I looked squarely in the face of another human being—a human being that I just killed.”

God literally covered David in the womb; He formed the place for his development (v. 13). God is recognized as the one who “formed” or “made” David (v. 13, 15). God is credited with forming David’s skeleton. God paid attention to the rib cage and the metatarsals and the radius and the ulna (v. 15).

It has been noted that what happens in abortion clinics is kept secret by those who have a vested interest in them. But the silence is being broken. Listen to this account in “Mugged by Ultrasound”:

In 2008, however, abortionist Lisa Harris endeavored to begin “breaking the silence” in the pages of the journal Reproductive Health Matters. When she herself was 18 weeks pregnant, Dr. Harris performed a D&E abortion on an 18-week-old fetus. Harris felt her own child kick precisely at the moment that she ripped a fetal leg off with her forceps … Harris concluded her piece by lamenting that the pro-choice movement has left providers to suffer in silence because it has “not owned up to the reality of the fetus, or the reality of fetal parts.”

God is acknowledged as the One who made both Adam and David (v. 15b). As one commentator notes, “The same skill … that made Adam makes every son of Adam. As God’s work was then hidden from the eyes of man, so it is now.”

God paid attention to David even before all the above was developed. In other words, David had life before his body was fully formed (v. 16). It is as though David is saying, “Lord, you formed me in the womb according to a predetermined plan.” David acknowledges that God, as the author of life and as the sovereign over death, appointed certain days for David to live—even before the womb.

Consider the following facts of life:

  • The heart starts beating between 18 and 25 days.
  • Electrical brainwaves have been recorded at 43 days on an EEG. (If the absence of a brainwave indicates death, why will pro-abortionists not accept that the presence of a brainwave is a confirmation of life?)
  • The brain and all body systems are present by eight weeks and functioning a month later.
  • At eight weeks, the baby will wake and sleep, make a fist, suck his thumb, and get hiccups.
  • At the end of nine weeks, the baby has his own unique fingerprints.
  • At 11-12 weeks, the baby is sensitive to heat, touch, light and noise. All body systems are working. He weighs about 28g and is 6-7.5 cm long.

He is fully developed before his mother’s pregnancy is even noticeable. This is the age of baby, that the government is saying can be killed for any reason whatsoever, without a waiting period for the mother to consider her decision!

In light of all the above, it is clear that abortion is the taking of a life that has been given by God; it is the illegitimate ending of a life that only God has the right to end. It is a violation of the law of God. It is murder.

The church needs to contemplate this beautiful psalm in a deeper way than mere sentiment. The doctrine of the sanctity of life is a transcendent reality; it transcends the womb. Life there should be treated with the same respect as life outside of the womb. After all, it is life by the will and by the very intimate work of God. Hands off!

The Wonder of God

David was amazed at the fact that God loved him. He knew that he was a sinner and that he deserved God’s judgment. And yet because he had experienced God’s grace, he marvelled at the truth that even before he was made in his mother’s womb, he was loved and planned for.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

(Psalm 139:17-18)

People sometimes speak of an “unplanned pregnancy.” There is no such thing—at least from God’s point of view. David realised that his life was planned, and that God planned to save him by grace.

I would imagine that there are probably some reading this who have either had an abortion or who have advised others to have one. May you take comfort from the fact that David, a man who committed adultery and then who sought to cover it up with murder, experienced forgiveness from God. You too can experience such wonderful grace. Yes, those who have had an abortion, and those who have performed abortions can experience the grace of God through Christ and become those who are the objects of God’s manifold gracious thoughts towards them.

One such individual is Bernard Nathanson, cofounder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, a US organisation.

In the early 1970s, Nathanson was the largest abortion provider in the Western world. By his own reckoning he performed more than 60,000 abortions, including one on his own child. Nathanson’s exit from the industry was slow and tortured. In Aborting America (1979), he expressed anxiety over the possibility that he was complicit in a great evil. He was especially troubled by ultrasound images. When he finally left his profession for pro-life activism, he produced The Silent Scream (1984), a documentary of an ultrasound abortion that showed the foetus scrambling vainly to escape dismemberment.

This man became a believer; God’s grace was amazing to him and it can be for you! Forgiveness is available for the repentant. Even Norma McCorvey, the woman whose court case was the catalyst for legalised abortion in the United States, later came to Christ through the loving ministry of a prolife pastor. God’s grace is indeed amazing!

The Wrath of God

What of those who refuse to face the facts, or worse, who after knowing the facts continue to defy the law of God? What should they expect and how should we treat them? David tells us in vv. 19-22.

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain! Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.

“In a connection such as this,” writes Leupold, “the prayer for the overthrow of the wicked must refer to those who refuse to acknowledge the providential care of God that watches over them, to those who refuse to be God-related in their thinking and doing though God stands so closely related to them. What the writer feels keenly is that such persons spurn so much of the grace of God that their sin borders on the heinous. Such persons deserve to be overthrown.”

Commenting on these verses, Kittel notes that David’s words are given “not [in] a spirit of revenge, but grief over the presence of wickedness.” And VanGemeren concludes,

The ascription “bloodthirsty men” denotes a lack of respect for life and regard for justice and righteousness … They also scheme surreptitiously against God’s authority. The rejection of evil arises from the psalmist’s spirit of commitment to the Lord and not from pride. This is clear from his prayer, asking for God to discern his motives and his actions … The psalmist desires nothing less than conformity to God’s will.

We should note that such will be condemned by God. He may even slay them!

David indicates that the enemies he has in mind are “bloodthirsty”; they are murderers. Whoever these “wicked” people were, they were guilty of depersonalising God’s creation; they rejected the principle of the sanctity of human life. As noted earlier, I don’t think that David was particularly thinking of abortionists, but this appellation of murderers is fitting for such a group. All who disregard God and thus depersonalise human life are deemed—by God—to be wicked. And He will judge them.

There are many in the pro-choice camp who know the truth and yet who wilfully resist it. They are those described in the latter portion of this Psalm as the wicked. In other words, sociologically, there are sinners, and then there are sinners.

David says that, in light of God’s attitude towards them, he will stay away from such people; in fact he uses very strong language when he says that he hates them with a “perfect hatred.” That is a very Christian statement! We are told in God’s Word to love good and to hate evil. And since it is impossible for us to separate the sinner from his sin then this hatred is righteous. Hatred of course does not mean that we want the worst for those who are wicked. In fact we would love to see them saved by grace. But we do hate what they believe and how they behave and thus we want nothing to do with them. We “despise” such evil people (Psalm 15:4) and therefore we do not bid them well.

The church of South Africa should indeed engage in imprecatory prayers to God against those who promote the murder of the unborn. If such will not respond to appeals of grace then may they be judged by God and may the lives of millions be spared!

The Way of God

Lest we become self-righteous in our indignation, we need to listen carefully to David’s closing words.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

(Psalm 139:23-24)

In these verses David invites the Lord to do a work in his own life. He asks the Lord to search his heart for evil; to expose any evil tendencies in his own heart. He wants to walk in God’s will, to abide in God’s way.

The fact of the matter is that when it comes to the issue of the sanctity of life, we may decry abortion on one hand while still being guilty of murder on the other. I won’t belabour this point in which I dealt somewhat extensively in three earlier sermons, but only to point out that in our defence of life, let us increasingly respect life.

How prolife are we really? If we are racist then we do not respect the sanctify of all life but only the life of a certain colour. If we refuse to help our neighbour who is in need then we do not respect the sanctity of life but rather we are self-absorbed. If we will not reach out to help those who want an alternative to abortion then we really are not all that prolife after all. What then will you do to help the unborn, and to help those who want an alternative to taking the life of their unborn?

For most of us, we don’t know—at least right now. But perhaps tomorrow the Lord will bring someone along your path that will need your help. In fact, I suspect that if we pray seriously about this then the Lord will lead us to such an encounter.

Should we be more proactive? Can we be? What is the Lord calling us to? Who will take the first step? Will we walk according to His way, the way of living out the sanctity of life?

South Africa is a sin-sick nation that desperately needs the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need repentance on a massive scale. The purpose of Sanctity of Life Sunday is to call attention to this need. May God grant us repentance so that our nation will respect the sanctity of life and thus we will stop murdering our babies. But until such time, we will continue to draw attention to this day with the prayerful hope that one day we will no longer need to. May we bow to the law of God with the result that the womb of a mother will once again be a safe haven in South Africa.