January 21, 2018
Why do we celebrate life? What is so special about life? Why do Christians hold such a high view of life, whether in the womb or close to the end of life? We talk about the sanctity of life, but why is life so holy? Isn’t everything in our lives about the survival of the fittest or quality of life . . . versus. . . having life? Isn’t a good life about having a life without handicaps or disease?
We have many verses in the Bible that indicate there is something special about human life. When God began the creation process in Genesis 1, He spoke into existence millions, or maybe billions, of animals. Sea life, birds of the air, and beasts of the field all on the 5th and 6th days of creation (Genesis 1:20-25).
But when it came to human life, God did something different. All the animals God spoke into existence, “ex nihilo,” out of nothing. But God, formed Adam from the dust of the earth. Through Adam’s nostrils, God breathed into him the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). Eve was created from the bone and flesh of Adam. This is not said about any of the animals. God’s creation of people was very intimate and personal to God. And not only that, God made human kind in His image and after His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). No other creature is given this special gift of bearing the image of their Creator.
Adam and Eve were given dominion over the earth and all the animals in it. They were to take care of it, and fill it with human beings (Genesis 1:28-30). Every detail about our creation is filled with purpose. First and foremost, we were created for fellowship with our Creator God. Why is human life so special and why should we celebrate life? Simply put, because human life is special to God.
I want to look at Psalm 139 this morning. A passage that is often looked at for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. But for me it is even more than just a passage that clearly indicates that God considers the unborn embryo from the time of conception a human being, but that God celebrates each and every life as His own creation. Thus, we should also celebrate life.
Back in 2008, I preached a four-week series from Psalm 139. The focus was on four attributes (qualities or characteristics) of God. Though there might be some things that sound familiar, if your memory is that good, today I want to treat the whole chapter in one single message with a little different focus than before. I want to use the four attributes found in Psalm 139 to help understand our response to life. The first attribute we talked about is that He is:
Omniscient God (1-7)
This simply means that God is all-knowing. In classical theology the doctrine of God’s omniscience means that God knows all things, past, present and future, real and potential things, and He knows them all at the same time. He not only knows what was, and what is, He also knows what will be. On top of that, He knows everything that could be . . . but is not. Listen to the first seven verses as it talks about our omniscient God.
1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
God knows everything about us, nothing is hidden from Him. God never discovers anything, he is never surprised, and never amazed. He never wonders about anything, nor does He seek information or ask questions. He has no need for a teacher, and He knows how everything fits together. The omniscience of God is simply amazing. The second attribute of God that we talked about is that He is:
Omnipresent God (8-12)
Here’s a simple definition of omnipresence: “The Lord our God is everywhere at once.” . . . He is everywhere present all the time. Paul Little states that “God is not a substance spread out in a thin layer all over the earth, all of God is in Chicago, in Calcutta, in Cairo, and in London, at once and the same time.” That is the omnipresence of God. All of God is everywhere. Listen to verses 8-12 as they describe the attribute of God’s omnipresence:
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
Someone else has said that God’s presence is like the air we breathe. Air is odorless, tasteless and invisible. Of course, the problem with air is that most of the time we don’t even think about the air we breathe, yet we depend on it for our very existence.
Likewise, God’s presence is all around us, and if it were withdrawn, none of us could survive for even one moment. Our God is omniscient, all knowing, and our God is omnipresent, existent everywhere.
The third attribute of God is that He is:
Omnipotent God (13-18)
This is the fact that God is all powerful. The Creator of all things and the One that makes all things work. Have you noticed how these attributes of God kind of build upon one another? The Psalmist begins with God’s omniscience, and then he supports the omniscience of God with God’s omnipresence. After all, how is it that God can know everything, because He is everywhere present. God sees and knows everything because God is everywhere.
God’s omnipotence, His power, also supports the idea that God knows everything. You see, God knows everything because He made everything and controls everything. He is all powerful! Listen to verses 13-18 as they describe our omnipotent God.
13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 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 was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
Derek Kidner comments on this passage by saying that “God not only sees the invisible, and penetrates the inaccessible, but is operative there, the author of every detail of my being.” God knows the details of my life and is the Creator of every detail of my being. What an awesome thought!
Did you notice that this Psalm is very personal? David is not talking in general terms about the creative powers of God, he is talking about the creative powers of God as it relates to him and God’s knowledge of him. Basically, he is saying that it is not really a surprise that God knows me, God made me.
Though this passage is used many times in speaking against abortion, and truly it is a good passage for that, David is not writing about abortion. He is writing about God’s knowing and understanding every detail of my life. David is celebrating life! Life as it relates to God. He is celebrating and praising the One who gave him life.
He begins by saying that God formed my inward parts. The word for inward parts refers to the internal organs of our bodies. God put together the internal aspects of our bodies. The word “formed” is a word in the original language that refers to the possession or ownership of something that is created or made. The idea is that if I built a cabinet, it would be mine until I sold it or gave it away. It is my creation and mine until I do something with it because I formed it.
Because of God’s creative work in you and me, He owns us. We are His possession. The beating heart, the continual breathing of the lungs, the filtering process of the liver, and the vital life-giving processes of the stomach and colon are all God’s because He made them. He made my inward parts. He put together my body, soul, and spirit.
These bodies we have are not our own. They are not ours to do with as we please as many abortion activists claim. We must realize that not only is a pregnant mother God’s own possession, but what God has created in her womb is not something we have a right to choose whether it lives or not.
But not only is the embryo in a mother’s womb God’s created possession, but that which is conceived in the womb is woven together like a garment or blanket where each thread or strand of yarn is woven together to create a beautiful masterpiece.
Knit together or woven together. When my parents came together in an act of love some amazing things took place. 23 chromosomes from my mother and 23 from my father, carrying some 15,000 genes from each parent, were joined together. These genes, like letters of a divine alphabet, spelled out the unique things that make me, . . . well, . . . me.
color of eyes, hair, and skin
. . . . and so much more
Within 6 to 12 hours of fertilization the one cell had split into two, and then 4 and then 8 and so on. I, all 8 cells of me, journeyed down the fallopian tubes and settled into my mother's womb, implanted into the uterine wall, and there I grew at a phenomenal rate.
At 3 weeks my heart began to beat. By 4 weeks, my arms and legs had appeared, internal organs were growing, and I was 10,000 times larger than at first. By 6 weeks my brain was fully developed, and its signals could be measured. At three months I had unique fingerprints, closed eyelids, and a translucent skin.
And so it went, until some 266 days after my conception I was born, an intricate baby containing millions upon millions of cells, each with a special function. The omnipotence of God, the power of God at work creating life my life. That is why we celebrate life. That is why the Psalmist praised God. He was celebrating life.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
“Wonderfully made” is a word in the original language that means to be made distinctly. In other words, there is no one else just like me. I am distinct from all others. God’s creation of me was unique, one of a kind. Even identical twins have differences. The fingerprints of identical twins though similar, they are different.
“My soul knows it very well” the psalmist said . . . you know, deep down inside, I wonder if every human being knows this. That somehow deep within they know they are a unique creation. That in their mother’s womb, they were not just a blob of tissue, but that they were being created by the mighty power of God!
Verses 15-18 speak powerfully of the intimate detail God puts forth in His creating life. Though hidden from view to the human eye, every embryo is a life that God sees knows so well that it is as if He keeps a book of all the DNA structure and genes of your physical being. And what is even more powerful, is that God knew what they would be even before we existed at conception! The number of God’s thoughts about each of us are more than the grains of sand.
Are we beginning to see how important is life to God?
We should be praising God, celebrating life!
God is omniscient – all knowing
God is omnipresent – everywhere at once
God is omnipotent – all powerful
The last attribute of God is that He is a:
Discerning God (19-24)
God is omniscient, God is omnipresent, God is omnipotent, and as such He is the One who can discern my thoughts, my intentions, and the desires of my heart. The idea that God knows us intimately awakens in David the issue of sin. God clearly knows and discerns every aspect of our lives, including sin and its effect on our lives. The beautiful picture of God given life in Psalm 139:1-18, the picture of God’s intimate and powerful creative act of giving life, has been marred with sin.
We struggle with sin every day. We struggle with the temptations of sin. We struggle with the fact that wicked people seem to get away with their sin. We sometimes think, why doesn’t God just go ahead and judge them. We know they will face His judgment someday, why not now. We think how much nicer it would be if there were no more wickedness, that people would just turn to God and live for Him, and how much nicer it would be if those who don’t . . . well . . . if they were gone!
Illustrate the thoughts we think about our country!
We talk about having perfect love, but have you ever thought about what it means to have perfect hatred? As David continues in this psalm, he brings into question the evil and wickedness around him. It is not that he is sinless, we know that, but that he struggles with all the sin, wickedness and evil around him. Just as we are not sinless, but we struggle with all the wickedness and evil around us. How is he to respond it? Or for that matter, how are we to respond to the sin in our world.
Let’s listen to verses 19-24 as they describe David’s struggle and a God who discerns every thought and intention of the heart.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
I don’t think that David was truly able to live separately from men that were guilty of bloodshed and I don’t think that he desired to have a heart of hate for evil people. Only that he wanted so desperately that the sin of those around him, not be a part of his life. Sin, wickedness, and evil are all around.
Oh, that we would have such a concern over sin! I do not think that you and I take sin seriously enough in our lives. We lie so easily about things, we are so easily captured by things on TV, in books or on the computer that we should not see. We treat others so badly without even thinking twice about it. Instead of hating sin, it almost appears as though we are embracing it.
But I believe that David was so strong in his words in this section because he knew his own weakness to these areas of sin. Since God knows all things, he wanted to have a clean heart before his God. He was concerned about the possibility of being influenced by the sin of others. He finally comes to the point of crying out to God to discern these thoughts in his heart.
We must be honest with God and with each other about this struggle and I think we see this struggle going on in these verses. Our desire should be like that of Davids.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
David’s desire is to be searched and known by God. In other words, he is asking for God’s examination. Why would he do that? He knows he is prone hate wicked people.
We live in a world that wants us to view life as not important. If there is an inconvenient pregnancy, a handicap or impediment, or what is determined as no quality of life, then we should end life, whether we are talking about abortion or euthanasia. It is so easy to become like David and say I hate those who perform abortions. I wish God would just slay those who participate in assisted suicide or infanticide. It is so easy to come to a point of loathing the ones who rise up against God.
Listen, there is no doubt in my mind that we need to stand for life. I am so glad that we are seeing a turning of the tide concerning abortion, but we need to still stand strong for life. Life begins at conception. But how do we feel towards the young lady who had an abortion, or the doctors and nurses that performed abortions? Have we said in our hearts “I hate those who hate God?”
Yes, there is a day when they will face God’s judgment, but wouldn’t it be much better to show them the love of God and help them to see their need of repentance, so they can receive the grace that you received?