Abortion has always been a practice in this fallen world. In places like Russia and in other nations that have historically rejected the Judeo-Christian worldview, abortion rates have been, and are, horrific. In recent decades, however, abortion has been widely legalised in nations that traditionally have embraced this ethic (so-called “Christian nations”). When this happened, the biblical principle of the sanctity of life was dealt (literally) a death blow.
Worldwide, abortion ends 55 million young lives—every year. And they are ended in horrific ways. The four main methods of abortion are:
- Suction: A powerful vacuum pressure sucks the unborn baby and placenta from the womb.
- Dilation and Curettage/Evacuation: A surgical instrument is introduced into the womb and dismembers the unborn child.
- 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.
- 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.
On 1 February 1997 abortion was legalised in South Africa, despite overwhelming opposition by South Africans polled. Conservative estimates are that since the passing of this legislation at least 600,000 lives have been ended—all with legal protection.
But 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 moral issue, not a numerical one. Abortion is a violation of the law of and thus a rejection of the will of God. It 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 upon God.
This is not, in other words, merely an issue of biology or medical ethics but one of momentous spiritual import. Abortion is a lordship issue, an authority issue, a sovereignty 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.
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.
Psalm 139 serves as what we might call God’s ultrasound, by which we are exposed to the reality that the foetus is a life—a person, an individual for whom God is concerned. In this passage, David celebrates the sanctity of life, the reality that God forms humans in the womb. Just as He formed Adam from the dust of the ground, so God forms humans from the cells that He causes to grow in the womb.
Humans have a God-given right to life, and thus no one, except God, has the right to end it. This includes the life of the unborn. 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 (see Proverbs 24:11-12).
Most who commit the sin of abortion are no doubt unaware of the true nature of the act. We need to show compassion towards them. We need to educate society that life begins at conception and that what takes place thereafter is the development of life. Modern technology—ultrasounds, et al—are helpful in this regard. But ultimately we need to preach God’s Word and disciple the nations. The ultrasound is incidental; the Word of God clearly teaches that a pregnant woman is carrying a life created by God. As helpful as technology is, the believer is called to walk by faith (believing God’s revealed will) rather than by sight.
The Weightiness of God (vv. 1-12)
In Psalm 139:13-16 David tells us that, in the darkness of the womb, God 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 (vv. 1-12).
This psalm is not a record of abstract observations concerning the personality of God, and it is not merely “theoretical theology.” Instead, it teems with wonder, love and praise for God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence.
The first twelve verses set the theological foundation for the abortion question. They point us to the greatness and the glory—to the weightiness—of God. The glory of God is the fundamental issue. A murderous attack upon the child in the womb is ultimately an attack upon God.
David marvelled, wondered, at the majesty of God who knew everything about him and whom was always round about him. He wondered at the truth that the Creator and Sustainer of all took such a personal interest in him.
God feels the pain of the unborn. 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.
The Womb of God (vv. 13-16)
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. I grant David did not write these verses with abortionists in mind but clearly (from the standpoint of v. 19), David was concerned with the issue of murderers and thus the application is justified.
The womb of a woman is there by divine design and 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. 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 cast his mind 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.
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.”
David recognised that God created a person in the womb. He writes of God knitting togetherwith bones and sinews (v. 13), and adds that this knitting together included the “inward parts” (literally, the kidneys).
God literally covered David in the womb; He formed the place for his development (v. 13). God is recognised 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).
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). David acknowledges that God, as the author of life and as the sovereign over death, appointed certain days for him to live—even before the womb.
Consider some well-publicised facts about foetal development. The heart starts beating between 18 and 25 days. Electrical brainwaves have been recorded at 43 days on an EEG. 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 a baby that the government says can be killed for any reason whatsoever—without a waiting period for the mother to consider her decision!
The Wonder of God (vv. 17-18)
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 (vv. 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.
David, a man who committed adultery and then who sought to cover it up with murder, experienced forgiveness from God. No one (and no sin) is beyond 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.
The Wrath of God (vv. 19-22)
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.
Commenting on these verses, one writer notes that David’s words are given “not [in] a spirit of revenge, but grief over the presence of wickedness.” And another concludes, “The rejection of evil arises from the psalmist’s spirit of commitment to the Lord and not from pride.”
David indicates that the enemies he had in mind were “bloodthirsty”; they were murderers. Whoever these “wicked” people were, they were guilty of depersonalising God’s creation; they rejected the principle of the sanctity of human life. David was not 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.
The church of South Africa should indeed engage in imprecatory prayers to God against those who promote the murder of the unborn. If these will not respond to appeals of grace then may they be judged by God and may millions of lives be spared!
The Way of God (vv. 23-24)
Lest we become self-righteous in our indignation, we need to listen carefully to David’s closing words.
In vv. 23-24 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. In our defence of life, let us increasingly respect life.
South Africa is a sin-sick nation, which desperately needs the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need repentance on a massive scale. May God grant us repentance so that our nation will respect the sanctity of life and will stop murdering babies. 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.
Written by Doug Van Meter. Used with permission.