Abortion has always been a practice in this fallen world. In 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”).
Worldwide, abortion ends 55 million young lives every year—in horrific ways. The four main methods of abortion are:
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 the South African public. 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 mathematical 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 only 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. We are at war (Ephesians 6:10–18; 2 Corinthians 10:3–5). The war is being waged on the political front in a war of words. The only way that the war can 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 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 (see Proverbs 24:11–12).
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 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 at the majesty of God who knew everything about him and 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.
Verses 13–16 highlight the fact that life begins in the womb. It is perhaps the clearest passage in Scripture dealing with this truth. 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 murder and thus the application is justified.
The womb is God’s design and the fruit of the womb is his gift. 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 together with 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). He 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). He acknowledges that God, author of life and sovereign over death, appointed certain days for him to live—even before the womb.
David was amazed at the fact that God loved him. He knew that he was a sinner and that he deserved God’s judgement. 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 sought to cover it up with murder, experienced forgiveness. 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.
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.
God’s enemies (i.e. those who defied his authority) 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 the 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.
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.