Lane Sanders, senior pastor
Macedonia Baptist Church, Jackson
Jesus practiced a habit that must have been annoying to the powerful: He continually identified with, and advocated for, the most vulnerable of society. He showed mercy to the sinners, healed the infirm, praised the poor, accepted the outcast, and protected the helpless.
One such segment He seemed especially protective of was children (Matt. 18:1-6). For Jesus children actually represented the ideal for those seeking after God (Mark 10:13-16).
Fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable of our society – the unborn, the special needs, the infirm, etc. – should be second nature to Christ followers. But why? Some use the right to life platform for political posturing, using this issue to further the success of a particular political party. Unfortunately, the right to life has been reduced for many in our culture to politics and politics only.
It’s much more.
Others advocate for life because of the life itself. For such persons, all life is to be valued because of the inalienable rights that every person is entitled to. Life in the womb differs from life outside the womb only in terms of dwelling place. The motto for these advocates is summarized by a character in one of today’s most popular television shows, who succinctly states, “All life is precious.”
But even this stance misses the core issue. To comprehend what is truly at stake in the fight for life, we must approach the topic theologically. Consider the Psalmist.
Charles Spurgeon called this Psalm “the Song of the Astronomer,” believing King David wrote it as he gazed into the starry heavens. As he pondered what he knew of the universe, David expounded upon his observations with identical bookends: “Oh Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (vs.1, 9).
The repeated declaration tells us the point of the psalm is God. Anything written between was simply pointing to the greatness of the Creator. Man’s existence, his relationship with his Maker, and his status in the earth are reduced to illustrations of the Lord’s incomparable glory.
Such magnification does not begin, however, when man reaches adulthood. John Calvin declared, “The providence of God, in order to make itself known to mankind, does not wait till men arrive at the age of maturity, but even from the very dawn of infancy shines forth so brightly as is sufficient to confute all the ungodly, who, through their profane contempt of God, would wish to extinguish his very name.”
The cries of the weakest infant are a resounding chorus of praise to God that even the brightest intellectual cannot refute! “But God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (I Corinthians 1:27).
Silencing the unborn is not a political debate or platform. It’s not even solely about a woman’s rights or the life of the unborn. At its core the issue is God’s glory. God created that child in the womb as a demonstration of His majesty. Believers should fight for life so that His praise will rightly resound as He designed.
Psalm 139 makes an even stronger theological appeal, if that were possible, to value life and protect the unborn. Here, David acknowledges that God “wove” us in our mother’s womb (v.13). American theologian and author Peter Leithart wrote a fascinating analysis of this verse. Let me summarize his thoughts and apply them to the subject at hand.
The Hebrew verb used for “wove” is raqam, a somewhat rare word in the Old Testament that is used almost exclusively to describe the curtains and veils of Israel’s wilderness tabernacle. Needless to say, such material would be both valuable and beautiful. As in Exodus 26:36, roqem (noun form) work used colorful, finely woven linen.
For the Psalmist to say that an unborn child is “roqem work” is to say something about the skill of the One weaving and about the beauty of His fabric. All life is beautiful.
But the choice of words in this verse speaks to something even greater. His language suggests a connection, an analogy, between the tabernacle and the unborn.
In the OT roqem work designated space that was off-limits, space specifically and specially for the presence of God. Both the Old and New Testaments refer to our bodies as the dwelling place, or temple, of God (Ps. 52:5, Jer. 10:20; I Cor. 3:16-17, 6:19; I Pt. 2:5).
Violations of this holy space were met with terrifying swiftness by an offended Yahweh. Right after the tabernacle had been erected, Aaron’s sons burned incense before the Lord “which He had not commanded them,” and the Lord responded to their encroachment by sending fire that consumed them (Lev. 10:1-7).
Later, Korah complained of Moses’s and Aaron’s privilege, stating everyone in the camp was the same before God. Moses invited Korah and his followers to test their theory and to offer incense before God behind the roqem work. Korah accepted the challenge and paid dearly for it. God caused the earth to swallow Korah, his men, their families, and all their possessions (Num. 16:1-40).
Leithart writes, “Treading the earth is perfectly safe; but breaking through the boundaries onto consecrated ground is sacrilege, and very, very dangerous.”
Psalm 39 makes a clear parallel between the formation of an infant in the mother’s womb and a tent curtain being woven. In both cases consecrated space is created. In both cases violation of that space is offensive.
Again Leithart: “With its allusions to the roqem work of the tabernacle, the Psalm (implies) not only that God has made the infant in the womb, but also that the infant is being woven into a dwelling for God. Abortion attacks not only a creature of God but a house of God. … We are talking here not only about slaughter of the innocent but about sacrilege, a direct attack on ‘space’ claimed by God. That is the most serious offense possible.”