Psalm 139 begins with a vivid description of God’s awareness of human activity (vv. 1-3). Actually, God is more that just aware. David acknowledged that God had probed David’s inner being to the extent He understood David’s actions. He knew when David was at rest or when he arose. In fact, God fathomed David’s thoughts and ways of dealing with life (v. 3).
Further, David extended the realm of God’s omniscience in regard to David’s language (vv. 4-6). The merest slip of the tongue is not too insignificant to miss God’s attention. We are reminded of our Lord’s statement that evil words whispered in the ear shall be “proclaimed upon the housetops” (Lk. 12:3). As David thought more about God’s total involvement in his activities, he finally gave up his analysis, admitting such knowledge far outstripped his ability to comprehend it (v. 6). But he never wavered in his confidence in God’s ability, wisdom, and interest in guiding human affairs.
In sublime language, the Bible provides God’s intimate recognition of the status of the unborn (vv. 13-15). To prevent any misunderstanding, he provides two proofs of the existence of the unborn baby. First, he alleges God “possesses” his “reins.” The word translated as possesses is usually associated with a creative act as when a worker builds or creates a boat. Hence, God is the source of the “reins,” the internal elements associated with emotions. To be covered carries the idea of a woven garment, carefully stitched together for a beautiful coverlet (v. 13).
What David portrayed in imagery we can now explain in a biology class. When the male sperm with its 24 chromosomes combine with the 24 chromosomes from the female, the new creation has its features decided, such as the color of the eyes, the texture of the skin, the ultimate height to which the baby will grow—all of these features and many others. No one can reasonably doubt that a living human has been brought into existence. Some may quibble that Adam became a living soul only at the time God breathed into him the breath of life. As the argument goes, a baby is not a living soul until he or she begins to breathe. That interpretation has few advocates today. The problem is, a baby at conception is not built of dust, but of human genes.
We can infer the Jewish attitude toward the unborn in the case of a physical altercation between a woman’s husband and another man (Ex. 21:22-25) which results in a miscarriage. If the baby dies, the other man must pay according to the Law of Retaliation, such as eye for eye and tooth for tooth. The purpose was to ensure that the punishment fit the crime. The point is, the unborn was treated as a person.
Finally we can judge the importance of every life by appealing to the majesty of the creator (vv. 16-18). David appealed to the Lord (vv. 1, 4, 16) the God of Israel (vv. 1, 4, 21), but also to the God of creation (Gen. 1:11, following) whose image resides in all humans. When we speak of the sanctity of life, we refer to the God of the Old Testament as revealed in His only begotten Son. Because the Son died for the sins of the world (Jn. 3:16), every person is important, including the unborn.
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