Fearfully and Wonderfully
Please read Psalm 139:13-16.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020,
On January 13, 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation designating January 22 as the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day. (January 22, 1973, was the day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion-on-demand in all 50 states.) People across the United States use the day to celebrate God's gift of life, commemorate the many lives lost to abortion, and commit themselves to protecting human life.
On Dec. 10, 2019, our South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem issued an Executive Proclamation, designating January, 2020 as “Sanctity of Human Life Month.” I’ve read it and believe it is a well-written proclamation.
Personally, I have dear friends who are committed Christians on both side of the issue of abortion-on-demand and am able to love then all and listen to lots of viewpoints. We are not here to debate abortion-on-demand, capital punishment, or any other single aspect of a pro-life perspective. Instead, it is our task this morning to agree on the single most important basis of civilized life: the belief that all human life is sacred. If we can’t all agree on that statement, we have no basis for trust and relationship, no basis for organizing in civilized ways. Regardless of race, religion, or other beliefs, all members of the human family must recognize the right of all humans to live. All other rights and freedoms begin with this essential principle.
In addition to that, let all Christians agree that the sacredness of human life is a principle affirmed everywhere in Scripture: from the creation of human life in Genesis to the redemption of human life in Revelation, God commands us to respect human life above all other parts of creation.
CONTEXT: Psalm 136 is King David’s celebration of God who knows us completely, yet loves us unconditionally. Verses 13-16 are our focus this morning. Here we find David saying God knows us intimately because He made us. And He makes only good things. In these verses we find a beautiful confirmation of the principle of the sacredness of human life.
Because we are God’s creation, human life is sacred.
1. Human life is sacred because God is our Creator. (13)
Every verse in this section affirms this teaching. However, verses thirteen through sixteen direct our attention to the INMOST part of our BEING, the spiritual/emotional/intellectual facets of our personality.
The image of being KNIT by God expresses a beautiful sentiment. A similar statement is made to the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5; The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Yet this is much more than sentiment. God has plans for each life and assigns purposes to our days
2. Human life is sacred because we are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image and likeness. (14)
The words FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY express our awe at the creative power of God. Though the psalm applies to all human beings, David wrote it from a very individual perspective. He praised God out of gratitude for all God had done for him. So great was David’s gratitude that he wrote ALL God’s WORKS ARE WONDERFUL. All of creation prompts praise to the Creator.
This passage does not mention the Image of God, but it is so integral to our understanding of humanity and in the background of these affirmations, we must mention it here. Found in Genesis 1:27, this phrase is not precisely defined in Scripture. But it is clearly something(s) that distinguishes humanity from the rest of creation and elevates us above it.
3. Human life is sacred because God created each of us according to His plan. (15-16)
A developing child is invisible to the naked human eye, but fully known to God. The words, MY FRAME literally means “my bone.” David used respectful metaphors for the womb: SECRET PLACE and DEPTHS OF THE EARTH.
In fact, God knows us so well He has plans for our future even before our birth. YOUR BOOK probably refers to the Book of Life, a common Bible word picture of God’s list of His faithful people; those who will be saved.
God has a general plan and specific plans for every person. In general, God wants every person to be saved and every person to do good works. 2 Peter 3:9 names God’s will for universal salvation: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Ephesians 2:10 proves God’s plan for universal good works. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. The facts that not all people are going to be saved and not all people are going to do good works is evidence of free will; God’s delegated authority to each of us to decide whether to love or reject Him.
God has specific purposes for each of our lives. It is the task of a maturing believer to discover God’s will and obey it.
Because we are God’s creation, human life is sacred.
Any culture that refuses to recognize all human life as sacred fails the first and most important test of a civilized society. We have no basis for organizing in a productive way apart from this first commitment to life.
Let’s make this truth more personal, as David did when he wrote this song of praise. God has a purpose (several) for your life. It is not yours to waste on sin and selfishness.
We have an amazing capacity to waste time. We repeat mistakes until they become bad habits. We give in to bad habits until they become character flaws. Moments stretch into days and days become years before we turn around. Life is too precious to waste. One way we can honor the sacredness of human life is not to waste a moment of our own.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, Willem A. VanGemeren.