In his message, “The Omni-God,” Ryan preached the scary and comforting reality of God’s omni-greatness from Psalm 139. God is all-knowing, he is all-present, and he is all-powerful. That is terrifying because we are sinners. But for those to seek their refuge from him in him, God’s omni-greatness is the greatest comfort. As Ryan said on Sunday, this psalm is theology on fire.
Two issues raised by Psalm 139 are worth exploring further: prayers against the wicked, and the value of unborn human life.
Language of Hatred in the Psalms
For 18 verses, David reflects on God’s personal knowledge of every detail of his life, and his active presence in every place and every at stage of life. Then, in verse 19 we read this:
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Not only does that sound a little left field, it sounds a little out of bounds for Scripture. In his message, “Praying Against what God is Against,” Ryan addressed the meaning of this kind of language that we find here and elsewhere in the Psalms. As we see even from this text, David’s emotions are not vindictive or ultimately concerned with himself, but with God and his glory. In other words, David is against what God is against. Loving God in all his righteousness means hating what is unrighteous. And this isn’t arrogantly condescending. David’s next words show us the incompatibility of this kind of love for righteousness with self-righteousness: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
As Christians praying this psalm, we consider Jesus on the cross, where God’s righteousness, and thus his hatred for sin, was mingled with his mercy for sinners. And in praying against what God is against, we remember Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Behind all opposition to God is the great Opposer, Satan. And victorious over all opposition to God is God himself, with his Son, and all those who take refuge in him (1 Corinthians 15:57).
In view of the holiness of God, we see that David’s turn in verse 18 is not random or repugnant, but right. Thankfully, Tim Keller is right: “There’s no refuge from him; there’s only refuge in him.” When we read words like these, we can praise God for his justice, his victory over his enemies, and his mercy toward anyone who will come to him.
Abortion and the Offense of Human Autonomy
A second issue of importance raised by this psalm concerns the unborn. This psalm was not written to address the issue of abortion, but this psalm does have clear implications for the seriousness of this issue, since this psalm speaks so clearly to the value of life in the womb. As Ryan said, God and his Word are not unclear as to when life begins. God is the great knitter of life. Life is his work, and his work in the womb is illustrative of his power, his intimate care for every human person, his creativity, and his wisdom.
In light of the life-knitting omni-greatness of God, we see that abortion is not merely an assault on life in the womb, but an assault on the very Giver of life himself. In fact, it is the Giver of life that gives life it’s intrinsic value in the first place. The broad acceptance and even celebration of the murder of children in the womb is a reminder of our plight as human beings who suppress the truth about God in our unrighteousness. Ryan said it well this week in a discussion about the subject: “What makes the taking of a life – whether at 6 weeks or at 96 years – so wrong is its astounding self-autonomy; that it so brazenly (yet casually!) removes God from the picture. It pretends that he simply is not there, or doesn’t know, or doesn’t care. It pretends that someone else or something else brings about life, that someone else or something else sustains life.”
In light of this, there are a number of ways we can pray as we reflect on this psalm. We should praise God for his intimate and personal care for us – a care that extends even to the earliest and most private moments of our lives. We should praise God for his life-weaving work and pray against the idols, ideas, and structures embedded within our culture that promote the destruction of this life. We should recognize what we are capable of as sinners, and say with David, “See if there be any grievous way in me, and led me in the way everlasting!” For those who have committed or approved of the sin of abortion, pray for forgiveness from God, and rest in that forgiveness. Jesus’ death is sufficient for this, and God is pleased to grant forgiveness to those who flee to him for it. Pray Psalm 51. Pray Psalm 32. Remember the words of Psalm 103:11-12, where David writes,”For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” It’s really true. And we should pray for opportunities to share with men and women who are considering or who have committed an abortion about the Giver of life who gives eternal life through Jesus Christ.
As Christians it is not so difficult for us to embrace the reality of the intrinsic worth of unborn human life. It can, however, be difficult to live wisely in the world, loving our neighbors both inside and outside the womb. Here are several resources to help us think carefully about this issue and our responsibility with respect to the unborn:
- The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture, a book by Scott Klusendorf
- Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, a book by Marvin Olasky
- Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, a book by Francis J. Beckwith
- Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, a book by Robert P. George
- “Abortion Is About God,” a video by John Piper
- “Abortion: Why Silence and Inaction Are Not Options for Evangelicals,” chapter by Justin Taylor in Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Same Evangelical Faith for a New Day. An interview with Justin Taylor about the need for and nature of evangelical engagement on abortion.
- “Mr. Candidate, How Does Religion Inform Your View on Abortion?,” an article by Amy Hall
- Pro-Life Traning, a ministry of Scott Klusendorf
- “The Great Tragedy of the 2012 Election,” an article by Garrett Kell
- “Ten Reasons Why It Is Wrong to Take the Life of Unborn Children,” an article by John Piper
- “Love Your Unborn Neighbor,” a sermon by John Piper
- “An Interview with Robert P. George on Roe vs. Wade,” by Justin Taylor
In closing, here are some important words Garrett Kell to those who have committed an abortion and to those who believe it is morally acceptable:
If you have committed an abortion, I want you to know there is a refuge in Jesus. He will heal your wounds. There is no sin so great that he cannot forgive and no sin so small that does not need to be forgiven. If you will confess your sins and turn to him in faith, he will wash away all your guilt and all your shame. Come to Christ.
If you support abortion, I encourage you to spend time in prayer and ask God to show you if abortion pleases him or not. Ask a Christian to help you learn what God’s Word says. I know you already have deeply rooted ideas. I did too. But I encourage you to take the time to read what God says about life and who has the right to give and take it away. I encourage you to start with Psalm 139.