Sunday, January 13, 2013

Psalm 139 - Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Forty years ago this month, on January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Roe v. Wade, finding that a “right to privacy” it had earlier discovered in the Constitution was “broad enough to encompass” a right to abortion adopting a trimester scheme of pregnancy. Issued on the same day, Doe v. Bolton defined “health” to mean “all factors” that affect the woman, including “physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age.” 
Since that ruling, there have over 53 million abortions, the population of a mid-sized country. It would rank 24th among national populations, a number greater than the nations of South Africa, South Korea, or Spain.[1] For those born since 1973, for every ten people born, three more have been aborted. There are more than 140,000 second and third trimester abortions each year. Every year more American children die from abortions than have died from every war in which America has participated combined.
On Dec. 26th, 2012, US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied Hobby Lobby’s application for an emergency injunction protecting them from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s HHS Mandate on abortion-inducing drugs (and fines of $1.3 million per day). Hobby Lobby has decided to defy the federal government to remain true to their religious beliefs, at enormous risk and financial cost. Hobby Lobby sued the federal government for violating their Christian owners' religious freedom.[2]
Hobby Lobby is wholly owned and controlled by the Green family, who are evangelical Christians. The Greens are committed to running their business in accordance with their Christian faith, believing that God wants them to conduct their professional business in accordance with the family’s understanding of the Bible. Hobby Lobby’s mission statement includes, “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company … consistent with Biblical principles.”  
David Green, CEO and founder of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., responded to the denial of request with this statement: “When my family and I started our company 40 years ago, we were working out of a garage on a $600 bank loan, assembling miniature picture frames. Our first retail store wasn't much bigger than most people's living rooms, but we had faith that we would succeed if we lived and worked according to God's word. From there, Hobby Lobby has become one of the nation's largest arts and crafts retailers, with more than 500 locations in 41 states.
“Our children grew up into fine business leaders, and today we run Hobby Lobby together, as a family. We're Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles. I've always said that the first two goals of our business are (1) to run our business in harmony with God's laws, and (2) to focus on people more than money. And that's what we've tried to do. We close early so our employees can see their families at night. We keep our stores closed on Sundays, one of the week's biggest shopping days , so that our workers and their families can enjoy a day of rest. We believe that it is by God's grace that Hobby Lobby has endured, and he has blessed us and our employees. We've not only added jobs in a weak economy, we've raised wages for the past four years in a row. Our full-time employees start at 80% above minimum wage.

“But now, our government threatens to change all of that. A new government healthcare mandate says that our family business must provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don't pay for drugs that might cause abortions. Which means that we don't cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one. If we refuse to comply, we could face $1.3 million per day in government fines. Our government threatens to fine job creators in a bad economy. Our government threatens to fine a company that's raised wages four years running. Our government threatens to fine a family for running its business according to its beliefs. It's not right. I know people will say we ought to follow the rules; that it's the same for everybody. But that's not true. The government has exempted thousands of companies from this mandate, for reasons of convenience or cost. But it won't exempt them for reasons of religious belief.
“So, Hobby Lobby — and my family — are forced to make a choice. With great reluctance, we filed a lawsuit, asking a federal court to stop this mandate before it hurts our business. We don't like to go running into court, but we no longer have a choice. We believe people are more important than the bottom line and that honoring God is more important than turning a profit. My family has lived the American dream. We want to continue growing our company and providing great jobs for thousands of employees, but the government is going to make that much more difficult. The government is forcing us to choose between following our faith and following the law. I say that's a choice no American — and no American business — should have to make.”
Hobby Lobby will now continue their lawsuit in the Tenth Circuit, but they are not alone. More than 110 individuals in 43 separate cases — representing hospitals, universities, diocese, businesses and schools — are challenging the HHS mandate.[3]
Contextual notes:
According to the Reese Chronological Bible, Psalm 139 is set in the year 1016 B.C., after the David’s battles with the Philistines at Baal-Perazim and in the mulberry trees (2 Sam 5:19-25; 1 Chron 14:10-17) about the time the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem (1 Chron 13:1-8; 2 Sam 6:1-5).  
The superscription is found previously at Psalm 109, a song fit for the most excellent of singers.
Key Truth: David wrote Psalm 139 to teach Israel that the Lord is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent over all of life.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about life.
Key Verse: Psalm 139:13-16
Pray and Read:  Psalm 139
Sermon Points:
1.   God Knows Every Person. (Psalm 139:1-6).
2.   God is Present with Every Person (Psalm 139:7-12).
3.   God Creates Every Person (Psalm 139:13).
4.   God Designs Every Person (Psalm 139:14-15).
5.   God Plans Every Person (Psalm 139:16-18)
6.   God Judges Every Person who Destroys other Persons (PSALM 139:19-24)
Exposition:
1.   GOD KNOWS EVERY PERSON (Psalm 139:1-6)
a.   David wrote Psalm 139 to express God’s omniscience (vv. 1-6), omnipresence (vv. 7-12), and omnipotence (vv. 13-18). Therefore God will overthrow the wicked (vv. 19-22) and examine and lead David’s life (vv. 23-24).
b.   This is a psalm about intimacy and the intimate relationship of the Lord can have with each individual (vv. 1-18) in the midst of the evil in the world (vv. 19-22), even the evil of his own heart (vv. 23-24).
c.   Notice here that God knows all about us. He knows what we do (Psalm 139:1-3). He knows what we think (Psalm 139:2). He knows what we say (Psalm 139:4-6). He guards us literally with the palm of His hand (Psalm 139:5). Every detail of our lives is known to the Lord, every fleeting thought and unspoken word. Nothing is kept back from the Lord who is close by, protectively covering us with His hand (Exodus 33:22). What a wonder! It is beyond comprehension!
d.   APPLICATION: The Lord knows you and me and he still loves us! What a reason to be thankful and happy and praise him. If he knows you and loves you, why can’t you love you?
2.   GOD IS PRESENT WITH EVERY PERSON. (Psalm 139:7-12)
a.   Now David develops his thought in verse 5 – God’s omnipresence. God is always with us. God is in heaven (Psalm 139:7-8). He is in the place of the dead (Psalm 139:8). He can be found by the farthest oceans (Psalm 139:9-10). What a missionary God whose hand will guide and support us wherever we go. Finally he shines forth in the darkness (Psalm 139:11-12). Darkness and light are of no account to God. He is still there. He is still powerful. He is with us.
b.   In no other place in Scripture is there a more overwhelming sense of the fact that man is beset and compassed about by God, pervaded by His Spirit, unable to take a step outside of His Sovereignty, and yet nowhere is there a more emphatic statement that the personality of human beings are distinct from and not absorbed into Deity. There is nothing here of pantheism. Man is the workmanship of God, and he stands in the presence and under the eye of the One who is His Judge. Notice here David’s clear acknowledgement of man’s conscience, his sense of sin and responsibility. Notice his prayer offered to the One who is not only the Judge but is also his Friend.
c.   It would be no good trying to run away from God. He can hide nothing from the Lord, not even himself. God’s hand will always be there to guide him wherever he went.
d.   ILLUSTRATION: There is an old Negro spiritual that speaks about this so well. It was often sung during the invitation in church services or revival meetings, “Can’t hide, sinner, can’t hide” sung over and over.
e.   APPLICATION: God can always find you for His purposes. You are never too far from him that he cannot lift you up and set you in a right place. You are never so far gone that he cannot rescue you and give you new life. Won’t you trust him?
3.   GOD CREATES EVERY PERSON. (Psalm 139:13)
a.   He is sovereign over your formation (v. 13-18). He is sovereign over your opposition (v. 19-22). He is sovereign over your direction (v. 23-24).
b.   The KJV of Psalm 139:13 reads:  “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.”  God’s making of the “reins” (kidneys) – the seat of emotions, meaning mind, soul, will, spirit, body. Even this phrase points to value of each human life – No matter the circumstance, God was intimately involved.
c.   David gives God credit for the formation of his unborn embryo as God’s personal activity. Our constitution, our career is already written down in God’s ledger of human destiny (Psalm 56:8; 69:28).
d.   ILLUSTRATION: Did you know the literal meaning of the word fetus – means “child”? Genesis 25:22-24: baby sons jostled, struggled, combat in womb of Rebekah (same word as “smashing skulls” (Judges 9:53; Psalm 74:14): “22But the children inside her struggled with each other, and she said, "Why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD.  23And the LORD said to her: Two nations are in your womb; two people will come from you and be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger. 24When her time came to give birth, there were indeed twins in her womb.”  The fetuses in her womb were human beings. Pieces of flesh tissue do not fight, are not willful, do not have personality.
e.   ILLUSTRATION: Some people, even mistakenly shout, “You cannot legislate morality!” Really? So there shouldn’t be laws against immoral murder? There shouldn’t be laws against immoral behavior toward children? Likewise, Roe v. Wade legislated morality. But making what is moral legal is nothing new. Did you know that the ancient legal Code of Hammurabi forbids the taking of an unborn child’s life?  Did you know that the fourth century B.C. Hippocratic Oath, an oath that new doctors used to take, has a line which reads, “I swear I will not give a woman an abortion.”[4]
4.   GOD DESIGNS EVERY PERSON (Psalm 139:14-15)
a.   Psalm 139:14  (KJV) I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
b.   Value of person, of life. Praise God for your existence and gift of life. Genesis 9:6 -- 6"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man; Amos 1:13 -- 13This is what the LORD says: "For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead  in order to extend his borders”
c.    Harrison Hickman, pollster for National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League: “Probably nothing has been as damaging to our cause as the advances in technology which have allowed pictures of the developing fetus, because people now talk about the fetus in much different terms than they did fifteen [now 20] years ago. They talk about it as a human being, which is not something that I have an easy answer on how to cure.”
d.   Psalm 139:15 –unformed body – God has planned each person’s life before conception. Frame – skeletal form; woven together – like a beautiful tapestry, each thread in place and woven expertly, with great care. Depths of earth – ref. to Adam’s creation, same for each person. Before God formed him in the womb, He knew him (Jeremiah 1:5 - 5"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.")
e.   ILLUSTRATION: Some, like Bill O’Reilly, say that a fertilized egg is a potential human being. So when does the potential human become a human? What form must it take to become a human being? Water can be found in several familiar forms: as liquid, as a solid (ice), and as a gas (steam). But in every form, the essence of H2O is still there. It is water, no matter its form. Or perhaps like water, once an egg is fertilized, there is a particular genetic and molecular structure that is uniquely human. Its form may be a single cell, but its essence is human. But if we go with the potential human idea, at what point does one become human?
                     i.    Day 1 – fertilization, all human chromosomes present, unique life begins.
                    ii.    Day 6 – implantation in womb.
                  iii.    Day 22 – heart begins to beat with baby’s own blood.
                  iv.    Week 5 – eyes, legs, hands begin to develop.
                   v.    Week 6 – brain waves detectable, mouth, lips present, fingers forming.
                  vi.    Week 7 – eyelids, toes form, nose distinct, baby kicking and swimming.
                vii.    Week 8 – all organs in place, bones, fingerprints begin to form.
               viii.    Weeks 9 & 10 – teeth begin to form, fingernails develop, baby can turn head, frown.
                  ix.    Week 11 – baby can grasp objects placed in hand, all organs functioning, fingerprints complete, skeletal structure, nerves, circulation.
                   x.    Week 12 – baby can experience pain, has nerves, spinal cord, thalamus.
                  xi.    Week 17 – baby can have dream (REM) sleep.
                xii.    Week 20 – earliest a partial birth abortion can be performed.
5.   GOD PLANS EVERY PERSON (Psalm 139:16-18)
a.   God is the ultimate family planner. He plans every child. We have no right to try to overrule Him and declare ourselves family planners, Planned Parenthood, a misnomer that really means, Abortion on demand.
b.   God schedules each day of our lives before we are born. He records our every day in his book (Psalm 139:16). He thinks wonderful and innumerable thoughts about us constantly (Psalm 139:17-18).
c.   Jeremiah 1:5; Isaiah 49:1; Job 10:8-12 -- Jeremiah 1:5: 5 "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." Isaiah 49:1: 1 Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. Job 10:8-12: 8”Your hands shaped me and made me. . . Remember, I pray, that You have made me like clay. . . . 10 Did You not pour me out like milk, And curdle me like cheese, 11 Clothe me with skin and flesh, And knit me together with bones and sinews? 12 You have granted me life and favor, And Your care has preserved my spirit.”
d.   ILLUSTRATION: Unborn children have memories, according to a 2009 study from The Netherlands. Researchers at two medical centers found unborn babies at 30 weeks gestation show short-term memory. By the time the unborn children reach 34 weeks of development, they “are able to store information and retrieve it four weeks later,” The Washington Times reported. The children adjusted to the vibrations and sounds to the extent they would no longer respond, according to the report. That process is called “habituation.” “The results were based on a study conducted on 100 women and their unborn children. Scientists gave the women a series of buzzes on their stomachs for one second each with a “fetal vibroacoustic stimulator” at five points during the final eight weeks of pregnancy, according to the July 16 report. They used ultrasound imaging to measure “fetal learning” patterns, particularly through the baby’s eye, mouth and body movements.”
e.    “It seems like every day we find out marvelous new things about the development of unborn children,” said Randall O’Bannon, director of education and research for the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund, The Times reported. “We hope that this latest information helps people realize more clearly that the unborn are members of the human family with amazing capabilities and capacities like these built in from the moment of conception.”[5]
a.   ILLUSTRATION - Luke 1:41, 44 – John had the anointing of Holy Spirit upon him in womb. (41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.)[6]
f.    Psalm 139:17-18 – The evidence of the enormity and incomprehensibility of God’s mind and thoughts are overwhelming to David. (Psalm 40:5 -- 5Many, O LORD my God, / are the wonders you have done. / The things you planned for us / no one can recount to you; / Were I to speak and tell of them, /   They would be too many to declare; Romans 11:33-36 -- 33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  34"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"  35"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.)

 

6.   GOD JUDGES EVERY PERSON WHO DESTROYS OTHER PERSONS (PSALM 139:19-24)
a.   Those of us who have seen evil and the destruction of human life can see that God must judge the wicked. Here David turns aside to express his utter abhorrence of wicked men, no doubt who have tried to destroy his people and himself. David asks the Lord two things: “O God, if only you would destroy the wicked!” (Psalm 139:19-22), a prophetic end-time prayer for the justice and righteousness of the Messiah. The second thing David asks is for the Lord to “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23-24). He wants God to test him and point out anything that offends Him.
b.   ILLUSTRATION: In Exodus 1:7, 15, Pharaoh ordered partial birth abortion of all Hebrew boys.  The midwives lied to the government, were disobedient to law of the land, and God rewarded them. In contrast, Pharaoh’s youth ended up on the bottom of the Red Sea.
c.   ILLUSTRATION: Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, opened the first birth control clinic in 1916, and declared in her 1922 book, Pivot of Civilization, that we must reduce the number of blacks and Hispanics in this country: “We are paying for and even submitting to the dictates of an ever increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all . . . “This endless breeding is the dead weight of human waste,” including the poor, blind, deaf, mute, epileptic, “feeble-minded,” mentally ill, diseased, prisoners, prostitutes, and alcoholics.  Today Planned Parenthood claims as their core clientele “young women, low-income women, and women of color.”
d.   Margaret Sanger: “All of our problems are the result of overbreeding among the working class.” Her clinic’s goal was “weeding out the unfit” and “preventing the birth of defectives.”
e.   Margaret Sanger, in a letter in 1939 to Clarence Gamble, a partner in her plan to promote birth control and abortions in the black community. "We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."
f.    Sanger is part of a group of colleagues that span from Darwin to Hitler. Did you know that the full title of Darwin’s book is, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
g.   ILLUSTRATION: Our government not only allows for abortion, and celebrates abortion rights, and wants women to have unfettered access to abortion on demand, it now requires other Americans to pay for abortion-inducing drugs or face crippling fines. This policy is morally degenerate. More Americans should be alarmed than are already. The Department of Justice’s brief filed in October makes a number of arguments (in opposition to the Greens) which bear closer scrutiny and ought to arouse no small degree of concern. As an American Christian citizen concerned about our liberties, here are some questions worth asking of the government’s brief:
                     i.    The brief argues that as a secular corporation Hobby Lobby does not receive the same protection to freely exercise religion—but what of the rights of the individuals who own and operate the company?
                    ii.    The brief argues that “any burden caused by the regulations is simply too attenuated to qualify as a substantial burden.” Does the government now determine which burdens on the conscience are “substantial”? And how does it plan to make these determinations?
                  iii.    The brief argues that the health care regulation “serves two compelling governmental interests: improving the health of women and children, and equalizing the provision of recommended preventive care for women and men”—but on what grounds can the termination of fetal life be construed as “improving the health” of it?
                  iv.    The brief asserts that “The Free Exercise Clause does not prohibit a law that is neutral and generally applicable even if the law prescribes conduct that an individual’s religion proscribes”—but how is the contraceptive mandate “neutral” when the largest religious body in the country (the Catholic Church) opposes contraception outright and tens of millions of evangelical Christians believe the mandate violates their religious convictions relative to abortion?
                   v.    The brief argues that “the Court should not permit the Greens to eliminate that legal separation to impose their personal religious beliefs on the corporate entity or its employees”—but by what logic is the failure to provide “preventive care” by a private company the imposition of religious belief and the mandating of it by the state it is not?[7]
h.   APPLICATION – In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson outlined three things that are inalienable rights granted to us by the Creator – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson made a slight change of a quotation from a great political philosopher named John Locke. John Locke said that the Creator had granted us “life, liberty, and property,” and though Jefferson changed property to pursuit of happiness to soften the statement in King George III’s ears, the signers all knew that to which Jefferson was referring. Have you noticed that those who hate freedom and the Constitution in this country first attacked life. Now they are attacking liberty, here the most important of liberties, religious liberty. That is because they are after property – our property – because they see government, not the individual, as the arbiter of property, and thus liberty, and finally life. This is why the gun control issue is so hot in our nation right now and why not only the Bill of Rights, but the Bible teaches the importance of self-defense of families against anything that would destroy them. I have warned from this pulpit since I came here, and now we have come to the beginning of the day and the major issue of our lifetimes – religious liberty. If the government can overrun religious liberty, then they can take away every liberty, every right, every property, and every life they want. If this doesn’t make you pound the table with urgency, then you are akin to those Jews in ghettos across Europe in the 1930s, denying the dangers, oblivious that the water temperature was rising steadily toward boiling, unaware of the days which lay ahead for them, their children, and grandchildren.
i.     Psalm 139:23-24: The second thing David asks is for the Lord to “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23-24). He wants God to test him and point out anything that offends Him. David also realizes that the same tendencies to sin dwell in him as well. He asks God to show him where he is wrong and lead him in the everlasting way of eternal life.
j.    APPLICATION: While we stand against the anti-life, racist, and wicked ideas of these people, we also realize that this same kind of sin lives in us, and we must repent of our sin, asking the Lord to make us more Christlike.
Invitation:

Sources:
Charles Briggs, ICC: Psalms Vol. 2,
William Jones, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary on the Book of Psalms (New York: Funk & Wagnalls), 379- vol. 2 (Harold Wilmington, The Outline Bible (Nashville: Tyndale,) 292.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population
[2] Karen Swallow Prior, “Hobby Lobby: The First Martyr under Obamacare?” Jan 6, 2013.  http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/january/hobby-lobby-first-martyr-under-obamacare.html. Justice Sotomayor ruled on the request because she handles emergency appeals from the 10th Circuit Court. In denying the appeal, Sotomayor said that Hobby Lobby failed to meet "the demanding standard for the extraordinary relief," but can continue to pursue its challenge through the lower courts. While churches and houses of worship are exempt from the regulation, and a narrow exemption was added for some nonprofit religious employers, the exemption does not cover businesses owned and run by private citizens with religious objections to abortion and/or contraception.
[3] Bethany Monk, “Hobby Lobby to defy HHS Mandate,” Jan 2, 2013, http://www.citizenlink.com/2013/01/02/hobby-lobby-to-defy-government-mandate /
[4] One much mistranslated passage that pro-abortionists use is Exodus 21:22 in which they read that an abortion can take place if there is fear of injury to the woman. In Exodus 21:22ff – the phrase in question is, “but there is no serious injury”; “but there is no catastrophe” Hebrew: ason (cf. Genesis 42:4, 38; 44:29 are the only other occurrences of word, concerning fears about the son Benjamin, every instance refers to death of young child. Some read it as harm to mother, but every other use is of death of child. Rachel died in childbirth, but there is no use of ason “catastrophe.”  V. 22 “children (pl. masc.) came out of her.” The writer is referring to Ex 21:4, same form as v. 22, means whether male or female, same value for sons and daughters.  Numbers 35, an unintentional murder could be fined even if the child born healthy.

[6] Abortion for incest, rape?  Genesis 19:36-38: sons of Lot and his daughters – see what they became.