They Poured Out Innocent Blood

Sanctity of Life Sunday

Psalm 106:36–39,

They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. “Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds.”

This is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Martin Luther King weekend and Sanctity of Human Life weekend always come back to back in January. We think that globally and nationally racism, with all the carnage that comes in its wake, and abortion, with 50,000,000 babies killed in America since 1973, are staggering and related sins.

Staggering and Related Sins

They are staggering because of the scope and depth of their assault on the image of God. And they are related because both racism and abortion are driven by the treasonous notion that the human self is central and sovereign.

My race is more valuable than your race. Therefore, I have rights to treat you as inferior or undesirable. That’s the voice of racism.

And if I want my baby, my baby is a person. And if I don’t want my baby, it is not a person. If I want her, it’s illegal to kill her. If I don’t want her, it’s legal to kill her. Therefore, the personhood of my baby and her right to be protected under law are defined by my sovereign desire. The might of my will is the right to kill.

So racism and abortion are staggering sins and related sins. And that’s why we focus on them both in January each year. Our prayer today, on this Sanctify of Human Life Sunday is,

  1. that God our Creator will be glorified in his supreme right over his person-forming work in the womb, and,
  2. that Christ our Redeemer will be glorified in his forgiveness for the sin of abortion for all who repent and trust him, and,
  3. third, that thousands of women in the threatening situation of an unplanned pregnancy would find the ready compassion of Christ’s people before the horror of abortion,
  4. that through you God’s people there would spread across our land a Christ-exalting commitment to the preciousness of God-given life.

The Goal of Psalm 106

We are going to look at Psalm 106 and its relation to the sin of abortion, and the cause of life. Let me take you on flyover of this psalm so you can see what the big picture is.

Psalm 106 begins and ends with the identical phrase: “Praise the Lord.” That’s where the psalmist wants us to begin and end. What is here in this psalm, with all its sin and sorrow and pain, is a reason to praise God. And that means not just say great things about God, but believe and feel that he is praiseworthy. He is great. Glorious. Wonderful. More valuable than anything else. More to be desired than anything else. That is what it means to praise God — to think and feel and say and sing those kinds of things about him. That’s the goal of the psalm.

Under this praise is a thankful heart — at the beginning and the end. Verse 1: “Oh give thanks to the Lord.” And verse 47, “. . . that we may give thanks to your holy name.”

The reason given for why this praise and this thanks are so fitting is (verse 1) “for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” So the psalmist wants us to see God as praiseworthy and good and loving as we read this psalm, including all his judgments.

Israel’s Rebellion and Failures

We will come back to verses 3–4, but let’s look now at what the body of this psalm contains. It is a long litany of Israel’s rebellion and failures. Here’s the list;

  • Verse 7 (near the end): “They rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.”
  • Verse 14: “They had a wanton craving in the wilderness.”
  • Verse 16: “They were jealous of Moses and Aaron.”
  • Verse 19: “They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped a metal image.”
  • Verse 24: “They despised the pleasant land, having no faith in the promise.”
  • Verse 28: “They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead.”
  • Verse 32: “They angered God at the waters of Meribah and made Moses spirit bitter.”
  • Verse 34: “They did not destroy the peoples, but mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did.”
  • Verse 36: “They served their idols.”
  • Verse 37: “They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons.”

They Killed Their Children

Rebellion, craving, jealousy, idolatry, despising God’s good gifts, unbelief, necromancy, murmuring, assimilation among the nations, serving their gods, sacrificing their children. The list could have gone on. Why did he stop here? Perhaps because most human beings would feel that this was the bottom of the downward spiral of the dethroning of God and the dehumanizing of man. They killed their children.

Verses 37–39:

They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds.

Four Things to Consider

Notice four things in these verses:

First, the sacrifices they were making were their sons and daughters. These were not sheep and oxen. They were little girls and boys. They were pouring out their blood. Probably slitting their throat and letting the blood pour out over the altar — probably more humane than the discriminating that happens to babies 32 times each in Minnesota. Something horrible had happened to their hearts.

Second, this blood is called “innocent blood.” This doesn’t mean that the children had no sin. The same phrase was used of adults as well. For example, Jeremiah said, “If you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves” (Jeremiah 26:15). And we know Jeremiah was not sinless.

What innocent means is that in relationships among people this person has committed no crime worthy of death. He is innocent in that sense. And infants are always innocent in that sense. God can take the life of an infant whenever he pleases, because he is the giver of life, and he owns life. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21). But humans may not take the life of an infant. It is innocent. God has forbidden us from taking innocent life. The sixth commandment: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) — take innocent life.  

Third, when they sacrifice their children to pagan idols they are sacrificing to demons. Notice the words “demons” and “idols.” Verses 37-38: “They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan.”

Paul used this teaching in the Old Testament to clarify what was going on in the temple sacrifices in Corinth: “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons” (1 Cor. 10:19–20).

In other words, whatever system the world comes up with (religious or secular) that obscures God, contradicts his word, lures people to seek their happiness by making sacrifices to the system, and defaces or destroys the image of God—behind that system are demons. Their ultimate goal is the degradation of God and the destruction of his people. Demons are willing to send millions of babies to heaven, if they can make millions of murderers on earth—especially mothers and fathers.

Fourth, when children are sacrificed to demons, the parents and the priests — the abortionists — are playing the whore. Verse 39: “Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds” (Pslm 106:39). In the Old Testament, Israel is pictured as God’s wife, and God as her husband. And idolatry is therefore pictured as adultery. Or in extreme cases, like this one, prostitution. Playing the whore. And when you are cheating on your husband, the last thing you want is a baby. So to satisfy the idolatrous demands of the system, you eliminate the baby.

Sons and daughters, innocent blood, sacrificed to demons, like an unfaithful wife getting rid of an unwanted pregnancy.

The Same Demonic Forces

The parallels with abortion are pervasive. These children in the womb today are our sons and daughters. They are innocent of any crime-deserving death. Their blood is being poured out in the most gruesome procedures of dismemberment. And we can be sure that the demonic forces behind the abortion industry, and behind the cultural fabric of so-called reproductive freedom, and behind the otherwise inexplicable blindness to the daily violence against the weakest persons in the world — we may be sure that the demonic forces behind this are glad for every dead baby and every guilt-ridden mother, and father, and grandparent, and church. Jesus said of the devil: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44).

And in sacrificing our children to the demons of deceit, on the altar of abortion, in the temples of Planned Parenthood, we play the whore. We cheat on God, and give our heart to another.

That’s the downside of Psalm 106 and its relation to abortion. But it’s not the main point of the psalm. The psalm didn’t begin and end with “Praise the Lord” because Israel had rebelled and sacrificed their children to demons.

The Thread of Mercy

There is another thread in these verses. A scarlet thread of divine mercy. And that is what we all desperately need — whether you have had three abortions, or have been indifferent to millions of abortions.

Remember verse 1: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Steadfast love. That is the point. And that is what we need. Listen to God’s mercy, God’s steadfast love, in this psalm.

Verse 8: They rebelled, “Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.”

Verse 10: “He saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.”

Verse 23: “Therefore he said he would destroy them — had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.” He relented at Moses’ prayer.

Verse 30: As the plague was spreading, “Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed.” God responded in mercy to Phineas zeal for the Lord.

Verses 43–46: “Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity. Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”

God Passed Over Sin

In other words, time and time again, the people deserved to be utterly destroyed, but God passed over the sin of many — including the sin of child sacrifice. He had mercy. He kept covenant. How could he do that? How can he do it for you? For Abortion?

As Paul looked back over God’s mercy for centuries, he gave the answer in Romans 3:25, “God put [Jesus] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” The reason God could forgive repentant sinners in the Old Testament, and the reason he can forgive us today — for abortion, or for indifference to abortion —  is that the death of Jesus, the Son of God, for sin shows that God does not sweep sin under the rug or take it lightly. Forgiving it cost the life of his Son. That was their hope, and that is our hope. By faith we receive Christ as the payment for all our sins.

What Mercy Makes Your Purpose

Now back to Psalm 106:3 and verse 4 which we passed over at the beginning.

Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times! Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them.

When you have sinned grievously, and you have received the mercy and the steadfast love of the Lord, secured for you by the blood of Christ, what do you do? What does life become? What’s the meaning of your existence now — on this side of salvation? What’s your purpose on the earth?

What you do is set your face to enjoy the fullest blessing of God in observing justice and doing righteousness. Verse 3: “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” You know your God now. You know what he is like. You know what he has done for you. You love him and you trust him. And you want his fullest blessing.

And to that end you cry out for his help. Verse 4: “Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them.” You set your face toward justice and righteousness — in this case for the unborn — and you call on God for help. And you act.

Five Words of Action

So let me close by putting five words on that action. Supplication, Consideration, Education, Legislation, and Proclamation.

Supplication

You may think your prayers are small in relation to the magnitude of the problem of abortion. But God is not small. Regions Hospital in St. Paul no longer does abortions or trains for abortions. Who can even count the prayers and prayer vigils kept outside that hospital? And this Sunday after the march at the capital there is a prayer gathering at the new Planned Parenthood facility at the corner of Vandalia St. and Charles Ave. in St. Paul. What is impossible with man is possible with God (Mark 10:27).

Consideration

Be considerate of women in crisis pregnancies by supporting or working at a Christian crisis pregnancy center. God has raised up thousands of them in recent decades and they have silenced the criticism that pro-life people don’t care about mothers before and after birth. Bethlehem works closely with New Life Family Services on the University Campus, and Amnion Crisis Pregnancy Center in Burnsville. Support them.

Education

Educate yourself, your children, and the people you know about the history and the nature and the effects of abortion and the prolife movement. The Internet makes this not only easy, but fascinating. We are going to give away 1,500 copes of the riveting 33-minute film “180” produced by Ray Comfort. It connects the Holocaust with abortion and reveals the appalling ignorance of many young people today. You can watch it online (www.180movie.com), but take one today and give it to someone. If you ever doubted the need for education this will, I hope, convince you.

Legislation

We make a distinction at Bethlehem between what we do as an institutional church, and what we call you to do as Christians in the world. The business of this church is not to engage in partisan politics. If we did that, we would lose our greatest power — namely the freedom and the power to speak prophetically into the moral and spiritual dimensions of all issues without political entanglements. But this not true of you as an individual Christian citizen. In a democratic order your calling includes engagement precisely at the political level and the making of laws. You are needed. And I urge you to be engaged with Christian wisdom. May more of you sense God’s leading into the political vocations that so desperately need depth and integrity and Christ-exalting wisdom.

Proclamation

Our main calling and our greatest gift to the world is the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the only message that gives pardon for the agents of death and power for the agents of life. And since we have all at one time been children of darkness, the blood-bought pardon of Jesus is precious to us all. That’s where we start. We don’t earn that with prolife action. It is a free gift.

And now what shall we do? We will, in the power of our undeserved pardon, pursue with joy the fullest blessing of God: “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!”

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org