God at Work in Every Womb
Sanctity of Life Sunday
If I have despised the claim of my male or female slaves when they filed a complaint against me, what then could I do when God arises? And when He calls me to account, what will I answer Him? Did not He who made me in the womb make him, and the same one fashion us in the womb?
The Quietness Now
We live in an amazing time in regard to the unborn. These times seem quiet compared to the late eighties when rescues were happening everywhere and some of us were going to court and going to jail for sitting quietly in front of abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood in St. Paul (2,916 abortions in 1999), Meadowbrook Women's Clinic, now at 8th St. and Chicago (4,117 abortions in 1999); Midwest Health Center for Women, now downtown at 5th and Hennepin (2,462 abortions in 1999); Mildred Hanson's clinic at 24th and Chicago (1,418 abortions in 1999); and Robbinsdale Clinic (1830 abortions in 1999).
But don't be deceived by the quietness. Both disease and healing make their greatest progress in the body quietly and unbeknownst to the patient. Cancer spreads quietly, but antibiotics also triumph quietly. Great cultural shifts can happen in the upheaval of revolutions; and great cultural shifts can happen in the quiet conquering of truth (or error) through a thousand conversations and pictures and books and films and lectures and billboards and sermons and speeches and statutes and prayers and experiences and scientific disclosures and medical events.
For example, in the quiet absence of the street conflict, more and more stunning evidence emerges year by year that the human being before and after birth is a person in his or her own right. You see this in medical and legal developments. At both the state and national levels, bills have been weighed and some passed that treat the unborn as persons; for example, giving parents the right to sue for wrongful deaths of babies in the womb; and prohibiting the execution of pregnant women.
In medical developments, for example, in the summer of 1999 an unborn child named Marie Switzer, 24 weeks after conception, was operated on for spina bifida. A photograph of her tiny hand grasping the surgeon's finger was published in Life magazine. It captured the world's attention and won Life's award for picture of the year in science and technology. Sarah was put back inside her mother and was born two months later, nine weeks premature. That same year there was another baby, Samuel Armas, operated on for the same condition. Chuck Colson described it this way,
As the surgeon was closing the womb, the miracle happened. Baby Samuel pushed his hand out of the womb and grabbed the surgeon's finger. Photographer Michael Clancy caught this astonishing act on film. And in that instant, Clancy went from being prochoice to being prolife. As he put it, "I was totally in shock for two hours after the surgery. . . . I know abortion is wrong now – it's absolutely wrong. (Quoted from Colson's Breakpoint Commentary in Randy Alcorn, Prolife Answers to Prochoice Arguments [Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2000], p. 33)
Of course, alongside these kinds of developments there are the horrific fruits of thirty years of minimizing the worth of helpless, unborn life – the emergence of legalized physician-assisted suicide, newborns being abandoned in public places, presidential vetoes of a nation's will to ban partial-birth abortions.
Compassion for Parents
My point is not to predict which side is winning the silent struggle for the mind and heart of America. My point is simply to say: Don't be deceived that nothing is happening in these years. Plenty is. And you can be a part of it for the sake of life – moms' lives and dads' lives and children's lives.
One of the greatest developments quietly in the past 15 years is that the prolife movement has been so pervasive and grass roots and diversified and compassionate for mothers and fathers and children that prochoice people almost never say anymore, "You people have a love affair with the fetus and don't care for children outside the womb or mothers in crisis." That is so blatantly and manifestly false now that hardly anyone dares to say it. Not only are moms cared for as aggressively as the unborn, but adoption is exploding as a preferable option to disposing of the unborn. And way ahead of the prochoice people, who have a hard time being honest about the crisis, hundreds of support groups around the country are caring for women after abortions because of the painful effects left by the act – sometimes coming out only decades later.
So my prayer for us this morning is that all of us in this room will find in Jesus Christ not a politician – and surely not a republican or a democrat – but a Savior. All of us are sinners. That is the most important fact to know about us – not who is prolife and who is prochoice. And Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). To give his life a ransom for many. To bear the wrath of God in our place. To become for us a righteousness that God would honor as the basis of our acceptance. The most important thing that could happen this morning in this room is not that anyone become prolife, but that everyone be justified before God by faith alone in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified and risen.
But I speak mainly to believers this morning – and the aim of the believer's life in Christ, as a justified, forgiven, accepted child of God, is to become, in attitude and practice, what we are in Christ Jesus. So I want to urge us, because of Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, and for the glory of God, to greater and greater passion and sacrifice and love in the cause of life – born and unborn, male and female, mother and father, temporal and eternal.
Eternal Life or Temporal Life – Which Is More Important?
Eternal life is more important than temporal life. But the effect of really believing that we have eternal life in Christ is that we spend ourselves in this life not maximizing our comforts here, but showing his love here – especially for the weak and helpless. Oh, how often we read in the Bible words like Psalm 82:3-4, "Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked."
If someone says, "Let's concern ourselves with eternal life, not with doing justice for the weak and the fatherless," they don't have the spirit of Jesus. Because Jesus said, because you will be raised from the dead and have eternal rewards with him in the age to come, therefore use your time and energy and money here "vindicating the weak and fatherless, doing justice to the afflicted and the destitute, rescuing the weak and the needy" (Luke 14:14). "Let your light so shine before men that they might see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). The hope of eternal life is to make us aliens and exiles here doing as much justice and love as we can, not comfortable citizens here who live as if heaven had arrived.
Well, I have gotten carried away from our text. Very briefly consider with me the words of Job 31:13-15
If I have despised the claim of my male or female slaves
When they filed a complaint against me,
What then could I do when God arises?
And when He calls me to account, what will I answer Him?
Did not He who made me in the womb make him,
And the same one fashion us in the womb?
Connection Between Sanctity of Life and Racial Harmony
I will try to address the issue of slavery in our racial harmony seminar in coming Wednesday nights. But here simply notice that, even though slavery is probably assumed in that culture, the seeds are sown that are going to explode it. And the seeds that will explode it are planted in the womb.
Notice what Job says: If I ignore or despise the grievance of my servants, God will call me to account and I will be guilty before him. What is at stake in verse 13 when the slaves plead their case to Job is not just something on the human level. God is involved. That's one of the things that makes a Christian. God is always involved. All your business, all your leisure, all your life has to do with God. So verse 14 says, "What then could I do when God arises? And when He calls me to account, what would I answer him?" Human justice is crucial for the Christian because God is involved. God cares about these things. He will call to account.
Now what is the basis of Job's sense of helplessness and guilt before God if he has treated his slaves unjustly? If he has ignored their cry and complaint? Why is he trembling here at the prospect of despising their claim?
God at Work in the Womb
Verse 15 gives the answer. "Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb?" Notice four things.
First, Job traces the rights of his slaves back to the womb. He doesn't just trace it back to their birth as humans, but before birth, to the womb. What we were in the womb is the ground of our inalienable human rights, Job says.
Second, notice that Job stresses a fundamental equality between him and his slaves. "Did not He who made me in the womb make him?" He and I both are utterly dependent creatures. We owe all we are to God. We are derivative. We are not absolute or self-sufficient. We both belong to Another, our Maker. We are not our own. We don't have self-existence. We exist by and for another. In this we are equal.
Third, notice that Job does not pay any attention to what the parents contributed to his conception and his slave's conception. Someone might argue: You, Job, have a divine right as the offspring of a free man and woman to be the master; and your servants, because they are born of slaves, are destined to be slaves. But Job pays no attention to the seed of the mother or the seed of the father at all as if the parents were decisive here at all. He says, "God made me in the womb and God made him in the womb."
This is staggeringly important. What it means is that what is happening in the womb is centrally and essentially and crucially the work of God, not mere natural development. We document stages of gestation – trimesters, zygote, embryo, fetus. We take pictures and marvel at the biological development. But if that is all we see, we miss what is central and essential and crucial. For Job 31:15 says, "Did not He who made me in the womb make him?" What is happening in the womb is God's work.
There are many reasons that abortion is wrong. But ultimately, abortion is wrong because it is an assault on the person-forming work of God in the womb. This is God at work doing what he alone can do creating a person in his own image; and to attack this little person being completed by God is to attack God.
But Job's main point here is that the rights of his slaves are based squarely on this pre-born person-creating work of God.
And fourthly, notice that Job underlines the point by stressing that one and the same God made slave and free in the womb. One God is at work making Job and the same God is at work making the slave. Job stresses this: Verse 15b: "And the same one fashion[ed] us in the womb."
So Job trembles before God at the prospect of neglecting or despising the rights of his servants. Verse 14: "What then could I do when God arises? And when He calls me to account, what will I answer Him?" Why this trembling reverence and fear? Because he and his servants are persons created in God's image by God himself in the womb.
So I conclude that this issue of abortion – the taking of the life of the unborn – is a very important issue. It is not just a social issue, or a justice issue, or a woman's issue, or a children's issue, or a health issue; it is, beneath all those and more important than all those, a God issue. And therefore a big issue.
What can you do in response to this message?
1. Pray that God will deliver children and parents and doctors and nurses (and our culture) from the assault on God. And pray that you will know how to help.
2. Consider joining the sanctity of life task force at BBC. See Pastor Kenny Stokes.
3. Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy ministry and get into the lives of those in need.
4. Dream of creating such a ministry in our neighborhood. Meadowbrook Women's Clinic, four blocks from here did 4,117 abortions in 1999 (on average 16 every working day of the year, almost 30% of all the abortions in Minnesota). What if there were a caring, full-service crisis pregnancy center on the first floor of the building where that clinic is housed, so that everyone who is going to the clinic would walk by the life-giving clinic first?
5. Consider adoption.
6. Speak out in conversations about what really matters – and do it with patience and compassion and conviction and knowledge.
7. Read. Few things make us passionate and intelligent like passionate and intelligent books. David Reardon, Making Abortion Rare (Acorn Books, 1996); Randy Alcorn, Prolife Answers to Prochoice Questions (Multnomah Publishers, 2000); George Grant, Third Time Around: A History of the Pro-Life Movement from the First Century to the Present (Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1991); John Ensor, Experiencing God's Forgiveness (NavPress, 1997).
8. And finally, don't just read about forgiveness: receive it now. None of us in this room has done all we should regarding this great sin in our land and our world. We all stand in need of forgiveness. So remember the word of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."