Psalm 139 contains well-known verses that have become a rallying cry for the pro-life movement, but I maintain that the entire Bible affirms the unborn child’s personhood. And Psalm 139 contains so much more than those few verses speaking about God creating a child in the womb. The entire psalm speaks about God’s intimate and thorough knowledge of each individual. He knows our actions, words, thoughts, and the innermost motivations within our hearts. He knows us far better than we know ourselves!
O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it (Psalm 139:1-6, ESV).
God knows everything I do and everything I say. He knows the angry word before it leaves my mouth. He is behind, before, and above me. His omnipresence and omniscience are too lofty for my finite mind to understand. No one can hide anything from him and no one can hide from him!
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you (7-12, ESV).
God is everywhere on earth, above the earth, and below the earth. God is with you during the 104 degree brightness of a summer day and he is with you in the lonely darkness of a cold night. He created light and darkness even before he created the sun and moon. How could either darkness or brightness obscure his vision?
Then come those famous and beautiful words about God’s creation of the child in the womb:
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them (13-16, ESV).
Notice that God not only knew you from the moment of your conception, he also had ordained every day that you will live and the exact moment of your death before you took your first breath. This knowledge is, indeed, too wonderful for me!
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you (17-18, ESV).
God is always with us, but that doesn’t guarantee a life free from pain and persecution.
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 (19-22, ESV).
The psalmist David indicates that it is right and proper to hate those who hate God and rise up against him. God’s enemies are our enemies. But we ought not be too quick to condemn; we must first recognize the sin in our own hearts (23-24, ESV):
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!
True religion is more than outward appearance. It is more than talking the talk or even walking the walk. Our hearts must be free from hypocrisy, pride, and other personal sins. We may fool other people with our pious speech and self-righteous actions, but God is not mocked. He sees the dark corners of our hearts. He knows our secret sins and selfish motivations. We should be terrified of asking him to search us or try us unless we recognize the depth of our sin and throw ourselves on the mercy of God’s grace in Jesus Christ! Only then can we truly be led in the way everlasting.