Psalm 139:1–6, 13–18 comment (0)
January 16, 2014
By Thomas L. Fuller
Related Scripture: Psalm 139:1–6, 13–18
Bible Studies for Life
Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Is Every Life Sacred?
Psalm 139:1–6, 13–18
Is every life sacred? That question is central to many of the ethical issues and decisions facing us in these days. While various arguments are made on the bases of rights, freedoms, benefits, justice and so on — which, rightly construed, are concerns expressed in the Scriptures — for Christians, the fundamental question is, “How does God regard human life?”
Psalm 139 is a psalm of David. It is a prayer of praise, specifically acknowledging Yahweh’s omnipresence and omniscience. David does not articulate these truths in technical or abstract terms but in a poetic, personal reflection on how the all-knowing God is intimately involved in our lives.
The opening declaration of David’s prayer sets the theme and speaks volumes: “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!” It is an astounding observation in two respects. First the combination of “searched” and “known” reflects the scope and depth of God’s knowledge, that it is not a general knowledge or awareness but an intensely personal and thorough familiarity. Second, and most astounding, is that the Creator and Sovereign God gives such personal attention to “me.” He knows my every movement, my every thought, my every word, from the least to the greatest. Wherever I go, at all times Yahweh is there ahead of me and with me.
Such intimate knowledge of each individual, such personal attention to the details of each life clearly reflects the value God places on us. The psalmist is overwhelmed at the thought of it: He cannot fully comprehend the fact of it, nor can he fathom fully the meaning or implications of it (v. 6). In economic terms, it is the Creator’s sole prerogative to decide what goes on the price tag of each life. By His character and His works, it is evident that God has deemed each life to be priceless.
As David continues to marvel at Yahweh’s boundless presence in spatial terms (vv. 7–12), his focus then turns to God’s knowledge and presence in temporal terms. He confesses that there has not been a time when God’s watchful eye was not upon him, even before he was capable of knowing or being known. This is the knowledge and care of the one who “formed my inward parts” and “knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” He had detailed familiarity with me, with my ways and with the moments of my life when I was yet “unformed substance.” Once again, David is awed by both the immensity and the intimacy of Yahweh’s works. He praises the Lord for all His creations.
Many questions and concerns are raised in regard to the circumstances and outcomes of human life. When does life begin? Can we measure quality of life? Do we have the prerogative to end a life? How we address these questions and concerns must be rooted in the clear conviction that life is sacred because God is the creator and sustainer of all life. Our regard for all life — born or unborn, healthy or afflicted, friend or foe — should be an expression of our praise to God.
For a third and final time in this prayer, David is overcome by wonder and exclaims his praise to God. What God has revealed to him, David declares “precious” (or “weighty”), though he cannot fully comprehend it all. Like counting the grains of sand, there can be no end to plumbing the depths of God’s thoughts and ways.
More amazing still is the realization: “I awake, and I am still with You.” The sanctity of life is rooted not only in its divine origins but also in the persistent presence and care of God across our days. He values each of us from beginning to end, never wavering. Let us acknowledge His creative work and His attentive presence in all human life.