HE KNEW MY NAME
The Sanctity of Life in the Womb
F. WAYNE MAC LEOD
LIGHT TO MY PATH BOOK DISTRIBUTION
Copyright © 2015 by F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the author.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text Edition: 2007
Special thanks to the Proof Readers: Sue St. Amour, Diane Mac Leod
The motivation for this study is a brief conversation I had with a brother in Christ about his concern with the practice of abortion in our day. This, however, is not a study about abortion. I am not qualified to do such a study. As I reflected on this matter, however, I felt the need to examine the teaching of Scripture about life in the womb and the plan of God even before conception.
In this study, we will examine the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments about the value of life in the womb. We will see how the hand of God not only forms the small child but also prepares this life for His purpose. It is my desire that we would see the fruit of the womb as God sees it and that our hearts would be encouraged to see the preciousness and value of life before birth.
May the Lord be pleased to use this study to bless and encourage you in your reflection on this important time of life.
F. Wayne Mac Leod
God said, "No but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him." (Genesis 17:19)
As we begin our study, let's go back to the book of Genesis and the promise of God to give Abraham a son. Abraham's wife Sarah was unable to conceive. This was a source of grief for them both. In Genesis 17, however, the Lord appeared to Abraham and told him that He would make of him a great nation and that kings would be in his family line. Abraham laughed in disbelief at this word from the Lord saying:
17 ...Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child? (Genesis 17:17)
God assured him, however, that his wife Sarah would indeed give him a son in her old age. In fact the Lord promised Abraham that He would enter a special covenant relationship with the child that would be born to him (Genesis 17:19). God told Abraham to call this son Isaac meaning "laughter"—a reference to their disbelief when God told them they would have a son in their old age. It may also be a reference to the joy and laughter that this child would bring to them, and particularly to Sarah who had been unable to have a child for so many years.
Although Abraham had another son by the name of Ishmael, God told him that He had a special plan for Isaac:
20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sa-rah shall bear to you this time next year. (Genesis 17:20-21)
Notice the plan God had for Isaac. This child was very special to God. The Lord would bring great blessing through this child. He would make a special covenant with him. God had a very special plan for Isaac. Notice how God calls him by name. He speaks about him and the purpose He has for his life. He does this even before Isaac was conceived! It would not be for another year that this child would be born (Genesis 17:21).
Isaac is not the only child in Scripture to be described in this way. In Judges 13, we see how the people of God "did evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years" (Judges 13:1). At that time an angel of the Lord appeared to another barren woman with a message:
3 ... Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazi-rite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines. (Judges 13:3-5)
This child, yet to be conceived, would be a male child. He would be set apart for God from his birth as a Nazirite. He would be an instrument of God to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines. God knew all about this unconceived child. God knew Samson, before He was conceived and had a very special purpose in mind for him.
In Luke 1, an angel appeared to a priest by the name of Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. This godly couple had no children. One day, as Zechariah was ministering in the temple, the angel appeared before him. He had a message for Zechariah:
13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb, 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. (Luke 1:13-17)
Notice, again, that the angel calls the yet- to- be conceived child by name. He tells his father that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit. He would be an instrument to turn many to the Lord. He would prepare the hearts of the people of God for the coming of the Messiah. All these details were given to Zechariah about a child yet to be conceived. God knew him by name even before he was conceived. God knew all about his life and the purpose for which he would be conceived.
Speaking about the final judgement, the Lord Jesus reminded his listeners that the day would come when the sheep and the goats would be separated and judged according to their deeds. Listen to what he says in Matthew 2:34-35:
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
What is important for us to note here in Jesus' words is the phrase: "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." The kingdom, according to Jesus, was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. This means that God was preparing a place for them even before they were conceived in the womb. Just as he knew Isaac, Samson and John the Baptist, so the Lord knew us before we were conceived. From the very beginning of time, He has been preparing a place in His kingdom for us. He knows our whole story from beginning to end. He knew this story from the foundation of the world, way before we were conceived or even imagined in the human mind. Each of our stories is very personal to Him.
God's delight in us did not begin the moment we were born. He delighted and knew us even before we were conceived in our mother's womb. The apostle Paul marvelled at this when he wrote:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Je-sus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Be-loved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
Paul teaches us that the Lord God chose us "before the foundation of the world." There are many ways of looking at this phrase. In the context of this study, however, we need to see that God had a purpose and plan for my life that goes back to before I was conceived. From the foundation of the earth, God knew me. He knew all about my life and the purpose I would fulfill in life.
God is not limited to time as we are. The yet unconceived child is as important to His purpose as the mature adult. He knows children, yet to be conceived, as well as He knows each of us. He values the unconceived as much as those born into this world. He had a purpose for Isaac, Samson and John the Baptist who had not yet been conceived. There is a whole host of children, yet to be conceived who are known and loved by God who has a purpose for them in the work of His kingdom. How beautiful it is to know that God did not start loving us when we were conceived in the womb. His love and purpose for us goes back to the foundation of the world where no human thought even imagined us.
· What did God know about Isaac, Samson and John the Baptist before they were conceived? What was His purpose for their lives before they were conceived in the womb?
· What does it mean to be known before the foundation of the world?
· God is not limited to time as we are. He loves the unconceived child as much as the one who is conceived in the womb. What does this teach us about the value of life and the pur-pose of God?
· Thank the Lord that He knew you from before the world began.
· Thank the Lord that He had a purpose for you and your life from the beginning of time.
· Ask the Lord to help you to honour Him with your life by becoming all He intended you to become.
· Take a moment to praise the Lord for His understanding that is far greater than ours and is not limited to time.
Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. (Isaiah 49:1)
We have seen how the Lord knew us even before we were conceived and had a purpose for our lives. We move now to the point of conception and the physical body that is being formed in the womb of the mother. In the passage quoted above, Isaiah tells us two things about this time in the womb.
First, Isaiah tells us that the Lord calls His people from the womb. The call of God on our lives did not begin the moment we were born. It began well before this at the foundation of the earth and put into effect when we were conceived in the womb of our mothers. The yet undeveloped child is being formed for a purpose in the womb of the mother.
Second, we learn from Isaiah 49:1 that the Lord calls His children in the womb by name—"from the body of my mother he named my name." There is something very wonderful about this truth. In our day, there is a thought that a child in the womb is not really a person until he or she is born. This is not what this passage tells us. Isaiah 49:1 tells us that the Lord calls this unfinished form in the womb by name. This is very personal. The eyes and ears of this undeveloped baby are no yet fully functional. Legs and arms are not completely formed, but God still calls this child by name.
Speaking to the prophet Jeremiah the Lord said:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)
Take note of what God said to Jeremiah. He knew him before he was formed in the womb. Notice also when God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations –"Before you were born I consecrated you." The word "consecrate" has the sense of being set apart and dedicated to a particular purpose. God set Jeremiah apart to be a prophet to the nations when he was still an unfinished form in his mother's womb. This unborn child was an instrument set apart by God from the womb. God did not wait until he was born to call him.
What was true of Jeremiah is also seen in the life of the apostle Paul. Listen to his testimony in Galatians 1:15-17:
15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
When we consider the life of the apostle Paul, we some-times feel that he was called to serve the Lord when he was on his way to Damascus. Paul, however, tells us that while he met Jesus and came to understand the call of God on that particular day, he had actually been called by God well before that time. He tells us in Galatians 1:15 that God had set him apart before birth. There in the womb of his mother, the apostle Paul was chosen to be a servant of the Almighty God. Admittedly, he did not understand that call for many years. He served faithfully as a devout Jew and did the best he could with his limited understanding of that call. Only when Jesus revealed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, however, did Paul fully understand the purpose of God for him from the womb of his mother.
Writing in Isaiah 49:5 the prophet says:
And now the Lord says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him—for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has become my strength.
The Lord formed Isaiah from the womb to be his servant. This work of shaping and training us to be servants of God does not begin when we are old enough to reason and think for ourselves. It begins in the womb. God is shaping our personality. He is forming us into the instruments He wants us to be in the belly of our mothers. He is preparing us from the womb to fulfill the call He has put on our lives even before we were born.
The Lord spoke to the mother of Samson and told her:
3 Behold you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. 5 for behold you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazi-rite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines. (Judges 13:3-5)
Notice particularly what God told Samson's mother that day, "The child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb." A Nazirite was a person set aside by a particular vow to the Lord. As a Nazirite, he was never to shave his hair or drink strong drink. Samson entered into this vow while still in his mother's womb. God set him aside for this purpose even before he was born.
In Genesis 25, we read that Rebekah, Isaac's wife became pregnant and conceived twins. There were complications with this pregnancy and she went to the Lord to ask Him what was going on in her womb. The Lord responded:
... Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger. (Genesis 25:23)
The children in Rebekah's womb had a purpose in the mind of God. God told Rebekah that two nations were forming in Rebekah's womb and that her boys had been called from their mother's womb to be the fathers of these nations.
What do we understand from these passages of Scripture? Do they not show us that the Lord God has a purpose for the life of the child developing in the womb of his or her mother? God calls these children while they are still in the womb and sets them aside for a particular purpose. Even before my brain and consciousness have been developed sufficiently to be aware of that call, God has been working on my life and setting me apart for a particular purpose. He knows the purpose for which I will be born. He calls my unformed frame by name. The body being formed in the womb is known personally by God. The child, yet unborn, already has the call of God in his or her life.
· Do we need a completely formed body to be loved by God? What do we learn in this chapter about the love of God for even the body being formed in the womb of the mother?
· Isaiah tells us that God calls us by name from the womb of our mothers. What does this teach us about the value of the child yet to be born?
· When were Paul and Jeremiah called by God? What does this teach us about the purpose of God for the unformed child in the womb?
· While Paul was called from the womb, it would not be until much later in life that he fully understood that call. What is the difference be-tween being called and understanding or walking in the call of God?
· What is the call of God on your life?
· Thank the Lord that His love for us does not depend on what we look like or if we are in perfect physical form. Thank Him that He loved you even when you were unformed in your mother's womb.
· Ask the Lord to reveal to you the call He has placed on your life from the time you were in your mother's womb.
· Ask God to help you to be faithful to His call on your life.
The children struggled together within her, and she said, "If it is thus, why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the Lord. (Genesis 25:22)
In Genesis 25, we have the story of the birth of Esau and Jacob. Rebekah, their mother, was barren and so her husband Isaac prayed for her and she conceived twins. In the course of the pregnancy, Rebekah noticed that something strange was taking place in her womb. Gene-sis 25:22 tells us that "the children struggled together within her." Obviously, as their mother, she could feel this struggle in her womb.
Notice in Genesis 25:22 that the Bible calls the unborn in her womb, "children." The Hebrew word used is the same word used to speak of a son or grandson. From God's perspective, though their bodies were not yet completely formed, Esau and Jacob were considered to be children. They were human beings from the moment of conception.
Notice also from Genesis 25:22 that these two children were "struggling together within her." The Hebrew word used for "struggle" is quite strong. It literally means to crack in pieces, to break, to bruise, to crush, to oppress or to discourage. It is used, for example, in Deuteronomy 28:33-34:
33 A nation that you have not known shall eat up the fruit of your ground and of all your labors, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually, 34 so that you are driven mad by the sights that your eyes see.
The people of God would be "crushed" to the point that they would be driven mad in their pain.
The same word is used in 2 Chronicles 16:10 to speak of Asa who "inflicted cruelties" on some of the people of the land. Judges 9:53 uses it to describe what happened to Abimelech when a woman dropped a millstone on his head.
When Genesis 25:22 tells us that the children struggled in the womb of their mother, we understand that there was a serious conflict taking place in Rebekah's womb. Rebekah became so concerned about this conflict that she brought the matter to the Lord. Listen to what the Lord told her in Genesis 22:23:
And the Lord said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger."
The reason for this conflict in Rebekah's womb was because these two children were enemies. They would form two nations and one would be forced to serve the other. When the time for her to give birth arrived, Esau was born first. When Jacob was born, it was noted that he was grasping his brother's heal—a sign of hostility toward his brother. As these boys grew older, bitterness between them would grow. Jacob would steal Esau's birthright and blessing. Esau would swear to kill Jacob. The Edomites—descendants of Esau hated the Israelites and even generations later this hostility was still evident between the two nations.
Where did this hostility start? From Genesis 25 we understand that it started in Rebekah's womb. These two young children in their mother's womb were not fully conscious of what was taking place but their fighting and bitterness started before they were born. Something was happening in Rebekah's womb that would impact generations of people. There was a spiritual battle taking place right there in her womb and these children were in the centre of that battle.
There is another example in Scripture we need to con-sider in this regard. In Luke 1, we have the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. Listen to what the angel told his father Zechariah:
15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.
Notice when John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit—"even from his mother's womb." The Holy Spirit of God was pleased to dwell in this unformed child and fill him with power even before he was born. Evidence of this filling is found in Luke 1:41:
41 And when Elizabeth heard the greetings of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb, And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
On this particular occasion, Mary, the mother of Jesus came to see Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist). When Elizabeth heard the sound of Mary's greeting, John "leaped for joy" in her womb. John responded to the voice of Mary from the womb of his mother. The Spirit of God filled John in the womb of his mother and used him to communicate to Mary that the child she bore was the promised Messiah.
Even as there was a spiritual battle taking place in Jacob and Esau, so there was a work of God's Spirit in the life of John before he was born. God was preparing John for the work He had for him. In the womb of our mothers, God is physically shaping us but He is also doing a spiritual work in us. We were created in the image of God. This implies that we are both physical and spiritual beings. God forms both of these dimensions while we are in our mother's womb.
As we reflect on these two passages of Scripture we see that significant things happen in the womb of the mother. God is pleased to use the unfinished form of the child He is creating in the womb. He moves in these lives and prepares them for what is about to happen in their lives.
Consider this for a moment. The hand of God, who created the universe and sustains it, reaches down to the tiny seed in the womb of its mother and touches it in a special way. He fills that seed and prepares it for the work He has in store. There is something very holy about this. God's delight in me did not begin when I was born. It began farther back than this. He delighted in me from the womb. He began to work out His purposes for me in the womb of my mother.
· When did conflict between Esau and Jacob begin?
· What impact did this conflict, which began in the womb, have on generations to follow?
· When was John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit? What evidence is there in Scripture of this filling from the womb?
· What encouragement do you find from the fact that God is willing to use the unfinished form of a child in the womb?
· When does God begin His work in your life?
· What do the passages we have examined here teach us about the value of life in the womb?
· Thank the Lord that He loved you before you were born and even when you were still in your mother's womb He knew you and was shaping you for the purpose He has in store for your life.
· Take a moment to consider the value of life in the womb. Ask the Lord to help us to value this life as He does.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. O praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:13-14)
We have seen how God knew us even before we were conceived and called us while we were yet in the womb. Let's take a moment now to consider three further works of God in the life of the unborn child.
The Creative Work of God in the Womb
The writers of Scripture marvelled at the creative work of God in the mother's womb. I was present with my wife when all of my children were born. What an incredible thing it is to experience the birth of a child. There before you is a living and breathing child. Life has been brought into this world. What we need to realize, however, is that the Lord God has been working in the life of this child well before his or her birth. The psalmist speaks of this in Psalm 139:13-14 when he says:
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. O praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
The psalmist describes what was happening in the womb as God knitting a life together. He joins each individual part connecting one with the other until that life is complete and whole. The psalmist describes this work of God as fearful and wonderful. In other words, it is a work that inspires awe, reverence and praise.
The prophet Isaiah reminds his people in Isaiah 44:2 that the One who made them in the womb would help them:
1 But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! 2 Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you.
The word translated by the English word "formed" is used to describe the work of a potter who squeezes the clay on the wheel into the shape he wants. There is a very personal dimension to this image. God shapes each life personally in the womb. Each child is given his or her uniqueness by the heavenly Creator.
Isaiah repeats the same thought when he says:
24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: "I am the Lord who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself. (Isaiah 44:24)
Every child born into this world is a product of the creative genius of God who works to shape the child in the womb of the mother. The fact that each of us is different in looks and personality is an indication of the personal nature of this creative work of God who shapes each one personally. That unborn child is a unique work of God in progress. God has taken a personal interest in each one and shapes them into the person He wants them to be. This process begins in the womb and is still one of life's greatest miracles.
The Protection of God in the Womb
Not only does the Scripture teach that God forms the unborn child in the womb but we also see that He also protects this child in the womb. The psalmist understood this when he wrote:
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you. (Psalm 71:6)
Notice that the psalmist particularly mentions that he leaned on God from before his birth. He understood how much he depended on God for life from the moment of conception. God sustained and kept him in the womb of his mother.
Listen to what God said to His people in Isaiah 46:3-4:
3 Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; 4 even in your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
God made it quite clear to His people that He had carried them from before their birth. He took personal responsibility for them when they were still in their mother's womb. The one who knew them before they were conceived and formed them in the womb also watched over them from the moment they were conceived. He protected and kept them safe in the womb of their mother. The protecting work of God does not begin when we are born—even before we were brought into this world, the hand of God has been at work protecting and keeping us for the purpose He has in mind.
The Preparatory Work of God in the Womb
God calls us, forms us and protects us in the womb of our mother. God also prepares us for the work He has in mind. This preparatory work of God also begins in the womb. Consider what the apostle Paul told the Ephesians in Ephesians 2:10:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Je-sus for good works, which God prepared before-hand that we should walk in them.
Even before we were aware of the purpose of God for our lives, He was preparing the works He had for us to accomplish. God not only prepared the circumstances in life but He also prepared us for those circumstances. The Psalmist makes this clear when he says:
15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depth of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my un-formed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed or me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:15-16)
While I was still in the womb of my mother being woven into the person He wanted me to be, God knew what every day in my life would bring. Every day of my life was written in His book even before I was born. He shaped me in the womb of my mother with these days in mind.
The Psalmist recognized that even before he came into this earth, he had an obligation to this wonderful Creator God. In Psalm 22:10 he says:
On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother's womb you have been my God.
What does it mean that God is our God? It means that He is our Lord and we are submissive to Him in all things. The implication is quite clear. God is the God of the unborn. He watches over and gives them life. They in turn are under obligation to submit to Him as their God.
What do we see from these passages of Scripture? God takes a very special interest in unborn children. He shapes and forms them in the womb into the people He wanted us to be. Like a great potter, He forms my life with its unique personality and appearance while it is yet in the womb of my mother. He protects unborn children and calls Himself their God. Even before I was born, God chose me to be His servant and called me by name. Before I was born, God knew every day of my life and what those days would bring. He knew details about my life that still after many years of living on this earth I do not know. I was created and shaped by God, protected by God and prepared by God for life while I was still in the womb of my mother. God's interest in me and His work in my life began in the womb and will continue even to the end of my days.
· Take a moment to consider the miracle of life that begins at the moment of conception. How is the creative hand of God shown in what takes place in the womb of the mother from conception?
· The prophet Isaiah tells us that God carries us from the womb (Isaiah 46:3). How does God carry the unborn child in the womb? What does this tell us about the value God places on the child in the womb?
· How does God prepare us for the work He has in store? How does He shape us in the womb for the calling He has placed on our lives?
· What does this chapter and the verses we have considered teach us about the value God places on the unborn child? Is an unborn child loved by God as much as a child born into this world? Explain.
· Thank the Lord for the miraculous way in which He shapes the unborn child in the womb of the mother.
· Take a moment to give praise to the Lord for how He watches over the child in the womb.
· Thank the Lord for the purpose He has in mind for each child conceived in the womb. Thank Him for how He shapes each one differently.
· Ask the Lord to give you a sense of awe and respect for His miraculous work in the womb. Ask the Lord to forgive us as a society for not having he heart of God toward these unborn children.
In this chapter, let's take a moment to examine a few verses that describe, from God's perspective, the unborn child in the womb of the mother. While there are many verses that describe children born into this world, my focus in this chapter is the child still in the womb of his or her mother.
Let's begin with Genesis 49:25. In Genesis 49, Jacob had come to the end of his life and now took the time to bless each of his children. Genesis 49:25 is part of the blessing of Jacob on his son Joseph:
25 By the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings from heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
Notice how Jacob told his son that the God of his fathers would bless him with many types of blessings. Of particular significance to us is the phrase "blessings of the breasts and of the womb." Jacob makes special mention of two types of blessings in this phrase. The phrase "blessings of the breasts" is clearly a reference to the nursing child at the breast of the mother. The "blessings of the womb," however, is a reference to the unborn child being formed in the womb of the mother. For Jacob, the unborn child in the womb was as much of a blessing from God as was the child nursing at his or her mother's breast. One was as valuable as the other.
Struggling with the prosperity of the wicked, the psalmist says in Psalm 17:13-14:
13 Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him! Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, 14 from men by your hand, O Lord, from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.
The psalmist speaks very strongly against the wicked who oppressed him in this passage. "Confront him, subdue him!" he asks the Lord. These men were evil and the psalmist wanted the Lord to judge them for their evil. Having said this, however, notice how the psalmist describes the children conceived in the wombs of their women –"You fill their womb with treasure."
The "treasure" the psalmist is describing here is the unborn children of wicked men. Despite the fact that the parents of these unformed children were evil, these children were still a precious and valuable treasure. The psalmist speaks with great respect for the life of the child in the womb even though this child is the fruit of wicked parents. Every unformed child conceived in the womb is a treasure from God. A child’s value does not lie in who their parents are but in the fact that they are a creation of God.
The Psalmist again speaks of the fruit of the womb in Psalm 127:3:
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Of particular significance is the phrase: "the fruit of the womb a reward." The child being formed in the womb of the mother is a reward from God. This child is a gift of God—an indication of His favour and blessing.
What do these three passages tell us about the unborn child? This child forming in the womb of the mother is a blessing, a treasure and a wonderful reward or gift from God. Even the unborn child of evil parents is a treasure from God. Scripture is quite clear on this matter. The fruit of the womb is to be respected. From the moment of conception this young, unformed life is to be valued and honored as a blessing of God.
· How does Scripture describe the fruit of the womb?
· Is the value of the unformed child in the womb dependant on his or her parents?
· Based on the description of the child in the womb of his or her mother, how should we see and treat the unborn child?
· Thank the Lord for the value He places on the unformed child in the womb.
· Ask the Lord to forgive your society for not valuing unborn children as it should. Ask God to reveal the value He places on the unborn child to your society.
· Ask the Lord to forgive you for valuing a child based on his or her parents. Thank the Lord that each person is an individual before Him and his or her value in not dependant on the life of their parents.
13 Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child, as infants who never seen the light? (Job 3:16)
As we reflect on this subject of life in the womb, it is important that we examine a series of verses that speak about the death of a child in the womb of the mother. Many of these verses are spoken by individuals who struggled with the pain and trials of life. In the passage quoted above, Job considers his lot in life. In the third chapter of his book, Job curses the day he was born. He begins the chapter with the statement:
3 Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, "A man is conceived."
Job, at this point in his life, had lost his children and all his wealth. He sat in an ash heap scratching the boils on his body and wondering why he had to suffer so much when he had served and honored the Lord God all his life. The agony of life was so heavy on him that he lamented the fact that he had ever been born.
Notice in Job 3:3, however, how Job describes the unformed child who had been conceived in the womb of his mother. He calls this child a man—"a man is conceived." The connection of the two words here is of great importance. For Job, he was a man not at birth but at conception. The child in the womb, according to Job had the status of a human being.
The pain Job experienced in his trial was so severe he wished he had never been born. In fact, he curses the day of his birth in Job 3:7-13:
7 Behold, let that night be barren; let no joyful cry enter it. 8 Let those curse it who curse the day, who are ready to rouse up Leviathan. 9 Let the stars of its dawn be dark; let it hope for light, but have none, nor see the eyelids of the morning, 10 because it did not shut the doors of my mother's womb, nor hide trouble from my eyes. 11 Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire? 12 Why did the knees receive me? Or the breasts, that I should nurse? 13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet; I would have slept; then I would have been at rest. (Job 3)
In his deep pain, Job questions why he was born. He curses that day of his birth because it brought him to this point of agony and despair. Had he never been born, he would have been free from the pain and loss he was experiencing. He would not have agonized over the loss of all his children. He would not have suffered the physical affliction he was experiencing in his body. To Job, at this point in time, the death of a man-child in the womb was a blessing because it spared that child from the terror and pain of life.
He expressed the same feelings in Job 10:18-19 when he said:
18 Why did you bring me out from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me 19 and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave.
Job was not alone in these thoughts. Jeremiah the prophet also felt this same way. In Jeremiah 20, we read how Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks to be publically humiliated. Struggling with what had happened to him because he was preaching the word of God, the prophet complained to God and said:
7 O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me 8 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, "Violence and destruction!" For the word of God has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.
Here was a man who struggled with the fact that he preached what God had given him to preach and yet experienced such rejection and mocking. As he cried out to God about his bitter lot in life, Jeremiah declares:
14 Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! 15 Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, "A son is born to you," making him glad. 16 Let that man be like the cities that the Lord overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, 17 because He did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. 18 Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?
Here before us we see deep grief in these servants of God. Their grief was so intense that they wished they had never been born. The pain they experienced in life was more than they felt they could bear. They cry out in despair, questioning their existence.
Solomon, in his wisdom speaking about the unsatisfied soul in Ecclesiastes 6:3 said:
3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many but his soul is not satisfied with life's good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a still-born child is better off than he.
Solomon speaks here about a man who is richly blessed. The sign of this great blessing is his many children and long years of life. This man, however, is not satisfied in his soul. His life has no meaning for him. Solomon tells us that this man, though richly blessed, lived a cursed life without satisfaction in the many blessings he has been given. He went as far as to say that it would have been better for him to have been a stillborn child than to go through life depressed and unsatisfied.
Job, Jeremiah and Solomon seem to be saying that there are situations where it would be better to have died in the womb than to have been born. It is important that we examine what these men are saying in the context of this study. There are several points we need to make about these comments of Job, Solomon and Jeremiah.
First, the comments of Job, Jeremiah and Solomon must be seen in their context. They are not commands of God but the expressions of human hearts unsure as to how to handle the purpose of God. Job and Jeremiah are in the midst of a great trial of faith. They are open and honest with God and speak plainly what is on their mind. At this point, they wished they had never been born. The pain they experienced in life made them wish they had died in their mother's womb. They are not teaching us that to kill children in the womb is to do them a favour by sparing them the troubles of life. They are simply expressing their feelings in a moment of pain. We cannot base a doctrine or practice on the personal feelings of an individual struggling with the purpose of God for his or her life.
Secondly, we must also consider how God responded to Job and Jeremiah after they declared that they wished they had died in the womb. He listened carefully to their cry and responded to them. To Job God said:
1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?"
To Jeremiah the Lord said:
5 If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?
Job and Jeremiah were both rebuked by God for their attitude. They were questioning the purpose of God and for this they would answer to Him.
Suffering and pain are normal parts of life in a sinful world. The Lord Jesus had to face Satan head on. He was rejected throughout His life. At his birth, Herod tried to kill Him. As he ministered, people took advantage of him. Religious leaders sought to kill him. He would die a cruel death at the age of thirty. He took on the sin of the world. He saw the Father turn His face from Him as He bore our sins. Would it have been better that He had never born? Certainly not! The work He accomplished in those few short years accomplished the salvation of God's people and brought forgiveness to all who would trust in Him.
The apostle Paul lived a life of struggle and pain. He was beaten and stoned for the message he preached. At times, he was left for dead. He experienced more rejection and suffering in life than many of us will ever have to experience. Would it have been better for him never to have been born? Certainly not! The message he preached changed countless lives. His writing continues to bring many into the kingdom.
Surely we need to understand that these men needed to be brought onto this earth and suffer so that we could know the salvation of God. None of us enjoy pain and suffering but often the purpose of God is accomplished in it. Job, Jeremiah, Jesus and Paul were all mightily used of God to accomplish His purpose. They did this through suffering and pain.
Would things have been easier for them had they never been born? From a human perspective, they would not have had to face the suffering they endured. But from a divine perspective, the purpose of God would not have been accomplished either. The suffering of these men brought life and hope to many. What they endured brings us great blessing. I for one am thankful for their lives.
Why does God allow some children to be born and suffer throughout life? This is a question we do not have an answer for. God alone has the answer.
As a grandfather, I have a number of grandchildren who died before they were born. I never had the opportunity to meet them. I do not have an answer to why the Lord took them before they were born. In doing so, He did spare them from the suffering and pain of this world. I also have children and grandchildren who have suffered the atrocities of this world in their life. Again, I do not know why the Lord allowed these things to happen but I do know that He has a purpose in this as well.
What we need to understand is that God has a purpose in all that He does. We do not always understand that purpose. Why did God allow Job to be born and to suffer? Why did God allow Jeremiah to be called from the womb to a ministry that would cause him deep pain? Why did God call Paul before he was born to a ministry in which he would be stoned and mocked? Why did God ordain before the foundation of the earth that Jesus, His own Son would be conceived and born to die the cruel death of the cross? Be assured that God had a wonderful purpose for the life of each of these individuals. We are indebted to each of them for their faithfulness.
Yes, Job and Jeremiah struggled with their lot in life for a time, wishing they had never been born. God, however, used them to accomplish His purpose and to push back the darkness of evil. I am thankful that they were born and proved faithful to that purpose despite the pain they endured.
· Have you ever been in a situation in life that you felt you could not bear? What was your response in that time? How did the Lord take you through that situation?
· Can we base a doctrine on the feelings of men and women in Scripture who struggled with the purpose of God for their lives?
· What do we learn from this chapter about struggle and difficulties in life?
· Take a moment to consider the struggles of Job, Jeremiah, Paul and Jesus? Are you glad they were born and endured this suffering? What was the result of their faithfulness?
· Thank the Lord that even though we may be born to suffering, He is able to use this suffering to accomplish great good.
· Thank the Lord for the privilege of being born into this world and called to be an instrument of change.
· Ask the Lord to give you grace to be faithful to what the Lord has called you to do, despite the pain and struggle that is involved.
· Have you ever lost a child or grandchild in the womb? Take a moment to thank the Lord for this life. Thank Him that His purpose is always good.
Over the course of the last six chapters, we have sought to understand the teaching of Scripture concerning life in the womb. Here in this final chapter, I would like to summarise what we have seen.
Our God is an all-knowing and eternal God. He knew us even before we were conceived and had a purpose for our lives (Genesis 17:19). Even before we were born, He knew all the details of our life and how our lives would unfold (Luke 1:13-14).
In the wombs of our mothers, He called us by name (Isaiah 49:1). He knew us personally and took a special interest in us even before we were formed. While we were still being shaped in the womb, God called us and set us apart for His special purpose (Jeremiah 1:5). He shaped our bodies and personalities in the womb to suit us for the call He had placed on our lives.
God's work in our life does not begin at birth. It begins at the moment of conception and even before that. He creates us and knits us together (Psalm 139:13-14) and protects us in the womb of our mothers (Isaiah 46:3-4). There in the womb, He prepares us for our responsibilities in life (Psalm 139:15-16).
There is evidence in Scripture that the Lord also does a spiritual work in the life of the unborn child. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb (Luke 1:15). The presence of the Lord Jesus, who was still in His mother's womb, stirred John the Baptist and caused him to leap in his mother's womb. Jacob and Esau fought in the womb of their mother (Genesis 25:22), an indication of what would happen in life.
Scripture describes the fruit of the womb as a blessing (Genesis 49:25), a treasure (Psalm 17:13-14) and a reward (Psalm 127:3). This shows us the value God places on the unformed substance of these children.
It is true that these children will be born into a sinful world filled with grief and struggle. That suffering and grief, however, is not without purpose. Those who come to Him have the privilege of knowing their Creator and fellow-shipping with Him in even the worst trials. They are His instruments to accomplish His purpose in life. They have the privilege of walking in His power and authority and the joy of knowing that when their task on earth is completed, they will enter His presence for all eternity separated from sin and its effects.
What does this study show us about the value of the unborn child? It shows us that each child is the work of the Heavenly Father. It shows us that God has a purpose for the unformed child. He values each life and knows each one by name.
It would seem to me that we are called to respect the life God is forming and protecting in the womb. This is a creation of God and one for which He has a purpose. Does every child born seek that purpose of God? I'm afraid that many do not. We have all fallen short of the standard of God. Some will reject their Creator completely. Others will violently oppose the purpose of God and become instruments of Satan. Those who receive Him, however, become His instruments to advance His king-dom.
It would be wonderful to think that every child would be born to a loving father and mother. In this world of sin and evil, however, this is not always the case. There are women who have experienced the horrors of rape and sexual violence. It is easy to question the purpose of God in these times. The children born to these mothers, however, are still precious in God's eyes. What a blessing it is to watch these children, the fruit of sin and rebellion against God, become all He intends them to be. Many will see evils they should never have to see. Some will face struggles in life that no child should ever have to face. Despite this, however, they are to be valued as the creation of God. If anything, this is a call for the people of God to stand up and be the parents, counsellors, encouragers and supporters that these children need.
I have purposely not spoken about the matter of abortion in this study. What we have examined, however, should help us to see the incredible value God places on life in the womb. As I have worked through the various passages of Scripture related to life before birth, I have been struck by the fact that my God knew me, called me and valued me long before I was born. I was loved before birth. I was cared for in the womb and known before I was conceived. I praise the God who took this much interest in me. I want to live my life to accomplish the purpose for which I was conceived. I am renewed in my understanding of the value He places on every child in the womb, no matter the circumstance of their conception. May the Lord be pleased to use this study to enable each reader to stand with God in valuing and caring for the fruit of every womb for His glory and praise.
· What does this study teach us about the value of the unformed child in the womb of the mother?
· What is the work of God in the life of the child in the womb?
· According to what we have seen in this study, what should be our attitude toward the child in the womb?
· When does life begin? If the child in the womb is considered to be a person from the time of conception, how does the law and requirements of God for the treatment of all people apply to the unborn child?
· Take a moment to thank the Lord that He knew you before you were conceived.
· Thank the Lord for how He formed you and valued you in the womb of your mother.
· Ask the Lord to help you to see each child as a creation of God. Ask God to help you to value life whether it be in the womb or born into this world.
· Ask God to forgive us for the many ways we disrespect the lives of those He has created whether this be in the womb or outside the womb.
· Thank the Lord that although we are born into a sinful world, we can know His presence and power to accomplish His purpose. Thank Him for that privilege of knowing Him and being forgiven of your sins.
· Take a moment to pray for those who do not yet know Him as their Saviour and Lord. Ask God to reveal Himself to them in a way that gives them hope and purpose in life.
Light To My Path (LTMP) is a book writing and distribution ministry reaching out to needy Christian workers in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Many Christian workers in developing countries do not have the resources necessary to obtain Bible training or purchase Bible study materials for their ministries and personal encouragement. F. Wayne Mac Leod is a member of Action International Ministries and has been writing these books with a goal to distribute them to needy pastors and Christian workers around the world.
To date thousands of books are being used in preaching, teaching, evangelism and encouragement of local believers in over sixty countries. Books have now been translated a number of languages. The goal is to make them available to as many believers as possible.
The ministry of LTMP is a faith based ministry and we trust the Lord for the resources necessary to distribute the books for the encouragement and strengthening of believers around the world. Would you pray that the Lord would open doors for the translation and further distribution of these books?