Before I Formed Thee
Psalm 139: 13-15 — “For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret.”
WHEN DOES A HUMAN LIFE BEGIN?
God answered this question long before it was ever asked by a politician, a Supreme Court Justice, or a pregnant woman. As Creator, Almighty God is not silent on the subject of life—before, during, or after:
• “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee” (Jer. 1:5).
We believe that human life begins at conception—that miracle moment when body, soul, and spirit unite to form a person, none of which happens apart from the Lord.
• “Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and He that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things” (Isa. 44:24).
• “Know ye that the LORD He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves” (Ps. 100:3).
In Psalm 139, David offers us a rare glimpse of the Creator at work—covering, planning, protecting, seeing, and thinking about humanity—body, soul, and spirit—throughout one’s entire life.
Seventeenth century Bible scholar Thomas Manton left us this beautiful exposition of David’s psalm:
“David saith, ‘I am wonderfully made’ acu pictus sum …‘painted as with a needle,’ like a garment of needlework, of divers colours, richly embroidered with nerves and veins. What shall I speak of the eye, wherein there is such curious workmanship, that many upon the first sight of it have been driven to acknowledge God? Of the hand made to open and shut, and to serve the labours and ministries of nature without wasting and decay for many years? If they should be of marble or iron, with such constant use they would soon wear out; and yet now they are of flesh they last so long as life lasteth. Of the head? fitly placed to be the seat of the senses, to command and direct the rest of the members. Of the lungs? a frail piece of flesh, yet, though in continual action, of a long use. In short, therefore, every part is so placed and framed, as if God had employed His whole wisdom about it. But as yet we have spoken but of the casket wherein the jewel lieth. The soul, that divine spark of blast, how quick, nimble, various, and indefatigable in its motions! How comprehensive in its capacities! How it animateth the body, and is like God Himself, all in every part! Who can trace the flights of reason? What a value hath God set upon the soul! He made it after His image, He redeemed it with Christ’s blood.” 1
WE ARE MADE IN HIS IMAGE
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Gen. 1:27).
In this poetic passage of Scripture, we see the word created carefully used three times, each one echoing the fact that man was an entirely new creation. Regarding the word image in this verse, the following Bible commentary is excellent:
“The image of God consists, therefore, in the spiritual personality of man, though not merely in unity of self-consciousness and self-determination, or in the fact that man was created a consciously free Ego; for personality is merely the basis and form of the divine likeness, not its real essence. This consists rather in the fact, that the man endowed with free self-conscious personality possesses, in his spiritual as well as corporeal nature, a creaturely copy of the holiness and blessedness of the divine life. This concrete essence of the divine likeness was shattered by sin; and it is only through Christ, the brightness of the glory of God and the expression of His essence (Hebrews 1:3), that our nature is transformed into the image of God again (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24).” 2
While many medical professionals and scientists agree that physical life does begin at conception, there is so much more that the unredeemed do not know regarding God’s craftsmanship of the human race. For example, there is a clear connection between the “way of the spirit” and growth in the womb, as pointed out in the book of Ecclesiastes:
“As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all” (Eccl. 11:5).
God’s ways and His works are so much higher than man’s; they hardly fit into small scientific terms such as zygote, embryo, or fetus. From the beginning, God the Father calls new a life a child—a heritage, the fruit of the womb, and a reward (Ps. 127:3).
Consider Matthew Poole’s commentary on this third verse from Psalm 127:
“His reward [is] not a reward of debt merited by good men, but a reward of grace …. And although God give children and other outward comforts to ungodly men in the way of common providence, yet He gives them only to His people as favours, and in the way of promise and covenant.” 3
COVENANT AND PROMISE
Throughout the Bible, we find God keeping His Word through covenant, which oftentimes includes the promise of children.
In the book of Genesis, the Lord appears to Abraham and says, “I will establish my covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7).
Later, according to God’s promise, Isaac was born: “And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. (Gen. 21:1-3).
When the promise child Isaac is grown and married, we find him entreating the Lord on behalf of his barren wife, Rebekah. The Bible says, “And the LORD was intreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived” (Gen. 25:21).
The question has been asked, What was the reasoning behind the barrenness of both Sarah and Rebekah? Among other things, it was to show that the children of promise were to be not simply the fruit of nature, but the gift of grace. 4
THE DIVINE PLAN
“And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Gen. 25:22-23)
In his book, Great Women Of The Bible, Old Testament, my husband explains the “struggle” described in these verses and the spiritual meaning behind it:
“Two energies—the one believing and the other unbelieving—struggled within her and were present even before they were born. It is like the two natures—the sin nature and the divine nature—within the believer. So, as we had in the union of Abraham and Sarah the beginning of the divine plan, we have with Isaac and Rebekah the opposition to that divine plan.” 5
While still in the womb, we find Jacob and Esau carrying out part of God’s redemption plan—a plan that would reach through time all the way to Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
When God creates a life—and only He can—it is so very precious to Him, and not only because we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in His image. Each and every life is precious to God because He has an eternal plan for that life. And that plan is salvation, purchased for each and every soul with the blood of His only Son.
Ladies and gentlemen, if God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to save us, shouldn’t we also love and value each and every life that comes into the world?
1. Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Treasury Of David.” http://www.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps139.php
2. Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament.
3. Matthew Poole. http://biblehub.com/commentaries/psalms/127-3.htm
4. Great Women Of The Bible, Old Testament, pg. 138.
5. Great Women Of The Bible, Old Testament, pg. 139.