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The Sanctity of Human Life In an Unsanctified World
Lessons from Isaiah 59:1-21

This month marks the 35th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States. In effect, in 1973 the United States Supreme Court declared war against unborn children in our nation. Since then, more than 48 million pre-born children have been violently attacked, brutally dismembered, and horrifyingly mangled in what was designed by the Lord as a place of refuge — their mothers' wombs. Their remains have been casually pitched into Dumpsters or placed in plastic bags; they have not been allowed the common decency of a proper burial. We have given a pleasant sounding name to this Planned Genocide of America. We euphemistically call it abortion.

The Natural Injustice of Human Sin

Left to its own devices, humanity will always rush headlong into the abyss. In our fallen state, we are prone to wander. We are prone to leave the God who loves us. This propensity of the human race to resist God's righteous standard and seek its own way is not a recent phenomenon. In 1936, on the threshold of the worst holocaust in modern history, the English poet W. H. Auden noted, "The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews."1 Twenty-five hundred years earlier, grieving over the rejection of God's covenant by His chosen people, Jeremiah wrote, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV). More than one hundred years prior to that, Isaiah penned a poignant lamentation over sin. The 59th chapter of his prophecy contains a stirring indictment against the nation that forgets God. His message is especially appropriate in our generation.

Justice is a gift from a holy God. When we depart from Him, we depart from it. Injustice inevitably and eventually manifests itself through depraved indifference even in the face of the most violent acts of murder and mayhem — absolute inhumanity toward fellow human beings. Some may weep for the mass graves in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, Darfur, and countless other places around the world. A few more may cringe when we hear of children who are exploited by a minister of the Gospel. But when it comes to abortion, the statistics are so staggering, so ubiquitous, so pervasive that most of us have become inured to the holocaust in our own midst.

Isaiah noted that the people of Judah — the recipients of God's covenants with Abraham and David — had violated the covenant and erected a barrier of sin between their souls and God. He outlined a series of sins that marked his generation. This list could have been written today — your hands are defiled with blood; your lips have spoken lies; no one goes to law honestly (3-4, ESV). Their works were works of iniquity; their feet ran to evil; they were swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts were thoughts of iniquity; they did not know the way of peace; there was no justice in their paths (6-8).

One may argue, "But I am not as bad as I could be!" What would it take for us to acknowledge that our iniquities have separated us from God, that our sins have hidden His face from us? At the end of Paul's litany of sins in Romans 1, he makes a most surprising comment: Although they know full well God's just sentence — that those who practice such things deserve to die — they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them (Romans 1:32, HCSB).

The road to sin is traveled one small step at a time. Soon, we are far down the trail. Our culture has desensitized us to sin. How many believers drink deeply from the fountain of modern entertainment? How many imbibe from media representations of the most atrocious acts of sin against a holy God? Though we may not perform acts of lawlessness, we applaud those who do. And now, even among many church folks, it has become fashionable to view abortion as an acceptable alternative to life.

The Natural Justice of Natural Selection

Beginning in verse 9, Isaiah overviewed the consequences of his people's sins. Hear the anguish of these words:

We hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
We grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight.
We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves.
We hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us.
Our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us.
Our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities:
transgressing, and denying the LORD;
turning back from following our God;
speaking oppression and revolt;
conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.
Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey
(Isaiah 59:9-15, ESV).

This final phrase is very telling. Those who might consider repenting from evil know they will make themselves a target for the wrath of a sin-laden culture. While the term "natural selection" is often associated with Darwinian evolution, its use is fully appropriate in this context. In regard to human conduct, it describes an observed reality: we reap what we sow.

Malachi reminded the Jews of his day, I am the LORD; I do not change (Malachi 2:10, NKJV). Paul reminded the Judaizers of his day, Be not deceived; God is not mocked; whatever you sow, you shall also reap (Galatians 6:9, NKJV). The Lord will bring an eventual judgment upon the nations that forget Him and His law. The shedding of innocent blood remains an ultimate act of sinful rebellion against God (see God's declaration of judgment against wicked Mannasseh in 2 Kings 21:16; 24:1-4). The Lord has not changed. Why should we think we are exempt from this abiding biblical principle of judgment?

Those who forget the law of the Lord will face a temporal as well as an eternal judgment. Any reasonable person must ask, "What are the natural consequences of the widespread practice of abortion?" Jimmy Draper, former president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, rightly identified three victims of abortion — the murdered child; the parents of the murdered child; and the moral conscience of a nation that allows abortion to be performed.2 The child will never have an opportunity in this life to develop his or her potential as a unique created life under the hand of the great Creator. The parents may face immediate penalty through physical complications, such as the loss of the ability to bear additional children. Or they may face the lingering effects of anxiety, depression, or guilt associated with ending the life of their helpless, pre-born child. The culture itself becomes more coarse. Moral restraint is cast off. Decadence dominates the day.

But I believe we are already seeing an additional consequence of the accepted practice of abortion in our nation — the natural justice of natural selection. The blood of the innocents cries out for justice. Those whose lives were devalued will see the same devaluation of life return with a vengeance upon the guilty.

When abortion was legalized, our nation had almost four people in the work force supporting each retired person. By 1992, almost twenty years after abortion was legalized, that number had already dropped to 3.5 people in the work force for each retired person.3 With that small drop in ratio, we began to hear of the economics of euthanasia. The governor of one of our states declared in the mid-1980s that the elderly ill have "a duty to die and get out of the way."4 Though conversations of this nature largely went underground, partly due to aggressive immigration policies that helped shore up the labor force and the Senior Citizens' Freedom to Work Act of 2000,5 it may only be a matter of time until they reemerge. The first Baby Boomers (those people born between 1946 and 1964) have begun to enter retirement. By 2029, when the youngest Baby Boomers reach traditional retirement age, the worker-to-retired-person ratio will be down to 2:1 unless we have an increasing influx of immigrants to fill the work force.

Consider this: By 1992, when the first children killed under legalized abortion laws would have begun entering the workforce, our nation had already killed 27 million unborn children.6 We have killed 20 million more since then7 — almost 48 million people whose lives have been cut short, more than half of whom would now be in the work force!

Now to the phrase "natural selection." The number one reason for abortion has always been the convenience of the mother.8 As a nation, we have adopted the ethic of personal convenience. Jeremiah reminded the people of his generation, If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? (Jeremiah 12:5, ESV).

Similarly, if we discussed the ethics and economics of euthanasia when the worker-to-retired-person ratio was 3.5:1, what will the discussions be when this ratio drops to 2:1 or lower? The very generation that aborted its offspring on the altar of convenience will be euthanized by its children on the very same altar. The sin of the parents is passed on to the children to the third and fourth generation (see Exodus 20:5). To quote our text, we have hatched adders eggs and woven the spider's web (5-6)! The Lord will repay us according to our deeds (8)! God is not mocked. We, as a nation, will reap what we have sowed.

God has set a natural law into effect: it is the Law of the Farm, the principle of sowing and reaping. We may not personally condone abortion; but if we do not personally condemn it and work for its repeal, we are as guilty as if we ourselves held the abortionist's scalpel. A culture that sows aborted infants in one generation will reap euthanized adults in the next. This is the natural justice of natural selection. Unless...

The Supernatural Justice of God's Salvation

The opening words of Isaiah's lament leap from the page to our waiting ears: The LORD's hand is not shortened that it cannot save! Our God stands ready and able to deliver. As Isaiah moved into the final section of his prophetic message, his heart broke out in worship, giving praise for the Lord's sovereign initiative in the drama of human redemption. Upon seeing there was no man to stand in the gap, the Lord brought salvation to His people by His own arm (16). God did not erect a wall between Himself and us. Our sins built that barrier. But God has acted. He has torn down that wall! The Just One has acted on behalf of the unjust. A Redeemer has come to Zion. He will reestablish His covenant with repentant Israel. The message of His mercy and grace will come from the mouths of the children and grandchildren of His covenant people (21). They will proclaim the message of deliverance and salvation.

The hope for America is found in the Word of God. It is found from the pulpit of faithful expositors of His Word. It is found through the faithful witness of thousands of redeemed saints. God's message of redemption is a message of forgiveness and deliverance through God's Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

There is forgiveness and deliverance for the abortion provider who repents and turns from the error of his ways. There is forgiveness and deliverance for the aggrieved mother whose unborn child is ever in her mind. There is forgiveness and deliverance for the family that passively allowed a daughter, wife, or mother to choose the culture of death over the culture of life. There is forgiveness and deliverance for the pastor and people who sat idly by while social activists set the political and cultural agenda for the nation. There is forgiveness and deliverance for our nation itself. The time has long since come for the collective Church of our living Redeemer to turn from its transgression. We must clamor with the power of relentless influence for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness to run like an ever-flowing stream. Life is sacred to the Lord. We must receive it as His gift. We must defend it with His strength.

 


 

1 W. H. Auden, "Death's Echo," Selected Poems, Internet, http://www.lib.ru/ POEZIQ/AUDEN/poems_engl.txt, downloaded 27 November 2007.
2 Jimmy Draper, "The Three Victims of Abortion," Messages for the Journey (Nashville: The Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, [2007]), pp. 10-15.
3 Richard Land, "Think About It!" Light (January-February 1992), p. 2.
4 For a series of articles on Richard Lamm's infamous quote, see "Times Topics — Richard D. Lamm," The New York Times, Internet, http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/l/richard_d_lamm/index.html?s=oldest&, downloaded 26 November 2007. See also George F. Will, "Life and Death at Princeton," Newsweek, 13 September 1999, pp. 80-82.
5 "The Future of Retirement," PathFinder Insight (PathFinder Strategic Resources, 2006), Internet, http://www.strategicpathfinder.com/retirement.html, downloaded 26 November 2007.
6 Land, p. 2.
7 "Abortion in the United States: Statistics and Trends," National Right to Life, Internet, http://www.nrlc.org/abortion/facts/abortionstats.html, downloaded 27 November 2007.
8 Aida Torres and Jacqueline Darroch Forrest, "Why Do Women Have Abortions?," Family Planning Perspectives, Volume 20 (July/August 1988), pp. 169ff.


Roger S. "Sing" Oldham is SBC Executive Committee vice president for Convention Relations and executive editor of SBC LIFE.

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January 2008 Edition
Volume 16, Issue 4
January 2008