Psalm 106 contains a long list of Israel’s sins. The people were guilty of rebellion according to verse 7, craving what they shouldn’t crave according to verse 14, jealousy according to verse 16, idolatry according to verse 19, despising God’s gifts to them according to verse 24, and on and on it goes.
But it’s the last sin of this psalm that recently grabbed my attention and hasn’t let go. Notice verses 37 and 38 before I cite this psalm in its entirety. The psalmist laments, “They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood” (Ps 106:37-38).
The writer names sin after sin after sin, then he stops right here as though this particular crime is the very worst the people of Israel had committed. They had reached the utter depths of their depravity by killing their own children. Why go any further? If we can’t see the hardness of their hearts with this terribly heinous act, there is nothing the psalmist could say that would convince us.
Before I go any further, you should read the psalm in full.
Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise? Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!
Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them, that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory with your inheritance.
Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power. He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry, and he led them through the deep as through a desert. So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy. And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.
But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them.
When men in the camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord, the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. Fire also broke out in their company; the flame burned up the wicked.
They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. Therefore he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
Then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in his promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord. Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them that he would make them fall in the wilderness, and would make their offspring fall among the nations, scattering them among the lands.
Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead; they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds, and a plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed. And that was counted to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever.
They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with his lips.
They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds.
Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage; he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power. Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity.
Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive.
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the Lord! (Psalm 106:1-48)
In the time it takes to read Psalm 106, more than 300 babies are aborted worldwide. The United States alone has killed nearly 70 million children since 1973 when abortion was legalized through Roe v. Wade. To give you some context, Hitler’s genocide of the Jews killed approximately six million people. The world has murdered five times that many unborn babies already this year. Just this year, the United States has aborted more children than the number of soldiers who died in the Civil War.
For the record, abortion is not an exclusively modern problem. The Epistle of Barnabas, a Christian letter written in the early second century, states, “You shall not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shall you destroy it after it is born.” I can’t be certain why someone felt the need to write that, but evidently the need existed.
In his commentary on the book of Exodus, John Calvin writes:
The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being and it is a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.
Granted, Calvin was not addressing abortion as we know it, but he offers an excellent defense of the sanctity of life nonetheless.
In the second century, a believer by the name of Tertullian wrote:
In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in the seed.
Written in the first or second century, the Epistle to Diognetus says, “[Christians] marry and have children just like everyone else, but they do not kill unwanted babies.”
I cite these sources from the early church, and I could cite a few more, because I want you to see that (1) human nature hasn’t changed in the last two-thousand years, and (2) the church has always needed to address the issue of abortion. Seemingly every generation of mankind has found one reason or another to excuse the murder of children. Getting back to the text in Psalm 106, people are usually driven by their devotion to an idolatrous, satanic system and worldview. The text says, “They served their idols … They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons” (Ps 106:36-37).
Is the psalmist describing abortion? No, but Israel’s sacrifice of children has obvious parallels to the modern practice of abortion.
First of all, they weren’t sacrificing bulls and goats. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters (Ps 106:37). The people placed their own biological children on altars, slit their tiny throats, and waited for the blood to drain from their bodies. Not only did they voluntarily commit countless murders of living people, but they killed those whom the Bible calls “a heritage from the LORD” (Ps 127:3).
Today, the pro-abortionist argues a baby in the womb is not yet a person. I have to ask why.
Is it the child’s size? Does that mean a larger person is more of a human being than a smaller person?
Is it the child’s location? How does taking a five-inch trip down the birth canal turn a non-human into a human? Do I become more human by taking an extra step away from my mother?
Is it the child’s dependency on his mother that prevents him from being a real person? Aren’t all children dependent on their mothers for years and years? Aren’t the physically and mentally-disabled dependent on others? Are they less human?
Is it the child’s level of development? The most recent science says the human brain isn’t fully developed until a person is twenty-five. Should we excuse the murder of anyone who’s not old enough to rent a car?
Try as they might, pro-abortionists cannot avoid the fact that an unborn child is just as much of a human as anyone else. To say otherwise is to argue against science, not to mention logic.
A second parallel to abortion exists in this text: They poured out innocent blood (Ps 106:38). The children are innocent in that they are free of blame. They’ve committed no crime worthy of death, yet someone has put them to death anyhow. It’s the equivalent of shooting a random person on the street. Abortion is the execution of a living person who does not deserve to die at the hand of another living person. God says, “You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13).
To be clear, the Bible does define an unborn child as a living person. According to God’s law in Exodus 21:
When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:22-25)
If this law were applied to a case of abortion, those responsible for killing an unborn child would have to, at the very least, swallow some deadly poison. If that doesn’t kill them, they should be violently sucked up by a vacuum. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll need to be torn apart, piece by piece.
I’m not trying to be graphic for the sake of sensationalism. I’m merely describing the legal process of abortion in this country by which millions of innocent children have been murdered. While people scream for women’s rights, they say nothing for the true victims. What about the unborn child’s life? What about justice for them? Should a woman’s so-called right to avoid the inconvenience of childbirth outweigh a baby’s right to live?
The third parallel I see in this text to abortion is motive. They served their idols … They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons (Ps 106:36-37).
What could motivate an otherwise rational person to think murdering an innocent child is justifiable? I don’t think the reasons are substantially different than they were for those who sacrificed their children to Molech in the Old Testament.
People once sacrificed children to Molech because they believed he would protect them and their nation. It was a self-serving act. It’s not as though they were volunteering to sacrifice themselves. They were ensuring their own well-being by forcing their children to pay the price.
People sacrifice their children today for the same self-centered rationale. They don’t do it for the child’s sake, though that is often their claim. They do it for themselves. Ultimately, according to the psalmist, they do it in devotion to idols and demons (Ps 106:36-37). Maybe the idol of a would-be mother is the convenience of not having a baby for whom to raise or put up for adoption. Maybe the idol is avoiding stretch marks or the pain of childbearing. Maybe it’s an unfounded assumption that a child with birth defects or a genetic disease can’t possibly live a meaningful life.
Regardless, abortion will always be an idolatrous, devilish act. Jesus told some of the Jewish leaders in his day, men who wanted him dead, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning” (Jn 8:44). Any person who has a mind to kill an innocent child possesses the mind of Satan himself. You can argue women’s rights all you want, but you are of your father the devil who was a murderer from the beginning.
To be candid, I truly hope I’m stirring up some righteous indignation this morning. I want us to hate abortion. I pray the thought of it makes us sick to our stomach. I pray you see the injustice of it. Just as Canaan once was, our land is polluted with blood, the blood of millions of murdered children (Ps 106:38). The United States of America has become unclean by its acts as the nation plays the whore in its deeds (Ps 106:39). In turn, the anger of the LORD is surely kindled against us (Ps 106:40).
Even so, there’s another side to this psalm we need to see. Did you notice how it begins and ends with a call to praise God? Though the psalmist offers a list of Israel’s sins, he presents that list right in the middle of one long doxology. In the first verse, he writes, “Praise the LORD!” (Ps 106:1). In the final verse, he writes again, “Praise the LORD!” (Ps 106:48).
Then, sprinkled throughout this psalm are expressions of gratitude for God’s mercy. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Ps 106:1). He saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power (Ps 106:8). He saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy (Ps 106:10). He said he would destroy them—had not Moses stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath (Ps 106:23). And on and on it goes.
According this psalm, whom is God redeeming by his steadfast love and mercy? The answer is Israel, the very people who sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons and poured out innocent blood (Ps 106:37-38).
In the church, we often talk about the issue of abortion. Not only do we identify it as sin, but we also feel the kind of righteous anger we should feel when we think about it. Equally important, we also feel compassion for the victims. Perhaps we should talk about it even more to avoid growing cold and indifferent, but we address it nonetheless. Unfortunately, though, we don’t always talk about the solution.
Recently, I’ve heard a lot said about matters of social justice and the church’s involvement. No one seems to agree, however, about what the church should do to rectify the injustices in our society. What’s our role in the fight against abortion, for instance? Should we protest outside of Planned Parenthood? Should we sign petitions? Should we call our congressman? What are we supposed to do?
If you’re waiting for a list of options, you may be disappointed. I’ll give you only one today, but I believe it’s the most important one. Everything else we might do should be framed by this one action. I’ll even summarize it with a single word: grace.
The reason the psalmist can rejoice despite Israel’s heinous sins is because God is merciful. Though he admits, “We have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness,” he can also give thanks because the LORD is good, for his steadfast love endures forever (Ps 106:6; 1). The psalmist can praise God not because Israel was without sin, but because God is gracious. He saves his people and forgives their sins.
How does God save and forgive? Writing to the Corinthians, Paul says:
I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved. I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
Let’s be clear about something. A Christian is not inherently better than the abortion doctor. The only thing that separates the believer who opposes abortion from the abortionist with literal blood on his hands is the grace of God through Jesus Christ the Savior. If not for redemption through the atoning work of Christ, we’d all stand equally guilty before God. In other words, God’s grace is the solution to the abortion problem in this country.
Jesus said, “If you want to enter the kingdom of God, you must be born again” (Jn 3:5, 7). You must enter into an altogether new life. Maybe you once had an abortion. Maybe you once perceived abortion to be little more than an issue of women’s rights. Maybe you once protested the protesters of abortion. None of that matters once you are saved through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned (Jn 3:17-18).
The most significant thing we can do as believers to combat the moral decline of the nation is to preach the gospel. One of the last things Jesus told his disciples before his ascension into heaven was, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).
Let me break that down for you.
First, Christ tells us to go (Mt 28:19). Don’t sit idly by as the world deteriorates. Go! Get busy. Be proactive. Psalm 106 says, “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times” (Ps 106:3). Doing nothing is not an option. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden (Mt 5:14).
Second, go and make disciples (Mt 28:19). Wait a minute. I thought our goal was to prevent injustice, to stop abortion. That’s right, but how do you propose we change people’s minds without changing their hearts? And how do we change their hearts apart from the gospel which is the means by which we come to know God, grace, and true justice? If we want to turn the world upside down as the apostles once did, making disciples must be our priority (Ac 17:6). We must preach the gospel before all else.
We can strategize endlessly about the steps the church should take in changing the culture of this country, but the most substantial tool we have is the gospel itself.
Pray for this country. Talk to people about the horrors of abortion. Try your best to persuade them. Sign a petition. Protest if you feel you should, always peaceable, of course (Ro 12:18). Call your congressman. But above all else, preach the gospel. Obey the great commission. Make disciples because only then will real change take place (Mt 28:19).
Ultimately, what this country needs is not new legislation or more conservative politicians, not exclusively anyhow, but Christ Jesus. Don’t waste your breath talking to someone about abortion if you never mention how God created man in his own image (Ge 1:27). Don’t bother protesting if your chants or signs don’t contain the words, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). Sinners need Jesus, not science, politics, or arguments of logic. Sinners need the gospel. Amen?