Fearfully and Wonderfully Made PDF Print E-mail

by The Rev. Dr. Lowell J. Meek

May 8, 1994
Round Hill Presbyterian Church,
Elizabeth, Pennsylvania

Text: Psalm 139:13-18

    For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.

Our children speak of the wonders of God, do they not? I had the privilege of witnessing the birth of my children, and the memories still fill me with a sense of how awesome our God is. Each birth, however, was something of a crisis. We almost lost our first. We did lose our second. And we struggled with some anxiety through the next five births. Yet,


Psalm 139 is a lament that tells us what gave King David the ability to endure the struggles in his life. David was surrounded by enemies determined to destroy him, just as we are surrounded by the powers of death. This psalm reveals the resources which will help us cope with our crises. The psalm consists of four paragraphs, each composed of six verses, and each pointing to an attribute of God. Those four attributes are the omniscience, the omnipresence, the sovereignty, and the holiness of God, as they relate to our personal experience. In other words, God knows us completely (that's omniscience). He is with us no matter where we are (that's omnipresence). He is in control of our life (that's sovereignty). And He is our guide to holiness. I want to focus mainly on the third paragraph, our reading for today, but I want to put it in context by briefly addressing the first two paragraphs which speak of our security in God.

This is an important message for children today, who, unlike their parents in their childhood, suffer the absence of security. When I was a kid, we didn't worry about our parents getting divorced, or about the possibility of getting shot dead on the way to school, or being the victim of some other violence. Let's look now at the psalm.

A. The first paragraph speaks of God's omniscience,
that fancy theological word that means God knows everything. We can find strength and security in the midst of any crisis because God knows us intimately.

    O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.
    You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
    You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
    Before a word is on my tongue
    you know it completely, O Lord.
    You hem me in--behind and before;
    you have laid your hand upon me.
    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

You get the point. God knows our motives and our thoughts, our every action. He searches us like a miner digs for gold. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Everywhere we go, God is there, surrounding us, with His hand on our shoulders. Don't cringe under this wonderful, awesome, and incomprehensible knowledge, but rather find comfort in it. Like Jesus said, God counts the hairs on your heads, so concerned is He about you. The Hebrew concept of "knowledge" implies not only information, but intimacy and love. It is a personal knowledge, a love that is patient and kind, that protects us in a tender embrace. Therefore, we are comforted when in trouble.

B. The second paragraph speaks of God's omnipresence,
meaning that God is everywhere. He is always with me. Even if I wanted, I couldn't escape God.

    Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
    (that is, "your face," your personal presence)
    If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
    If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
    even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
    If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,"
    even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

Paul writes, "Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:39). By His Holy Spirit, God is everywhere, high and low and wide. If we could fly with the speed of light to a distant land, God would be there, guiding and upholding us with his right hand. Remember, it is Jesus who sits at God's right hand. No matter what darkness may surround us, whatever evil seeks to crush us, whatever depression or grief or oppressive power, God still sees us and cares for us, for the sake of Christ. How do we know that God knows so much about us, that God is ever present with us, that God personally cares for us? We have only to consider how wonderfully we are made.


    For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother's womb.
    I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
    My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place.
    When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
    your eyes saw my unformed body.
    All the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

This third paragraph begins with the word "for," because it gives the basis for declaring those two truths about God that give us strength in the midst of crises: That God knows us intimately and is always with us. God knows us intimately because it was by His design that we came into being. It was the creative power of our sovereign God that controlled and sustained the development of our physical lives. Look at yourself!! You are not some chance accident of an impersonal universe. Consider the complexities of your physical being. How can we do anything other than respond to this wonder by saying, "I will give thanks to you [God], for I am wonderfully and fearfully made." Isaac Newton said, "In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God's existence."

A. The third paragraph speaks of God's power.

God controls our psychological and physical development by His "wonderful," or supernatural, power. He "created my inmost being," literally, "my kidneys." For the Hebrew, this was the seat of emotions and affections; today we'd say "you created my heart," my psyche. And, "He knit me together (or 'covered' me) in my mother's womb." He was directly involved in our physical formation from the beginning. God is concerned about our psychology and our physiology. He knows beforehand how many days we are to live, the experiences yet in store for us. God does not push out the boat of my life to take its chances on the stream of time. He has a plan for me. He ordained my days, or "formed" them like a potter gives shape to clay. There is comfort for us in the knowledge that our Creator has a plan for our lives, and our experiences are under His sovereign control. That He is the potter and we are the clay. Some people teach that we are gods, but we are not. We are dust, mixed with water and given life by the only true God, our Creator. If we let Him, He can make something beautiful and useful out of our lives. Don't for a moment think that you or anyone else is lacking in worth or dignity in the eyes of God, or that God does not care for you.

B. Consider how you were knit in the womb.

Consider how wonderfully and fearfully you were made. When I was in high school, I had an intense interest in anatomy, physiology, genetics and human cytology. When I was a sophomore, in 1965, Life magazine printed the first photos of the unborn child in various stages of development. It was wonderful. I kept a copy of the magazine for years and still have a reprint of the wonder of life before birth. You may not agree with me, but I think the unborn child is beautiful. Now, I need to take a sharp right turn and mention two things at this point. Fasten your seatbelts. First,

1. We unfortunately have some confusion in our Church over when human life begins.

The General Assembly of our Church, two years ago (1992), established a policy on problem pregnancies and abortion, which stated that

    ...after human life has begun, it is to be cherished and protected as a precious gift of God. While Presbyterians do not have substantial agreement on when human life begins, we do have agreement that taking human life is sin.

That confusing policy offered five possible definitions for when human life begins: 1) at conception; 2) when the Harvard Medical School criteria are met (these criteria actually define clinical death); 3) at the point of "quickening," which is when the mother perceives movement; 4) at "viability," or that point at which the fetus could survive outside the womb; and 5) at birth. Science, however, has clearly shown that human life begins at the moment of conception.

2. Science is not confused about when human life begins.

In 1989, Dr. Jerome LeJeune--the world renown professor of genetics in Paris, France, who discovered the genetic cause of Downs Syndrome, testified at a trial in Tennessee, that no one can claim property rights on a frozen embryo because it is a human being. He said, and I quote in part:

    Each of us has a unique human beginning, the moment of conception. Inside the chromosomes is written the program and all the definitions, so to speak, of the table of the law of life...when this information carried by the sperm and by the ovum has encountered each other, then a new human being is defined because its own personal and human constitution is entirely spelled out...science has a very simple conception of man; as soon as he has been conceived, a man is a man. ...Around twelve days after fertilization, the beginning of [the neural tube is formed]. Then, within...three weeks, the cardiac tubes will begin to beat, so that the heart is beginning to beat after three weeks. ...[At] two months of age, he is two centimeters and a half from the crown to the rump, and if I had him in my fist, you would not see that I have something, but if I opened my hand you would see the tiny man with hands, fingers, and toes. Everything is there.

At this stage, we change the name from "embryo" to "fetus" because, now, the visible evidence clearly shows that we are looking at a man and not a chimpanzee or other primate. A cytogenetics student could easily tell if the original zygote was a human being.

3. Only one question remains.

Our current policy holds us to the objective biblical standard that killing an innocent human being is sin, but allows us to ignore the objective scientific standard that human life begins at conception, thus allowing us to justify abortion by saying we are not sure whether the one being killed is human. That ambiguity is unconscionable. When human life begins is no longer a question; science answered that question. The only question that remains is philosophical: whether or not we will value that human life above the modern gods of Comfort and Convenience. Those who framed our government's Constitution valued life. Thomas Jefferson wrote: "The care of human life and not destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government." I sincerely believe God's judgment awaits us if the laws of our land do not, once again, seek to protect the life of the weakest members of our society. You don't have to agree with me on this, but I do hope you will consider how wonderfully and fearfully we are made, and find comfort in the realization that the God who knit you together in the vast complexity of your physical and psychological design, is the God who is near to you and who loves you even in the dark times, the crisis moments, of your life. And, if what I am saying disturbs your conscience, know still that God loves you and invites you to draw near to Him, so that you can

C. Praise God for the wonder of His work.

Part of the wonder is the amount of information stored in the DNA of a single human zygote. It is so vast that no supercomputer in the world has enough storage space to contain the data.

    How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
    Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.
    When I awake, I am still with you.

The knowledge of God is precious, inexhaustible. His creative ideas are utterly vast in number. The more a scientist discovers, the more he realizes how much he doesn't know. Just thinking about what God has done could put you to sleep, like counting sheep. Yet, God's presence is a changeless reality. As I awaken, day by day, I can know I am in God's presence, for I have considered how I am made and I have met God through faith in Jesus Christ. Someday, I know I will awaken even from death, and still I will be with God. You can know this, too.

no matter what might come and threaten to destroy you. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego entered a fiery furnace because they would obey God and worship Him only, rather than worship the idol set before them. Who will you worship? The God who made you, or the gods of our age. Choose your side.

A. In the fourth paragraph, David identifies with God.
He prays for the destruction of God's enemies and asserts his moral disengagement from them and their ways. He knew that he was God's person because he learned to feel that God's enemies were his enemies. He was morally indignant toward those who hate God, shed blood and speak against God, taking God's name in vain.

    If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
    Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!
    They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
    Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord,
    and abhor those who rise up against you?
    I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.

Someday, when Christ comes again, the wicked will want to hide from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16). In the meantime, we ought not to compromise with those who seek, in the name of God, to justify the shedding of innocent blood by twisting or ignoring God's Word. Like David, we should be filled with revulsion for the moral and spiritual values they embody. Christ will forgive me if I get angry and disgusted over some of the things promoted by our own Church. But, the Lordship of Christ demands that we

B. Choose sides.
Is this issue of God's creative sovereignty clear in your life? Is it clear that you have chosen the Lord's side?

    Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
    See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way of everlasting.

That can be your prayer. Open your heart to God. Ask him to search you. The psalmist had some anxious thoughts about his commitment to God and was willing to have God expose anything in him that might be offensive to God, that he might deal with it and that God might lead him in the way of eternal life. God calls us to be holy because He is holy. Maybe you are realizing you really don't have a personal and intimate relationship to the God of all creation. I want you to know that your life has meaning and purpose, worth and dignity, because you are wonderfully and fearfully made by our loving Creator-God. He knows you better than you know yourself, and He is here with us now. And, you can ask him to reveal Himself to you, even now. Join me in praying as the Psalmist would pray:

O God, you know me. Let me know your loving presence. I thank you that I am wonderfully and fearfully made. Search me and know my heart. See if there is any offensive way in me and forgive it, for Christ's sake, who died for me. And, lead me in the way of eternal life; lead me in Jesus who is the way, the truth, and the life. Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Lowell Meek is senior pastor at Round Hill Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.



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