SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS
Psalm 139:7-18; 23-24
“Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he ascertained from the magi. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, ‘a voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.’”
–Matthew 2:16-18, NASB
Few subjects in modern society have generated controversy greater than that of the abortion of an unborn baby. While I, like many ministers of the gospel, oppose deliberate abortion, we address this subject, in full knowledge that it is never cataloged in Scripture as unpardonable. Cataloging sin is God’s business. Every evil is sin and God in Christ stands ready to extend His mercy and grace to forgive the repentant sinner. This message is a response to an important theme: “the sanctity of human life.” Anyone reading this who has experienced abortion, had a hand in influencing one, or who has personally performed one should know that God stands ready to meet the needs of every broken-hearted person, including those who carry guilt over this subject.
This message is intended to address this extremely difficult issue by presenting four questions :
1. What are the facts respecting abortion?
2. What about the issue of the mother’s body?
3. Is the unborn fetus a person?
4. Who is to blame here?
There is no example of a deliberate abortion being performed or in any way spoken of directly in any passage in the Old or New Testaments of the Bible. On the surface, this would seem to lend credence to the notion that the death of a tiny baby is not of particular importance to God. However, as we shall see, God values human life above every form of His creation. Of only human kind did God ever “breath into his nostrils the breath of life” to make him or her “a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). Only mankind is “made in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27).
While proper application of this subject could include genocide (taking life in mass murder) or euthanasia (the slaying of the elderly, the sick, deformed and suffering), we must limit ourselves on this occasion to speaking about the lives of the little ones that are being snuffed out before they ever see the light of their first day on earth.
I. Background Information
The Scripture quoted above narrates the wicked act of Herod, the puppet ruler over Judea at the time of the birth of Christ. His attempt to discover the whereabouts of tiny baby Jesus in order to eliminate Him had been frustrated by the magi who had come from the eastern world to worship the newborn King.
Herod’s calculating mind reasoned both the approximate age and the birthplace of Jesus and ordered that all the male children within those parameters be put to death, hence the sorrow of the effected citizens in and around Bethlehem. How many little baby boys thus died no one knows. One fanciful legend estimated the incredible number of 14,000. Due to the sparse population of the area, the number was probably very few, perhaps a dozen or two. However, the young parents of each slain child would, no doubt, have taken little comfort in knowing the number was few.
Today there is another “Herod” about in the land. His is sinister and scheming. Just as he duped the first woman on earth, he is bent upon spreading his wholesale lies as before: “Ye shall not surely die,” he told Eve in the Garden of Eden. In effect he says, “abortion is merely a decision for a woman to make in consultation with her doctor.” Before we buy into Satan’s lies, let us examine God’s Word for the truth.
Some Facts About Abortion
By definition abortion is the induced termination of a pregnancy before the fetus is capable of surviving independently of the womb. Sometimes abortion is spontaneous, the fetus being expelled naturally because of some biological problem. This is known, of course, as miscarriage. In the event a physician is called upon, in defense of the mother, the abortion is said to be “therapeutic.”
Beyond therapeutic abortion, deliberate abortion has come to be regarded as a “right.” Historically, however, the Christian Church has opposed abortion except as an emergency measure to save a woman’s life. Therapeutic abortion is acceptable to most Christian groups if the mother’s life is in the balance. In cases of impregnation through rape or incest there are divided opinions. That debate is not our focus in this message.
The Greek physician, Hippocrates lived from about 460-377 B.C. He is referred to as “the father of medicine.” Physicians today take the “Hippocratic Oath” as medical doctors. Here is a part of it.
“The regimen I adopt shall be for the benefit of my patients according to my ability and judgment,
and not for their hurt or for any wrong. I will give no deadly drug to any though it be asked of me, nor
will I counsel such, and especially I will not aid a woman to procure abortion.”
[-Ency. Britannica, Vol. 11, p. 827 (1978)]
On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court declared abortion on demand to be the law of the land. From the time of Hippocrates in the fifth century before Christ until January 21, 1973, abortion on demand was considered immoral. It was a crime. The next day, in our beloved America, it became morally acceptable to many and perfectly legal.
Abortion today, as one writer put it, has become, in effect, a new form of birth control… Of the women having them, 75% are unmarried, 32% are teenagers and 20% are ‘repeat customers.’” [Melody Green, Children, Things We Throw Away],
As to the means of abortion, it is a grizzly story. Let us look at several of them.
Dilation and Curettage [CUR.et.awge]—the mother’s cervix is dilated with instruments and a curette (sharp scraping instrument) is used to cut the fetus to pieces. The pieces are then reassembled by the surgical nurse to make certain the uterus is empty.
Suction Aspiration—after dilation, powerful vacuum is used to tear the baby to pieces and suck its remains into a jar.
Saline Injection—used after 16 weeks gestation when enough fluid has accumulated in the sac around the baby. Some fluid is removed and a strong salt solution is injected into the sac through the mother’s abdomen. The baby swallows some of the fluid and suffers a violent death, kicking and jerking for approximately an hour. Usually within 24 hours labor will set in and the mother gives birth to a dead baby whose skin has been burned off. Some babies have been known to survive this method of abortion.
Chemical Abortion—a pharmaceutical company has developed chemicals that cause violent contractions of the uterus, pushing out the developing baby. In some cases decapitation of the baby has occurred due to the severe contractions. One side effect has been known to occur, that of cardiac-arrest of the mother due to injection of these compounds [Green, op.cit.]
Abortion Pill—another form of chemical abortion is the anti-progestin drug that expels a fertilized egg after a few weeks. This is known as “RU 486,” developed in France. After a long debate it was legalized in the USA in October of 2002. It was touted by some scientists as a possible treatment of Cushing’s Disease, breast cancer, AIDs, diabetes, hypertension, et cetera. John Willke, President of National Right to Life Committee, said “[It] is inconclusive that this drug is anything more than a drug that kills an unborn baby whose heart has already started to beat” [Christianity Today, January 14, 1991, p. 62]. It accounts for approximately 6% of abortions.
This method, in the USA at least, is now considered illegal. It is the slaying of a baby who has emerged from the womb except for its head. A physician reaches in and uses scissors to open and enlarge a hole in the baby’s skull. The baby’s brains are then sucked out, collapsing the skull. Yet today, inter-net articles present a confusing panorama of court decisions regarding this means of ridding a mother of an unwanted child. If this practice is discovered it should be immediately reported to authorities.
II. The Issue of the Mother’s Body
Politicians are fond of saying, “What a woman does with her own body is nobody else’s business.” The trouble with that foolish statement is that is contrary to the facts and devoid of all reason. Almost any responsible person who viewed a young woman climbing the rail of a great bridge, looking to jump, would immediately come to her aid. The lady’s planned suicide would be cause to marshal many helpers and advisors to immediately come to her side to prevent it.
Likewise, we do not hold the view that it is a woman’s business to take illicit drugs. Nor may she prostitute her body and have the approval of society.
Sometime ago, in Columbus, Ohio, 60 men were arrested. They had answered an advertisement offering “escort service.” A female police officer was posing as a prostitute. This is referred to by authorities as a “sting operation.” But we can’t have it both ways. If it is illegal for men to seek a prostitute, and of course it should be, then it should be illegal for a woman to offer herself as such. One asks the question, as a side issue here, “Is it ever right to do wrong to do right?” I don’t think so.
Just a few years ago a Christian family, friends of ours, experienced an unthinkable tragedy. This family, with children roughly the age range of our own, was experiencing both spiritual and physical problems. They were seeking to serve the Lord, but there were heartaches.
In the midst of their trouble their beautiful daughter, a young woman, was experiencing both physical and spiritual upset. The parents were working hard in her behalf, day after day. There was continuing turmoil.
In the midst of her problems the young lady became greatly depressed. The parents had no hint of the extent of her desperation nor her thought life. They had no idea they were about to enter the trial of their lives.
To illustrate the fact that, as I have stated, no one really holds to the view that “a woman’s body is simply her own business,” I relate the rest of the story.
In the darkness of her depression and despair, the young woman wandered out one night, not far from her home to a lonely railroad tracks. After some time a speeding train approached roaring down those tracks. Just as the train reached her, this beautiful and precious young woman did the unimaginable to end her suffering. She stepped in front of the locomotive.
Now, you surely must agree with me that no sane, sensible person standing there that night, had there been one, would have stood idly by without doing something to prevent her death.
Ladies and gentlemen, abortion is a world social problem of infinite magnitude. It certainly is everybody’s business.
Are you familiar with the term “deoxyribonucleic acid”? It is the technical name for what you and I know as “DNA.” DNA has been used as an identity test only since the 1980s. Developed in 1984 by Alec Jeffreys, a geneticist at the University of Leicester, England, as he sought genetic variations to serve as markers of inherited disease, it was first used for human identity in a court case in England.
It seems in 1987, two young girls, both age 15, were assaulted and strangled to death in the Leicester countryside. The authorities went to work and gathered DNA samples from more than 5,000 men in and around Leicester, in search of the guilty party. Their efforts were successful. In the much-publicized case, DNA led to one Colin Pitchfork who was subsequently indicted and convicted.
You might ask, “But what if someone else had the same DNA?” The answer is startling. The chances of this occurring are nearly numerically impossible: just one in 30 billion people! The banding patterns in DNA fingerprinting are certain beyond any reasonable doubt. Half will be shared by a child and his or her natural mother but half will also be shared with his or her father. In other words, a baby in the womb is not part of the mother’s body.
Childbirth is not amputation. The baby never was and never will be part of the mother’s body. The baby’s blood type is separate, with no guarantee it will match the mother. The whole genetic history of the family enters into blood type. So we confidently say, “No madam, this baby is not part of your body!”
III. Is the Unborn Fetus a Person?
I here present five examples from history to illustrate my contention, which is of course, that the unborn baby is most certainly a human being, a person.
The Argument of Jeremiah
A great prophet in Israel was Jeremiah, known as “the weeping prophet,” he spent much of his life pleading to God over the sins of his people of Judah. According to Scripture, the prophet Jeremiah was known, set aside and commissioned by God, before he was born!
Before I formed you in the womb I chose you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5, REB).
It was clearly the will of God for Jeremiah to be born and to be God’s faithful prophet to “backsliding Israel” (Jeremiah 3:6). It is not difficult to see that he was regarded as a separate and unique human being both while he was in his mother’s womb and even before!
The Argument of Esau and Jacob
These twin sons of well-known biblical characters Isaac and Rebekah had an unusual incident at their birth. Esau, the firstborn was just exiting the womb when the hand of his (to be born minutes-later) younger brother took hold of his heel (Genesis 25:24-26). Now according to the laws of the USA since January 22, 1973, Esau became a human being on this particular day while his twin brother remained a non-person, mere “fetal tissue” in the womb—except for his little hand that reached out and grasped his already-born brother Esau.
Not only does this incident prove that the born as well as the unborn infant is a human being, but it also allows us to see that God used something so apparently insignificant as an omen to signal lifelong difficulties the older Esau would have with his younger “trickster” brother. In response to “little brother’s” act of grasping Esau’s heel, he was given the name “Jacob.” The word YA-cob, in the Hebrew means “heel grabber.” Little Jacob was that all right. Today we hear the trickster say “Gotcha!” Measured by some today, Jacob was a “heel grabber” before he was a human being. How silly!
The Argument of the Sons of Judah and Tamar
A very unpleasant story occupies Genesis chapter 38. It is one of deceit, immorality and wickedness. In this story from early human history twin sons are born to these two, Judah and Tamar. It is an appropriate illustration of the untenable position our country has gotten itself into regarding the definition of “personhood.”
At the time of the delivery of these sons from Tamar’s womb the midwife observed the hand of one youngster emerge. Thinking him the firstborn she quickly tied a scarlet-colored thread around his tiny wrist, whereupon he quickly drew back his hand. The wording of the Living Bible Paraphrase here catches this moment: “… but he drew back his hand and the other baby was actually the first to be born. ‘Where did you come from!’ she (the midwife) exclaimed. And ever after he was called Perez (meaning ‘Bursting Out). Then soon afterwards, the baby with the scarlet thread on his wrist was born, and he was named Zerah [rising or shining or scarlet]” (Genesis 38:29-30).
Question for our moderns caught by the facts of this case: Did the little one who received the thread on his wrist become a non-person when he drew back temporarily into his mother’s womb to make way for the birth of his twin brother? I leave it to the reader to ponder that absurdity.
The Argument of John the Baptist [Baptizer]
Not long after the announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary that she was to become the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, Mary traveled into the hill country to the home of her cousin Elizabeth to share this amazing news. Luke 1:41 records that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s message the babe “leaped in her womb.” The Greek word the writer Dr. Luke uses here for “babe” is “brephos.” The Greek lexicon here provides this definition for brephos: “infant, babe, bantling, child in arms” [“Pocket Greek Lexicon,” by Souter, p. 52].
We may choose to believe that John’s leaping in his mother’s womb was a coincidence or the first act of a little preacher. It matters not—what does matter is that John is described by the sacred writer as a baby, a person in every sense of the word.
The Argument of the Lord Jesus Christ
The last of our five examples from history of the personhood of an unborn baby is, ironically enough, the Lord Jesus Himself. Every Bible student knows that Mary, Jesus’ mother to be, was “found with child” (Matthew 1:18), before she and her fiance’, Joseph, had consummated their physical relationship in marriage. Now under Jewish law it could have been assumed that she was guilty of adultery since betrothal in that day was a binding contract. A modern day Joseph might have counseled his fiance’ to rid herself of the fetus as an interruption and embarrassment to their plans. A modern day Mary could have thought that to hold onto her beloved Joseph she would have to do away with the life she discovered in her womb.
Of all the possible ways God could have chosen to have sent His Son into the world, He chose human birth. Having created everything “ex nihil,” [Latin= “from nothing”], God could simply have had our Christ materialize as a full grown adult one day. He could have transformed Him from any substance. He sent the first Adam into this world from dust. But He sent the Second Adam into the world as a tiny helpless baby. God in His infinite wisdom chose to depend upon the righteous character of Jesus’ mother and foster father for the very survival of His plan of salvation for the sinners of this world.
After all, we know that two people came into this world, lived the same as every other human, married, had children and died but they were never born. They were here as objects of God’s creation. Adam and Eve came into the world as human beings having never experienced birth. Our Christ could have entered the same way but He did not.
Our Lord Jesus Christ materialized in this world because a young couple caught in a social disgrace trusted their Heavenly Father to see them through to obedience in the greatest good mankind would ever know. Praise be to God!
The very wording of what God was going to do in the case of Mary, wording chosen by God Himself, in the form of His angel (Matthew 1:20), makes it unmistakably plain that a baby in the womb is a person. Here is the exact wording of the Nestles Greek text translated and in precisely the order in which it is given: “Behold the virgin in womb will have and will bear son” (Matthew 1:23). –Do you see? The word “son” is applied to Jesus by the Word of God before His birth. He is not “fetal tissue.” He is a Son.
Charles Colson’s challenging book How Now Shall We Live? tells the amazing story of the transformation of Dr. Bernard Nathanson from an abortionist surgeon to a victorious Christian. Nathanson routinely performed abortion after abortion until one day he was invited to watch ultra-sound pictures of a tiny baby developing in the mother’s womb. This worldly doctor became fascinated with the intricacies of the features of this tiny unborn being. He saw the little hands, four fingers and one thumb each, folded left over right on its stomach. Slowly his bright mind began a change of attitude.
Later, using ultra-sound, he photographed an abortion. He tells of seeing the little mouth fly open in an apparent scream as its tiny body was being torn apart. From that beginning came the film The Silent Scream that forever divided the abortionist crowd from those whose hearts abortion broke.
For me there can be but one conclusion to the question “Is the unborn fetus a person?” Yes, madam. Yes, sir. Your unborn baby is a person. Of this it is unequivocal, he or she is absolutely a person as much as will ever be!
IV. Who Is to Blame Here?
Now to our final question. We should ask, “Is this a crime?” If so, who is to blame? This should prompt additional questions. Is it a crime to put to death a songbird. Yes it is! Is it a crime to put to death a deer’s fawn? Yes, it is! Is it a crime to put to death an out-of-season game animal? Yes it is! Is it a crime to destroy the egg of an endangered species? Yes it is! Is it a crime to put to death an unborn human baby? No, it is not!
While confused, worldly people, far from God’s truth, have adjudged abortion free of criminality, Almighty God has not! “Law of the land” or no law somebody is to blame here for this outrage. Who is it?
I deeply regret to say that a part of the blame here must be laid at the feet of the Church. A counseling physician of many years, who had counseled many hundreds of women who had abortions said that in most of these cases, the mother looked back after her abortion to say: “I really didn’t want to do it, but I felt I had to!” In other words, “There was no one to understand, to help me.” How very sad.
We say we love our children but do we support them in their hour of desperation? We say the church cares, but where is the assurance we could give when a young woman gets into trouble? We say “Isn’t that awful!” but what embarrassment would we be willing to endure for the sake of standing with one caught between continuing an unwanted pregnancy or taking a supposed easier way out?
I am not talking about excusing sin. When our Lord talked to a woman caught in adultery (John chapter 8), He did not excuse her sin. At the end He told her to “Go and sin no more.” But when He saw her terrible embarrassment and heartless treatment, after her tormenters were forced to leave in shame, she heard His kindly words “… neither do I condemn you…” (verse 11).
A part, perhaps major part, of the blame for deliberate abortion must be laid at the feet of the men involved. Motivated by care for, love of, or even fear of the man who fathered her child, I am sure many a woman goes through the trials of abortion to please the man involved. Mostly the mother faces these trials alone. This is not a pretty picture of the character of such fathers.
Shameless political expedience explains much of the hardened attitudes against continuing an unwanted pregnancy as well. To gain a few votes many a politician may be found to cooperate. These matters are beyond the scope of our theme but they, nevertheless, must taken into account. Abortion on demand was not always “the law of the land.” To take advantage of ignorance of God’s truth a lot of self-serving people figure into the equation, people who often are themselves devoid of biblical truth.
In 1994 “Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) was passed into law by both houses of Congress. It imposes fines of up to $25,000 and an 18-month prison term for anyone who blocks the entrance to an abortion clinic. Blocking may be interpreted to mean speaking to a potential abortion patient. It may be applied to someone kneeling in prayer in front of the establishment. Without defending those who choose to break the law in this way, ought not we at least ask “Why do these people do this?”
Confusion over the laws as they stand today may be illustrated by a case in Lansing, Michigan, in 1995. There a dermatologist was eventually cleared of charges of manslaughter in the death of his infant prematurely born son. The doctor had unplugged the respirator because he believed the tiny baby should “suffer no more.” We do not have to approve of the father’s action to see the inconsistency in the laws. How could what he did be even considered a crime if the slaying of a healthy unborn child is no crime whatsoever. Life is life, whether in or out of the womb!
CBS News carried this story on January 19, 2011. In Philadelphia a physician has been arrested on murder charges. He may be tried on at least seven counts. At his abortion clinic, it is alleged, babies were born alive despite his efforts to abort them. To conform to the wishes of his patients, he apparently slew them shortly after birth. If he is convicted it is expected that he may get life in prison.
All who ponder these facts are asked to believe that the hands of a doctor using medical devices inside the mother’s womb to slay an infant are innocent but when they are used moments later in the same set of circumstances inches away are guilty of murder. Is it too much to ask, “Is there some kind of insanity going on here?”
Who is finally to blame here? I believe the heart of the matter is a society that has en masse departed from God’s truth. Only when society, one person at a time, returns to the truths revealed in the Holy Scriptures, will be regain the knowledge, the courage and the will to change the laws to conform to the truth that a baby in the womb is a person with full right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Then and only then will we gain the approval of a holy God.
My wife’s uncle was born to an unwed mother. He was faithfully raised by that unfortunate lonely lady. Nevertheless, he went on to become a well-adjusted, normal member of society. Not only so, but he became a minister of the gospel of Christ. He married and the couple produced two beautiful children, both of whom became strong Christians. He served as a pastor for far beyond fifty years.
One of the children was a son. He too became a Christian minister and, in addition went on to become administrator of a Christian college. Nearing retirement, yet today he is helping church after church with his preaching and counsel.
Some years ago, my family attended the funeral of the other child, a daughter. She died of cancer as a young mother. She wrote the script for her own funeral. The Christian triumph displayed in her funeral that day was a thing of beauty. Could the unwed mother, grandmother to this woman and her brother, look down the corridors of time at the outcome of her decision regarding the tiny son in her womb, I am very sure she would thank God He gave her the courage to save her baby.
No, wicked King Herod should not have slain those little babies of Judea those long years ago. Neither should mothers and fathers of our day. God has a better way. If it is a problem in the home, financial worry, a matter of guilt and shame or just pure selfishness, God can bring hope, health and happiness if we but trust Him and do the right thing.
Dear friend today, if you know of someone contemplating the act of abortion on the body of a mother-to-be, seek someone with God’s truth in the Scriptures to help you. There is love and help right around your corner if you will seek it. Don’t allow yourself to be, in any way, guilty of the slaughter of the innocents!