Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen. We live in a culture of death. Yes, I am speaking of abortion. For on this Sanctity of Life Sunday 47 years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision made legalized abortion the law of the land, it’s important for us to pause and reflect on the ruin we have wrought upon our nation. For by killing our kids, we are also killing our country’s soul. Since the 1973 Roe decision, more than 50 million human beings have been aborted in the United States. That’s more babies aborted than the combined murders of Hitler, Stalin, and the Khmer Rouge. 50 million people is roughly the population of South Korea. Imagine if somebody nuked South Korea off the face of the map tomorrow. What would you call that? Genocide. Murder. Then why don’t we regard abortion the same way?
Abortion is the human rights issue of our time. Just as the system of slavery had to be dismantled 150 years ago, so also the systemized slaughter of our nation’s babies must come to an end. In the United States on average, 2,300 babies are aborted daily—almost 100 per hour! 61% of these babies die by surgical dismemberment, and 39% die of exposure. Abortion “clinics” are not women’s “health” centers; they are slaughterhouses. No matter how you slice it and dice it, abortion is murder.
But into our culture of death, today comes a Word of Life from the prophet Isaiah. Today’s Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 49:1-7) is the second of four prophecies in Isaiah collectively known as the Servant Songs. Yahweh’s Servant is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who literally embodies the entire nation of Israel. As Israel-reduced-to-one, Jesus is the Son of Man “who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28, ESV). So in our Scripture today, Isaiah speaks not of himself, but of Christ:
“Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword…” (Isa. 49:1-2a).
The Servant says much more about himself in the following verses, but these opening lines are pregnant with meaning (pun intended).
First, we learn that God’s Word is not just for the chosen people of Israel (the Jews), but for all people: “Listen to me, O coastlands… give attention, you peoples from afar” (49:1a). Our God is the Creator of heaven and earth (Gen. 1:1). He made all things and all people of every nation and tribe, language and race. He shows no favoritism or “partiality,” but welcomes people of every nation who believe in him and do his will (Acts 10:34-35). Indeed, in verse 6, Yahweh says of his Servant that it’s not enough for him simply to gather the faithful remnant of Israel. Rather, “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:6b). As the Servant declares in the Great Commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matt. 28:19a). Were it not for God’s inclusion of the Gentiles in his kingdom of salvation, very few of us in this room would be saved, for I only know a small handful of you who belong by birth to the children of Abraham.
The second thing we learn is that Jesus’ calling as Yahweh’s Servant began even before birth. “The LORD called me from the womb…” (49:1). Quite significantly, Jesus did not show up on earth as a thirty-year-old man, twelve-year-old boy, or two-year-old toddler. The miracle of his Incarnation began with conception. Jesus entered the world as a burgeoning embryo dividing and growing in his mother Mary’s uterus. The calling laid on Jesus’ life began also before his birth. As the angel Gabriel told Joseph while Mary was pregnant: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20-21). Jesus is the Greek and Latin form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means “the Lord saves.” Even before Jesus’ conception (cf. Luke 1:26ff), God had a plan for Jesus to be our Savior and rescue us from sin.
Amazingly, Jesus is not the only human being whom God knew and loved even prior to birth. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41). As you read the rest of the Bible, you quickly come to realize that God does not put his Holy Spirit in rocks or trees or animals; he puts his Spirit in human beings. Thus, John the Baptist was a human being—a person—full of the Spirit even before birth. Similarly, God told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5). In the Psalms, David sang that Yahweh was his God even before birth (Ps. 22:10).
Taken together, all these Scriptures prove that human life begins at conception, when the sperm fertilizes the egg. Whether you call it an embryo or fetus, the unborn child is still a baby. In the Greek New Testament, the same Greek noun (brephos) refers to an unborn fetus and a nursing baby. They’re both babies—human children who are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a Creator who loves his creation (Ps. 139:14). God makes no distinction between the pre-born and the newborn.
Neither does science, if you are willing to look at actual science and not merely pro-choice propaganda. Despite the pro-choice slogan some women cry, “My body, my choice!”, the reality is that the unborn baby is a person already—not a part of a woman’s body. Every single cell in a person’s body, whether it’s blood, skin, hair, the heart, or lungs, has the same DNA sequence. But the DNA and fingerprints of an unborn baby are distinct from the mother’s, indicating that he or she is a completely different person. Yes, the baby grows inside the mother’s body, but the baby is not a part of the mother’s body.
This point leads some ultra-radical pro-choice activists to take the position that the unborn baby is actually a parasite in a woman’s body. But that is absurd. After all, every parasite, whether it is a tick or a tapeworm, is an entirely different kind of creature than the host organism—a different species. But the unborn baby and the mother are the same kind, the same species. To call the fetus a parasite is biologically inaccurate and wicked. This scientific distinction is crucial, especially when you debate abortion with unbelievers and people who reject the authority of God’s Word.
The third thing we learn about God’s Servant in today’s Old Testament lesson is that God put his Word in Jesus’ mouth to speak. “He made my mouth like a sharp sword” (Isa. 49:2a). Throughout Scripture, God’s Word is often described as a sword. St. Paul calls the Word of God “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). That’s pretty sharp! In John’s Apocalypse, Jesus is depicted as having a two-edged sword come out of his mouth to destroy his enemies on Judgment Day (Rev. 1:16; 19:15, 21).
The sword of God’s Word is deadly dangerous—an offensive weapon. Swords are sharp, and if the Servant’s mouth is a sharp sword, that means some of the things he says might hurt. Jesus does not go out of his way to hurt us. But God must convict us of our sin and cut us down with his harsh Word of Law before we can turn and be comforted by the soothing medicine of the Gospel. As such, Jesus and those who claim his name will believe and speak things that are not always popular or welcome in our society’s culture of death. People do not like having their sins pointed out to them or being reminded that they will be held accountable to their Creator. Nevertheless, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10).
The Bible does not always tell us what we want to hear. God’s Word shows us our sin, but it also shows us our Savior. Rather than accumulating false teachers who tell us what our itching ears want to hear, we should have ears to hear what God actually says in his Word. Yes, the world will mock you, hate you, reject you, call you a bigot and a misogynist for opposing the evil of abortion, but being a Christian requires nothing less of you.
Did you know that in our state, abortion is permitted under Colorado law right up until the moment just before birth? Abortion at any stage of development is terrible, whether it’s 22 weeks or 22 seconds. Yet 22 weeks is generally the medically accepted point at which a fetus can grow safely outside the uterus in an incubator. Therefore, even unbelievers are more likely to regard the unborn as a real person after 22 weeks (so sad that they don’t see the miracle of a fertilized egg as an actual human being).
Given this perception in our world, I urge you to take action today. There are fine folks in our state trying to get a ban on late-term abortions placed on the Colorado state ballot for the 2020 election cycle. I have invited volunteers to come to our church this weekend in order to secure your signature on a petition to have this referendum placed on the ballot. Signing this petition and voting for the late-term abortion ban is one way to exercise your voice and tell the world the truth about God’s gift of life.
But don’t stop there! Be prepared to say more and do more for the sake of life. Learn the facts about abortion. Be prepared to explain to your friends why you are a pro-life Christian. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15, NIV). With gentleness and respect, point people in desperate situations towards pro-life ministries, such as Alternatives Pregnancy Center, here in Castle Rock, which offers free STD testing and free ultrasounds for pregnant women. Counsel women with unplanned pregnancies to give up their babies for adoption, and walk with them through that painful journey every step of the way. And the most important thing of all you can do is to pray.
Don’t give up. There are signs of hope. 2019 had the lowest recorded number of abortions in the United States since abortion was legalized in 1973. Clearly, state laws that restrict abortions do work, which is why we need you to sign the petition after church. We need to stop killing our kids.
This morning I’ve spoken an awful lot of Law. So what is the Gospel today? What is the Good News? The Good News of Isaiah is that God called his Servant “from the womb” to be a “light to the nations” (Isa. 49:1-6). Jesus Christ brings light where there is darkness and life where there is death. The entire reason Jesus was conceived and born was so that he could go to the cross and die for our sins. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, including yours and mine. Jesus died for the sins of women who have had abortions and the men who force them. Jesus died for the sins of doctors and nurses and receptionists who work in abortion clinics. Jesus even died for Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. For we are all sinners, and “we daily sin much” (SC, 5th Petition).
My sins are no less than those of Margaret Sanger. Neither are yours. The pro-life people are just as sinful as the pro-choice people—we just struggle with different sins. The key difference is that we confess our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness instead of justifying our sin and pretending that we’re doing nothing wrong. Abortion is the murder of a human being. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Jesus offers real grace for real sinners. If you have had an abortion—or forced a woman to get one—God can still forgive you. Throughout my ministry, women have confessed to me the sin of abortion, and I have been able to speak the Good News of God’s forgiveness to them in the words of Holy Absolution. No matter what you’ve done or haven’t done in your life, you are never so far away that God’s love cannot reach you. All you need to do is turn to Jesus, the one who gave his life for you—and rose again so that you can have eternal life. So please, if you are thinking about having an abortion or have already had an abortion, talk to somebody. If you speak with me, our conversation will remain confidential, and God can unburden you of your guilt and shame. Life and hope are found only in Jesus Christ, the Lord’s Servant, who suffered and died and rose again to bring forgiveness and life for you. He brings life out of death. And that is what we need in America today. In the name of Jesus. Amen.