Sanctity of Human Life

Sermon by Rabbis Loren Jacobs & Glenn Harris

National Sanctity of Human Life Day, 2003
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

Our nation was built on a promise of life and liberty for all citizens. Guided by a deep respect for human dignity, our Founding Fathers worked to secure these rights for future generations, and today we continue to seek to fulfill their promise in our laws and our society. On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, we reaffirm the value of human life and renew our dedication to ensuring that every American has access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

... Every child is a priority and a blessing, and I believe that all should be welcomed in life and protected by law.

... Now, therefore, I, George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Sunday, January 19, 2003, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. As we reflect upon the sanctity of human life, I call upon all Americans to recognize this day with appropriate ceremonies in our homes and places of worship, to rededicate ourselves to compassionate service, and to reaffirm our commitment to respecting the life and dignity of every human being.

For four thousand years, in both Jewish and Christian society, abortion has been considered wrong. It was murder. It was pagans, or those Jewish people who abandoned the Lord and imitated the detestable ways of the pagans, who murdered their children. Psalm 106:37-38 records this horrible phenomena:

"They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with the blood."

It was those who abandoned God that sacrificed their children, and allowed their unwanted babies to be left outside in the weather to die. The Lord laments that the killing of children was something that horrified Him, and such a thought, let alone putting it into practice, never even entered His mind.

If you abandon God, you abandon the value of man. If you embrace God, you embrace the value of man.

These pagans sacrificed their children to their gods, or killed their children, or engaged in abortion in hopes of securing comfort and prosperity for themselves. Is killing an unborn child for the sake of the parent's convenience and prosperity really any different?

He made each and every human being as a special creation, made in His own image, made in the image of God. I like what Dr. Jeffrey Hoy wrote on Genesis 9, commenting on the new covenant God made with Noah, and with all mankind, after the Flood:

"With the Covenant came a strong restriction regarding the sanctity of life. Before there was any other law, God made it clear that life is sacred and precious. God will demand an accounting for all the life He created. God would even demand an accounting from animals."

There is a strong prohibition of killing human life. Humans are in the image of God. Human life is created by God and is sacred.

This sacredness is so significant that the Lord God set in place a penalty for the shedding of innocent human blood. Instead of wiping out all life, the penalty would be paid only by the offender. The blood of a murderer would be shed by man. This is the foundation of all justice systems that would later grow from the Law. Sadly, we live in a violent world that is more like the one before the Flood. Because there is a great deal of human life on the planet, the law of "supply and demand" says that life is cheap. People are expendable in the world's view. But God disagrees. Life is still precious. Life is still sacred.

Yet, in spite of this sacredness of life in Judeo-Christian society, on January 22, 1973, seven of the nine justices of the United States Supreme Court, disregarding the word of God, prior legal traditions, overwhelming biological evidence and the ethical traditions of a majority of the American people, struck down the abortion laws of all fifty states. Their action made abortion on demand, at virtually every stage of pregnancy, legal throughout our country.

Currently, about 3,500 children are killed each and every day, about the same number of people that were killed on 9-11. Partial birth abortion is an unbelievably horrific procedure where the child is murdered by piercing its skull and sucking out its brain, without anesthesia, then mutilating the baby and taking it out from its mother's womb in pieces. Because the child is in its third trimester (6 to 9 months) and is quite large, this procedure would horrify most pagans. It is still legal, and the numbers of partial birth abortions are on the increase.

Whenever we consider any subject, our thoughts should first begin with God and His inspired word to see if He has revealed His thoughts on that subject. His word is authoritative, and it should be the final say.

In the Torah, in Genesis 30:1-2, 22, it is written that when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die.'' Then Jacob's anger burned against Rachel, and he said, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?'' .... Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. It's not just the father or the mother who is involved in the creation of a new human life. God is very much involved in the process, and He is the One who enables us to give birth to a new human life.

In Psalm 139:13, it says:

"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

God is involved in the entire process of life, starting with conception.

Not only is the Creator involved in the process of our formation, but He already has plans for us before we are born! Jeremiah 1:4-5 says:

The word of the Lord came to me [Jeremiah] saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."

To murder a child in the womb is to attack God's plan for that child.

Rabbi Paul said the same thing about himself. In Galatians 1:15-16 he said:

"But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles ..."

Paul was set apart to serve God while he was still in His mother's womb.

There is no question that a baby in the woman is a human being. Listen to this most ancient Jewish law found in Exodus 21:22:

"If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide."

This teaches us that a baby is its mother's womb is a "yeled" -- a child.

Luke 1:15, 36-44 says:

"For he will be great in the sight of the Lord ... and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb .... Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month .... Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.'"

This is a prophecy about Messiah Yeshua. It tells us that God made plans for His Son to accomplish our salvation while yet in Mary's womb. Isaiah 49:1, 5 says:

"Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me .... And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him ..."

Can you imagine if Joseph encouraged Mary to have an abortion to cover up their embarrassing situation?

Psalm 127:3 says:

"Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward."

Every human being is a unique creation that comes from God. Every child is a reward, a gift from God, made in His image, higher than the angels, and just a little lower than God -- very a good thing. No child is a "mistake."

Well, what about abortion in the case of rape or incest? No, children are not to suffer for the sins of their father, even in the case of rape and incest. Deuteronomy 24:16 says, "Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin." And Ezekiel 18:4, 20 says, "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die .... The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself." If I could rephrase Moses and Ezekiel for our day, "You don't kill the child because the father is a jerk."

I like the Right to Life of Michigan's Policy Statement which makes the following observation:

"Abortion is not the answer to a pregnancy which is the result of sexual assault. When a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, the woman and the unborn child are the victims. Using abortion to end a crisis pregnancy does nothing to alleviate the rape. It merely allows society to forget about the rape and pretend that justice has been done, leaving the woman to deal with the emotions of the assault and abortion, often alone. In the case of incest, abortion actually protects the perpetrator of the crime by concealing the incestuous act."

Well, what if the child is deformed? Exodus 4:11 says:

"The Lord said to Moses, 'Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?'"

The Lord makes us the way we are, including birth defects, and therefore we don't have the right to kill a deformed child.

The word of God is clear. Adonai is the Source of all life, and the Supreme Authority. As the Creator of everything that exists, He is in charge of the issues of life and death. "The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up" (1 Samuel 2:6). God creates life and He defines when a life starts, and it starts in the womb. To say anything else is to contradict God, which is the most vile kind of pride, the worst sort of arrogance, and will lead to the most terrible consequences.

In light of this, what should we do? We must not be complacent. Abortion is the supreme moral issue of our day. We can't be for abortion. We can't be neutral. On this issue, if we do not choose life, and reject murder, we are against life, against what is right, and against God Himself, who has made His will clearly known on this matter.

Proverbs 24:11-12 says:

"Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back. If you say, 'See, we did not know this,' Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?"

God holds people responsible for rescuing those who are in mortal danger. We must not dodge our responsibility by claiming ignorance, saying that we did not know. It is our duty to help them, even though it may mean inconveniencing or even endangering ourselves.

"How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble" (Psalm 41:1). Rabbi Glenn is going to help us consider the most helpless among us -- the baby in the womb -- so that God will bless us and deliver us.

Comments by Rabbi Glenn Harris:

Rabbi Loren has very clearly and ably set forth the Biblical basis for the sanctity of human life in all its stages. Now there remains the question of what we are to do about it. You see, the word of God not only teaches us the sacredness of every human being, but it gives us several examples of what our attitudes and actions should be when confronting assaults on the innocent.

First, we need conviction. Do we really believe the Scriptures? All of them? Or are we picking and choosing what we want to believe and disregarding what we don't like or what makes us uncomfortable? Before we can have a proper Biblical response to abortion, each one of us must determine whether we are willing to be under the authority of the Scriptures.

Hear, then, the words of the prophet Isaiah:

"Learn to do good; Seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:17).

What do orphans and widows have in common? In ancient Israel, and to a great extent today, they are the most vulnerable members of our community. The principle God set forth for His people was that we should come to the defense of those who, in their vulnerable position, might be taken advantage of by the greedy and godless. This theme reverberates throughout the Torah and the prophets, and certainly echoes throughout the New Covenant Scriptures.

Hear the words of wise King Lemuel in Proverbs chapter 31:

"Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy" (Proverbs 31:8-9).

Under the heading of "conviction", let me ask you the following questions:

  1. Do you hold the Bible to be the word of God?
  2. Does the word of God teach that human life is sacred?
  3. Does the word of God teach that we are to defend people who are the most vulnerable?
  4. Is there any more defenseless human being than a baby still inside her mother?
  5. What, then, are you willing to do about abortion?

It is not my place to tell you specifically what action to take, only that abortion is the willful and violent taking of the most vulnerable human life and that we are called to defend the vulnerable. The people of God are expected to have the right convictions. Do you? Having the right convictions will lead us to the right actions. But lest we look on this with righteous indignation, the Scriptures also warn us to first examine ourselves, and that judgment begins with the people of God. Therefore, it is my conviction that we also need to come to this with contrition.

Second, we need contrition. If it is true that "evil triumphs when good men do nothing" then we are collectively guilty for allowing the evil of abortion to triumph these thirty years. Had we in unison raised our voices in a loud and unmistakable protest when this travesty of a decision was handed down, 40 million of our number would not have been murdered. Why didn't we? We need to repent.

If it is true that a majority of politicians care more about getting votes than about what is right and wrong, then we are collectively guilty of not pressuring our elected leaders to reverse this abomination. If it is true that a nation gets the leaders it deserves, then we are collectively guilty of knowingly electing abortion advocates to public office, as we did here in Michigan in this past election. We need to repent.

Joel Belz, in World Magazine, observed that we have not been able to speak unequivocally against the darkness in our society, because too often we ourselves have participated in it. Yeshua instructed us to remove the log that is in your own eye before removing the splinter in your brother's eye, which means that we need to examine our hearts. Maybe our walk with the Lord has not been what it should be, and the result is that we are afraid to speak out too loudly, lest we be hypocrites for saying one thing and doing another. If so, then we are collectively guilty for not being salt and light. I am not suggesting we need to be "perfect" in order to speak the truth.

But let us examine ourselves, and seek the Lord and His cleansing and renewal. Only with a clear conscience and our eyes on Yeshua will we make an impact on our society. Let's be honest with ourselves, we have not offended anywhere near enough people on account of our faith. How many people at work or in your neighborhood have you pegged as the "religious fanatic"? We need to repent and be bold.

Third, we need compassion. Unborn babies are not the only ones destroyed through abortion. Hearts are broken, embittered and ultimately hardened. Women do not come out of abortion "clinics" feeling elated. Some may feel relieved, because they were pressured into it, and some may feel relieved because they didn't want the responsibility of parenting, but most feel intense guilt over their decision. Let me tell you, no one comes out of there feeling elated -- except perhaps the so-called "doctor" who takes in, at an average cost of $400 per abortion, and at an average of 10-20 abortions performed daily (conservatively), in the neighborhood of $1.8 million annually. Friends, do not envy them their riches, for the Torah says, "Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person" (Deuteronomy 27:25).

What woman would even imagine killing her baby if she were married to a loving husband and had the support and encouragement of family around her? It goes against every God-given instinct of mothering to carry out an abortion, and the emotional consequences are devastating. So while we must loudly condemn abortion, we need to treat with compassion the half who survive the procedure. Either we believe that Yeshua's atonement is sufficient for the vilest sin or we do not.

As a community of faith, we need to reach out spiritually, emotionally and materially to women who have had an abortion. Many of them carry around a weight of immense guilt. That guilt, when met with the message of forgiveness, redemption and a fresh start in Messiah Yeshua, is what has brought many women to saving faith. Not to mention that it will mean fewer and fewer "repeat customers" at the abortion mills.

It was the compassion of genuine Christians that brought Norma McCorvey, the "Roe" of Roe v. Wade, to faith in Yeshua and she is now an outspoken and high-profile advocate for life, not to mention a thorn in the side of the abortionists and their ideological allies.

What are we to do? There is a biblical case to be made for civil disobedience -- particularly where human life is at stake. Consider the Jewish midwives who defied the edict of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, when he ordered them to kill the Jewish boys. Not only did they refuse to comply, but lied to his face when questioned about it. Exodus 1:20-21 says, "So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them."

Rahab defied the king of Jericho when he commanded her to surrender the Jewish spies; instead hiding and protecting them. She also lied to the king about it in order to save their lives. On account of her courage, Rahab not only saved her own family when Jericho fell, but became a part of the Jewish community was honored in Israel's memory for it. Rahab herself was honored by God to become an ancestress of King David and of Messiah Yeshua.

Daniel's three friends in Babylon defied the law when it said they had to bow down to the golden image Nebuchadnezzar set up. They were protected from what otherwise would have been a fiery death, and were honored in the Scriptures for their civil disobedience to obey the higher Law -- the Law of God.

We are commanded in Scripture not to return evil for evil to anyone, so that we are never justified committing any form of violence against those who perform abortions. Nevertheless, throughout the Scriptures, those who defied laws in order to preserve life were commended by God, and we would do well to apply this same standard of civil disobedience. Abortion may be protected by the laws of this land at this time, but slavery was once protected too. Through many and painful years, and a great deal of civil disobedience, that unjust law was overturned, and I am hopeful that we will see the same happen with this heinous crime that stains our hands with the blood of innocents.

Protest -- peacefully -- at abortion "clinics". Write letters in response to articles in newspapers and magazines. You will have many opportunities to do so, since the issue of abortion continues to be in the minds of so many, and will probably be a major issue in the 2004 election. Volunteer some of your time, talents and resources at a local Crisis Pregnancy Center. Write to our elected officials and remind them, day by day, that thousands of innocent lives are being taken in the name of "choice". Don't back down when the issue is raised, but call abortion what it is: murder of the most defenseless among us. If evil triumphs when good men, and women, do nothing, then do something! May God give us wisdom and courage, and the opportunities to exercise both.

Some Further Comments by Rabbi Loren Jacobs:

We should pray that these illegal decrees are reversed and this Holocaust comes to an quick end.

We should continue educate ourselves and others on the abortion issue.

We should not be manipulated by the techniques of the pro-murder crowd. How could the German people, who were among the most educated and cultured in Europe, allow 6,000,000 Jewish people to perish in the Holocaust? One technique used by the Nazis was to dehumanize the Jews. They portrayed us as sub-human. We were allegedly from a less-than-human race. We were compared to animals. These rationalizations made it easier to kill us, since supposedly, we were not fully human.

The pro-abortion leaders have used the same technique. They use terms and slogans designed to dehumanize the human life in the mother's womb. Instead of "unborn child," or a "human being in development," or a "baby in the womb," they use terms like "fertilized egg," "zygote," "embryo" or "fetus." While these may be valid scientific terms, they are also used to make the unborn child seem less human. Don't use their terms and slogans!

They want to use "pro-choice" since nobody wants to be against freedom of choice. However, murdering a human being is not a viable choice. They are really "pro-abortion," "pro-murder" and "baby-killers." When it comes to a "woman's right to choose," is that right absolute? The answer is no, of course not! We limit a woman's right to choose to sell her body as a prostitute. A woman can't choose to use her body to commit a crime. A woman has no right to kill another human being, even if it is in her body. It is impossible to make into a "right" something that is "wrong!"

We should make our views known to politicians and the media.

We should vote for pro-life candidates. In my opinion, the pro-life issue supersedes all other political or economic concerns. It is the supreme moral issue of our day. In my opinion, people who are not pro-life are not fit for higher office. Think about it: what good is someone who can govern well if it is at the expense of murdering the most vulnerable? That's an immoral society.

We should support pro-life legislation. Can we impose our morality on others? A resounding Yes! Many laws impose morality on others ("morality comes from "mores" -- the common values shared by a group). Rabbi Paul in 1 Timothy 1:9 tells us that "law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers ..."

We should volunteer our time and money to good pro-life organizations.

We should explore alternatives to abortion and support them, like Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and adoption.

We should remember that sexual relations outside of marriage is wrong and a major contributor to abortion.

We should help those who are suffering after having had an abortion. Remind them that no one is beyond the reach of God's forgiveness.

Remember, God has set before us life and death, the blessing and the curse. So, ba-char-ta ba-cha-yeem -- choose life in order that you may live! Make the right choice and do what your good Creator God and King tells you to do! That is the way that leads to blessing, success and life. Don't choose to disobey God and His good commands. That is the way that leads to judgment and death.

Rabbis Loren Jacobs & Glenn Harris
Congregation Shema Yisrael

c/o Cross of Christ Lutheran Church
1100 Lone Pine Road
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302-2815
Phone: (248) 593-5150
Services: Saturday 10:30 AM

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