Part 3 of Psalm 139, by Rosie Moore.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were ordained for me,
when as yet there was none of them (Ps 139:13-16)
David is confident that his Creator not only formed and saw his ‘unformed substance’ at the start, but also at the finish and every day in between. Since the Lord pre-ordained David’s life, God will remain actively involved in his future. And because God has written David’s name in his book of life, the Psalmist has hope and significance until his final breath, and beyond into eternity.
Even before the Messiah’s appearance, David was assured by the doctrine of predestination (Eph 1:4-5).
Not a day too many, not a day too few.
Like David, we will not live one day too many or one day too few. Before we were even born, God numbered and recorded the days of our lives. And if our lives have been redeemed by Christ, God’s purpose is to make us more like Jesus every day. He will use all circumstances and stages of life to achieve this end (James 1:2-4; Rom 8:28-29; 1 Peter 4:1). Therefore, God gives meaning and purpose to each new day, even when our lives seem worthless or obsolete.
As Christians, the Bible tells us that our life’s purpose is to experience and proclaim God’s glory until Christ takes us home (1 Peter 1:7). Therefore, the days of our lives are irreplaceable and highly significant. They are not just one mundane thing after another. Each day is preparing us for “an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:17-18).
Today we will look at the final two practical implications of Psalm 139:13-16 in the light of the gospel.
- God has ordained our days.
- Our bodies matter to God.
1. God has ordained our days.
In Ps 139:16, David writes about God’s “book” which records all the days of his life. Most likely, he is referring here to the Book of life, which records the names of all those who have come into God’s righteousness. Elsewhere David prays: “May the wicked be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous” (Ps 69:28).
The book of life is mentioned several times in the Old and New Testaments. It is significant for us, because it was the basis for David’s assurance in verse 16.
In Daniel 12:1, when describing a future time of great distress, Daniel foresaw that everyone who has their name in “the book…will be rescued”. The book here likely means the Book of life which contains the names of all God’s redeemed people.
This is great assurance for everyone who has put their faith in God’s Saviour, whether in Old or New covenant times. Jesus Christ knows the name of every redeemed person in the book of life, his “book of remembrance” (Rev 3:5). And as Matthew Henry said, “Christ will not erase the names of those whose faith is in him”.
God records the name of every person destined for Heaven and the world to come in the Lamb’s book of life. Through our salvation in Christ, He makes us pure and able to pass through the gates of heaven (Rev 21:27).
Thus, we can be confident that everyone who believes the gospel has their name recorded in God’s book and will enjoy eternity with the Lord. This provides a sustainable motivation and model for all the days of our lives.
God’s providence and our purpose.
In a world which links human value to productivity and performance, David’s prayer offers hope for the walking wounded, the lonely, weak and depressed who are tempted to think that their lives are too painful or meaningless to continue. I know many believers who are battling with chronic pain and a great sense of futility.
But we must resist the world’s lies and believe that God continues to see and care for us all the days of our lives. Take heart and be assured that you are significant, no matter how redundant, powerless or dispensable you may feel. For as long as you have breath, God’s providence will run alongside your purpose.
Seen through the gospel prism, we all need the same thing, which is to be saved by Jesus Christ. Born or unborn, young or old, weak or strong, sick or healthy, dependent or independent, human beings are precious in God’s sight and he invites us to have a relationship with him through Christ all the days of our lives. This is our purpose.
Moreover, God’s providence means that our lives will always have significance. We are anchored in something much greater than what we can do or contribute.
The late J.I Packer offers encouragement to seniors and all those who may think that their lives are worthless,
“We humans are hopers by nature. Hope motivates, energizes, and drives us. It is natural for us to look ahead and long for any good things that we foresee. That is how God made us. It was always in his plan that we, his embodied rational creatures, should live our lives in this world looking forward to, and preparing for, something even better than we have known already…
As seniors’ powers of body, memory, and creativity grow less, so their conscious focus on their hope of glory should grow sharper and their meditations on it grow more joyful and sustained. Passion to continue being of use to God and his people, in holiness, love and what Scriptures conceive as neighbourliness, should and will intensify to the end”
(Finishing your course with Joy, by JI Packer).
2. Our bodies matter to God.
Finally, our bodies matter, because God has made them ‘fearfully and wonderfully’– male and female, regardless of race or ethnicity. God’s works are wonderful indeed, especially in designing the human body.
There is no way to detach our bodies from our spiritual lives before God. While there is a danger of obsessing about our bodies, there’s also a danger in de-valuing them.
The body is not ‘unspiritual’.
After all, “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” Jesus became a human being with a mortal body like ours. He gave his own body to redeem us in order to re-create our bodies on the last day (1 Cor 15:41). Our new bodies will resemble the glorious body of our resurrected Saviour (Phil 3:21).
David has a high view of his mortal body, describing it as a ‘frame’ that God has ‘intricately woven in the depths of the earth.’ His imagery sounds like a complex tapestry of meticulous hand stitches. In fact, each one of us is a walking miracle of irreducible complexity that science cannot replicate. We are not less than the bodies that God has given us, even if sin has made them mortal and liable to decay (1 Cor 15:47-48).
Do we ever look at the design of our bodies and ask, “Why did God design me like this?” It’s a good question to ask in the light of Ps 139:13.
Just think for a moment of a mother’s body. Abigail Dodds praises God’s idea of giving women wombs so that babies could grow in them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every woman must have a baby, but wombs to grow babies is God’s idea. Dodds marvels at God’s design of a woman’s anatomy which is suited to provide nourishment and love:
“If God designed our bodies to be a home to a tiny person for nine months, then that understanding will help us understand the instructions in Titus or 1 Timothy to work and manage the home. Why? Because he actually made our bodies a home…The weight of influence that comes in making a home, in ordering a dwelling place for others, is practically incalculable. Proverbs says the wisest of women builds her house (Prov 14:1). That’s one reason God gave us hands and arms—to build our house and make a home.”
And so, regardless of our imperfections, David reminds us that human beings are made up of both body and soul. These two parts are distinct but inseparable, except in death. Both are equally important for human life and experience. As Paul Helm writes,
“Your body is unique to you, and in this life it is you, while in the life to come it will be with you again.”
David’s description challenges me to view my body as a gift from God, and be thankful. Our bodies are not rubbish bins for unhealthy food, degrading acts or substances that have no place there. We should not reject, harm or show contempt for the body that God has given us.
For this reason, I believe that it is wrong to objectify, change or use the human body for power, lust or money. Our bodies have been created through Christ and for Christ, to do the things that God has made them to do (Col 1:16-17).
David clearly has respect for himself, as his Maker has for Him. Self respect is not prideful, but demonstrates a sound grasp of the biblical doctrines of God and humanity.
David and the Apostle Paul were in perfect agreement: “The body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body” (1 Cor 6:13). Therefore, “glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20). Our bodies are the “temple of the Holy Spirit” who dwells in us (1 Cor 6:19). Since our bodies belong to God, it matters what we do with them (1 Cor 6:13-20).
What we do with our bodies.
Glorifying God in our bodies is not just about what we avoid and don’t do, but also about what we do positively—how we work, whether we exercise, what we do with our arms and legs to help others, what we feed our minds, how we deal with our emotions, what we say with our mouths and how we regard our bodily imperfections.
For instance, the Bible provides practical wisdom on sleep (Ps 127:2; Prov: 9-11; Eccl 5:12); laziness (Eph 4:28; 1 Thess 4:11-12); indulgence (Rom 13:13); gluttony (Prov 23:2-3, 21, Heb 12:16-17); stress (Phil 4:6-8) and mastering our body’s sinful urges (Matt 5:30; 1 Cor 9:24-27).
The Bible equips us to live in our bodies at all stages and ages, dealing with ageing, illness, death, sexuality and identity. We should not look to the world for wisdom on these matters.
How we view our bodies has massive implications for how we flourish as God’s people. Given the ancient serpent’s hatred of God and humanity, we should not be surprised to find ourselves swimming upstream when it comes to polarizing issues surrounding our bodies. In our cultural moment, Christians need to equip the youth with a sound doctrine of God and humanity, so that believers can take a stand and give reasons for what we believe.
Knowing that God has created every human fearfully and wonderfully, in his own image, and for a purpose, provides a framework whereby we see everything else:
Addictions, self-harm and assisted suicide; gender ideology in education and the sexualization of children; trans surgeries, puberty blockers and pronouns of choice; LGBTQ and feminist agendas; marginalizing heterosexuality, men and boys; misuse of prescription drugs; pornography and sexual grooming; genetic engineering and genome therapies; eugenics and trans-humanism; gender-based violence and female circumcision; euthanasia, race and abortion; informed consent and much more.
A sound theological framework will guide us in answering three big questions that seem to be shaking our society at its core: What is a man? What is a woman? What gives human beings value?
These are not just social or cultural questions. They are issues of the human body with deep spiritual roots, in which Satan has profoundly vested interests. Let us never forget that our bodies and our days belong to the Lord, and to Him alone.
Lord, thank you that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are built and designed by you. Our unique bodies, brains, eyes and ears, emotions and gifts bear your unmistakable marks as master craftsman, master designer and master builder. Thank you that we are not just the product of impersonal forces such as time and chance and natural selection, but that we’ve been given a unique body to use for your glory. Help us to trust in your providence all the days of our lives. Help us to see our intrinsic worth and to treat others with dignity and respect too. Amen.
2. Abigail Dodds, (A)Typical Woman– Free, Whole, and Called in Christ. Crossway, 2019.
3. J.I Packer, Finishing Our Course With Joy. Crossway, 2014.
4. David Helm, Created Body and soul, TGC.
Dr James Marcum, MD, Medicines that kill, Tyndale House Publishers, 2013.
5. Nancy Pearcey, Love Thy Body: Answering Questions about Life and Sexuality.