Exodus 21:22–25 (ESV)
22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, appointed such to mark the anniversary of the diabolical Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. For 49 years now our nation has given legal sanction to the murder and dismemberment of the unborn, the most vulnerable members of our society. Our hands are covered with the blood of innocents and God is exacting and will continue to exact vengeance upon us as a people for our bloodshed. Let us pray for the current Supreme Court case that the court would reverse the legal precedent sanctioning abortion; but let us pray that abortion be not just illegal but unthinkable; that we, as a people, abhor such wickedness.
For note the way that our law, which does not recognize the personhood of the unborn child, contrasts with the case law in Exodus 21 which does. The opening admonition declares: “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine.”
Note, first, that this law recognizes the personhood of the unborn. The ESV accurately captures the Hebrew and identifies the baby or babies in the mother’s womb as her “children” – not her property, nor her bodily tissue, but her children.
Second, note that this legal protection fosters a culture that honors pregnant women and the life they carry. This law specifically addresses incidental or accidental contact. If two men are striving with one another and, in their striving, intentionally or inadvertently hit a pregnant woman so that her children come out, then the men are held liable for their action. God so honors the life-giving woman that He judges these men culpably irresponsible. And note that this is the case even if no harm happens to the woman or child – if “they strike her so that her children come out but there is no harm, then they shall pay as the husband demands and the court allows.” In other words, God demands that people honor a pregnant woman by restraining their rage in her presence.
Finally, note that this law adds additional consequences in cases when harm does occur. Verse 23 declares, “if there is harm, then you shall pay.” If there is harm – harm to whom, we ask? The woman or the child? The answer is either. The ambiguity of the text indicates that both woman and child are protected by the law. And what shall be paid? The lex talionis is applied: “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Biblical law protects both the mother and her unborn child.
We see, therefore, how perverse our law has become. And because our law refuses to protect the unborn, our honor for life generally has regressed. Many couples marry with no intention of welcoming children into their homes; Obergerfell has sanctioned perverse and fruitless same-sex unions; many States have endorsed euthanasia or asissted suicide; still others have given legal sanction to the mutilation of the healthy bodies of men and women, boys and girls. As God’s people, our calling is to reverse this trend by celebrating fruitfulness, loving pregnant women, protecting the unborn and the elderly, and embracing the gift of our male or female identity.
So let us thank God for fruitful marriages, for you married couples that have not yet had children but who are praying for them, for baby showers, for the love of life displayed here in this congregation. May such things continue. Men and young men, let us lead the way by honoring the women in our congregation, especially those with child: open doors, yield your place in line, make offers of help. Children, we have many pregnant women in our midst; be careful when you are running around lest you accidentally hit them. Parents, train your children to recognize and honor those who are with child.
Reminded this morning that God honors and protects the women who bear children and the children themselves, let us confess that we have betrayed the unborn and that we are guilty as a people. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a silent confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.