Psalm 139 – The Womb and the Biochemical Loom

Psalm 139 Bible with Theo Orange Dark Chocolate

Today’s ChocolateTheo Orange 70% Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassagePsalm 139

My family calls this the “birthday psalm.” Growing up, on my brother’s and my birthdays, my dad would read it to us. Why is it so apt for the anniversary of one’s birth? Because its central theme is “God made me.”

The “me” in this particular case is King David, the psalmist, but he’s written it in terms that anyone can identify with and apply to themselves. Especially birthday-relevant are verses 13-16, which describe God as master weaver, crafting each human as it grows inside its mother: “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb” (13). Time and time again, David expresses awe at God’s craftsmanship, miraculously shaping a human inside another human. And God knows what he’s doing: “In Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them” (16). From his inception, David has had a role in God’s plan–even before David was incapable of making plans for himself.

In David’s time, the womb was a black box, a place where the “unformed substance” of human beings was “made in secret” (15, 16). As science has revealed the inner workings of human gestation, I believe the process has actually shown itself to be more amazing than we imagined. Each of the 7+ billion people on this planet was woven into existence in an intricate nine-month process at the microscopic level. God doesn’t weave with physical hands; his loom is the mathematical precision of the laws of physics and molecular biology, every step of the way doing exactly what God wants them to do, producing the human he’s designed. Some say the more we know about science, the more God’s role is diminished, the “God of the gaps.” I say science is simply an expression of the will of God for the physical universe: how God wants the universe to operate.

And there’s still a vast array of things we don’t know or understand. David opens the psalm with his amazement at God’s intimate knowledge of every moment of his life, each of his positions at any given time, all his activity and speech. And when he concludes, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it” (6), he doesn’t know the half of it. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that we can’t know a particle’s position and momentum simultaneously, and the observer effect requires that for some if not all observations, our observing a system necessarily changes the system. But God, being omnipotent, knows everything there is to know about every entity in his universe, even down to the smallest possible level.

For all we’ve discovered, sometimes it seems our discoveries just lead to more problems and contradictions in our own understanding. I’m inclined to take our scientific hypotheses, theories, even laws, as provisional: merely the least problematic understanding of the universe that we’ve figured out to date. Meanwhile, God’s knowledge operates on a level above our own, and where we are in the dark, he is in the light.

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