by Aaron Lavender
Psalm 139 is an excellent resource for cultivating a biblical worldview regarding race relations. The entire chapter is devoted to God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.
In verses 13–18, David extols God’s power in creating man by saying,
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee. (Ps 139:13–18)
These verses provide a basis for a biblical worldview as it relates to race discrimination, and two truths in this passage are noteworthy for thinking about race.
(1) God Is Responsible for Man’s Creation
God established the natural processes of reproduction and created each man in his mother’s womb. This is such an amazing phenomenon that it prompted David to break out in praise that he was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (v. 14).
This truth imparts dignity and worth to each person’s life. Regardless of ethnicity, background, or setting, every person is uniquely hand-crafted by God, and to suggest otherwise is equivalent to suggesting that God is incompetent.
There is unity and diversity in God’s creation. Humankind was created as a diverse population. Each person looks, thinks, and acts different from every other; and yet humankind was also created with unity. Every human shares the same anatomical and spiritual structure. Regardless of ethnicity, each person’s material body and spiritual makeup is like that of every other. All men have indeed been created equal. And all mankind is in need of God’s love and forgiveness offered through his Son Jesus Christ.
(2) God Is Responsible for Man’s Ethnicity
The second noteworthy truth is closely associated with the first. In verse 16 David exclaims,
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
The psalmist is teaching his readers that God superintends every aspect of every person’s creation. God has preordained all the days of each person’s life before they are even born. This truth serves as a reminder that a person’s ethnicity is determined by God. It is also a reminder that body structure, hair texture, and facial features are determined by God. This functions as a great equalizer. Segregation and racism would be eliminated if everyone accepted the fact that everyone has been “fashioned” according to God’s good pleasure.
African-American pulpits must return to the accurate interpretation and application of God’s Word. It is from the Bible that African-Americans learn they were created in the image and likeness of God. It is in the Bible that they find reason to applaud and appreciate their rich heritage and existence as black people.
Editor’s note: This is an adapted excerpt from Enduring Truth: Restoring Sound Theology and Relevance to African-American Preaching.
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