Psalm 139:14 – I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (NIV)
I am a professor of biology at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada, and the truth in this verse shouts out to me almost daily. It is truly wonderful the way the human body has been made. I marvel at the growth of the fetus in the womb, the body's ability to cope with the rigours of everyday life, and the capacity of the nervous system to respond to the world around us. As today's verse says, I know full well that my Lord's works "are wonderful".
In the first week of November, there was a buzz among the students in my biology classes. Our locality had just been hit with the H1N1 flu (also known as swine flu). If my students did not have the flu, they knew of people who did. The government of Ontario was running newspaper ads to encourage high-risk persons to be immunized. The line-ups for inoculations were extending for blocks and lasting up to six hours. To add to the confusion, the drug companies could not keep up with the demand for vaccines. I have been inundated with questions. Should I get vaccinated? What is the difference between the vaccines for pregnant women and the rest of us? How does the vaccine work? If I have the regular flu shot, won't that immunize me against H1N1?
In most cases, the questions arise from fear — the fear that they or someone they love will have a higher chance of dying if they are not immunized. These are valid concerns, for there are many examples from the past of how disease has changed the course of history. My students of today have never had measles, mumps, or whooping cough, but most of us baby-boomers can recall many of these childhood diseases, as well as tuberculosis, polio, and tetanus.
Despite the occurrence of disease and epidemics that have taken the lives of untold millions, human beings continue to survive. According to the story of the Garden of Eden, this ability to survive was engineered into the original design of our physical bodies even before human beings would be faced with harmful disease-causing microbes. Whenever a new disease appeared, many people did succumb, but others developed immunity. This immunity is brought about by millions of disease-fighting white blood cells — macrophages — which can recognize a pathogen, destroy it, and call upon a host of other blood cells — lymphocytes — to produce the antimicrobial proteins — antibodies — which conquer the invading pests. Some of these blood cells — memory cells — lie in wait for just the moment when a microbe may once again appear. It can then elicit the army of microbe fighters to destroy that pathogen even before it can cause the disease.
I marvel at the foresight of the Engineer who prepared these bodies of ours to interact with the physical world and to deal with viruses, bacteria, and protozoan parasites — all of which, without these defences, would have made our species extinct. Yes, we are "fearfully and wonderfully made"!
Prayer: Our Lord and Saviour, thank You for making us who we are and what we are. Our bodies are truly marvellous, and we praise You for our wonderful design. Help us to use our bodies for Your service. May we be Your hands to help, Your feet to guide, and Your voice to bring comfort and joy to a world that suffers because it knows You not. In Your name, we pray. Amen.