This is a continuation of my series of posts about the Bible and the objections that most of us have heard or said in defense of our not reading it. Today’s post can be filed under the “It just doesn’t apply to me” category.
The Bible can be very dark when it describes the detestable practices of some people during the Old Testament era. One of these dark things is the sacrificing of children to gods. Some people of that day found themselves in a desperate situation like famine, war or disease, and thought that their only way forward was to offer the gods a trade – one of their children to bring an outcome they thought was better for the rest of their family. A mention of this is contained in Ezekiel 16.
20 “‘And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? 21 You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols.
– Ezekiel 16:20-21
The Book of Jeremiah has an even more distressing depiction of how pervasive the practice was – There was an entire valley that was built, by the people of Judah, for the very purpose of killing children!
30 “‘The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. 31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind.
– Jeremiah 7:30-32
People today are, rightly so, turned off when they read these passages. They say, “Why do I even need to read about this? and, “It’s just not applicable to us today!” I’ve heard this. I’ve thought this! It is a major reason that even strong Christians don’t spend a bunch of time in certain books or even in the Old Testament as a whole. These horrendous passages about child sacrifice, and other barbarism such as the punishments for such crimes (Leviticus 18:21) are pointed out ad nauseam and turn Christians off.
The problem is, when we skip these parts, we miss really important things that God wants us to consider and understand. We miss context and an understanding about the dire nature of the situation that ultimately Jesus had to die for. I can hear the objection to these points already – “But what can I learn from passages about child sacrifice? I would NEVER sacrifice my own child!”
I get it, and many of the good people of that day would have said the same thing. They had been slaves in Eqypt and had been brought out of that slavery by the Lord’s hand-picked savior, Moses. They had felt, seen and tasted the fruits of their belief in the Lord’s promise to Moses even through the plagues, passover, parting of the Red Sea and manna from heaven. After that, it was the 10 commandments, the promised land and Jericho. On and on, through generations, the Lord had been faithful to His people and His people had worshipped Him.
But, over time, they just kept moving away from God. One little sin of commission or omission at a time until one day they had adopted an entire lifestyle of despicable, disgusting sin that featured some people killing their own children as a sacrifice to or worship of other gods! The people of that day knew the One True God, yet chose to follow the gods of those in the world around them.
God wants us to understand what a sin filled life will bring. He wants us to understand the gravity of His warnings. Proverbs 5 is just one of those warnings. Below is an excerpt, but all of Chapter 5 is worth reading and taking to heart.
1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, 2 that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. 3 For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.
– Proverbs 5:1-5
Several questions strike me in making the parallels to our current day and my own life.
Are we maybe somedays letting the world win because we are just too tired to fight it? Do our small indiscretions lead to outright abuse, addiction, lies, cheating and divorce? Do we not prostitute ourselves for money, fame and power like in Ezekiel? Have we not set up idols of our own – food, work, spouses, sports teams, politicians and media like in Jeremiah? Are we not also prostituting ourselves and sacrificing our kids to the idols we serve?
OK, I’m sorry. That is a little strong, but it does hit home for me a little too much. I am not going to indict myself, and, most of you should not indict yourselves either. But… Read the Bible, especially the Old Testament, and come to know what our Lord wants us to be on the lookout for.