One law in Leviticus stands out to me as I read about the trial of the abortion doctor in Philadelphia: “You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am Yahweh” (Lev 18:21). God did not give this law to the Israelites to stop them from continuing a sin they were already practicing. Rather, He gave it to them because His people were about to enter the land of Canaan and these things were practiced by the Canaanites. “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Lev 18:24-25). God did not want the Canaanite debauchery to take hold of His people.
The offering of children to Molech probably conjures the least vivid picture of all the things prohibited in Leviticus 18. In our culture, we are somewhat familiar with different forms of sexual depravity, but child sacrifice is not something that hits as close to home. Who is Molech anyway?
Molech was a god of the Ammonites who was worshiped through child sacrifice. Rabbinic sources give varied accounts of how this was done. Some suggest that the child was put inside a statue of Molech, which was then heated with fire from the outside so that the child burned to death. Others suggest that the child was placed in the arms of a statue so that the statue was holding the child over the fire. One common theme is that the priests would beat drums to drown out the sound of the children’s cries so that the parents would not be moved to save them.
However the worship was performed, the Bible does indicate that the children were burned (2Kings 23:10). It is hard to imagine the callousness required to perform such an atrocity. No doubt, the Israelites felt the same way when Yahweh forbade them to engage in such child sacrifice in Lev 18 and 20. But what does the OT storyline reveal? God’s people slowly succumbed to the influence of the Canaanites to the extent that they did more evil than all the nations God had destroyed from the land…including sacrificing their children to Molech (2Kings 21:9; Eze 5:6-7; 2Kings 23:10; Jer 32:35).
And what is the overarching point demonstrated in the OT regarding man’s ability to obey God’s law? Every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually (Gen 6:5). Not even God’s chosen people had the heart to obey Him (Josh 24:19; Deut 29:4). The only place for the depraved human heart to go from one degree of debauchery is to a greater degree of debauchery. There is no such thing as self-improvement. And thus, the OT prepared the world for the coming of a Savior who would take upon Himself the penalty for such debauchery AND transform the nature of man by removing his heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh (Eze 11:19-20; 36:25-27).
People are rightly appalled by the details coming out of the Philadelphia abortion trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. [WARNING: This link contains extremely graphic photos of “evidence” in the trial. Click at your own risk.] I won’t go into those details other than to say the depravity of the procedures alleged to have been performed in Dr. Gosnell’s clinic is reminiscent of the worship of Molech. And yet, there are many in our society who will fight to keep abortion in all its forms legal.
What should faithful believers do? Many of us would like to stage demonstrations outside of abortion clinics or lobby congress to enact laws to protect the unborn, the weakest and most vulnerable among us. I do believe that these things are legitimate expressions of the God-given directive to “do justice” (Micah 6:8). But if that is all we do, we will miss the gospel-trajectory of the Old and New Testaments and fail to address the real issue. The only thing that will turn worshipers of Molech into lovers of life and worshipers of Yahweh is a heart change that can only be affected by the good news of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Gosnell and other abortion doctors are nothing more than priests of a modern-day Molech, the god of self. For personal gain, they offer up sacrifices to convenience and self-interest so that parents may live as they please, unencumbered by the moral laws of God. But as they reject the law of God, they are running headlong into judgment, just like the Israelites ran headlong into exile. Yet, judgment awaiting them is far worse than life in a foreign land; it is eternity in a literal place of torment called hell (Matt 13:41-42, 25:41). They do not have hearts to obey God. The only hope for them is to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, that He lived a sinless life, was crucified for the sins of men, and was raised from the dead so that all those who repent and trust in Him might be saved from the wrath of God and walk in newness of life.
So if you are moved to organize or participate in peaceful demonstrations against abortion clinics, that’s great. Do that AND spread the gospel. If you desire to lobby congress to pass laws preventing further atrocities, praise the Lord. Do that AND spread the gospel. Abortion is but one expression of the depravity that God will certainly judge and from which only Christ is mighty to save. If you are appalled at this latest manifestation of pagan worship, stand against it and spread the gospel far and wide.
Posted by Greg Birdwell