Children in the Fire
To the west and south of the Old City of Jerusalem is a deep gash in the landscape. It is identified as the Hinnom Valley. Today it is a lush area lending itself to picnics, outdoor concerts, and public events. However, to ancients, it was known as the valley of the sons of Hinnom and later the Valley of Tophet. In the seventh century B.C. it became Gehenna, a designation synonymous with hell, the place of burning.
Most notorious in the history of Hinnom is the practice of child sacrifice—placing infants and children in the fire to appease the ancient pagan god Molech. Talmudic tradition asserts that the image of Molech bore a brass calf’s head adorned with a royal crown. He was represented as sitting on a brazen throne, arms extended to receive his youthful victims.
When, in the reign of King Josiah, the book of the Law was rediscovered in the Temple in Jerusalem, the young king initiated a program to purge the land from idolatrous worship. Among his sweeping reforms was the defiling of “Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech” (2 Ki. 23:10). The power of God’s Word in His covenant with the Jewish people was revolutionary:
And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant (2 Ki. 23:3).
King Josiah’s commitment to reject pagan practices revived a divine standard reflective not only of Judaism but also of Christianity, which came later, and all civilized societies on the face of the earth. The willful sacrifice of innocent children in the name of pagan gods remains a vile abomination that goes against everything true religion holds sacred.
In March a terrified 14-year-old Palestinian boy, Hasam Abdu, stood with his hands up at the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus. Quick-thinking Israeli paratroopers at the checkpoint discovered the lethal device strapped to his body. The child’s mission was to get as close as he could to Israeli soldiers and detonate his bomb. His reward: a hundred Israeli shekels—about twenty dollars—and seventy-two virgin brides when he arrived in Paradise to celebrate his martyrdom in the presence of Allah.
A few days earlier, another boy, only eleven years of age, was asked to carry a bag through the checkpoint and deliver it to a woman waiting on the other side. He was given no explanation about the bag’s contents. He, too, was discovered; and while the people who dispatched him frantically tried to detonate the device, Israeli sappers were able to defuse it and save the boy’s life. Abdullah Quran was promised five shekels (approximately one dollar).
These episodes are not random acts of spontaneous terror. They are part of a calculated, cold-blooded plan by ruthless Palestinian leaders who, to get what they want, are quite willing to send their children into the fires—all in the name of their god In a speech to the UN General Assembly in December 1988, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat brought greetings “from the children of the stones who are challenging occupation forces armed with warplanes, tanks and weapons—an unarmed Palestinian David facing a heavily armed Israeli Goliath.”
In a January 2002 interview on PA TV, Arafat was asked what message he would like to send to the Palestinian children. His reply was reported by the Palestinian Media Watch: “The child who is grasping the stone, facing the tank; is this not the greatest message to the world when that hero becomes a Shahid [dies for Allah]? We are proud of them.”
This is what the “children of the stones” is all about. Youngsters are being fed into the fires for consumption by the world media and a susceptible international community.
These acts are not laudable expressions of pent-up anger and frustration. They are an intolerable, figurative return to Hinnom and the furnace of Molech. Children sacrificed in the name of their god.
And who should be speaking out? If “moderate” Islam is more than merely a wish of the West, where are the voices of the majority of moderate Muslim clerics who claim love, peace, and compassion as hallmarks of their faith? Their compassion evidently does not extend to the world of the brainwashed children of the suicide belts and sack bombs.
God’s Word and the Sanctity of Children
A comparison of the Islamic extremist attitude with what the Bible says about God’s love for children and His mandate regarding how we must nurture them constitutes a litmus test of whether Judaism, Christianity, and Islam serve the same God. Clearly, they do not.
Lo, children are an heritage [gift] from the LORD; and the fruit of the womb is his reward (Ps. 127:3).
A gift from the Most High can never be accepted lightly. Nor can it be regarded as something to be used, abused, or cast aside based on individual whims or self-indulgent preferences.
Consider this statement in relation to the gift of salvation:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8–9).
The God-given gift referred to in Ephesians is no less than the creation of new life—spiritual life. Such life revolutionizes an individual and raises one to an entirely new lifestyle. We recognize it as the “new birth.” Each new birth is a spectacular creation effected by God through faith in Jesus Christ: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). This new creation is cherished and nurtured until it matures into a radiant manifestation of God’s singular ability to create. The same is true of children, “an heritage [gift] from the LORD.” We should not be surprised, therefore, to hear Jesus say,
Permit the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them (Mk. 10:14, 16).
Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. And whosoever shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea (Mt. 18:2–3, 5–6).
And in a mysteriously compelling statement, Jesus declared,
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father, who is in heaven (Mt. 18:10).
These passages emphasize the intimacy of God’s relationship with His crowning creation. From the instant of conception, a child is, in the eyes of the Lord, a treasure attended by angels, loved by the Savior, and committed to us through an unbreakable trust.
The Old Testament and Godly Instruction
The same pristinely lofty standard is conveyed in biblical Judaism. In a portion familiar to many of us, the Hebrew Scriptures give specific instructions on how to teach children biblical and spiritual truths.
In the immediate context of God’s instruction to love Him with the whole heart, soul, and might, we find these words:
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up (Dt. 6:6–7).
In addition to teaching the actual biblical text, the Israelites could clearly infer from Scripture that they were to communicate through the example of their lives.
The apostle Paul said as much in his appraisal of young Timothy:
I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day. When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother, Lois, and thy mother, Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also (2 Tim. 1:3, 5).
We do well to remember that the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother was unwavering belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was a pre-New Testament faith. Equally important is the fact that the apostle brought to this family the fulfillment of what had been promised and anticipated through the millennia—that is, faith in the Messiah, who finished the work.
Lois and Eunice had the same relationship with Jehovah as the “heroes” of the faith, mentioned in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. That faith never varied in its quality. What differed was how the individuals manifested the reality of such a faith. Yet, in whatever fleshly form that faith resided, it showed. Consequently, believers, regardless of station in life, gender, age, or color, embodied the faith articulated in the precepts of Scripture.
Ephesians 2:10 says it well:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Lois and Eunice lived their testimonies before young Timothy, not because they were trying to make a favorable impression, but because they were being who they were. Simply put, they did what they did because they were who they were—women of faith.
The Irrevocable Standard
If we understand what Scripture faithfully communicates to us, we can never, for any reason, sanction violating God’s trust regarding the responsibility He has given us for children. That any group, individual, or religion would justify using children as sacrificial pawns for its self-instituted brand of political hell is an unspeakable outrage. Yes, hell—the “New Gehenna” of prostrate, pagan infidels chanting to drown the screams of innocent children being consumed in the fiery hands of their Molech delusion.
Justification of, or indifference to, this monstrous atrocity is evidence of the biblical illiteracy strangling even our Western societies. And marching in lockstep with this terrible malignancy is the affliction of compassionless lives devoid of faith and lacking the capacity to care about the devastating consequences of turning their backs upon God, His Word, and His children.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of a coming day when
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them (Isa. 11:6).
A child shall lead them, indeed. But to green pastures, not into the New Gehenna.