This sermon is part of the sermon series "R-Rated". See series.
We see in Romans 13 that the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: "Love your neighbor as yourself." The reason it says that the law is fulfilled in this one statement is because if we truly love God then that love for God will manifest itself in a love for others. We can say that the whole law is fulfilled in the word "Love your neighbor as yourself." Loving one another.
But the question remains: Is that all we're left with? Are we simply left with, the law is just fulfilled in love? Can we throw out the commandments of the Bible and just love one another? The problem with that is it sounds kind of postmodern, doesn't it, especially if you define love on your own terms. Based upon our culture we can define euthanizing because "it's the loving thing to do." Based upon our cultural understanding, we can say it is loving to abort an unborn child because that child would have a hard life. Based upon the way our culture views life, we can say so long as two people love one another what's wrong with that. If they truly love one another the law is now fulfilled in love. Yes, the law is fulfilled in love, but the Bible clearly reveals what love is, and ultimately the revelation of love is at the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is the love that is based upon the truth of who Jesus is for us. It is a love that is rooted in the holiness of God, God's desire to glorify his name and to reveal his glory over all the earth. So it is a love that is rooted in God's revelation of himself ultimately in Jesus Christ. It is not some un-definable kind of love.
A question some of you might be asking is, "How does this law now relate to us today, since we're no longer under the Old Covenant"? With that in mind, I want us to think through and try to understand how does this prohibition relate to us today? Look with me in Leviticus 18:21. It says, "You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD."
That's the prohibition. If I could summarize Leviticus 20:1-5 and bring in Leviticus 18:21, here's how I would summarize this statement: The sacrifice of our children to the gods of this world is an abomination punishable by death. This is the spirit of the Old Covenant law.
What was Molech worship?
It is now understood that Molech was an actual god. In 1 Kings 11:7 we see Molech referred to as "the abomination of the Ammonites." It's possible or likely probably that it was an Ammonite deity. There are different theories of where this kind of child sacrifice came from. Some believe it came from Phoenicia, but whatever the case, Scripture helps us to see that Molech was an abomination of the Ammonites. What actually took place was that parents would sacrifice their children to this god Molech. It is believed that the parents would actually kill their children, and then they would throw them into a fire pit. This is what is being referred to.
One of the things that we see throughout Scripture is that once Israel came into the land there was a burning platform or a fire pit that was created that the Bible refers to as Topheth. This platform or this fire pit known as Topheth was set up in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. If you know anything of biblical history, you'll know that the Valley of the Son of Hinnom is a place that Jesus referred to as Gehenna, which is where we get our English word "hell." When Jesus wanted to paint a picture of what hell was like he would refer to Gehenna, which is the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, the place where children were sacrificed to Molech. Later it became a dump and the fire was continually burning to consume the refuse that was dumped there. Molech was an abomination addressed throughout Israel's history.
1 Kings 11 helps us to see that Solomon was moved away from the Lord, he was turned away from the Lord because of his multiple wives and concubines. In fact, because these wives came from foreign places they wanted to continue worshiping their deities and sacrificing to their deities, so Solomon did set up places of worship so that his wives could continue sacrificing. 1 Kings 11 helps us to see that one of the high places that Solomon built for one of his foreign wives was a high place to the god Molech. What's startling is we see that Solomon facilitated the sacrifice of children to Molech.
Moving on into Israel's history to 2 Kings 23, there was a young boy at eight years of age who became king of Judah. His name was Josiah. 2 Kings 23 records that eighteen years into his reign the book of the law was discovered, and once it was read he tore his clothes. He loved the Lord his God and he was dedicated to God, so he began to establish a set of reform. He began to establish God's law in Judah once again. As you read in 2 Kings 23:10, it records that Josiah defiled Topheth. Topheth was the burning platform or the fire pit. Josiah "defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech." So Josiah tried to reestablish God's law in the kingdom of Judah to stop this child sacrifice along with all the other forms of idolatry.
Why was Molech worship bad?
Well, let me remind you what I'm trying to do: I'm trying to help you not conform to the secular way of thinking, because I suspect that many of us, in not just this area but many areas, have been sucked into thinking along the ways of the world. I want to walk you through how I would form an understanding and a biblical worldview about what we call the sanctity of human life. I want to take this particular topic and walk you through Scriptures to see how we would develop a Christian worldview in opposition to a worldview that is outside of Christ. So we must begin by asking: Why was Molech worship such an abomination?
It violated the first commandment. "You shall have no other gods before me." The first commandment forbade idolatry. We see this in Exodus 20. It's reiterated in Leviticus 19.
It also violated the sixth commandment which forbade murder. Murder was contrary to God's law, and we see that it violated this command. In fact, in Genesis 9:6 we see that when God reestablishes and makes a covenant with Noah, God tells Noah that if a man sheds blood—in other words, if someone kills someone—then by man shall his blood be shed. If someone kills someone, then that person has forfeited their life. Why? Because man is created in the image of God. So on the basis of the image of God it is wrong to take human life, because all human life bears God's image. Murderers forfeited their own lives. Idolaters were to be stoned to death. This is what we see in Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 17—that idolaters were to be stoned. We see how the violation of the first commandment, the punishment with death, the violation of the sixth commandment, capital punishment.
When we go back to Genesis, we see two things: we are created in the image and likeness of God, and that God commands the man and the woman to be fruitful and to multiply. God's intention in creation was to spread his own glory over the face of the earth as Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply and reproduce image bearers over the whole face of the earth. The intention of that command was that as Adam and Eve continued to reproduce and continued to multiply image bearers of God, the whole earth would be covered with image bearers of God who reflect his glory. But we know that Adam and Eve sinned. When they sinned, they introduced another offspring, another line—the children of the devil. From that point forward in Genesis we have these competing lines—the children of God and the children of the devil—in perpetual conflict. Nevertheless, it was God's intention for his people to produce godly offspring and for God to spread his glory through this godly offspring. Under the Old Covenant that was specifically tied to reproduction and genealogy. It's no longer the case under the New Covenant.
So the sacrificing of Israel's children to a foreign god violated God's intention to glorify himself by reproducing godly offspring over the face of the earth. So we can see how this abomination violated the first commandment and it violated the sixth commandment. It violated God's intention to spread his glory over all the earth through godly offspring.
Our sacrifice to Molech
Before we think our culture has advanced beyond this barbarism of Molech worship, we need to confess that we sacrifice our children to the gods of this world. We sacrifice our children, our unborn children, to the gods of this world, and we call it abortion or "the woman's right to choose." The Christian worldview, based on Genesis 9, says that mankind, humanity, is created in the image and likeness of God. In Genesis 9:6 we see that to take human life is contrary to God's revealed will, because human life is created in God's image. As we keep going through Scripture, we come to passages like Psalm 139, which remind us that even inside the mother's womb, David says, he was known intricately as God was forming his unseen substance. We see in the New Testament when Elizabeth was carrying John the Baptist and Mary came with Jesus in her womb, how John the Baptist leapt inside his mother's womb. As we go through the Scriptures we understand that life does not begin outside the womb but life begins inside the womb. As we also consider medical advancements and medical technology, we begin to see that when an egg is fertilized by a sperm that conceptus has individual human DNA, the DNA that that person will carry throughout its entire life.
What we begin to see is a human life. This is how I've come to the view that human life begins at conception. Because when the egg is fertilized by the sperm you have an individual. You have an individual who has all the genetic information that it will require for the entirety of its life, even before it is implanted upon the uterine wall. On that basis I have come to the conviction that human life begins at conception, not at some gestational period, not at something we call personhood, however we want to define that, not at some place we call sentience, because we don't know what a child feels inside the womb. When we depend upon the world to define that, we've seen since the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that the definitions keep getting earlier and earlier and earlier and earlier, because human life is sustainable.
So I conclude that life begins at conception and it bears God's image. Therefore to take life, to take human life is to sacrifice children to the gods of this world.
How is this happening? How often does this happen? If you consider what is occurring in the world today, not just in the United States but in the world today, approximately 42 million unborn children are sacrificed to the gods of this world per year in the world. Approximately 115,000 unborn children are sacrificed to the gods of this world per day in the entire world. What about in the United States? In the United States—some of these figures are dependent upon when the data is available and it comes from different sources—but the number of abortions per year in 2008 were estimated to be about 1.21 million unborn children—about 1.21 million unborn children. In 1973, Roe v Wade made abortion legal. Since then up to 2008 there were nearly 50 million legal abortions that occurred in the United States, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which is the research arm of Planned Parenthood, not a prolife organization.
Who's having abortions? Who is sacrificing their unborn children to the gods of this world? 52 percent of women obtaining abortions in the United States are younger than 25 years of age. Women age 20 to 24 obtain 32 percent of all abortions. Teenagers obtain 20 percent, and girls under 15 account for 1.2 percent. We talk about racism, but we don't really understand that one of the most despicable forms of racism is to get rid of a race even before it's born. While white women obtain 60 percent of all abortions, their abortion rate is well below that of minority women. Black women are more than three to five times as likely as white women to have an abortion. Hispanic women are roughly two times as likely.
What about religion? Surely people with a Christian conscience are not having abortions or even a religious conscience, people who fear God. Women identifying themselves as Protestant obtain 37.4 percent of all abortions in the United States. Surely the Catholics are much better because they fight for this clearly and openly. Catholic women account for 31.3 percent. Jewish women account for 1.3 percent, and women with no religious affiliation obtain 23 percent of all abortions. Eighteen percent of all abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as born again evangelicals. The reality is that we call ourselves Christians but we don't think like Christians.
Surely it's just poor women having abortions. Women with family incomes less than $15,000 obtain 28.7 percent of all abortions. Women with family incomes between $15,000 and $29,000 obtain 19.5 percent. You may be surprised to know that women with family incomes between $30,000 and $59,999.00, basically middle class women, are the highest in number with 38 percent of all abortions. Women with family incomes over $60,000 obtain 13.8 percent of all abortions. This is not a black or white thing or Hispanic thing. This is not a rich or poor thing. This is an abomination where we as a culture are sacrificing our children to the gods of this world.
You may ask, "Why do you say we're sacrificing our children to the gods of this world?" Because when you begin to ask why—Why are people having abortions—it begins to reveal the idolatry. What are some of the reasons women have abortions?
One percent of all abortions occur because of rape or incest, one percent.
Six percent of abortions occur because of potential health problems regarding either the mother or the child.
Nine-three percent of all abortions occur for social reasons. In other words, the child is unwanted or it is inconvenient to have a child at this time.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 75 percent give the reason that the baby would interfere with work, school, or other responsibilities. This exposes our idolatry, doesn't it? It exposes the fact that we willingly sacrifice our unborn children to the altar of education, to the altar of life goals, to the altar of financial goals, to the altar of career goals. This is what I mean by an abomination, the sacrificing of unborn children to the gods of this world. Seventy-five percent say they cannot afford a baby. Fifty percent say they don't want to be a single parent or are having trouble with their husband or their partner. What that means is some of them gave multiple reasons for having an abortion.
We need to think as Christians, and we need to ask questions. The danger for us is that we're following in the stream of secular thought and just embracing what people tell us without thinking Christianly.
Your children as idols
The question that I want us to consider is: What is our view of children? Is it possible that there may be some idolatries that are exposed in your life? Maybe the idolatry of career. Maybe you're sacrificing potential children at the altar of education, the altar of life goals, or the altar of finances. We need to ask ourselves serious questions, and we need to seek help and counselors who will help us walk through and think through these things.
We in the evangelical church sacrifice many unborn children in order to have some children. Some reproductive technologies function in such a way to destroy human life. If there are technologies for reproduction that cause an excess number of embryos to be discarded then that should raise questions for us, shouldn't it? We need to think through these things carefully, and we need to be careful that we may potentially be sacrificing unborn children simply for the sake of having children. Perhaps these pursuits might potentially reveal an idolatry of biological children. In other words, we might pursue biological children as a god in itself, as an end in itself.
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that you shouldn't seek medical help, medical attention, and medical aid. It's a wonderful thing to have children and to have biological children. I'm told it's a wonderful thing to be pregnant and to have a child. I've not experienced that myself. But the bottom line is this, we cannot sacrifice life to have life. We need to think carefully through these things and ask lots of questions. My concern is that we go into a lot of things, particularly in this area, without thinking as Christians and without thinking about the implications. We live to talk to one another, live as a church, and think through these things carefully.
Some of us sacrifice our born children to the gods of this world through neglect and through abuse. Some of us liked the idea of having children, but once they came into this world we hated it and we neglected our children or abused our children, and we're sacrificing our children to the god of self or maybe work. As we have children and we have been married to our job and we become workaholics, we're chasing a career and we completely neglect our family as we are sacrificing our children as they watch us sacrifice them for our own personal god. What was God's judgment against those who sacrificed their children to Molech?
Idolatry deserved death. Murder deserved death. Frankly, every sin deserved the death penalty. That's why the sacrificial system was instituted, so there was a substitute receiving the death penalty on behalf of the one who confesses her sin. It says, "The people of the land shall stone him with stones." God then says "I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name." So as they worshiped other gods they would make God's sanctuary unclean because that was the only place where they were supposed to worship God. They would profane God's name among the nations. So God would turn his face against them. Then he says this:
And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech.
So it wasn't simply an issue of don't sacrifice, if you saw someone and you turn your face away you're responsible and God says I will turn my face away from you. This is a serious abomination. We might say, "Well, thank goodness we're not under law anymore." The truth of the matter is God is still God and he is still holy, and he is the same. How serious was this an issue in Israel? Read Jeremiah 7:30-34. This is precisely what God had declared in Leviticus 20. He was going to turn his face against all those who closed their eyes to this abomination. By this time we saw that Solomon not only did not do anything about it but he actually facilitated Molech worship. Yes, Josiah tried to put an end to it, but it wasn't enough. It was too little too late, and there continued to be this form of idolatry. It continued on to the end of the Southern Kingdom. In Jeremiah 19:4-9 God tells Jeremiah to get a clay flask and to illustrate the prophecy.
(Read Jeremiah 19:4-9; Jeremiah 32:26-35)
So what we see is that in 587 BC or 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar came into Judah and demolished the Southern Kingdom—demolished Jerusalem—we see that one of the reasons was because they sacrificed their own children to the gods of their world, and it was an abomination punishable by death. God promised them that he would cut them off. In 587-586 BC he did at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
We are under the New Covenant. What is the fate of those under the New Covenant? Read about how the Bible ends. In Revelation 21:7-9 we see the consequences for those who go against the will of God. Idolaters and murderers are cut off by God and deserve the eternal death that is known as hell. The Bible ends like this in Revelation 22, Jesus declaring:
"Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they might have the right of the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
God is the same today, yesterday, and forever. Now this is pretty heavy stuff, isn't it? We cannot end here, because the Bible does not end here. The Bible does not end with condemnation but with good news. This good news is evidenced not merely in the New Testament but in the Old Testament. The Old Testament looked to a time of hope and a time of peace. Right after Jeremiah declares that this abomination will come to an end at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.
(Read Jeremiah 32:36-41)
Beloved, this is the good news of the New Covenant that is coming, and this is the good news of the gospel. I realize that my words have been strong, but they're only the words of Scripture. It's important for us to understand that we're not off the hook simply because we've never had an abortion. I'm not off the hook simply because I have never committed murder. We are all idolaters, and we're all murderers, and we have to come to terms with that reality.
Christ defeats idolatry
The good news is so wonderful. God the Father sacrificed his own Son so that we, who have sacrificed our sons and daughters to the gods of this world, may not be put to death but have everlasting life. Do you see the beauty and the glory of our God and the gift of his son Jesus Christ? God has made all things right by crushing his own Son, by placing his Son at the Cross, and by pouring forth his wrath upon his own Son that we, who understand that we're idolaters and murderers, that we who have sacrificed our sons and daughters to the gods of this world, whether by abortion or by whatever it might be, that we might know that there is genuine forgiveness of sin. Not just forgiveness of sin, but life, abundant life, that we can be cleansed and washed from all our perversions and all our abominations. So if you've been listening to the law of God weigh heavy on your heart I want you to sense the relief of the gospel as you see that the Father sacrificed his own son that you might be forgiven of your sin.
The Father called Jesus to be the faithful Son who obeys his every command. In Matthew 2:15 he says, "Out of Egypt I called my son." The context of that is Herod is killing the Jewish children. At Jesus' baptism the Father said, "This is my beloved Son. In him I am well pleased." In Matthew 4, Jesus, the faithful son, when confronted by Satan and taken to a high place, Satan says, "If you will bow down to me … " in other words, if you will worship me I'll give you everything that you see," and Jesus said, "You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only." Jesus was the faithful Israel who did not fall into idolatry.
In Matthew 17 when Jesus goes up to the mount and he is transfigured before his disciples the voice from heaven comes and says, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." In Matthew 26 we see that Jesus prayed three times to his heavenly Father, "Father, if there's any way, if there's any way that I don't have to drink the cup of your wrath, if there's any way that this can be done any other way, but not will be done but your will be done." What we see is that the Father's sacrifice of his Son was not divine child abuse, as some people say, but it was the son's willing self-sacrifice. The son obeyed the Father to the point of death willingly for us, who are murderers and idolaters. Jesus went up to the cross, and the people mocked him. They said, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." But at the end when Jesus' life expired and he committed his spirit to God, there was a centurion there along with some others that had to confess, "Truly, truly Jesus was the Son of God."
Do you see that this God who is holy and just is also a God who is merciful and forgiving? Here is the truth. The truth is that the sacrifice of our children to the gods of this world is an abomination punishable by death, but the good news of the gospel that God the Father sacrificed his own Son so that you and I who have sacrificed our sons and daughters to the gods of this world would not perish but have everlasting life.
I want you to see the truth and the beauty and the glory of Christ. I don't want you to remain in your condemnation. I don't want you to remain in your guilt. There are some of you who have had abortions and have never told anybody else. There are some of you who are sacrificing your children at the altar of work, career, and life goals. I want us to think rightly. I want us to repent, to confess our sins, and to renew our thinking. We need to confess our idolatries and turn away. Our hearts are idol factories. We worship the gods of this world. For some, children are an idol, and we have to flee that idolatry as well. Beloved, just because we may have a large family does not make us more spiritual. Just because we have no children does not make us less spiritual. It's not about how many children you have; it's about is your heart open to the gift of children.
What are your idols? What is in your life that you value more than God? If there's something in your life that were to be removed today and you couldn't live without it, if that something is not God, that is an idol in your life. We need to expose these idols and confess our false worship and repent and turn to Jesus, the one true God. We need to confess our sins against our children, and we need to repent. As Christians, we must be careful not to conform to this world's thinking that children are not a blessing, that children are an inconvenience to be avoided. We need to understand that we are called to see children as a gift from the Lord and a blessing, and we're to be open.
The issue is not the number of children we have but the heart attitude that we have toward children. We need to see children as a blessing and understand that God desires godly offspring and that godly offspring do not come merely through biology. Godly offspring can come into our homes through adoption. Godly offspring come into the kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So whether you're young or old, single or married, you can have godly offspring just as the apostle Paul called Timothy his child in the faith. God is fruitfully multiplying his glory over the face of the earth through the proclamation of the gospel as unbelieving people are coming to faith in Christ. Yes, having children is one way. Yes, adopting children is one way. But the way to spread the glory of God is through the proclamation of the gospel so that unbelieving people become sons and daughters of God. That's what we are called to do.
To the church I would say, God desires to spread his glory over all the earth through godly offspring. So as a church let us raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Let us rescue children to the end that they may know Christ and grow in grace. The rescuing of children may look different for different people. It may mean mission trips to certain parts of the world. It may mean international adoption. It may mean adoption through foster care. It may be serving homeless children here. There are a variety of ways that we can rescue children that they might know Christ and grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. But we need to think about how we see children as a blessing from the Lord and not merely an idol to be worshiped.
I understand that this is a heavy message, but the truth is heavy and the gospel is great. Isn't it? So as you consider these things, let me just say this. If you're angry because of the message, I would just ask you why you're angry. Are you angry because an idol has been exposed? I don't want you to leave angry. I don't want you to leave condemned. I don't want you to leave guilty. I want you to be free, and I want you to leave resting in Christ. I want you to understand that those who come to Christ may drink for free of the water of life and never thirst, and your sins can be forgiven. Your past can be cleansed, and your future guaranteed in Christ forever and ever and ever.
Juan Sanchez is the Preaching Pastor for High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.