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. Leviticus 18:21
To me, there are few concepts more chilling in the Bible than the idolatry that led to child sacrifice. In passages like the one above from Leviticus, God continually warned the people of Israel to avoid the gods of their neighbors. Molech of the Ammonites was a god who continually demanded child sacrifice, and was particularly pernicious. God called Israel to instead continually reach out to Him, the God who loved them, and who had and would consistently meet their needs.
Whenever I read these passages, I wondered what could lead people in those days to sacrifice their children? Did they not love their kids? What was the promise the god in question offered that was so compelling that it required them to give that which was most precious to them? Were they just primitive and ignorant, so superstitious that they were completely deceived by their false beliefs? This kind of thing would never happen in this day and age, right?
It happens every day, to you, to me, to people just like us. And, ultimately, our idols also demand our children.
John Calvin said, “the human mind is…a perpetual forge of idols.” As God’s image-bearers, we are made to worship, or made worshipping. We will worship someone, or something. We cannot not worship. Our lives are like the Bluetooth feature on our phones, silently, constantly looking for a signal, except in this case it’s someone or something to worship. It doesn’t matter whether we claim to be religious or not, we worship. If the subject or object of our worship is not God, it is an idol, a god-substitute.
Whether we lived at the time of Molech worship or today, we are constantly creating idols, those things which are not God, Jehovah, Yahweh, but which are someone or something we rely upon to give our lives meaning, value, and worth. These things tell us we matter, and make us feel important, or loved, or powerful, or satisfied, or fulfilled. All idol worship is deeply rooted in our own pride and selfishness, our attempts to satisfy ourselves in ourselves, rather than in the God we were created to enjoy.
We don’t know these idols as Molech or Asharoth today, but we know them as alcohol, or pornography, or money, or our jobs, or digital technology, or sports teams, or 24-hour political news, or a hobby, or an unhealthy relationship with a person (codependency is a form of idolatry, with the person on whom we’ve become codependent as the object of our worship). They can be actual demons, but many times they’re ordinarily good things we’ve turned into gods, which is a bad thing. They can be anything or anyone who is not god, and we all worship them anytime God is not actively on the throne of our lives.
Idols are initially satisfying. They deliver on their promise. They give us what we crave, that feeling of power, of fulfillment, of enjoyment, of pleasure, of value, of worth. But, they never fully give it to us. They never leave us completely satisfied. They always leave us wanting more. And, to get the same feeling again always requires a little bit more from us– a little more commitment, a little more money, a little more time. The idol still delivers on the promise, but it soon begins to deliver less and less in exchange for a greater and greater investment. We find ourselves turning away from other, healthy relationships and practices in our lives because we press deeper and deeper into pursuing the idol’s promise, as it requires more and more of us. Eventually, we go so deep that it requires everything, even our children, if we have them–not necessarily literally, as in the day of Molech, but figuratively, and perhaps equally damaging. Because of the idol’s influence, we don’t invest necessary time with our kids, or we invest too much in them, indulging them and making them unhealthy, or we abuse them, or belittle them, or try to live through them, or ignore them altogether.
In the end, the idol demands everything, even our kids, and leaves us with nothing but devastated lives in return.
There’s only one who exists to be the source of your value and satisfaction and worth, only one who can completely fulfill you–the Lord God. He also requires from you everything, but in turn gives you everything: peace, and hope, and love, and contentment, and a future, once and for all, for all eternity. Rather than demanding you sacrifice your children, Christ demands you sacrifice the human selfishness that craves those other idols in the first place. He asks that you sacrifice that which will ultimately destroy you for the only thing that can ever give you life.