Murdering children breaks God’s heart. When the children of Israel adopted the Canaanite practice of sacrificing their children as an act of worship God responded, “They have built the high places..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 7:31).
Anticipating their wickedness, child sacrifice was on the short list of ultimate abominations in Lev 18. If Israel killed their children they would defile the land and the land would vomit them out.
The Canaanites practice of child sacrifice so grieved God that when God brought them into their land he commanded his people to execute his judgment on the them and kill every man, woman and child. One generation of children would be lost. But no future generations would be subjected to such horrific torture and death. What else can be done to a people who believes their highest act of worship and self-interest is to burn their children in fiery sacrifice?
In some mysterious way child sacrifice gives tremendous power to fallen spirits. The practice does not just “honor” them. It strikes a bargain with them. I burn my child. You help me strategically in battle. Or in financial well-being. Or in some other aspect of my self-interest. This co-participation in great evil super-charges the wrath and power of the enemy, and it gets me what I want. The power is real. (See 2 Kings 3:26-27)
In his remarks on the Assad government’s Aug 21st use of Sarin nerve gas to kill 1400 civilians, one third of them children, John Kerry said, “What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality…the killing of..children [and others] by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”
From this perspective we can look at the slaughter in Syria and think, well of course the US should do something concrete and painful to communicate to Syrian President Assad, this will not stand. God is outraged by the killing of children for personal advantage. For a win in battle.
But an attack that punishes Assad for using chemical weapons may well lead to his downfall and victory for the rebel forces. What would it mean for Syria for the rebels to prevail? Sadly, when we look at the reality of all the jihadists that comprise the rebel forces in Syria, we see many Al Queda and those who kidnap and kill Christians.
Syria is home to some of the earliest Christian churches. Saul was converted to Paul in Damascus. The Assad regime has a history of protecting religious minorities. Recently Syrian Christian bishops have disappeared. Jihadist rebels have either kidnapped or killed them.
Over the weekend rebel forces took control of Maalula, an ancient Christian town with the two oldest surviving Christian monastaries in Syria, situated north of Damascus. The rebels have already burned one church on the west side of the town. How ironic that the Russian Foreign Ministry has called for the protection of the town and its churches while our government has remained silent.
The promise of the Arab Spring is devolving into chaos and the burning of churches and killing of Christians across the Arab world, most recently in Egypt. There over thirty churches and two book stores owned by the Bible Society of Egypt have been burned. Mobs calling for Egypt to become an "Islamist State" have set many of the fires.
If Assad falls and the jihadist factions of the rebels prevail we will see more Syrian churches burned and Christians killed. It has already begun. This too grieves the heart of God. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).
In National Review Online Andrew McCarthy asks, why is the rebels use of Al Queda every day worse than Assad’s occasional use of chemical weapons? I would add, is killing children worse than killing Christians? The options before our leaders are both terrible.
The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord and he turns it wherever he pleases (Prov 21:1). Let us pray that God will direct our leaders’ hearts to accomplish his good purposes. Let us pray for the families in Syria that have been decimated by the chemical weapons of their own government. And as Paul requested of the Thessalonians long ago, let us pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria: “And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men” (2 Thessalonians 3:2).