For Israel has forsaken me and turned this valley into a place of wickedness. The people burn incense to foreign gods—idols never before acknowledged by this generation, by their ancestors, or by the kings of Judah. And they have filled this place with the blood of innocent children. They have built pagan shrines to Baal, and there they burn their sons as sacrifices to Baal. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing! (Jeremiah 19:4-5)
Relate: Baal and Asherah are often paired in the Bible when the prophets are condemning idolatry. Baal was in many ways a catch-all phrase representing various local gods but in the writing of Jeremiah Baal very specifically refers to Hadad and his consort Asherah (or the Queen of heaven). Hadad and Asherah, among other things, are representations of the male and female aspects of fertility. So you can just imagine what sort of “religious” rites would go into their worship. You can also imagine why Ba’al worship was such a difficult sin for the Israelites to overcome. It is one they continuously stumbled into over and over and over again from the days of the Judges right up to the exile. How many people today, while they do love God and desire to follow Him, find themselves pulled back into worshiping “idols of fertility”?
Jeremiah did not mince words when it came to the coming consequence of their idol worship with its attendant child sacrifices: “I will reduce Jerusalem to ruins, making it a monument to their stupidity.”
React: It is important to keep the context in mind when we read verses like Jeremiah 19:5. It is so easy for our thoughts to glaze over it with barely more than a consideration about how barbaric the people of that time must have been. We in the modern world have evolved beyond tossing our children into the fire. We are far more civilized.
Yes, far more civilized. Now we stick a little vacuum up there and allow our children to be dismembered in a moment of horror and torture as we suck them right from our body. Yes, we are far more civilized. Now we catch them halfway through the process of being born and snip their little heads off. Yes, we are far more civilized. Now we don’t just allow those bodies to be burned to death. We sell them for parts.
If God were to delay a few hundred years more, I wonder how we will be judged. How will the people of the future look at how we look at the way we murder our children who are a byproduct of our worship at the “idols of fertility”? Will they comment on our murder of millions of preborn children in the name of convenience and say, “How barbaric.”
For the way we have murdered the byproduct of our idolatry, please forgive us. Even more, please hold us to account. You are a good God. You are a just God. While I pray for grace and forgiveness and restoration on those who now live with the pain and the shame of what they have done to their own children, I also pray for justice and judgment to come on the systems and governments that would allow such a barbaric genocide to take place. Do whatever it takes to break us free from this sin just as you swept Judah into exile. Above all, I pray that You would be proved right in what You do.