Memory Verse:     ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. ‘ (Romans 12:1)

Reading: ‘Ahaz son of Jotham began to rule over Judah in the seventeenth year of King Pekah’s reign in Israel. Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done. Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel, even sacrificing his own son in the fire. In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the pagan shrines and on the hills and under every green tree.’

Human Sacrifice – Abraham about to offer Isaac

1.  THE UNREPENTANT KING

King Ahaz is one of the few kings of Judah scripture described as an evil king, because of the deplorable practices of worship he introduced to Judah. ‘Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done’ (2 Kings 16:2). What were those things that did not please God, which Ahaz did.

  1. He departed from David’s Example
  2. He copied the evil worship practices of Israel
  3. He imitated the abominable idol worship of other nations

Ahaz’s last two actions, offended God the most. He even used his own children as human sacrifices offered to idol deities. ‘He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel’ (II Chronicles 28:3). The result of this rebelliousness, was God’s rejection of Ahaz and Judah. God allowed them to be defeated by the Assyrians, and Israel in succession. ‘Therefore the Lord his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria. They defeated him, and carried away a great multitude of them as captives, and brought them to Damascus. Then he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who defeated him with a great slaughter.’ (II Chronicles 28:5). The massacre of Judah was so atrocious we read in v6 that in a single battle, in one day, Pekah the king of Syria killed over 120 000 soldiers of Judah, and carried thousands more as prisoners of war. Despite all this wrath of God, Ahaz was unrepentant, and led Judah into even deeper moral decline upto the time of his death with dire consequences for the nation. ‘For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord ‘ (II Chronicles 28:19). Likewise, when we are convicted of our sins and refuse to repent, we provoke God’s wrath, judgment awaits us when we die. When people die in their sin, the Bible teaches that God condemns them to everlasting damnation – the second death. ‘…And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death‘ (Revelation 20:13-14).

INTRODUCTION

In his most recent novel – “Living with the gods”– Neil MacGregor writes about humanity’s age-old quest – to reach out to God. The book starts with wit a 40,000-year-old statuette of a man with a lion’s head, carved out of mammoth ivory and found in a German cave. The earliest known representation of something outside human experience, it bears traces of an organic substance, possibly blood, around the mouth. The author proposes that it was used in communal rituals. Another specimen of worship identified in the book is a stone knife, gorgeously ornamented, which an Aztec priest would use to cut open a human victim and, reaching up into the body cavity, tear out the heart, still beating, while an audience of thousands cheered and danced. One objective of this ceremony, MacGregor proposes, was to terrorize subject nations into submission, and prevent the carnage of all-out warfare. So, though it may seem brutal to us, human sacrifice, concludes the author, can carry “a deep ethical charge”. While most, including Christians, may feel that this is stretching religious toleration too far, and yet one of the most famous biblical encounters, is the story of God instructing Abraham, to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Wow! The difference is of course, that this was meant to be a test of Abraham’s loyalty only, as the rest of the story relates (Genesis22:1-18). ‘Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am”’ (Genesis 22:1). God never intended for human life, to be a sacrifice to him, all through the Bible. The first sacrifices mentioned in the Bible were brought before God by Cain and Abel. We read this account in Genesis: ‘And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat …’ (Genesis 4:3-4).

Two things, to note. Firstly, an offering is a sacrifice that is presented to God. And secondly, God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering and rejection of Cain’s, points to His preference of blood sacrifices, over the alternative. And this principle of a “
blood sacrifice carries through from OT to NT.

2.      ETHICAL ISSUES

Two contentions issues in our time today, warrant special attention and reflective thought, in view of our theme today, on human sacrifice. First of all, the Bible teaches that all human life is God’s work, sanctified by Him. The Psalmist writes: ‘I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well’ (Psalms 139:14). Secondly, murder or the taking of one human life by another, is expressly prohibited by God. “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus20:13). God gave clear instruction against homicide – the killing of a fellow human – to mankind through the moral law. Leviticus 24:21, lays the foundation for the law against the ending another person’s life: “thou shalt not kill”.
  1. Abortion
Abortion (aka induced miscarriage) is the termination of pregnancy by removal of the embryo or foetus, before it can exist outside the womb. The scale of abortion today is staggering! 56 million unborn babies lose their lives prematurely globally due to abortion. The Christian worldview is unequivocally that abortion constitutes murder.    Proponents for abortion argue mainly that at the time of gestation termination, the foetus does not constitute human life. And yet, God speaking through the Psalmist has this to say on the contrary: ‘For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb’ (Psalms 139:13). In v15, scripture discloses that God foreknew mankind, before conception in the womb, reiterated by the Prophet Jeremiah. ‘“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations”’ (Jeremiah 1:5).
2. Euthanasia
Euthanasia (assisted death) is the practice of intentionally ending human life, to alleviate protracted pain and suffering. Its proponents argue that it is paramount to afford humans a dignified death, should they choose to do so. The Christian worldview is that euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.

 

3. GOD’S HUMAN SACRIFICE

God being the creator of human life, also has the sole remit, to allow its termination. A process called death – whether physical or spiritual. Talking of physical death, the writer of Hebrews states: ‘And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27). God is therefore the only one who has absolute and sole authority to end human life, and also use human life as sacrifice. In fact the only human sacrifice God uses is, like Abraham, His very Son Jesus to atone for the sins of the world (John3:16). In the OT, the first encounter with human sacrifice, is God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son (Genesis22:1-18). Of course, this was a mere test, but it served as a precedent and a pointer to the New Covenant – the NT. God’s sacrifice of His son Jesus. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). God accomplished two things, with this test. Firstly, he tested the allegiance by faith of Abraham.(Hebrew11:17). Secondly, he also provided a clue – a foreshadow – that His own Son, would one day be sacrificed in order to save mankind from its own sin.
 
ATONEMENT
Atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death, to earn our salvation. Scripture points to two causes, that led to Christ’s coming to earth and dying for our sins: the love and justice of God. The love of God as the premise of the atonement is seed in the most familiar passage in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
 
But, the justice of God also required that God find a way that the penalty due to us for our sins would be paid (For He could not accept us into fellowship with Himself, unless the penalty was paid). Paul explains that this was why God sent Christ to be a “propitiation” (Romans 3:23). A propitiation is a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath so that God becomes “propitious” i.e. favourably disposed toward mankind. It was “to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (Romans3:25).
Here, Paul says that god had been forgiving sins in the OT but no penalty had been paid – a fact that would make people wonder whether God was indeed just and ask how he could forgive sins without a penalty. Yet when God sent Christ to
die and pay the penalty for our sins, “it was to prove at the present time that He Himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
Therefore, The Cross of Christ demonstrates that both the love and the justice of God were the ultimate cause of the atonement. Both the love and the justice of God were equally important because without the love of god, He would never have taken any steps to redeem the world. Yet without the justice of God, the specific requirement that Christ should earn our salvation by dying for our sins would not have been met.
 
THE BLOOD OF JESUS
Scriptures emphasis on the Blood of Christ also shows the clear connection between Christ’s death and the many sacrifices in the OT that involved the pouring out of the life blood of the sacrificial animal. These sacrifices all pointed forward to and prefigured the death of Christ.
 
SACRIFICE
To pay the penalty of death that we deserved because of our sins, Christ died as a sacrifice for us. “He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
 
REPENTANCE
This is our expected response, to God’s sacrifice. When we reject our sinful life, and accept the atoning offer of Christ as a gift unto righteousness and salvation. ‘For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death’ (II Corinthians 7:10).

CONCLUSION

We can apply these lessons to plead to God, for all leaders of our nations, and for all mankind to come to repentance, praying always (1Thes.5:17), for our rulers. ‘Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, ‘ (I Timothy 2:1-3).