THEME: Wickedness Then and Now
This week’s lessons show the importance of repentance in view of the certainty of a coming judgment, which in God’s mercy is being delayed.
So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the LORD be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. “At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.” So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
Yesterday we concluded our study by mentioning some practices Israel was commanded to avoid. It’s worth commenting on a few of these practices. The first one given was that of sacrificing children to the fire. The Canaanites had a god whose name was Moloch. He was a particularly cruel god. There were statues made to him, generally out of bronze. This figure, where it’s been found, is always one that stands holding out both arms in front of him to receive a sacrifice. What the Canaanites did, apparently, was to heat that bronze statue until it was red hot, and then they would take their young children and infants, and place them in the red-hot arms of Moloch as a sacrifice.
Spiritism and the occult might seem rather remote to us, but they are not treated lightly by people who have lived in areas of the world where this is seriously practiced. It does take place in portions of America, and it’s going to become increasingly a problem for us in years ahead. But for those who have seen in it some way, it is very serious because the demonic is a terrible thing.
I once read an article on the occult, which was discussed by someone who clearly saw it as it is and was warning against it. It’s something that is impacting our culture today through some of its music. If you’re like I am, much of the words of the music that is popular today is incomprehensible. I can hardly understand what’s being said, but I understand that a great deal of it has to do with the occult, spiritism, and demons.
Some time ago I was talking with someone involved in campus ministry, and we were discussing what to expect on the campuses of the next generation. He was saying that things change so rapidly on the campuses, it’s really very difficult for an organization that works with students to keep abreast of it, let alone anticipate it. I said, “Well, what do you suspect is going to be coming in the next years?” He said, “That’s difficult to say. Of course, I’m no prophet, but it is interesting that recently a poll or survey was done in Canada, analyzing the beliefs, aspirations, and lifestyle of teenagers—those who in three or four years will be entering college. It was a nationwide poll, and they found a number of things about the teenagers. They found first of all that they had no heroes, which was a very significant thing. They found secondly that they had no desire to communicate with the older generation. There’s always been a communication gap, but at least there was communication. Now, they find the young don’t even want to talk to those who are older. They also found they had no agenda. This was a great contrast with the sixties, for example, when those in the counterculture certainly had an agenda. They wanted to remake the world. They wanted to do away with the things they considered wrong or tacky or sinful or immoral. Then finally, it was said of the teenagers that the only thing this particular age group wants is affluence, that is, material things and enough peace to enjoy it.”
I said at that point, “Well, is there any point of contact there for the gospel?” He said, “You know, interestingly enough, there is, and it comes in the area of the occult. One of the things this poll found is that many of the young people are influenced by the claims of the occult.” He went on to say, “What I think this means for our evangelism in a future generation is that we’re going to have to deal with it on the level of sheer power. In the past, we have tried to evangelize by reason. We’ve said the reasons for Christianity are better than the reasons for anything else. Or we have tried to deal with it on the level of personal experience. Try it; you’ll like it. You’ll see that God can solve your problems.” He went on to say, “I think in the future, we’re going to have to argue our God is stronger than your god, and that’s going to put us back into the first Christian century when that is the way the apostles operated with their carrying forth of the gospel.”
Who was Moloch? What was he like, and how was he worshipped?
What are some ways in which the occult is having an impact in our culture?
Why do you think people are interested in it?
Today, it is highly likely that our neighbors are far more diverse in their religious convictions, perhaps even having none at all. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel with them.