Some years ago I cried like a baby and for a grown man it is humiliating, and some would say wimpish, to admit to such manly faults. Some months ago this annoying proclivity surfaced yet again and the flood gates were open. Just this week, as if on cue by some monstrous demon, I tried not to but lost the battle and tears flowed copiously and unrestrained as if they had a mind of their own. Why does the murder of innocent little children hit me so hard I ask myself? And why do the very thought of a little child being prevented from reaching adulthood grieves me so mightily.
For some perspective on this and to come to terms with my horror at such abomination I looked again at an Old Testament situation that is familiar to most people. The Psalmist was rejoicing and praised those who murdered the children of his enemies and his exact words are these. “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137: 9) To explain this is deep, enormously complex and touches on several areas of convoluted theology but it can be summarized quite simply. The Psalmist who wrote this was a slave of the Babylonians, a man who was taken captive by Emperor Nebuchadnezzar and he was forced to, along with fellow Jews, to entertain his cruel slave masters with Jewish songs. The hatred of this man, as well as the Jews generally, for their captors was understandable and their hatred for the Edomites (the other branch of Isaac's family) was intensely ferocious. Jerusalem was captured and its citizens carried away captive a few years earlier after a siege lasting several months. This Psalmist foresaw a day when he would exact revenge against his enemies for this was the attitude that was common in that day and revengeful atrocities were the norm and not the exception.
Some people read these scriptures and allude to God of the Old Testament as being cruel without having the slightest idea what they are talking about. This Psalmist was not speaking for God, was not teaching some divine lesson and was not interpreting God’s will even although some of the things he said came true. Hatred is the perfect breeding ground for monstrous evils, unconscionable acts of brutality and enables mankind to sink to the septic depths where he can commit crimes like the holocaust.
Yes it is true that elements of mankind can be cancerous and needs to be expunged from humanity but only God can determine and direct that; as he has done with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus Christ himself was a victim of the Edomites when King Herod, an Edomite, tried to murder him when he was a baby and forced his parents to flee to Egypt for his safety.
Our children are precious and innocent. Our enemies’ children are precious and innocent. Poor families’ children are precious and innocent and nobody has a right to mess with them. I say further you mess with children and God will mess with you. For God has assigned to every child a special angel whose task is to guard and facilitate its welfare and record pedantically all offences against it. Jesus warned against offending little children when he said, “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:1-2)
So why does the taking away of a young child’s life pain me so much?
Because I think of Jesus. What would our world be like if King Herod had succeeded in murdering Jesus? Remember it was Jesus that taught the world, Love your enemy, Pray for those who despitefully use you, If they hit you on one cheek turn the other, If your enemy hunger feed him and if he thirst give him drink and showed by his actions how this world can live in harmony with God and man.
Because I think of the next Martin Luther King or Einstein. Great leaders were once little children but they grew up and became giants. When a little child’s life is snuffed out his contribution to society is lost forever and just maybe the world is set back many years. Maybe one of those little ones, butchered by the despots of a forgotten era, was to be the harbinger of a cure for cancer and many other painful diseases.
Because I think of the parents. There is scarcely a parent on earth that would not die in place of their young child. Many a parent defied certain death, and man died, trying to save their child. No pain matches the pain of a parent for her child and no death moves God like the death of an innocent child.
There are two kinds of compound pain that touch every decent soul on this planet where the death of children is concerned. The nation that drops a mighty bomb or booby-trap a house knowing children will be killed; this is willful slaughter and by whatever name you call it this is murder of the innocent. The other kind of compound pain happened just recently when a bus carrying children on holiday crashed in Southern Switzerland and killed fifteen children and a few adults.
There is no joy when young children are killed but there is absolute certainty that they are with Jesus. Remember Jesus’ comforting words, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:14) Regardless of race, colour or creed God’s prevenient grace enables and ensures that all children deceased before the age of accountability resides eternally with him. This is the only good news and we as a modern civilization must do much more to suffer and not to kill our children.
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