What’s Hope about?
This is the first in a series of extracts from Hope. The book begins by investigating the earliest development of simple religious system of how rituals were created in trying to swing the odds in the favour of the hunter, by trying to nudge the spirit of the prey. Once hunters gave way to farmers, a growing dependence on the supernatural world brought a whole new set of problems.
“…So what is a good harvest? A harvest is what the fields produce as a result of planting seeds months earlier. Life had suddenly got more complicated. Being rooted to the land meant being dependent on the land and now there were some serious contenders in the spirit realm to appease. The success of the harvest depended very much on the seasons and the weather patterns, and rituals had to be developed that ensured a smooth running in both the natural and the supernatural. Spirits were upgraded to gods and religious systems started getting a bit more complicated. “Holy men” would croak like frogs to encourage the rain gods, because of the observation that frogs tended to appear during rainstorms. Sex became a factor, even among these ‘gods’. People would copulate in their fields to encourage the gods to do the same and thus bring healthy crops. A system of sacrifices was developed, with living beings served up to gods in order to ensure a good harvest.
What may have started as a touch of hedge-betting had developed into an industry. Rather than the sure hope of a good harvest, they were driven by the fear of a bad one, pushing them into extreme measures to appease these gods who supposedly had total power over their lives. The saddest development was this sacrificial system, particularly when it involved human sacrifice. Even sadder was the fact that it wasn’t confined to one particularly bloodthirsty culture.
Ancient Hawaiians believed that the sacrifice of enemy captives was necessary to appease the god of war, something done with extreme savagery and often ending with the priest or chief eating the uncooked remains. The Chinese of the Shang dynasty would match sacrificial victims, including young men, children, babies and young girls, with the needs of the priests. Ancient Carthaginians would kill babies, thousands of them in all, to gain the favour of the gods, to ensure the continuance of the status quo. But some of the worst excesses were in the lands of the Middle East.
The Canaanites, the people who inhabited the land between Egypt and the lands of Mesopotamia, had a whole myriad of deities, a vast complex hierarchy, with accompanying mythologies and spheres of influence covering war, the sea, storms, love and fertility, crops, fire, marriage, crafts, dance, death, orchards, plague, the sky, justice, the rivers and the moon. They covered every aspect of the lives of the people that were held in bondage by these beliefs and the corresponding rituals.
It was no longer just the spirit connection of the hunter and his prey. Darker forces now held sway, involving magical practices, from reading the entrails of birds, to child sacrifice, temple prostitution and communing with the dead. Superstition had taken hold and become the master rather than the servant to the natural life. Hope had been squeezed dry and one’s life seemed to be totally at the whims of the ‘gods’ and their earthly representatives.
Moloch was a particularly nasty ‘god’. He was represented by a giant metal statue of a man with a bull’s head. Each structure had a hole in the abdomen and outstretched forearms serving as a ramp into the hole. A fire was lit and babies were placed in the arms, sliding to their death in the fire. When a couple sacrificed their firstborn, they believed that Moloch would ensure them financial prosperity and future children. How could human beings have dreamed up such an abomination? How could families have willingly sacrificed their babies to such a monstrosity, in the hope that favour would be granted? Where did all of this come from?
It came from one place. The same place that has given birth to a whole litany of shameful acts. It is the heart of man, when unfettered by the rule of law or civilisation or common decency. It is the human heart tapping into dark forces bypassing the conscience, the inbuilt part of us that knows the difference between right and wrong. It is a Mao Tse Tung who callously sentenced to death over four million of his own people in the guise of a personal initiative to industrialise China. It is a Joseph Stalin who purged those who opposed him and allowed millions to die in famines or fruitless battles against the Nazis. It is an Adolph Hitler and the Holocaust or a Pol Pot “cleansing” his own country. But it also includes those who willingly followed these dictators and carried out these crimes without conscience …”
Written by: Miriam Emenike
Hope, by Steve Maltz (the writer of the Yeshua Explored blog), is a small evangelistic book written specifically to speak into the mindset of the current post-modern generation in the West. With a loose structure and an engaging narrative, Hope meanders through the past and the present, offering a compelling glimpse of Jesus untainted by […]
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