Recently, we learned that Planned Parenthood is profiting from the sale of body parts harvested from babies who they abort.
That report, I have to admit, absolutely shocked me. I just couldn’t believe that the country that I pledge allegiance to would allow such barbaric behavior. I couldn’t believe that the nation I love would send hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to an organization that willfully committed such heartless atrocities.
But, I am just as shocked (almost) at the ‘ho-hum’ attitude the press and general populace is giving it. In a few days, it will probably blow over, we will forget about it and something else will claim our interest … while the harvesting continues.
Well, friend, there is One who doesn’t have a ‘ho-hum’ attitude about the slaughter of innocent children. In fact, we get to see exactly how God feels about it as we read some sections of Scripture that many rarely (if ever) read..
What’s in a name?
Have you ever heard of the name “Gehenna?” It’s one of the names that Jesus used to describe Hell. Let me share with you some facts that I think you will find interesting about that name. In doing so, we will see that our God will not remain indifferent to the slaughter of innocents in our land.
The name, Gehenna, is a name that was used solely by Jesus (see Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; etc.), except for its appearance in James 3:6. As Jesus used this word to speak of the final destination of those who would be eternally punished, He was conjuring up all sorts of images in the minds of His first century hearers that we just can’t possibly understand – unless we do a little digging into some history of the valley to the south of Jerusalem.
The name Gehenna literally means “valley of Hinnom” and was a valley that was on the western and southern border of Jerusalem. But it wasn’t simply the location that people were thinking about when Jesus used it. It was what happened in that valley hundreds of years earlier. It was about what the valley had become.
The story behind the name
In 2 Chronicles 28, we are told about a king of Judah named Ahaz. He was king over the southern tribes of Israel which had a decent track record of good kings. But what king Ahaz did in the valley of Hinnom made it clear that he wasn’t a good king … he was unspeakably wicked. The religious practices he performed and thus encouraged was unimaginably sickening and would make the label “evil” appropriate when talking about him. Let’s read 2 Chronicles 28:1-3:
“Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done, but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. He even made metal images for the Baals, and he made offerings in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and burned his sons as an offering, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.”
Did you get that last part? He burned his children in the fire in the Valley of Hinnom! This text speaks of a horribly barbaric practice.
Ahaz took his own children, probably already bound, out of the capital city of Jerusalem and down into the valley. In the valley, there may have been a statue of Molech. Most certainly, there was a large fire blazing. However they did it, the child would end up in the fire. It doesn’t take much imagination to hear the screams of the helpless children as they experienced unspeakable pain as their life was being robbed from them. It wouldn’t take long until the putrid aroma of burning flesh filled the valley. Nothing short of demonic influence can explain such parental behavior.
Second Chronicles 28:3 further tells us that Ahaz wasn’t the first to initiate such a practice. The nations that had inhabited the land before the Israelites miraculously crossed the Jordan River and claimed the land as their own had done the same thing. In fact, demonic practices such as this were God’s very reason for commanding the Jews to wipe out the people in the Promised Land. Only God knows how many hundreds if not thousands of children were sacrificed by their parents in the valley of Hinnom.
God was appalled at their actions
Some years later, a prophet named Jeremiah spoke for God. He pronounced judgment on the Israelites because they had continued to sin against God by sacrificing their children in Gehenna. Listen to what this prophet of God had to say:
“For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the LORD. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.” (Jeremiah 7:30-31)
Did you get that? The people of Israel had built a special place of worship in the Valley of Hinnom … for the purpose of burning their sons and daughters! What could those that built the structure have been thinking as they were building it? What may the children have thought who were watching from a distance as the high places were erected? As the sacrifices began and children saw their friends bound, taken out, and burned in the fire as they screamed in pain, what were they thinking?
The Valley of Hinnom was a place nightmares are made of. Children playing in the streets of Jerusalem would suddenly stop what they were doing and shudder as they heard yet another scream from the valley. Children would run to their parents for comfort yet all the while wondering if one day, their own parents would take them into the valley. Gehenna was a place that haunted the minds of so many children and adults in Jerusalem. Yet the slaughters continued.
A righteous God was going to pour out His judgment on them
But Jeremiah told the people that God wasn’t indifferent to their sin. Because of this horrible religious practice, they would be horribly punished – and the valley would continue to be a place of death. God’s judgment was coming!
“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere. And the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the beasts of the earth, and none will frighten them away. And I will silence in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, for the land shall become a waste.” (Jeremiah 7:32-34)
Jeremiah prophesied of the coming Babylonian invasion (how God’s judgment would be administered) and the slaughter that would take place in Jerusalem. He said that so many Jews would die in the invasion that new cemeteries would have to be started. Specifically, Gehenna would become a cemetery.
But the extent of the slaughter is hinted at as he mentions that some of the corpses would become food for the birds and wild animals. So many men, women and children would die that there wouldn’t be enough people to dig the graves. Many of the bodies would just be thrown down the slope into Gehenna and their bones would be picked dry by dogs and vultures. The sights and stench in the valley most certainly would have become embedded in the minds of anyone who ventured too close to it.
And what was the obvious result because of being in such close proximity to Gehenna? There would be no sound of joy and gladness in Jerusalem. No one is happy. There is no occasion no matter how special that could lift the spirits of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Each of the inhabitants would be filled with depression and hopelessness. They had been the recipients of God’s judgment through the Babylonian invasion and they were now surrounded by death and land that had become a desolate waste. This is Gehenna … the place where they had sacrificed their children.
God’s harsh judgment would be a testimony to the following generations
Hundreds of years later, Jerusalem was a much different place. As Jesus walked the city’s streets, the Romans were now in control and an enormous building project had engulfed the whole temple complex. The Jews had settled back into a reasonably normal life in a city that had been revamped. Everything was looking better … except the valley to the west and south of the city. The valley of Hinnom. The memories were still there. Stories were passed down through the generations. Children playing in the area might uncover a human bone periodically making it clear that the stories their parents had told were true.
Gehenna, in Jesus’ day, had become the city dump. It wasn’t worth salvaging. There were too many memories there. So the city’s residents threw their trash and refuse into it. It is even said that the bodies of criminals were thrown into Gehenna where fires would be lit to burn off all that rested in the valley.
When Jesus used the word Gehenna to talk about the place of eternal punishment, he was being very picturesque. This word painted horrifying pictures in people’s minds. Gehenna was a place of death. It was a place of stench. It was a place where affection for others was nowhere to be found. It was a place where cries of anguish were heard. It was a place where pleas for help by the helpless were ignored. It was a place of fire and unimaginable pain. And it was a place of nightmares. All of this and more is what Jesus wanted His listeners to associate with their notions of hell.
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell (Gehenna). Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4-5)
America’s abortion industry is our version of Ahaz’s Gehenna
So, that’s much of the story behind why Jesus used the word “Gehenna” to describe Hell. And it is directly tied to the slaughter of helpless children.
Don’t think for a moment that the more than 58,000 million abortions that have taken place in America has gone unnoticed by God. It’s not IF He will bring judgment upon our nation for such a sin that our nation refuses to repent of. It’s when.