“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) Those are the words of wise ol’ King Solomon.
I guess every generation wants to think their generation is special. Their generation is smarter. They’ll fix the world’s problems. Their clothes and style of rock n’ roll are better. We might call it “chronological chauvinism.” And yet, Solomon has a point; there’s nothing new…not really.
The same is true from a negative standpoint. We think, what country could kill 63 million babies over the last fifty years? What country would be so deviant in its sexuality that it encourages parents to take kids to drag shows or somehow pretend they can change their gender? What country’s artists would proudly worship Satan on live TV for the world to see?
Nothing new…the gods we see today have been around for a long time. They just have different names. Both Molech and Baal regularly received the sacrifice of children on their altars. Asherah – the fertility goddess – was the consort of Baal but also his mother (yikes). Her worshipers practiced “sympathetic magic” to appease her…and anything sexual was encouraged.
Once, as Jesus was walking with his disciples outside of Jerusalem he spoke to them about the reality of hell (Luke 12:5). The word translated “hell” in that passage is the word “Gehenna.”
Gehenna, or the Valley of Hinnom, was a valley just outside the walls of Jerusalem with a terrible history. It had been a place in the Old Testament where children were murdered and sacrificed to the pagan god, Molech. Later, in an effort to atone for past sins, King Josiah converted it into the city garbage dump and sewer. The sin of that place would never be forgotten. Fires burned there continuously, and acrid smoke and stench hung in the valley. It was a cursed place even as it cursed the senses.
So, as Jesus and his disciples stood next to that reeking cesspool, he used it as an illustration of hell. Hell is that place of cursing, outside the gates of heaven and outside of God’s presence, where the fire is never quenched. They could almost see and smell hell. Hell is a real place…and so is hell on earth.
Some days it feels like we live in the Valley of Hinnom. You can almost smell the stench, can’t you? Our hearts go out to those trapped there. They need rescue! They need a witness to God’s saving power.
I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite philosophers, Gandalf the Grey, as Frodo was feeling sorry for himself and the terrible task he bore. “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (Ephesians 5:16, NLT)