[May 06]—The Sin of Gaza

Amos 1:6-8

            Next the Holy Spirit caused his servant to turn his prophetic eye towards Gaza. You’re probably familiar with the Philistines from the book of Judges (that’s who many of the Judges, like Samson, fought), and Gaza was one of their main commercial centers. Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ekron were the other three main cities of Philistia.
            Apparently some men made a business out of raiding villages in southern Judah and selling their captives to neighboring Edom. For this sin, the “one that broke the camel’s back,” the Lord was going to do to them what he did to Damascus: He would set fire to their walls and their fortresses, the military resources in which they placed their trust. He'd destroy their king, the national symbol of their might.
            We’ve discussed slavery before, so I won’t go too much into the moral issues that are involved. Let’s just go over a few of the basics: The Lord hates slavery, not least because it degrades the image we all bear. To treat someone who bears the image of God Almighty like an animal or a thing is to completely disregard this truth. His ultimate plan has never been for anyone to be held as slaves and thus be treated as animals or things.
            True, once again we have to face the world as it was and is, not as we’d like it to be. Slavery has always been a sad reality of human existence. However, most people in slavery back then were captured as prisoners of war. It’s certainly far less than God’s ideal for humanity, but if a nation went to war against a nation, what was it supposed to do with the survivors? Much of the time the choice was to let them go (and see them come back in the next battle), keep them as slaves of some sort, or kill them.
            But as bad as keeping slaves as prisoners of war was, this was far far worse. These were slave raiders. They invaded villages and kidnapped people to be sold into slavery, which actually is a lot closer to American slavery than most of what you read about in the Old Testament.
            What about today? Slavery is outlawed worldwide, thanks mostly to the Bible (the rallying text of abolitionists for more than 200 years). Those countries which do practice it in secret certainly don’t advertise that fact to the world. All of humanity finally realizes—at least in theory—how wrong it is to buy, sell, and own people like animals or things.
            But have we really learned this lesson? Have we really understood the impact of this radical statement: “Every single person is created in God’s image and bears his mark, and thus is to be treated with dignity and respect according to that truth.”?
            What about a multi-billion dollar industry of pornography which sees women and men as things to be bought and sold? What about legalized prostitution which sees nothing wrong with selling a girl’s body? Trust me, the vast majority of women and young girls who are prostitutes are not in this sick industry willingly.
            Christians might legitimately disagree about the role of government regarding personal behavior. But even if we disagree on the legality of things like prostitution and pornography, can we at least agree on the degrading nature of it, that it treats precious creatures who bear his image as things, something to be bought, sold, used, and discarded?
            Truth is painful, sometimes, isn’t it?

Father God, I can’t claim total innocence in this matter. I try, I really try to keep my thoughts pure before you. May my thoughts and my eyes bring honor, glory, and pleasure to you. 

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