Some believe, including many Christians, that the rise and fall of nations or cultures are completely random. Some that are not willing to go that far would take a view of an arbitrary sovereignty of sorts, i.e. there is a God watching over everything but there is no ethical cause and effect in history. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be immersed (literally) in the remnants of a culture that would tell a different story.
On a Saturday in which the first half of the day was spent on business, the second half of the day included a little bit of adventure. I thought initially this adventure was to consist of a ride into the jungle for a typical tourist excursion. I figured it may result in a look at some Mayan ruins, a few bug bites and a t-shirt I could buy proving that I had been there, done that. Little did I know it included a bit of a surprise adventure. Our journey took us to what we would refer to in the South as a “swimming hole”. As welcoming as a refreshing spring would seem on a hot day, the flavor of this particular dip was to be altogether different.
As our group was gathered around this freshwater spring, our tour guide began in a somewhat predictable manner as he described the temperature and origin of the spring as well as the importance of this particular body of water as the only source of freshwater for the Mayan community. The mundane facts faded into the background as our guide began describing the unexpected significance of this natural spring. In contrast to the sole source of life-giving fresh water, it was also a place of human sacrifice.
Our guide began unfolding the details of how this particular location was frequently used by the Mayans in an attempt to appease the gods during times of drought. He began to articulate that after a specified amount of days without rain a virgin would be selected, sacrificed and thrown into the spring. If the drought persisted for a week, another young virgin would be selected for the same ritual. We then learned that droughts in this area were commonly extensive and that this sinister ritual happened quite frequently and for lengthy periods of time. How ironic that this God-given source of life for this culture had been distorted into a preeminent place of death.
Suffice it to say, when I jumped into the water, the term refreshing was an out of place descriptor. As I looked up there was within twenty feet, hanging bats matted to the top of the cavern in addition to a few flying over our heads. This added twist, along with the thought of tens of thousands of previously sacrificed bodies in the water caused me to contemplate this extinct culture of death.
Who were these Mayans anyway? We have heard a lot in recent years about their calendar. But what were they all about? Their calendar was just one example of the highly advanced technological nature of their culture. Wikipedia provides a concise description of the culture:
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period (c. 2000 BC to AD 250), according to the Mesoamerican chronology, many Maya cities reached their highest state of development during the Classic period (c. AD 250 to 900), and continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish.1
What Wiki does not tell is the stark resemblance to all other post-Babel mystery religions. Below are a few characteristics that the Mayan culture holds in common with other post-Babel religions found in the cultures of the Assyrians, Egyptians, Carthaginians, Incas, Aztecs and Toltecs.2
- Highly advanced in the areas of mathematics and astronomy
- Priests that were also the educators, mathematicians and astronomers
- Use of ziggurats (babel buildings), pyramids and astronomical observatories that allowed them to chart the stars with precision
- Some retention of the Genesis account of origin, babel and the flood – although perverted
- Emphasis on blood and blood sacrifice
- Worship of animals and animal-human deities
The Mayan culture was a culture of death. They worshipped the serpent Kulkulcan. They loved him, feared him and raised their children to be fed to him. This was central to their entire culture. The following provides a picture about such sacrifice at the Temple of the Snake God in Chichen Itza:
Mayan religious ceremonies required fresh blood. Only the beating heart of a victim was sufficient to satisfy the gods. The priest held the victim down by the four chacs at the top of a pyramid or on a raised platform. Before the hundreds or thousands gathered, the nacon would take a stone knife and make an incision below the rib cage. Next, the still-beating heart of the victim was ripped out by hand. The lifeless body would be thrown to the ground and the heart was then burned or eaten in order to nourish the gods.3
This was a satanic culture of death. The question is, what happened to it? Were they taken over by the Spaniards like the Aztecs? They were not. They disappeared. Whereas some descendants remain, an empire comprised of millions of people vanished. How does this happen?
This takes us back to my swimming story. Some believe these pools of fresh water were tainted from dumping tens of thousands of sacrificed corpses into them such that the Mayans were poisoned over time by their only source of drinking water. No matter the exact cause, they have disappeared. More than this, God would have this come to us as no surprise. “…you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16 ESV)
Sin leads to death. It has ever since the fall of man. Perpetual child sacrifice and worship of false gods leads to the death of a culture. Do such cultures die off immediately? Of course not. Think about the Amorites who were also guilty of such atrocities. “And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Gen. 15:16 ESV) We reveal our present-orientation when we look at Godless cultures that are flourishing and do not see visible judgment or extinction. God is sovereign and brings about blessing and judgment in his timing. He does this in a special way with those who are in covenant with him.
But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.
The Lord will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me. (Deut. 28:15-20 ESV)
You say to yourself, “these verses apply only to Israel”. Really? So, those people groups who apply the bible to every area will not succeed? But, those who rebel against God will? The Word of God tells us differently. As a nation drifts from the Word of God, it becomes a culture of death.
Think of our own nation presently. Most would agree that this nation has drifted away from the doctrine and commitment of many of the early settlers. This is easily evidenced by our institutionalized child sacrifice. Oh no, we could never be like the Mayans. Rip the heart out of young children and kill them? Listen to Margaret Sanger’s statement made during the last century: “The most merciful thing that a family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”4 We now experience thousands of abortions every day in this country. In our present culture we are satisfying the same god as the Mayans. The cunning Serpent is the same whether in the Yucatan in the earlier centuries or in the cities of the modern day united states of America. Kulkulcan is just another name for the enemy of Christ, Satan, who would have us sacrifice children at his altar of convenience, self-absorption and complete apathy regarding his word.
God has not changed. Deuteronomy chapter 28 is still in force along with every other part of Scripture. This includes John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, ESV)
We would do good to learn the lessons provided by God’s providential history. We would do good to hear the voice of Scripture and understand the all of creation is in covenant with God. More than that, nations can swear allegiance and also make special covenant with Him. It is those nations who are more liable for their rebellion. The extinction of the Mayan culture instructs us on the “fate” of those cultures that would not follow the law of God. Let us learn from this instruction lest we find ourselves poisoned in our own depravity.
The Kingdom of God is also a culture built on blood sacrifice – the sacrifice of the perfect Son of God. It is this sacrifice that ensures the application of the Holy Spirit to those who would trust in His work. The Mayans did not have the power of the Spirit within them. Their culture died in history. The Kingdom of God will not.