At a museum in Salta, Argentina, you can see the body of a remarkably intact 15-year-old Inca girl who seems to be taking a snooze in a chair. She is in fact 500 years old and a victim of child sacrifice, a practice of the Inca Empire, which at one time ruled South America from present day Chile to Colombia.
The Incas worshiped a number of gods, especially a sun god named Inti, with whom they wanted to maintain good relations in order to assure a prosperous harvest. To that end, children were selected from throughout the land for a regimen of coca and alcohol preparing them for their big day. The arrival of the Spaniards in 1533 brought a halt to the macabre practice—and to the empire.
Many tend to romanticize ancient civilizations and excoriate the evil Europeans who destroyed them (never mind that the Incas pushed aside previous kingdoms). We laud the Inca achievements of creating 26,000 miles of road and the grand Machu Picchu retreat for the royal emperor. But God does not care so much about all that as He does about the 15-year-old Inca girl who spent her last six months under the care of a priestess before being slain. We know this about God from His Word because there were times when even Israel emulated the dark ways of her neighbors:
“Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind.”
We also know from God’s Word that the devil is “the ruler of this world,” and that he is the one behind these dark customs. It is from this perspective we must regard the annihilation of so-called great civilizations, including Israelites’ conquest of the Canaanite kingdoms they displaced, which had finally filled the measure of their sins. In the days of Abraham they were not yet as bad as they could be and so Israel had to wait in Egypt 400 years “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16).
And what about all those children—the maiden in Salta, Argentina; the children of ancient Canaan; and the children of Newtown, Conn.—who have died untimely deaths in the cosmic struggle through the ages between “the Lord of Lords” and “the ruler of this world”? We must entrust them to God. But whenever I do that, I do so remembering that He is the one who referred to them as “innocents” (Jeremiah 19:4). I believe that He will know what to do and that we need not fear.