Today's devotion from 2 Kings 3.
With the change in the monarchy, Moab rebelled. This situation led to Israel, Judah, and Edom gathering forces and marching against the Moabites. As they made their way, they found their environment was less than inviting. Getting desperate for water, they finally turn to God for direction. If this had happened in the days of Joshua, they would have (more than likely) began their mission by seeking God's leadership. However, the people have drifted so far from Him, that it never occurred to them until after they were in a difficult situation.
Initially, Elisha didn't want to offer help. Nevertheless, he relented and gave them a surprisingly promising word from the Lord. He would be with them. He would provide water and victory...to a point. Sure enough, the waters came and those very waters were the source that led to their defeat of the Moabites. Multiple times they crushed them, to the point that the king of Moab did something unthinkable.
In desperation, he took his eldest son onto a wall and offered him as a burnt offering. Now, here's where things get tricky. This last sentence is a bit confusing. Regardless of how we interpret this last sentence, I ask you to focus on the king of Moab. What motivated him to burn his son and heir apparent as a sacrifice? Was it selfish ambition and concern for his throne? Was it compassion for his suffering people? What drove this man to do such a thing?
Worse yet, what god would be satisfied by the killing of a man by torture? Regardless of motive, this king worshipped a god that he felt would only be appeased and on his side when he burned his son as a sacrifice. Can you imagine?
We serve a God who did not demand we sacrifice our sons, but Who offered His. This realization should be overwhelming every time we look on a nativity, or read the birth narrative, or remember the reason we celebrate Christmas.