I can still remember the small coffins, specially made. I recall the tiny plots in the cemetery. I remember looking at the tiny bodies, eyes closed forever this side of life. I recall the teddy bears or other favourite toys that were often put into the coffin with the deceased.
Sometimes I would cry my eyes out at the graveside. Embarrassingly, I often needed as much comfort, if not more, than the family of the dead child.
There is something particularly tragic about the death of children. Perhaps it is the thought of life potential snuffed out. Maybe it is their innocence. And if they were murdered, we are just horrified that there are those who would harm ones so weak and defenceless.
It would appear that the killing of harmless children is defined as most abhorrent in any dictionary of human tragedy.
Which is why there is universal outrage at the recent events in Beslan, Russia. Watching the events unfolding via BBC and CNN, many of us were far removed from the full horror of the hostage taking and subsequent deaths of about 400 people, of which half were school children.
We had no access to the smell of death and the endless wailing of the grieving. We didn’t have the privilege of seeing firsthand, the broken bodies of the dead, and the broken bodies of the survivors.
Even then I found myself unable to turn my eyes away from the screen, my mind and spirit numb, my emotions in shock.
Why, O Lord?
I received no answer to my query. But my mind went to two biblical accounts of infanticide.
The first was the killing of the Israelite male children in Egypt (Exodus 1:1-2:8) A power mad paranoid Pharaoh was afraid that the Israelites in his land might one day join his enemies against him. He had no evidence whatsoever that the Jews would do that, but evil tyrants are tyrannised by fears real and imagined.
He tried all sorts of evil to break the spirit of the Hebrews. When everything failed, he resorted to violence. He ordered his troops to throw every male Jew child into the Nile.
Then there was King Herod (Matthew 2:1-23). Here was another tyrant afraid of losing his power.When he heard the news of the coming of a promised Saviour, he didn’t rejoice. Rather he saw the threat to his power.
Not wanting to take any chances, Herod ordered every child two and below to be murdered. The wailing of the mothers then, echoed those who had lost their babies in the Nile, and resonates with the cries of all who have lost innocent children to evil. We hear the cries today from Beslan.
From the accounts in Exodus and Matthew we can draw some conclusions. When evil goes as far as to kill innocent children, it confirms their evilness. If anyone can stoop to deliberately killing children, there is no longer any doubt about the darkness of their hearts.
But Pharaoh and Herod also teach us another lesson. When they resorted to children killing, they also revealed that deep in their souls, they knew that whatever power they wielded was illegitimate. Killing children was their last desperate act to cling on to their illegitimate power.
It was as though that somehow they knew that their days were numbered. Their horrendous killings of children were death throes. Though seemingly acts of power, they were actually acts that signaled their doom. Soon would come Moses. Soon would come Jesus.
Revelation Chapter 12 tells of the warfare in the heavenlies. It tells of the failure of Satan?s attack against God and His angels. We are warned though that the death throes of Satan will be fearful.
“Woe to the earth and the sea, for the Devil has come down to you with great fury, because he knows he has a short time.” (v.12b HCSB)
What we are witnessing today in Beslan, and many other places, are the death throes of God’s enemy and ours. The Devil knows his time is short. He confirms his evilness with the ultimate horror, the killing of children. He is angry because he knows his time is almost over.
There is no way to dilute the sorrow of the Beslans of the world. We can only take courage in that they are also the birth pangs of the real new world order (Matthew 24:8), and that they serve to remind us that:
“…it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than we first believed. The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near…” (Romans 13:11b – 12a) It is indeed time to “discard the deeds of darkness and (to) put on the armour of light.” (Romans 13: 12b)
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan