Dec 31, 2008

Copan Part II: Thinking about the Ruins

Ever since the day we toured the Mayan Ruins I have been thinking about their religious practices. Some of you may have seen the movie Apacalypto, depicting some of the Mayan ceremonies. Although there were no human sacrifices in Copan, the Mayans there did participate in many rituals involving animal sacrifices and human blood. 

Antonio, our tour guide, said something that I have not been able to shake. As he was explaining the religious ceremonies, he told us that the sacrificial practices of the Mayans escalated from animal sacrifice, to human bleeding rituals to full on human sacrifices in order to appease their gods. 

Now we know from the story of Abraham and Issac that the Lord abhors human sacrifice. We know that our blood can never cover the sin in our lives because we are not sin-less like Jesus. It took the blood of Jesus Christ, a perfect sacrifice, to bring us back into relationship with God. 

Looking at the early Mayan animal sacrifices, I began to wonder how close they were to the animal sacrifices in Leviticus. I noticed a few things. The Mayans were not sacrificing the animals as a cover for their sins...they were sacrificing the animals to their pagan gods of agriculture and rain. These sacrifices were ultimately out of selfish motives...good

We can see similar sacrifices in the Old Testament when the Israelites turned to idolatry and began making sacrifices to the Baals and other pagan gods of fertility and agriculture to hedge their bets for good crops. They didn't trust God to provide for them anymore, so they began to incorporate idolatry to make up the difference. They too, were acting selfishly...more crops...more money...more status and more earthly security.

The Mayans sacrificed the animals and then burned the blood, believing that the smoke would carry their blood to the heavens, therefore bringing them favor with the gods. It didn't seem to work, at least not well enough because they soon stopped sacrificing animals and started bleeding themselves and burning small amounts of their own blood. As this continued to fail, not producing enough crops or enough rain, they began offering self sacrifices. These sacrifices, although not carried out in Copan, were abundant in the Mayan culture. People offered themselves as sacrifices to the gods in order to provide food for their kings. Then the Mayans began attacking villages and sacrificing unwilling victims...but still to no avail. 

The selfishness and greed of the Mayan rulers eventually destroyed their dynasty. Their slash and burn agriculture techniques produced large amounts of crops in the beginning but eventually destroyed the soil so that nothing could be grown. Their escalating sacrifices took a toll on the Mayan people as well and they began to leave the imperial cities in search for freedom and food. 

My heart aches, when I look at the pictures of the ruins. I saw the altars and temples. I saw the statues and palaces. I saw the Necropolis - city of the dead. 

Today, I am so happy to know Jesus. I am so grateful for His redeeming blood. I praise God for sending His son to pay a price that I could never afford. I love Him because He first loved me. I know that I could never do anything to deserve His is a gift. So my heart breaks for the Mayans who thought they had to do more to find favor with God. I am grateful that the Lord has opened my eyes to this, and I pray that He will show me how to make a difference in the lives of His people. 


Kelly Pitts said...

Aww... I remember going to the Myan Ruins when I was there! I actually have pictures of when we went! :) That is awesome!

Heather Stewart said...

That's so cool...we were in the same place! I love it when that happens!