The day we flew away from Easter Island, I wrote the following journey entry:
“As the Easter Island Guide Book warned me: ‘You will leave Easter Island with more questions than answers.’ This is so true! Due to the small population & size of island, the history of the Rapa Nui has often been seen as a microcosm of all humanity. Today I read 2 Chronicles 33, and I noticed several similarities between the Rapa Nui people & the Israelites: their downfall & rebirth as a nation.
- Both the Israelites & Rapa Nui were one of the smallest nations in the world.
- Both nearly became extinct due to their idol worship.
- Both were rescued from their near demise.
Looking over the island, here are two reflections:
1. Thoughts on Idolatry
Most contribute the downfall of the Rapa Nui culture to their worship of the stone statutes (called Moai). One guide said it took 2 years and a crew of 20 people to carve only one of these huge stone statues (the biggest is 70 feet high and 270 tons!). And they have counted 887 Moai all around the island – that is a lot of man hours!
Since the Rapa Nui lived 1,000 years in isolation, and they believed that all other “islands” of the world had sunken, they thought they were the last survivors on earth. They also believed a divine king would one day return to the island to save them, but to gain his attention, they needed to make bigger and taller Moai. The problem was that the island’s resources could not support the construction of more Moai. They had to cut down more trees to make more Moai, but over time they deforested the entire island. And once the trees were gone, civilization fell into chaos. No wood for fires, fishing boats, farming, or housing. Civil war broke out among the tribes. All the Moai were toppled face down (that’s why most are not standing upright today). Soon after they resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.
Both history & Scripture teaches an important lesson about idolatry: it always leads to destruction. Paul says that behind every idolatrous practice is a demon (1 Cor. 10:20-21), and the end game of the demons is death (John 8:44). In short, idolatry is dangerous for a people’s existence. Where are the Canaanites today? Where are the northern tribes of Israel? We have “Jews” that trace their linage back to Judah, but the idol worshippers of northern Israel were sent into permeant exile. Where are the Mochians or the Chimus? If you come visit me in Trujillo, Peru, I can show your their temples in ruin.
There is a parallel between Manasseh’s son, Amon, and the children of the Rapa Nui. Amon brought out his daddy’s idols for worship; which led to his quick downfall (2 Chron. 33:21-25). It is no secret; the idols of Rapa Nui’s past are the main reason why tourists come to the island today. And tourism is the main industry of the Rapa Nui. So the BIG QUESTION for the Rapa Nui is: Will they bring out the Moai as idols and worship them like Amon worshipped his father’s idols? If so, God might just let capitalistic consumerism over take their little island. Can Easter Island support the exploitive power of international hotel chains, tons of tourists and major industry turning their island into a remote Disney Land? Although the very Moai were crafted to provide protection & prosperity from the outside forces (thus most of them face inland), will these stone statues once again be their demise? Or will the 5,700 remanent of Rapa Nui survive like the faithful Jews, and turned to God and worshipped Him alone? These are the questions the Rapa Nui youth face today.
2. Thoughts on Grace
I am moved by how God is so gracious. The Chronicler adds material that is not recorded in Book of Kings: Manasseh repents in exile. The Assyrians literally took him into exile with hooks; he was brought very low. Perhaps when the Rapa Nui dwindled from 10,000 to 111, a chief repented of his ways, was converted by hearing the gospel from a Christian missionary, God was greatly moved (as with Manasseh), and restored a people from a near destruction. I have no clue if this ever happened, but I would not be surprised something like this is true. How else did the three crosses get placed on one of the main hills that overlooks the village of Hanga Roa, the very place where they were exiled on their own island for about 70 years (from the annexing of Chile in 1888 to their release in 1966).
The main point is that God is more moved by repentance than by rebellion. Yes, God punishes the wicked, even Judean kings who burned their children on a flaming altar or people who eat each other; however He als restores anyone who repents of their ways and turns to Him for forgiveness. Destruction is for the rebellious, but relief is for those who repent. We know that Manasseh truly repented because he issued many reforms; and he was the worst of the kings, even worse than wicked Ahab! Yet God loves to forgive. He even brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem from exile and restored him as king. What amazing grace! Perhaps that is why we see the Rapa Nui resurge today.”