Sodom: A matter of perspective?
- Genesis 19
Dear brother and sister in the Lord,
Perspective on something is important. One’s perspective is formed by many experiences and inputs.
Ask me about horse riding, and I remember the I tried it. I nearly fell off and the next day was torture. My perspective on horse riding is also shaped by races, outlandish fashion parades and lots of money wasted through betting.
Others have a completely different view on horse riding. Some actually love it!
When we look at Sodom, what do we see? For us who have known the story since Sunday school days, we look upon Sodom and Gomorrah as evil cities. But I bet something is creeping into our society today which make us look at those ancient cities differently.
The Bible provides us with four different perspectives: the inhabitants of Sodom, Lot, Abraham and God.
Luke describes the fall of Sodom in the same terms as he described the days of Noah:
“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. (Luke 17:28, NIV)
God said to Abraham, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin grievous” (Genesis 18:20, NIV)
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah were a law unto themselves. Every time the Scriptures expresses evil, it referred to Sodom. 2 Peter 2:7 says “the city was depraved in conduct of the lawless.” What stood out about the lawlessness of Sodom was its “sexual immorality and perversion.” (Jude 7). It seems as if these two things go hand in hand. A licentious lifestyle, where man has become its own benchmark for right or wrong, leads to sexual immorality and perversion. To those in Sodom all seemed right. It became a code to live by: they decided what the rules for their society would be. There was no concern for God or his law.
To knock a man’s door down to demand sexual pleasures of a visitor became a right.
Let’s divert a bit here. For those who in our day arguing that if Christians find homosexuality offensive for them, they should not expect of non-Christians to have the same conviction. But the point is Sodom and Gomorrah were not Christian cities, they were not included into the elect people of God in the first instance, but what they did was to, as the Bible itself states,
“… Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities… indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 7)
Paul writes about the same thing.
“Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26–27, NIV)
Australia prides itself for being a secular society. We have now freed ourselves from our Judeo-Christian heritage, and we have become our own benchmarks for what is right and wrong. We have the Sydney mardi gras, partly sponsored by taxpayers’ money, protected by the police, broadcasted by national TV stations, and promoted as a money-spinning tourist attraction. The official website invites visitors to …
a cavalcade of fabulousness that includes dancing boys, marching girls, the famous Dykes on Bikes, floats, music, glitter, leather and more spray tans than Beverly Hills. The aim of the parade, which begins with the raising of the rainbow flag, is to lift the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) communities. Underneath all the fun, frivolity and feathers lies a serious message: it’s a statement of pride, diversity and acceptance.
Members our of own parliament push for the introduction of same-sex marriages under the guise of marriage equality.
Ministers of the church are under pressure to perform same-sex marriages, and venues who refuse to have a reception for these people can lose their licences, or even receive penalties. Even baker shops in America refusing to bake wedding cakes with same-sex partners on it, are getting warnings and receive penalties.
Some evangelical churches have changed their views on homosexuality and have allowed gay ministers into their pulpits. And these actions are heralded as steps in the right direction.
Look at Sodom. What do you see? Look at the state of the moral decay in Australia. What do you see? Sodom saw nothing wrong – but what did not see coming was the condemnation of God. God is not mocked. Let’s wake up. Sodom served as a example. Listen! Jude says their punishment serves as “an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
We know the story of Lot. His fall did not happen at once. It started when he looked. He then moved to the plains of Sodom, then close to the city, then into the city, and finally he became part of them. His wife seemed lost the moment they got there, and his daughters were about to be married to men of the city.
When we find Lot as the gate of the city, it could imply that he became part of their judgement team, because that’s where the judges of the city gathered. Maybe he thought he could have an influence on the city. The remark in verse 9, “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them,” (Genesis 19:9) could mean that the city people had enough of him who tried to judge them. But the fact of the matter is that he was living in their midst.
Peter says of Lot that he was “a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless.” (2 Peter 2:7).
And I think Lot is typical of most Christians today.
Yes, we are distressed by the depravity and the sins around us; we cringe when the Name of our Lord is blasphemed through the media; we are hurt when people hurl insults against the church of our Lord; we are concerned about the future of Christianity and Bible classes in our schools; we mourn when Christians in other parts of the world are killed and slaughtered like animals – but, we have lost the impact of our testimony and witness to the world – just like Lot – because in may cases we have become too close to the world. In some way, what the world has on offer, we have come to love, even if it means that we do it in the privacy of our home, watching the same programs as the world, enjoying it and laughing as the same crude jokes of some so-called comedians.
We have become soft as we listen to the arguments of this world about God’s standards for marriage, bad language, detestable business practices, lies, and morality in general. Yes, when we find ourselves in private with our God, we confess and like Lot we are distressed, but rarely are Christians prepared to stand up publicly for the Name of Christ. Our witness have become weak and incredible, difficult to take seriously.
Lot called the brutal sinners of Sodom “friends” (or brothers in other translations). Let’s face it, there is a line in the sand when we deal with those who openly mock the living God of heaven; there is a time when being friendly, nice and kind becomes fanciful. The Lord calls us to be salt and light, a city on a mountain. It is our job to proclaim the message, without fear of condemnation or being and offence. If they hate us for doing so, then good – our Lord prepared us for it.
Are you perhaps a Lot, distressed by what you see and hear, but silent, weak and unproductive, or even having a witness which has lost its credibility because of the fact the secretly, or not even that secretly, you have come to love the world. Worldliness is the death nail in the coffin of the church.
Abraham walked with God and trusted God. God revealed to him his plans to destroy the city, but he did not argue with God. He trusted God, believed God, and just knew that God was just and full of grace. He was at one with the plan of God. For him the glory of God is what counted.
When he got the dry stoney hill country and Lot got the green valley of Sodom, he did not argue with God or accused God of being unfair.
But because he knew God’s grace and faithfulness, he looked at Sodom and saw the evil of the city. He did not try to make it look a bit more attractive. When God said the evil city became an outcry against heaven, he knew it was true. At that stage he did not try to excuse Lot and his family, or to condone the fact that they had become part of the promiscuity of the city. He knew sin in the eyes of God was sin. He knew God was just in condemning the city.
But he also understood that God is a God of his word. He knew he could go to God in prayer.
Humbly he prayed,
“Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:24–25)
He was right. God wouldn’t have done it, but there were no fifty righteous left in the city. Abraham kept praying, knowing that his nephew and family were about to experience God’s wrath. Finally, in all humility, he prayed,
“Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” (Genesis 18:32, NKJV)
He did not give up appealing on the grace and justice of God. If there were ten God would not destroy the city. Abraham then left it in God’s hands. God is good, just, righteous and holy.
What did Abraham see when he looked at Sodom? Two things: sin deserving punishment. He did not try to intercede for the city on any ground, other than the fact that it was deserving of God’s justice.
But Abraham also saw God, the just, the forgiving, the faithful, the One who answers prayers. And he trusted God. So, he prayed for Lot. And God answered his prayer. I find it amazing that God remained faithful to the prayer of Abraham, even when it seemed that Lot resisted God’s grace: the angels grabbed him and his family by the hand and urged them out of the city. Then in verse 22:
Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” (Genesis 19:22)
God’s mercy on Lot because of Abraham’s prayer. I think God will do the same if we start pleading for the world around us. Listen to this verse:
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
He is righteous, just, holy, punishing the sin of sinners. When God looked at Sodom He had all the right to be angry and show his judgement. But verse 18-19 gives us a glimpse in God’s way of looking at this world. He knew very well that, left to our own devices, nothing would ever save us. Yes, homosexuals and promiscuous people, but all of us would end up like Sodom – all of us are sinners and fall short of the glory of God.
But the promise to Abraham looked forward to the nations who would be blessed through him. Along his line God send his son, Jesus Christ; He took the punishment to save us from eternal destruction. By grace we receive grace, not a burned out city, but the same city Abraham was longing to see, the city not built with the hands of a man – God’s city.
Those who long to see this city believe in Christ. They repented of their sins, turned against this world, love Christ and do his work on earth till that day.
All those who do not love Christ, not only homosexuals and the promiscuous, who have not turned from their sins in repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus, can only look forward to a life after this in eternal destruction. God is just and righteous – no-one who tramples the blood of his son underfoot will see heaven, but will be thrown in the lake of fire, prepared for the devil and those who worship him. There is no other way to describe it.
Hide under the judgement of the cross of Christ and receive life; walk away from it, and God’s judgement rest upon you. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 7th November 2014