Genesis 18:20-23, “And the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.’ Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. And Abraham came near and said, ‘Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?’”
While the two angels leave Abraham and head “towards Sodom” it’s clear Ab and the Lord were going to have a chat. It’s interesting the text tells us Abraham initially “stood before the Lord” before he “came near.” I love the fact God made Himself so approachable! Never forget fallen man is only given an audience with the Most High - he never warrants it!
What’s also interesting is that while the Lord has only told Abraham He’s going to see what was going on in Sodom, Abraham insightfully presumes divine judgment would result. Ab knew what these cities were like. I’m sure the same “outcry” had reached his ears as well.
And yet, notice the question Abraham asks the Lord, “Would You destroy the righteous with the wicked?” As we read on, it’s important you keep in mind, this was the very question God wanted Ab to ask so that He might reveal Himself to Abraham in a profound way.
Genesis 18:24-26, “‘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?’ So the Lord said, ‘If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.’”
Abraham’s notion that the Lord would not judge the righteous with the wicked was based upon his understanding of the person of God through the previous precedents established by God revealed through His Word. Ab was fully aware that while God had previously judged the world with a global flood, He spared Noah because he was found to be righteous.
In Abraham’s mind, logic only followed, that if there were enough righteous men and women in Sodom (thinking of Lot and his family) it would tip the scales and spare the city of judgment. The question was how many righteous would be necessary to tip the scales?
Genesis 18:27-33, “Then Abraham answered and said, ‘Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?’ So God said, ‘If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.’ And Abraham spoke to Him yet again and said, ‘Suppose there should be forty found there?’ So He said, ‘I will not do it for the sake of forty.’ Then he said, ‘Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?’ So He said, ‘I will not do it if I find thirty there.’
And he said, ‘Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, ‘I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.’ Then he said, ‘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.’ So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.”
If I’d been God I’m not sure I would have tolerated having such a negotiation with a man who’d failed more than he succeeded. I mean seriously it took an incredible amount of gaul for Abraham to have such a dialogue with the God of the universe! What gave him the right or the standing to have such a conversation with the Lord? How ironic that following their conversation we read “Abraham returned to his place.” I bet he did!
Aside from this, you have to consider why God would indulge Abraham when He obviously knew there weren’t ten righteous in Sodom? I see a few important reasons:
First, God wanted Abraham to realize the judgment of Sodom was warranted… Again, this was the whole purpose of the conversation. As Abraham negotiates I can imagine it became evident to him that God’s judgment of Sodom was necessary. Not only had the “outcry against them been great,” but in the end Abraham knew, as God did, that there weren’t even ten righteous! They had been given ample time to repent and they hadn’t.
I also think God indulged Abraham because He didn’t want to discourage his heart for his fellow man… Abraham interceding for Sodom was the right attitude for him to have. There had been a day when he had been a pagan gentile living a worldly life just like those in Sodom. It’s what originally motivated him to arm up and save them. Abraham rightly understood the only thing that separate he and the Sodomite was God’s amazing grace.
Because Abraham understood, that apart from God’s grace, he was no different than they, interceding on their behalf was the only logical approach he could take! How sad it is when Christians call for God’s judgment upon the wicked - when the reality is that without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross our ultimate destiny would be no different than theirs.
Finally, I think it’s clear God simply enjoyed conversing with Abraham… I love this phrase that when “He had finished speaking” the Lord went His way. In the Hebrew this word “speaking” is “dabar” which implies God was “communing” with Abraham. This was more than a dialogue. This was God spending time with Abraham. They were hanging out.
Now in order to set the stage for what’s about to happen, I want to reiterate the two reasons the Lord was going to visit and would ultimately destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah:
First… We read “the outcry against them was great!” This word “outcry” implies a “cry of distress…” meaning it was the cries of those who’d been abused, taken advantage of, and victimized by this sinful, wicked culture… It was their anguish that had reached the throne of God and necessitated He act on their behalf sooner than later. Never forget… Justice for the wronged is an equal part of the equation concerning His judgment of the wicked.
Secondly… We’re also told “their sin was very grave.” As we noted last Sunday this Hebrew word “grave” is important for it means “to be heavy to the point of being unresponsive.” I cannot emphasize enough why this detail is important, because, in a fascinating way, God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah will end up being a manifestation of His grace.
Keep in mind… The citizens of Sodom weren’t in blind-rebellion against God. It wasn’t as though they were acting ignorant of the truth of God’s revelation. Just a few chapters back these very people had been saved and liberated by Abraham and the God he served.
They knew the true God; and yet, Sodom’s sins were egregious not only because they were rebelling against the Light… They were dangerous because, as a culture, they were a people who’d reached a moral point of no return. Their rebellion against God had reached a tipping point… A moment in time when God simply stopped resisting them.
Note: This is not a difficult idea to wrap our brains around because we’ve all experienced it… Think back to a behavior you engaged in you knew was wrong. For example… In a moment of weakness you slept with your girlfriend and the next day you felt terrible about it… Or maybe you took an unethical shortcut at work and it’s now was eating you up inside… What if you ended up flirting in an inappropriate way with someone other than your spouse and the entire sleepless night that followed left you feeling awful about things.
Under the weight of guilt and conviction you even resolved to never do that again, but in the process of time the opportunity again presents itself and you once more act in defiance to your moral conscience and the leading of God’s Spirit. Isn’t it true the more and more you do this the less God ends up resisting you, the less guilt you feel, the easier it becomes?
Your sin becomes “grave” in the sense you’re no longer responding to the divine influence that seeks to deter such harmful behaviors. As a matter of fact, the longer this continues undeterred, a moment inevitably arises when you no longer feel any remorse or guilt. In actuality, at this point you even begin to justify the behavior as being ok.
In 1 Timothy 4:2 Paul describes this person as “having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” You see once detached from the divine influence the human conscious will begin to form its own moral code. What was once undoubtedly a sinful behavior ends up becoming rationalized and normal. Man is set free to live by his own set of ethics!
And yet, this is what you need to understand… This development is the very mechanism by which God actually judges rebellion. In a twist God judges sinful men by giving them over to their rebellion. You see once you’re no longer responding to His appeal that there is a better way, God allows you the full freedom to live any way you see fit. God judges by literally giving the unresponsive sinner over to their base, natural, fallen proclivities.
For example… Why is it that greed is so often rewarded with riches? Why do the most self-centered, egotistical people in our society gain the fame and notoriety they crave? Why is it that narcissism seems to be a prerequisite to anyone who runs for public office? Why do hedonists have no problems attracting women willing to satisfy their sexual compulsions?
You see if you’re trying to find meaning, purpose, or satisfaction in anything or anyone other than your Maker, God will at some point allow this pursuit to take place knowing full well one of two things will always result… You’ll come to the ultimate realization these pursuits are empty and you’ll turn to Him, or the very pursuit will inevitably become your hell. Ironically, when this happens it leaves you with no one to blame but yourself for your plight.
In his book “The Problem of Pain” author C.S. Lewis wrote, “The damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; the doors of hell are locked on the inside… They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved.”
Before we get to chapter 19 there is one more idea we need to address… While God allows mankind the freedom to pursue his own destruction, there is a limitation to how long He will stand idly by. As we’ll soon see Sodom’s rebellion against God had fostered a culture so depraved their destruction and judgment was now warranted.
Because “their sin was very grave” Sodom had reach a point where they were beyond saving. As such, putting an end to their pursuit was in actuality an act of God’s love and grace. I mean how long can a God of love allow self-destruction to continue unabated? At what point does He say enough’s enough and puts down the rebellion? You see allowing their depravity to linger and deepen would only worsen the hell they were creating.
Sodom had reached this moment and there will come a day when this point will be reached in the life of everyone who rebells against God. The truth is this entire world is progressing headlong towards a day of reckoning. Jesus said in Luke 17:28-30, “Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”
Genesis 19:1-3, “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. And he said, ‘Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.’ And they said, ‘No, but we will spend the night in the open square.’ But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.”
While we’re going to address Lot in more details next week, please note the scene opens with these “two angels coming to Sodom in the evening.” Whether Lot recognized they were angels or not we have no idea; however, what is evident is that Lot’s insistence they stay the night in his home and get out of town early the next morning reveals a profound danger.
We’re actually told when they declined his offer Lot “insisted strongly.” In the Hebrew these two words could be translated as “he pressed upon them greatly.” In a sense Lot literally wouldn’t take no for an answer. He knew first hand the wickedness of Sodom, feared what might happen, and acted to protect these innocent sojourners.
Genesis 19:4-5, “Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.’”
Well despite Lot’s best attempt to conceal these men’s arrival word has spread across town that some fresh meat were staying in his home. The picture of “the men, both young and old, from every corner surrounding his home” informs us that the entire city was unified in their perverse desire. This phrase “that we may know them carnally” tells us the intention of this male mob was to rape and molest these two unwilling participants.
While there are some who attempt to whitewash the homosexual element out of the story of Sodom’s judgment in order to make the Bible more palatable, the text is so straightforward adopting such a position requires abandoning a plan, literal reading of the passage. Not to mention, it’s simply a truth that as a result of this story the words “Sodom” and “Sodomite” become synonymous with homosexual perversion throughout the rest of Scripture.
I know this is not a popular topic for pastors to speak on and I’m fully aware I’ll probably be unfairly branded a homophobe (add it to the list), but the Bible is absolutely clear that homosexual activity is forbidden by God. Not only is this specifically addressed in the Mosaic Law, but the Apostle Paul wrote about it expansively in several of his N.T. Epistles. You can honestly disagree, but you cannot use the Bible to justify your position.
That said… It should also be pointed out that homosexuality is addressed in Scripture with the same level of seriousness as heterosexual activity outside of marriage, adultery, as well as general sexual immorality.
Sadly, when churches rarely speak out against the pervasiveness and normalization of premarital sex within our culture, the fact that an astounding 50% of Christian marriages eventually end in divorce, and that vast majority of Christian men struggle with pornography only to rail against homosexuality we come across hypocritical.
Understand… A fair approach to homosexuality should address this behavior and/or identity as it does all sin - as a symptom of a much deeper human problem… Mainly our fallen nature and propensity to rebel against God! In this instance, Sodom rejected God and therefore He gave them over to the pursuit of their sinful flesh which manifested in same-sex indulgences. In your life this root problem might instead manifest in any number of ways.
God was judging Sodom in that He allowed them to indulge in a sexual quest that would never satisfy the deeper longing of their heart. As we’ll see, while Sodom may have felt liberated from God’s restrictive model concerning sexual activity, these people were far from free. As a matter of fact, it will become evident they were enslaved to this empty pursuit.
In order to expound on this point and provide more context for God’s judgment of Sodom I want to quickly turn to Romans 1:20-28. Paul writing to the church in Rome, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they (people of times past) are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed (literally exchanged) the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man… Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use (“physikos” or “sexual schematic”) of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting…”
And yet (this is important), God rains down “fire and brimstone” onto Sodom, not because they were gay, but because they’re rebellion had reach the tipping point. Because they were no longer responding to the conviction of God (“their sin was grave”) they had created such a morally bankrupt and perverse culture the “outcry” of the innocent demanded God act.
Genesis 19:6-9, “So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, ‘Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.’ And they said, ‘Stand back!’ Then they said, ‘This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.’”
How absolutely appalling! Not only the actions of Sodom, but Lot’s proposal to give them his two virgin daughters to appease their sexual desires so that they wouldn’t violate his guests is simply beyond the pale. “You may do to them as you wish!” What!? Lot does everything he can to placate the wishes and whims of the mob, but in the end he’s accused of being judgmental and intolerant. His strategy of moral appeasement blows up in his face.
Genesis 19:9-13, “So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door. Then the men said to Lot, ‘Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city - take them out of this place! For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.’”
While this is where we’re going to have to leave this story until next Sunday… I do want to take our final few moments to discuss what these angels actually do to the men of Sodom. Here they were in full rebellion against God, given completely over to the pursuit of their carnal desires, actively seeking to please self regardless of those who might be hurt in the process, and we’re told the angels “struck these men with blindness.”
What makes this word “blindness” so unique is that the only other time it’s used in Scripture is to describe a state of utter confusion (2 Kings 6). Beyond the inability to see, this blindness caused a total disorientation. Sadly, even in such a condition, all these men had left was their warped sexual drive. We read “they wearied themselves trying to find the door.”
Whether it be blindness or darkness this is the way the Bible refers to the sinful condition of humanity. You see sin, like blindness, is not a behavior, but rather a state of being. You don’t do blindness. You are blind. Think of it like this… Sinning doesn’t makes you a sinner any more than getting on all fours and barking makes you a dog.
You are a sinner because you were born into a fallen state separated from your Creator. This means your sinful behaviors really are nothing more than the logical byproduct of this fallen state. You aren’t a sinner because you sin… You sin because you are a sinner!
This is why any argument seeking to justify human behavior as being the manifestation of what’s natural (“I was born this way”) is so fundamentally flawed. As a human my biggest problem is my nature… What is natural is flawed, broken, and destructive. Case in point, just ask yourself this simple question - Is it easier to do the right thing or the wrong thing? Here’s the deal… You’re really good at sinning, because you have a sinful nature.
It’s on account of being born into such a darkened state, such dysfunctional world, coupled with your obvious brokenness that we find ourselves confused and often disorientated. Because we’re separated from God we’ve been relegated to darkness, blind to the truth. And it’s this reality that leaves us with so many daunting questions like… Who am I? Why am I so messed up? Why am I never satisfied? Where is my life going? Is there something more?
And yet… While the blind devises all kinds of inferior ways in the attempts of navigating this world, it’s simply a reality that every attempt pales to the ultimate remedy. Friend.. The only solution to darkness is Light and the only cure for blindness is sight!
How interesting it is that Jesus not only described Himself as being the “Light of the World,” but in Luke 4:18 He boldly declared, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind…”
Friend… As those in Sodom do you want to live blinded in your sin, held captive by your warped desires, left to weary yourself as you seek to navigate this world? Or do you want your eyes opened so you can finally see and enjoy the life God has for you? Do you want blindness or sight? Light or darkness? That choice is ultimately up to you.
John 3:16-19, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved… And this is the condemnation, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil.”
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