Today’s passage is a particularly difficult one for me, on several levels. One reason is my personality. I am kind of tenderhearted and if I err, it is usually on the side of mercy. Secondly, I don’t want to be known as a “hell fire and brimstone” kind of pastor. Genesis 19 actually uses the word, “brimstone.” Yikes! Thirdly, I’m not one to be controversial in my blogs or sermons. And today’s text mentions one of the most controversial of subjects of our modern times. But I’m committed to preaching and teaching ALL of God’s Word and not just the parts that make me comfortable. So, here goes…
Many today haven’t come to the Lord because of some preacher in their past that tried to scare the living thunder out of them in order for them to convert. Scars like that don’t heal easy. So let me say this as gently as I can. “Judgment Day is Coming.” It may not be tomorrow or next week or next decade. But according to the Scriptures… its coming is sure. In that day every word and deed we have ever done will be laid before the eyes of our Judge.
We have modeled for us in Scripture what the final day of the Lord will be like. The judgment day for the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah are legendary. They stand as monuments to the limits of the patience of a loving God. This Biblical illustration of God’s judgment is used 22 times in the Bible.
Now I’m not a fan of disaster films. I’ve never seen Titanic, Pearl Harbor or The Perfect Storm. Somehow knowing the disastrous outcome kind of spoils the films for me. But many love such films. I think because it helps them answer some questions regarding those disasters: Why did it occur? What were its devastating effects? And did anyone manage to escape the destruction? Let’s apply these questions to the Sodom/Gomorrah event.
Why did this disaster occur?
The book of Genesis has thrown a few hints before we ever arrive at chapter 19.
Genesis 13:10-13 records: Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.
One of the most controversial subjects of our time has been the morality of homosexuality. It is not my intention to hurt anyone that is wrestling with this issue in their own lives or in the lives of their children or grandchildren, but I must be honest about what I see in Scripture. In this Scripture and passages in Romans, Leviticus, Jude, as well as others… the Bible teaches that acts of Homosexuality are sinful.
That isn’t my opinion or bias, it is what I believe the Word of God to be saying. Now, having said that, what about Sodom (from which the term “Sodomy” has come) and Gomorrah? Was the sin that hastened their destruction, Homosexuality? I don’t think that it was that sin alone that brought judgment upon them. In the passage before us alone we see attempted rape.
We also see in the NT that Homosexuality is just one sin among many that find displeasure with God. It is in a list with such sins as: greed, envy, deceit, and, even, gossip!
I believe it was an accumulation of wickedness that brought about the destruction of Sodom.
What is the extent of the damage?
Brimstone and Fire fell out of heaven.
“Exudations of bitumen, petroleum and probably natural gas (since the last named generally is an accompaniment of these substances)… catching fire from lightning or human action, would adequately account for recorded phenomena…” F.G. Clapp – ‘Geology and Bitumens of the Dead Sea Area, Palestine and Transjordan.” Biblical Archaeologist Reader)
The huge underground explosion would cause flaming pieces of the city to rain down upon the populace. The destruction was total. Many if not most of the people died and the ground was rendered infertile from that time on.
Third Question: Did anyone make it out?
We know from reading the story that Lot and his family did. (At least he and his daughters… his wife turned back and was transformed into a pillar of salt.)
So, with those questions answered… what do we learn from the tragic story of these twin cities of the plain?
First of all, God is Patient in Judgment.
Genesis 15:16 told us: “After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, when the sin of the Amorites has run its course.” and “…for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
God doesn’t fly off the handle in rage like we do when we are angry. He doesn’t zap people when they disbelieve or say hurtful things about Him. He does, however, have limits. You see God is merciful (that is what produces His patience), but He is also just. He will cause those that have chosen to do evil to pay the justice due their error. Two NT passages display this tug between justice and mercy:
Romans 2:4 – Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin?
and… 2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.
The second thing to take from this story: God Warns Us in Light of Coming Judgment to Flee!
Picture Lot running through the streets trying to get just a few to believe him. Not a moment can be spared if anyone is to escape the doom of the city; but Lot and his family lack the will to escape. They have to be taken by the hand and forced out of the city.
In the process Lot lost: His Influence
Genesis 19:9 – But they said, “Stand aside.” Furthermore, they said, “This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.” So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door.
Genesis 19:8 – “Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
His Witness – even within his own family.
Genesis 19:14 – Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city.” But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
Genesis 19:20 – now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved.”
Genesis 19:26 – But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
The longer you stay in Sodom, the longer Sodom stays in you. Mrs. Lot’s heart couldn’t leave. It was caught in the destruction of the city.
There will come a day when God’s judgment will fall on a much larger scale (see Revelation). The Scriptures warn us to seek escape and to warn and aid others to escape. Is your heart too full of Sodom that your heart won’t go? Has your witness been so dulled that others would listen anyway? Remember the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 17. In a passage regarding end times, Jesus says: Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. (17:32-33)
Be a strong witness till He calls us home.