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Judgment on Sodom

The Promises of God (The Life of Abraham)

Part XI

Series: Genesis: The Foundations of the Faith

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Apr 4, 1999

Genesis 19:1-29

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Genesis 19:1-29

The Judgment on Sodom

If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Genesis 19. Last week in our study of Genesis 18, the Lord revealed to Abraham his plan to judge Sodom and Gomorrah. And Abraham was moved to intercede on behalf of the loss in those cities and he pled with the Lord mightily, interceded for Him, taking the place of the covenant mediator or representative and intercede for those who were under the condemnation of God's righteous judgment. This week we came to the graphic sequel. And very frankly, there are parts of this passage and other passages in Genesis that are a little embarrassing to read, but the Lord has put them in His words, and according to Paul in his book of Timothy, all scripture is profitable and it's for our edification. So we attend to God's holy word reverently, even as we deal with some very graphic material. Let's hear God's holy word then:

Genesis 19:1-29

Our Lord and our God, this is Your word and we see the majesty of Your judgment revealed in it. But we also with grief in our hearts behold the corruption of the human soul apart from the grace of God. We tremble, oh Lord, when we see this word, and even though it is difficult for us to speak of these things in public, to speak of them out loud. Yet we know that this is Your word intended for our edification. So by the grace of the Spirit enable us to see the truth which You have intended for us, Your people, and we will give You the praise and the glory, for we ask it in Jesus' name, Amen.

We have seen two judgments already in the book of Genesis. We have seen God's judgment against Adam and Eve for their sin, and as God has revealed that story to us in Genesis 3, the very way He unfolds that story justifies the judgment that we see at the end of Genesis 3. At the end of Genesis 3 you’re not standing there saying, well, God, haven't you been a little hard on Adam and Eve and the serpent, because the Lord carefully lays out the rebellion that has taken place against Him. So that when we see His judgment, we have to stand with our mouths closed and say does not the Lord of heaven and earth do right? We've seen the same thing, haven't we in Genesis 6 through 8 as God carefully lays out for us the wickedness of the people in the time of Noah. So that we see the comprehensiveness of God's judgment in the flood of Noah, we don't stand back and say Lord, weren't you just a little too hard on them? No, we stand back and again silently we say yes, does not the Lord of heaven and earth do rightly?

And here again in Genesis, chapter 19, we see that God's justice is far from arbitrary. But even if we see this picture of God's judgment, we also see here God administer some important warnings to our own heart. So let's consider this package together tonight. We could outline it in different ways, but let me suggest a three-part outline. First of all, in verses 1 through 14 we see the case for God's judgment set forth. Here in this passage in verses 1 through 14 we see that God's judgment is vindicated as a just judgment, as God simply lays out the facts of this outcry. We had already heard of the outcry about Sodom. And we had already heard that Sodom was wicked, but here in the first fourteen verses God is going to lay out for us precisely the death of the wickedness of Sodom. So that when His judgment comes in the final section of this chapter once again for the third time in Genesis we have to close our mouths and say has not the Lord of heaven and earth done rightly?

Then the second section of this passage you’ll see in verses 15 through 22. There we see God's rescue of Lot and his family out of the city to be judged. Moses knew a little bit about exoduses, and he shows us a little exodus in the bringing out of Lot and his family.

And then finally in verses 23 through 29 we see the actual visitation of God's judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities in the plain. And if we were to subdivide that section, we could find two parts in it. First of all, beginning in verse 23 and going to verse 26 we see two parts of God's judgment. The cataclysmic judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah. The hellfire and brimstone that rains down upon them. But also in verse 26 we see the gradual judgment of God against Lot's own family, as Lot's wife is judged. So we see the cataclysmic and the gradual judgment of God. But then the final picture that Moses leaves us with in the chapter is this picture of Abraham rising and walking to the very place where he is interceded for the citizens of these cities and seeing the judgment of God in its aftermath. So these are the three parts of the passage. Let's look at it together tonight.

I. God's kindness and severity as He deals with Sodom.

First in verses 1 through 14, I think you will see that the kindness and the severity of God is displayed in the way He deals with Sodom. The kindness and the severity of God are displayed in His dealings. Let me say, before we look at the specific verses, that we see a real contrast here between Abraham and Lot. Abraham in chapter 18 separated from the world is lifting up fervent prayers of intercession on behalf of these lost folk. Lot, however, is not simply walking but dwelling in the midst of the city of Sodom. And very frankly, we are going to see in just the first few verses of Genesis 19 how much Lot's morality has been accommodated to the world around him. Even when Lot tries to do bravely and courageously and protect his visitors, even when he tries to do that we see just how corrupted his thinking had become. Lot had accommodated his heart to the surroundings in which he had dwelt.

And what a contrast we see between Abraham and Lot. From Genesis 18 in those last verses, Abraham the intercessor, Abraham's longing to see God's judgment forestalled for the sake of the righteous, and Lot who has been corrupted. Every minister looks at this passage and he longs for the people of his congregation to be Abraham's and not Lots.

You know the real difference is in their sense of calling. Abraham, too, stumbled but Abraham always had a sense of his calling from God. And Lot is in Sodom, not because God called him there, but because it looked pleasant. And consequently, Lot doesn't even have a sense of calling out of Sodom. God has to literally drag him out by the arms. There you see the difference between two men, both of whom who are going to be called righteous in the New Testament. It's an amazing thing isn't it. Yet the difference seems to be in Abraham's sense of calling and in Lot's lack of it.

In this passage, verses 1 through 14, basically we have the prosecutor, the divine prosecutor making his case for the prosecution. What is told to us in verses 1 through 14 justifies the ferocity of God's judgment against the totality of these cities. I mean you have to tremble for a few moments as you see men and women and children and animals and ground crops being consumed by the judgment of God. And yet when we see the wickedness displayed in verses 1 through 14, we see God vindicated, just as we saw with the flood, God is vindicated in His justice. Now let's look at the passage itself.

In verses 1 through 3, those two angels who had been visiting with Abraham earlier in the afternoon come to Sodom. And Lot in the manner of oriental hospitality, just like we saw with Abraham, bows low before these visitors and invites them into his home. This was the appropriate thing to do. But it was the end of the day. You remember Abraham had time to go out and let the dough or the bread rise and then bake the bread before he prepared the feast. Lot didn't have that time. Night was falling, the way they made the type of bread that they did in those days was to allow it to rise on the hot rocks. They didn't have time to do that. So he had to bake a feast of unleavened bread and get them into the home. And so we see Lot extending hospitality to these two visitors who have come to Sodom. These are the angels which the Lord had sent to investigate the sin of Sodom.

And again this is done to highlight the fact that God is totally aware of what the people of Sodom are doing. No one can say, Lord, Your judgment is arbitrary. You just didn't what was going on there. The point is not that the God of heaven of earth doesn't know. The point is that He emphasized the fact that He did know by sending angels as His investigators and as the ones who were going to carry out the judgment.

Now in this passage, you know that after these angels visit Lot and are taken into his home, no sooner than they preparing to lie down to bed, the men of the city gather around the door. And it is stressed that all the men in the city from every quarter and of every age gather outside the door and demand to have relations with these visitors.

This is a clear reference to homosexual activities. It goes without saying that that activity, that practice is explicitly condemned here. Let me remind you of two or three places which address this in both the Old and New Testament. First of all if you’ll turn with me to Leviticus, chapter 18, verses 22 through 24 and also verse 29. Here we see Moses’ injunction against homosexual behavior. Leviticus 18: 22 through 24 and also verse 29: "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female. It is an abomination. Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is a perversion. Do not defile yourselves by any of these things. For by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people." So there homosexuality and bestiality and in the context incest are all condemned explicitly by Moses. And the language of Genesis, chapter 19, clearly indicates that the men of Sodom wanted to engage in this kind of homosexual practice which had been condemned by God.

Paul picks up on the same theme. This isn't just an Old Testament thing. This is a New Testament thing as well. If you turn to Romans 1, for instance. In Romans 1, verses 26 and 27. Paul uses the same language for homosexuality as is found in Leviticus. And in Romans 1:26 and 27 he says: "For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." And one other passage in I Corinthians, chapter 6, verse 9 where Paul actually uses the word homosexual. I Corinthians 6, verse 9. He says: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers, nor effeminates, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

And so we will see if we study the text of the Scriptures a uniform condemnation of the practice of homosexuality. Now it is clearly condemned in these men in this passage. But let me say that there have recently been attempts to reinterpret this passage here in Genesis 19 and elsewhere, such as Romans 1, to say that these passages are not speaking or condemning homosexuality. For instance, there was a book written by a man named Sherwin Bailey about thirty years ago called Homosexuality and the Western Tradition. And another book written about twenty years ago by a man named John Boswell called Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality. And they attempt to reinterpret this passage in Genesis 19. And basically they say this. They say what was happening here was not that the men of the city wanted to engage in homosexual practice. What happened was Lot was a sojourner and he had brought these men into the city without introducing them to the leaders of the city and what these people wanted to know was they just wanted to get to know them. Well, that begs the question of Lot's response in his offer of his daughters. However grotesque that may be for us to think about for a moment, that is a rather strange response to someone asking you that they want to get to know your visitors. The fact of the matter is there is no way to reinterpret this text.

It's also important for us to recognize why this matters. It matters for at least two reasons. First of all, the fact of the matter is this is what your children and grandchildren are going to be taught in the educational process at both the secondary and the tertiary level. That is, in high school and in college they are going to be taught that you are intolerant because you do not approve homosexuality. After all, isn't it just the way people are born? And aren't you being judgmental and condemnatory about something that is not different that heterosexual practice? And so it is vital for us to be lovingly aware of what the scriptures say about this particular lifestyle.

It is also vital because this is no doubt one of the major cultural struggles in our land today. When this practice is accepted and incorporated into the fabric of our nation, a profound shift will have occurred and there will come a day when it is incorporated, where it will be unsafe to stand even in a pulpit like this, and raise even a question about it because it will be seen as a manifestation of hate speech which is outlawed by our constitution. And so it matters greatly that we understand the issues involved and are ready, lovingly but firmly, to set forth the truth of God's word.

It also matters, because I want you to note - think for one second - how many of the men of Sodom were practicing this particular practice. According to the text, all of them. Now, even if the statistics tell us that something like two percent of our population or less are practicing homosexuals, this passage makes it clear that the totality of this population had capitulated to this behavior. The behavior can be learned and you can recruit for it. And that means we need to be aware as believers what is involved.

Now having said that, I want to go to verses 6 through 8. Lot, in following out the law of hospitality to its maximum extent does everything he can to protect his visitors, but he makes an awful suggestion to the crowd. He offers his own daughters, and does this not again show us the warped moral thinking which had crept into Lot's mind. Yes, he was right to attempt to protect his visitors even to the extent of his life. In fact, Calvin says that Lot should have been ready to die a thousand deaths before he allowed those men to get hold of his visitors. But that he should never have made this proposal regarding his daughters. At this point the angels reach out, they jerk him back into the house and they dazzle the men of the city, bewildering them and frustrating their wicked designs. And then they immediately say to Lot. Lot, do you have other relations in this city?

Now I think it's very important that they don't ask Lot, Lot, do you know any of your relatives who are righteous? They simply say do you have other relations in this city? Do you have other kin? Do you have sons-in-law, do you have other daughters, do you have other family members here? If so, you go find them and you tell them they must leave with you because we're bringing judgment against this city. But again, in the face of this mercy of God, when Lot goes to his prospective sons-in-law they mock him. They think he's joking. So Lot is turned away.

This passage reminds us that Lot has slipped into a moral slumber and even he has been corrupted by his surroundings. But the rest of Sodom seems to be bereft even of common grace. The unnatural practice of the city has so stirred their consciences. The kindness of God in his mercy to Lot, the severity of God in his judgment against Sodom. We see it here in verses 1 through 14.

II. God takes the initiative in Lot's redemption.

In verses 15 through 22 we see a second thing. Here we see God taking the initiative in Lot's redemption. Lot's exodus begins in verse 15 with the angels saying take your wife and your two daughters who are here or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city. Twice more in verse 17 and verses 21 and 22 the angels exhort Lot. God takes the initiative in bringing Lot out, even after he has been told the city is going to be destroyed, it is the angels who are taking the initiative to bring him out. And we learn why in verse 16. Because even after the warning of verse 15 we are told, but Lot hesitated. Not because he didn't believe the judgment that was coming, but because his heart was so wrapped up in the lights of Sodom. In fact we see it even in his request not to go all the way to the mountains but to stop in Zoar. Lot's heart has been compromised with the world and he hesitates and whines and begs for a change of plans. And so the angels literally have to grab him by the arms and drag him to safety. You know, I'm reminded of that passage in John 6:44 where Jesus says, "No man comes to the Father unless He draws him." You know that the passage could be translated no man comes to the Father unless He drags him. And I see this picture of Lot going as the Lord drags him to salvation.

Now as I said before Moses knew a little bit about exoduses, and I see here in the picture of Lot a picture of those faltering Israelites, but I also see a warning to us. Though God graciously takes the initiative in Lot's redemption, do we not see a warning and admonition here for our own hearts becoming so wrapped up with the world that we are double minded and we're not sure exactly where we want to stand. Do we want to stand with God or do we want to keep one of our feet in the world?

III. The judgment of God against sin.

Finally, here in verses 23 through 29 we see the judgment of God against sin and we learn at least these things. That God is just and that he hears people's prayers. This destruction of Sodom in verses 23 through 25 is a picture of the final judgment, and we need to remember that in a day when people are cynical about the judgment of God that the day before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah a cynic could have said to Abraham where is your God? If your God is just, what's the difference between the way you are living and the way the people in Sodom and Gomorrah are living?

So we must never, ever underestimate the judgment of God. He is not slow to judge. And so God brings judgment against Sodom.

In verse 26 we have the picture of the death of Lot's wife. She hesitates behind the caravan, as it goes out, she turns back. She hesitates behind the caravan as it goes out. She turns back. She does not flee all the way to Zoar, and she is incinerated in the judgment which God brings. And in the New Testament she is a standing warning against worldliness. Jesus will say, remember Lot's wife. She was caught between two desires and she met only judgment with the mercy of God within her sight.

Then we see in verses 27 through 29 Abraham, the intercepter, climb up from his vantage point again and look down upon the city that has been judged. And it's one of the most solemn scenes in the whole of Genesis. Abraham, who just hours before had been interceding for God to spare these cities for the sake of ten righteous men, is now beholding in silence the visitation of God's judgment. And we're told explicitly in verse 29 that God spared Lot because of Abraham's intercession. Look at the words. "God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow." Abraham's prayers had become the effectual means of God's gracious operation to save Lot from destruction. What a profoundly moving picture. Perhaps this is why Abraham can stand in silence feeling that his conscience was clear and his hands were clean because he had interceded for those sinners, and he had interceded for Lot. And God in both His kindness and His severity had brought both mercy and judgment in response to Abraham's prayers.

But there is a warning in this passage for us as well. For Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 10, verses 14 and 15, to His disciples, "Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city." Jesus is saying to His disciples that those who reject the gospel message are liable to a more intense judgment than Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of destruction.

Now that raises the question in our mind if that is true, and if we believe that, as we do because it is in God's words, then do we pray for those who are liable to that judgment with the same kind of earnestness that Abraham prayed? And on that day of judgment when we stand with those who have been redeemed out of the pit by the gracious hand of God, will we look across in the lake of fire and with a clean conscience be able to say, I have interceded for those who are liable to the judgment of God, and now I stand silent as that justice is visited upon them? May God make it so. May we pray.

O Lord, there are few passages in the Scripture which grip us with a sense of the portent of Your judgment. And we do pray, O Lord, that we would tremble. We also pray, O God, that we would remember that Your Son took upon Himself our judgment so that we might reign with Him forever. Because of Your grace to us, build in us a love for the lost, and we’ll give You all the praise and glory, for we ask it in Jesus' name, Amen.

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