Alfred Place Baptist Church

The Beginning of the Judgement of Sodom

Genesis 19:1-11 “The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. ‘My lords,’ he said, ‘please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.’ ‘No,’ they answered, ‘we will spend the night in the square.’ But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’ Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, ‘No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.’ ‘Get out of our way,’ they replied. And they said, ‘This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.’ They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.”

This nineteenth chapter of Genesis is all about Lot, containing just a passing reference to Abraham (though it has its importance). In this chapter in all the Bible Lot is the central character and he is speaking to men and angels, friends and enemies, while Abraham says nothing at all. After this chapter ends no more is heard of Lot throughout the Old Testament, but much continues to be made of Abraham. What a difference between two Old Testament believers. Abraham in chapter 18 separated from the world and in the presence of the Lord lifting up his voice in fervent intercession on behalf of the people of Sodom; Abraham longing that God’s judgment might be withheld for the sake of the righteous.

So the narrative continues; the two messengers from God having taken the form of young men walk down the hill to the town of Sodom. What would they find there? Would they find ten righteous people in its precincts so that a divine righteousness could be imputed to the city? Surely if there are not quite ten people God still wouldn’t destroy Sodom, but will God find a single one? So the two angels walk up to the city by themselves. The Lord is not with them, they walk in without him, and that itself is an ominous sign. This is a godforsaken place. What will happen when the Lord’s inspectors hand in their report?

 

SODOM IS VISITED BY THE MESSENGERS OF GOD.

When they arrived at Sodom they discovered Lot sitting at the gateway of the city. He wasn’t hanging around there. He wasn’t out for an evening stroll, curious as to whether there might be some visitors coming to the city that night. He didn’t simply bump into the Lord’s messengers by chance. References to ‘sitting at the gateway’ in Scripture don’t mean passing the time of day. When the House of Commons is in ‘sitting’ it doesn’t mean that the members of parliament are sitting down and drinking tea and having a chat. No. The members are in session; they are discussing government legislation. So it was with Lot. It was the elders of the city who sat in the gateway. It was there that disputes were brought so that the town’s leaders might hear and pass judgment. Lot has evidently been elevated in Sodom. He has become one of the chief magistrates of the community. What were his duties? He administered justice concerning city quarrels; he officially welcomed visitors examining them to make sure they were not there for some nefarious purpose. The city had been plundered a few years earlier. They had to make sure no spies entered it. Lot was a sort of ‘mayor’ of Sodom but with more authority than a British mayor, maybe a London mayor, or we could call him a deputy lieutenant, an alderman of the city. That is the authority that Lot had received in the community.

We find this picture often in the Old Testament; it is a familiar pattern of the immigrant follower of Jehovah who has arrived in the big city from his foreign country and has made good. It is a rags to riches, poverty to power, story. For example, we read, that in Egypt “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered” (Gen. 39:2). We read, “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius” (Dan. 6:28) in Babylon. There is a general principle mentioned in the book of Proverbs: “He who trusts in the Lord will prosper” (Provs. 28:25). Hasn’t Lot done well? Well, has he? Has Lot really done well? We are told in chapter 13 and verse 10 that Lot looked at Sodom. Then we are told in chapter 13 and verse 12 that he lived near Sodom. Then we are told in chapter 14 and verse 12 that he lived in Sodom, and now we are being told that he ruled over Sodom. He was the most respected man in the city. Men came to him for counsel.

Lot intended no harm to himself or his family in moving to the city. I am sure that Lot even hoped that he would do good by mingling with the pagans who lived there. Every Sodom in our world needs some Christians in its midst whether they be prisons in Turkey or in Africa or in South America. If they are red light areas then there needs to be true Christians living there in the Spirit of Jesus Christ day by day, as light and salt, and unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not every Christian can do that, but some can, who are called by the Lord and are clothed in the whole armour of God. Yet we fear that it was more of Lot’s priority when he moved into Sodom and moved up the social scale that he would find a place where he could make a good living, and advance his family’s material standards, getting the things they couldn’t enjoy while they were living in tents and traveling from one pasture and one water hole to another. I make that judgment from some of the remaining incidents in this chapter, for example, Lot’s attitude to his daughters, Lot’s weakness for strong drink and the behaviour of Lot’s wife.

I think that there are questions you have to bear in mind when you approach the strange personality of Lot; this man is a real believer in God but he has left his first love for God. This man is luke-warm, neither cold nor hot about Jehovah and his glory, a man who is failing to watch and pray. He is not an earnest follower of Jesus Christ, but we must insist that he is not a complete worldling. He is like Bunyan’s character, Mr. Facing Both Ways. So then, this is the man whom the angels met sitting in the gateway of the city as they arrived.

Here is a great irony. Lot is sitting there to pass judgment, and why have these two messengers from God come through the gate of the city? To pass judgment on it, not to be scrutinized by those sitting in the gateway. If Abraham’s ten righteous are going to be found in Sodom surely they will be found there at the seat of righteous judgment, amongst the wise men of the city. If they’re not found here they’ll probably not be found anywhere. So what evidence do we have that Lot was a righteous man? We know that Peter in the New Testament announces twice that he was righteous man and Peter even adds that Lot had a righteous soul. Peter says, “Lot, a righteous man, . . . was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)” (2 Peter 2:7&8).

Where do we find evidences of his righteousness? See how Lot greets God’s messengers, this man of stature in the city . . . “When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. ‘My lords,’ he said, ‘please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.’” (vv. 1&2). You see the echoes here of his half-brother Abraham when he met these same two men earlier that same day. Remember how he’d run up to greet them and bowed down before them insisting on feeding them and washing their feet – righteous Abraham. So it was with Lot; he stood up and then bowed down to the ground, and he addressed them with such respect and even pleaded with them to spend the night with him, which Abraham had not done because it was mid-morning when he found them and they had miles to go before they slept. That spirit of humble hospitality marked Lot as a righteous man; he loved his neighbour as himself. Here is one righteous man in the city! Even the ominous note he sounds at the end of his speech seems to mark him as righteous. Have you spotted that? “Go on your way early in the morning” (v.2) People shouldn’t hang around Sodom. There was nothing about “You can stay as long as you want to.” Lot could keep them safe for a night, but at the crack of dawn let them set out and put miles between themselves and this godforsaken place. You didn’t linger in Sodom if you had any concern for your life and integrity.

This is Lot, not an assured believer, not full of faith and the Holy Ghost like Abraham, but neither a total reprobate, depraved and drinking iniquity like water. No. His faith is weak, and he has got entangled with worldly ambitions, but he trusts God and has some moral standards still, and he shows genuine good works. He is a righteous man but he lacks a pilgrim spirit. An American preacher, Ray Stedman, interrogates Lot; “I would like to ask this successful man four questions. I think they will reveal to us how much there is of Sodom in Lot, how much the life of the city had affected him. The rest of the chapter gives us the answers to these questions. ‘Lot, you made a great success out of your life. You’ve won your way from a nobody to the mayor of the city. You entered as an unknown, a foreigner and you’ve achieved both wealth and honour here in the city of Sodom.

“My first question is this, ‘How has your choice of life in Sodom affected your own inner life? You wanted both the personal advantages of the city life and fellowship with God. Have you found it?’ The second question is ‘How much have you influenced the city for good, Lot? How effective has your life been in changing the city’s evils?’ The third question is: ‘How much money did you make here? How much material advantage was it to you to live here?’ And the fourth question: ‘What influence did the city’s life have on your own family?’ These are fair questions to ask a man who just wanted to get the best he could from the world and keep believing in God. The answers to all those questions we’ll find here in this chapter.

Now do you see the messengers’ initial response to Lot’s invitation? They refuse him, and they do so quite definitely. Lot’s offer of hospitality is declined and they reject Lot quite personally by saying that they’ll take their chances spending the night in the open square. There was obviously some reservation about the character of Lot. There was a distinction in their minds between Abraham and Lot. With Abraham they willingly and immediately accepted his invitation. Abraham was a friend of God, an inheritor of the promises; he was drawn into God’s purposes and God made him an advocate. They were obviously less confident of Lot living in Sodom; could they trust him? Could they enter his house and be safe? Here was the half-brother of Abraham summoned out of Ur of the Chaldees, yet he was a man who’d despised the promised land and taken up residence outside it. Lot had not valued the promise of God, but he was still a righteous man, vexed by the conduct of the people of Sodom. Yet, Lot pleaded with them to accept his hospitality and stay with him.

Lot wouldn’t take no for an answer; he insisted and succeeded in getting them home as his guests, and immediately began to cook a meal for them, just like Uncle Abraham had done. However, quite significantly, the menu was bread without yeast (v.3). Bread without yeast is the bread of haste. It takes only a moment to bake; it looks like crackers, or Ryvita, baked on a hot flat stone. The children of Israel later recognized this decision as the foreshadowing of the Passover. Bitter herbs, roast lamb and unleavened bread were the on the divine menu for the Passover remembrance feast. The children of Israel had been prisoners in Egypt and God heard their cry and gave them a mighty deliverance. “Be ready to leave,” these ingredients said. “Wear your coats for traveling as you eat. Take your staffs in your hand. You will soon be saying goodbye to this place and you will be on your way. Your food will be quickly ready, this bread without yeast.” We ourselves commemorate the Last Supper each month, and many Christians eat unleavened bread with the wine as those dwelling amidst our own Egyptians, or as Lot was in the midst of a wicked and crooked generation. We are not at home here; we are strangers and pilgrims in this place. We are ready at any moment to hear the blast of the last trumpet and know the Lord’s return with all his holy angels. Lot and his family didn’t know it yet, but soon he was going to be leaving Sodom for ever.

 

SODOM SEEKS TO VIOLATE THE MESSENGERS OF GOD.

So the two messengers had washed, their room had been prepared and they were soon dining in Lot’s house, enjoying delicious food. He was solicitous to their every want. Their beds are all prepared for a cozy night’s sleep. Everything was going well, but then, as the meal drew to a close there was a growing disturbance outside the house. A noisy crowd was gathering and it grew larger and louder as the minutes went by. Soon it was evident that a howling mob had gathered outside Lot’s house growing by the minute. It consisted of “all the men from every part of Sodom – both young and old – surrounding the house” (v.4). Could there be anything more terrifying than this? Think of such a threat to you and your family, the noise penetrating the whole house, a hostile crowd on every side so that there was no possibility of escape, baying like hounds, and all this outside your front door. What did they want? “They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them’” (v.5).

The Scriptures are quite unambiguous in their prohibition of homosexual activity. That is not my opinion as an evangelical or as an old man living in the 21st century; it is a matter of fact. The Bible’s prohibition doesn’t all hang upon a few statements in the Old and New Testaments or on this incident but on the whole Christian understanding of sex and sexuality. It is clear from the Bible that the only kind of sexual relationship that God intends and permits is between one man and one woman in marriage. That’s the reason why homosexual relationships are unacceptable. They are not what God intended when he made one woman for one man; they are not what he delights in now; they are not part of the new community which he is creating which will last for ever. Heterosexual relationships outside of marriage are just as forbidden as homosexual relationships.

Sodom was a community which said, “Anything goes.” Here outside the home of Lot we are told that there were young homosexuals, obviously the fruit of prior heterosexual activity in Sodom, and that also there were old homosexuals, but now old and young alike were baying for the excitement of the forbidden fruit. They had not become homosexuals because of some genetic disposition; there is no proof of a homosexual gene. There is no evidence that people become homosexuals because they can’t help it. Rather, it is a choice that men and women freely make, and it is a bad choice. Here was a mob all inflamed with desire for the young-looking, beautiful messengers of God who had accepted Lot’s hospitality. “Bring them out! Bring them out! Lot, bring them out! Let’s have our way with them.” Lot was offering these travelers hospitality but these men would violate their presence in the city in the most perverse, cruel and filthy way imaginable. Each in turn would sodomize these two men. It is significant that this is the city of which God has said, “Their sin is so grievous that I will go down and see if it as bad as the outcry that has reached me” (Gen. 18:26), and we are told that one of the most depraved expressions of their sinfulness was unrestrained homosexual lust. I am just stating the facts as the Bible saw it.

However, we must not make the mistake of thinking that this one sin has been absolutized by the writers of Scripture as the greatest of all sins. The writers never make that mistake. We know that there are worse sins than sexual sins. The worst of all sins is to exchange the glory of the living God which is shown around us night and day in creation and in its place set up dead idols carved and cast and shaped by men to look like mortal men or birds or animals. The worst of all sins, I say, is to exchange the truth of God for a lie.

Now it is clear that no one suddenly becomes a homosexual and then announces it with total confidence to the world. No one goes to sleep one night a heterosexual and then gets up the next morning and declares that he is a homosexual. It doesn’t work like that. I will show you the three stages that anyone has to go through in order to become a practicing homosexual. You will find them specified in the first chapter of the letter to the Romans. There are three kinds of “exchanges” that men make and they are outlined in verses 22 through 29: it is a religious journey into apostasy from the truth that brings them here.

[1] In verse 23 we learn that they begin by turning away from the living God. They start to worship idols, not necessarily a stone or metal images, but some materialist or aesthetic or sexual god. They make an exchange (v.23); they set aside the glory of the immortal God – think of it – the God who made us, the God who has given us a conscience; the God who speaks to us in creation; the God who has spoken to us by prophets and apostles and his Son Jesus Christ in the Bible. They turn from everything about the God who is a Spirit infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth and they fall down in worship before some sensual icon of man’s own making, someone made like their own sex, and they give themselves for the rest of their lives to serving that idol. And it is when that happens that God acts in judgment and gives them over in the sinful desires of their hearts, to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another (v.24).

[2] The next stage is in verse 25 when they turn away from the truth of God. Think of it! They have the truth; they know where the world came from. We know who and what are as made by the one Creator in his image and likeness. We know what’s wrong with the world, why men lust and kill and lie and steal and hurt others, because of the fallen nature we have received from our father Adam. We know what the good life is, what conduct pleases God. We know what God is like. We know who Jesus Christ is, the Son of the living God. We know what lies after death. We know how we can get to heaven. We know what we must do to inherit eternal life, but men turn away from all of that. In other words they make a second exchange (v.25); they dispense with the truth of God and they believe a lie. they say no to the one who said, “I am the truth,” and they worship and serve created things rather than the Creator – who is for ever praised. Amen. Because of this, God acts removing the restraints of modesty and he gives men and women over to shameful lusts. That is the second stage, in which men and women go for homosexual attitudes and desires.

[3] The third stage is that even women destroy their natural modesty and they turn away from men (v.26). They make an exchange too (v.26); they exchange natural relations for unnatural ones, and in the same way men also abandon natural relations with women and are inflamed with lust for one another. Men commit indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they do not think it worthwhile to keep knowing and loving God, he gives them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. And that is exactly where we are in Genesis chapter nineteen. This mob has turned from bowing before the living God to serving the idols of Sodom. They have rejected the truth of God addressing their minds and consciences. They then have exchanged that God-given sexual relationship with husbands or wives for lust for members of the same sex, and they are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. That is Sodom.

Now you will see how weakly and pathetically religious people will react when confronted by the pressure, intimidation and threats of some homosexuals. Lot desired to protect his home from the reputation of failing in the demands of proper hospitality. For Lot that one virtue is all important, like today the virtue of tolerance is exalted and absolutized as the most important quality a Christian can show. So Lot goes out to the mob, and shuts the door behind him and pleads with the mob not to act wickedly to no avail. They pay no attention to him at all, the magistrate of the city. It is as if he is not there. Then what does he say? Does he really proceed to offer his two virgin daughters to the mob to do with as they please? That is horrifying beyond imagination. Let us put his words in a more favourable light and rather interpret them as displaying high irony. Lot is saying something like this, “I would as soon have you violate my family members as violate those I’ve taken in and offered hospitality.” It would be like saying in exasperation to your mortgage company, “Why don’t you just take the clothes off my children’s backs and the food off their plates?” The offer is not literally true; it is extreme sarcasm. Lot is pricking the conscience of this mob. Surely they would not think of treating the daughters of the leading citizen of Sodom in such a way? Then let them dismiss their evil schemes at once. Lot put these people under his roof as if they were members of his family. So here is Lot; he can talk about the unthinkable, the violation of his daughters, but a fearful judgment will come upon Lot soon when his daughters end up violating him. Lot’s words are not a measure of his depravity but a measure of his desperation as he sees the mask stripped from his fellow citizens. These are the people he has chosen to live amongst. Lot has lived in Sodom too long, and he has put them always in the best possible light. He has made too many excuses for the people. He has put himself in a situation where all his choices are evil and he cannot think what to do.

Lot protests, but the young and the old of Sodom have no conscience. They are not shocked by that reference to his virgin daughters. They must have those men whom the other elders at the gate have told them about, young men, handsome men displaying a rare beauty. They will have them! They rubbish Lot. He imagined that he had done well in the city and become the mayor of Sodom, a man of authority and influence, but now when he crosses them their true feelings about him show themselves. Who does he think he is? He is not a native-born Sodomite; he is not a citizen of their city; he is an immigrant, one “who came here as an alien” (v.9). They have allowed him to judge at the gate because they themselves aren’t interested in righteousness, and when push comes to shove he doesn’t belong; he’s not one of them. He is different; “‘Get out of our way,’ they replied . . . ‘now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.’ They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door” (v.9). So they have sealed their own doom. Lot was the one righteous man in the town, and they say in the hearing of these angels, there on their fact-finding mission, “He’s not one of us. He doesn’t belong in our town. He can’t represent us!” What else can God do but judge them? There is not a single citizen in all of Sodom who can stand before God as one who is righteous on their behalf and can turn aside the wrath of God. By their own confession Lot cannot stand before God for them. He’s not one of their flesh and blood. His very life is under threat from them.

 

SODOM IS JUDGED BY THE MESSENGERS OF GOD.

The two messengers of God opened the door and yanked Lot back into safety. He meant to save them, but the messengers of God have divine power on their side. They are not served by the wisdom of this world. They save Lot, and they shut the door on the mob, just as God shut the door of the ark before the deluge fell. They are outside, but Lot is safe in the fellowship of the men of God. Those on the outside know no safety. They are struck with blindness. “This word ‘blindness’ is a noun used only twice in all the Old Testament. In 2 Kings 6 God strikes the Syrians who have come to seize the prophet Elisha with blindness. The term denotes a sudden stroke, a blinding flash, which is miraculous. It is thus a rare word that signifies a supernatural intervention and a display of power” (Genesis, John Currid, E.P. 2003, p.343). Their eyes are confused, and they wander utterly without direction lacking knowledge and perception. They have eyes but they cannot see. They are blind ignoramuses staggering about in the darkness of total confusion. God does that to those who pass through those three stages. Then it dawns on Lot who these guests really are whom he has in his home, by this miracle of judgment, and they tell him to quite the city with all his family at once.

But the people of Sodom are still trying to find the door to wickedness (v.11). Even though they are handicapped and confused lust is their lord and they are its slaves. They have been restrained from further wickedness by the sovereign act of God. How totally different are the actions of apostate churches today. They open the doors of church manses and bishops’ houses for homosexual activity. Who will rescue righteous limping Lot and his family? He has been spared the blindness, but who will rescue him from the morass of sin? It is clear that he cannot stay a day longer in Sodom, a Sodom under the immanent judgment of God. Where is Lot’s rescuer? Where is the Messiah, the seed of the woman and the son of Abraham in all this? He is not here. What hell for Sodom not to have a Saviour, and they see it not. All they have is what is around them, and Christ is not there. What hell for us if I did not preach Christ to you. Woe to you and to me if we did not hear him in the gospel. Without him all is lost. But where is he? He had come with these two messengers to visit Abraham. He had heard the intercession of Abraham, but then he left. He did not enter Sodom, just the two other men. Where is our Lord? Where is Jesus? Are we like Sodom bereft of the only one who can deliver us? Where is Jesus? We search for him and we do not find him. Bill Baldwin points out that we are like the bride in the Song of Solomon, “All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves. So I looked for him but did not find him” (Song 3:1&2)

That is the world without Christ. It has turned away from God to idols. It has turned away from the truth to lies. It has turned away from the God-given gifts and channels of sex to perversity. What will happen when that Lord whom we seek shall come? He is coming, the one whose messengers will report to of all they’ve experienced in this place. They sought for one who was righteous in Sodom and found none. The one righteous man in that place was an alien. He is coming, but who can stand when he appears, for he is like a refiner’s fire. Are you better than the sons of Sodom? Are you more deserving of leniency, you who have turned from God to idols, and from the truth of God to believe lies, and from his gifts to their perversion? Apart from Christ our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; we are corrupt, filthy and depraved. Every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually. Some have been restrained from immorality only by a sovereign merciful God.

We were Sodom, but thanks be to God we have found a righteous man, righteous in God’s sight, as righteous as God himself, and he will plead for us and represent us before God. He came to our Sodom and lived where sexual sin and violence is everywhere. That is where he came. He came to live the life we could not live and to bear the judgment that sinners must bear. God could not find ten righteous men among us, only One! But what a One! He came and stood before God as one of us. He gave his righteous life as the Lamb of God to take away our sin. He gives his righteousness to us as his free gift. Its spotless robe covers all our stains. God looks at all those who are joined by faith to him and he sees us not as citizens of Sodom, not as residents of a groaning fallen rebellious world system that hates God, but as citizens of heaven, as one who is seated in Christ in the heavenly places. We are not clothed in the righteousness of Lot, stained and threadbare, not even in the righteousness of our father Abraham, who loved God and believed his word, but in the righteousness of Jesus Christ the one of whom his Father says, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Come away, you Sodomites, from your sins, to this welcoming Saviour, who bids you come and beseeches you to come, and pleads with you to come and put your trust in him today. His blood can make our foul sins clean. Come, you proud self-righteous cowardly religionists whose doom is more certain. Run from your good deeds for they are all mixed with sin, and find your hope only in Jesus Christ with the chief of sinners, for if this righteous Man is not your plea then there is not hope for you.

2nd August 2009 GEOFF THOMAS