************ Sermon on Genesis 19:12-19 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 14, 2012
"God's Judgment on Sodom"
The story of God's salvation is really the history of a great war. That's what the Gospel is: a history of a great war. Following Adam's sin, the Creator did not abandon His creation; instead, He announced there would be conflict between the seed of the woman – that is, His true people – and the seed of the serpent – that is, those who do not repent and believe. God further announced that in this struggle the seed of the woman would ultimately win. Yet, this does not mean that the woman's offspring will escape without harm or struggle, for the woman's offspring will get a bruised heel (Gen 3:15). For, as you know, holy men like Abel were murdered (Gen 4:8), Noah struggled with and preached to the wicked (2 Pet 2:5), and Abraham fought real battles (Gen 14:13-16). Most importantly, of course, our Savior, the woman's chief seed, was crucified.
We need to see the story of Lot and Sodom against this kind of background. The destruction of Sodom and the salvation of Lot is part of the ongoing story of the war we are all a part of. \\
In today's passage we see that Lot, like Noah before him, warned about the coming judgment. Lot, like Noah before him, was rescued from the judgment by God's most marvelous grace. But there were also a few differences between Lot and Noah. Lot, unlike Noah, was not able to convince all his relatives to flee from the judgment. And Lot, unlike Noah, compromised his witness by living in Sodom and accommodating himself to the wickedness of the men he counted as friends and neighbors.
I Time to Flee
A Let's go back, for a moment, to Abraham's conversation with God. The Lord told Abraham about the great outcry that has been rising to heaven against the cities of the plain (Gen 18:20). This should sound familiar to Moses' original audience – the people of Israel on the way from Egypt to the Promised Land – for the Lord heard their cry while under the oppressive hands of the Egyptians (Ex 3:7). We see here that sin and evil are not ignored by God. They are seen by God, heard by God, and acknowledged by God. Unlike us, God does not turn a blind eye to sin nor does He pretend it is not happening.
The Lord came down to see for Himself the evil being done by Sodom (Gen 18:21). He came down as Judge. But He did not rush to judgment. He first came down to investigate. He first came down to listen to His servant Abraham. He first came down, as we learned in previous messages, to give the people of Sodom an opportunity to repent. In all of this He shows Himself to be a remarkable and gracious God.
There is a footnote at the bottom of our pew Bibles giving an older reading to Abraham's discussion with God. We are told "the Lord remained standing before Abraham" (Gen 18:22). Do you see the image? God was standing before Abraham inviting his comments and prayers. That's when Abraham appealed to God justice. That's when God agreed to not punish Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people (Gen 18:32).
But God knows, as Abraham also knows, that the people of Sodom are truly evil. After all, as Hagar teaches us, He is the God Who sees, the God Who hears, and therefore the God Who knows everything (Gen 16:11,13). He is El Shaddai (Gen 17:1)! Meaning what in the case of Sodom? Meaning the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was a sure thing if there is no repentance. That's why Abraham never once challenges God's right to destroy the wicked. Instead, Abraham appeals for justice for the sake of the righteous. He appeals for justice so the wicked may have time to repent.
B In our Scripture reading, the angels of God inform Lot that the ax has begun to fall, that the time for judgment has come. So, it was time for Lot to flee; it was time to run lest he, and his family, get caught up in God's judgment. Lot was being told that he – like Uncle Abraham before him – needed to leave everything behind: his possessions, his friends, his position as judge, his sons-in-law, his home, his city, even the Jordan plain. "Depart Lot, or perish. Flee Lot, or be destroyed." Lot was learning, the hard way, that when it comes to the things of this life you cannot take them with you.
C "Depart or perish!" So what does Lot do? Lot talks to his sons-in-law. "Hurry," he said, "and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!" (Gen 19:14). How did the two men react to the warnings Lot gave them? They thought Lot was joking (Gen 19:14). They did not believe Lot's last-second appeal in the dead of night.
We should ask why Lot's sons-in-law reacted this way? Two reasons: first, Lot must have never spoken to them before about divine judgment; second, who was Lot to speak of judgment when he tried his best to fit in with the wicked men of Sodom.
Today' passage is a reminder that those who are saved by grace should proclaim the Gospel firmly and repeatedly to their family and friends. Unfortunately, sometimes we are like Lot – we impair our witness to non-believing family members and friends by living too much like the surrounding culture. Or, we impair our witness by never speaking of the coming judgment to those who are closest to us. The world has no right to expect Christians to be perfect, but it does have the right to expect us to fight sin and resist sin and not merely – like Lot – to accommodate sin. And, it has the right to expect us to warn of the coming judgment.
D "Depart or perish!" Lot's sons-in-law thought he was joking. But, notice, even Lot was reluctant. "Hurry!" said the angels. "Take your wife and daughters and flee." What did Lot do? Lot "hesitated" instead of hurried (Gen 19:16). So what did the angels do? Before it was too late, the angels grabbed Lot's hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and led them out of the city. Lot does not quickly leave; instead, he lingers and has to be seized by the angels if he is to survive (Gen 19:16). Then he asks the angels to let him flee to the city of Zoar instead of to the mountains (Gen 19:20). Telling us what? Telling us Lot was not willing to leave it all behind. Telling us Lot still wanted to hold on to part of his old life. Telling us Lot placed self-love above obedience and holiness.
II Burning Sulphur
A A reluctant Lot flees. With his wife and daughters. Without his sons-in-law. Only four people from two cities and the surrounding plain flee from the coming judgment.
You know what happens next: "The Lord rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah – from the Lord out of the heavens" (Gen 19:24). "Thus," says Scripture, "he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities – and also the vegetation in the land" (Gen 19:25).
What happened? What did God do? Our text speaks of "burning sulphur." Some commentators say God used an earthquake, others say it was a volcano, and still others say it was direct action by the Lord God Almighty. However it was done, one thing is clear: God's judgment fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah because their sin was so grievous.
The casualties include all the residents of the area and the vegetation. Our text says nothing about livestock and other animals but we can safely assume that they – including all of Lot's animals – were consumed as well.
Remember why Lot chose to live in the Jordan River plain? Because it was well-watered, like the Garden of Eden, like the land of Egypt (Gen 13:10-11). Meaning what? Meaning it was green, lush with plants and grass and trees and shrubs. But now? Now it was charred black. The lush green plain became a burnt wasteland.
A couple of weeks ago I took a trip to Yosemite. We passed a section of the park that experienced a devastating fire a few years ago. At that time it was a charred, black wasteland. But now it was green and teeming with life.This was not going to happen with the land chosen by Lot. It was not going to recover from the destruction of the fire and sulfur and turn green again (cf Deut 29:23). Because part of God's punishment included the sterility of the Dead Sea's salt. Here is a powerful reminder that the things of this life and this earth are only temporary. Here is a another reminder that no matter how you try you cannot take them with you.
B What happened to Sodom became a warning to all who passed by. In Deuteronomy 29, Moses used the destruction of Sodom to warn the children of Israel of what will happen if they break their covenant with God:
(Deut 29:23) The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur--nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah ... which the LORD overthrew in fierce anger.Isaiah uses similar terminology to warn the Babylonians about the result of their wickedness:
(Is 13:19) Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians' pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah.Jeremiah warns Edom with the same image:
(Jer 49:17-18) "Edom will become an object of horror; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. (18) As Sodom and Gomorrah were overthrown, along with their neighboring towns," says the LORD, "so no one will live there; no man will dwell in it." (Cf Jer 50:40 and Babylon)
C Sodom is a warning to you and me as well. Listen to what Jesus says (open Scripture to follow along for two passages):
(Lk 17:26-30) Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. (27) People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. (28) It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. (29) But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. (30) It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.Do you hear the warning? Do you hear Sodom's lesson for you and me? Judgment is coming!
It is no accident that the image of Sodom's destruction is used by the Bible as a picture of the final judgment. Do you know what happens to the beast and the false prophet and the devil at the end of time? They are thrown alive into the fiery lake of "burning sulfur" (Rev 19:20; 20:10). What happens to the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars if they do no repent? Their place will be in the fiery lake of "burning sulfur" (Rev 21:8; cf 14:10).
D Jesus has something surprising to say about Sodom's judgment to the people of His day (here is the second passage):
(Mt 11:20-24) Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. (21) "Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (22) But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. (23) And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. (24) But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."
Jesus is talking about Sodom. Remember, the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord (Gen 13:13). Remember, the outcry against Sodom was so great that God had to come down and see for Himself their sin (Gen 18:20-21). Yet, Jesus says these wicked people would repent if they saw His miracles. Really? Wicked Sodom would repent while the people of His hometown would not?
Keep in mind Abraham's prayer for Sodom. Abraham prayed so Sodom's sinners could and would repent. What didn't happen back then is possible, because of Christ, some two thousand years later.
Consider the following cases, and as I describe them see if you know who I am talking about.
There was a wicked man. He was a robber, a thief. He acknowledged that the governing authorities were right in sentencing him to death for his sins. Yet, after he met Christ he died as someone who repented and believed. We know him as the thief on the cross.
There was another man. His robbery was more sophisticated – today we would call it white-collar crime. He took advantage of his position. He accepted bribes. Yet, after he met Christ He repented and believed and made restitution to his victims. We know him as Zacchaeus.
There was a woman. She went through five husbands before she gave up on the institution we call marriage and lived with the sixth man outside of marriage. When she met Jesus she asked for the living water that only He can give. We know her as the Samaritan woman at the well.
There was another woman. She made her living as a prostitute. More than once she faced death by stoning at the hands of the Jewish authorities. She came to Jesus with tears in her eyes and with perfume in her hands. We know her as Mary.
There was a man. A horrible man. An awful man. He hated those who disagreed with him. He was a persecutor, a blasphemer, a violent man, a murderer. His life was forever changed when he met Jesus. We know him as the Apostle Paul.
Was wicked Sodom's repentance even possible? Well, let me ask, is our repentance even possible? When you meet Jesus, by grace repentance is not only possible it is probable. You cannot meet Jesus without falling to your knees in sorrow for sin. You cannot meet Jesus without hating your sin. You cannot meet Jesus without turning from your sin.
Our passage ends with Abraham. What a lonely picture. There is Abraham standing by himself in the same spot where he had pleaded with the Lord. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace (Gen 19:27-28. Does this mean his prayers, his pleadings before God, went unheard? No, God always hears the prayers of His people and keeps His promises.
Abraham went there and stood there hoping to see that Lot was spared – he had no reason to believe that Lot was somehow saved. Abraham went there and stood there hoping he would not see judgment because the people of Sodom had repented during the night. He was hoping for the same thing that happened to Nineveh during Jonah's day – a massive, collective act of repentance.
Abraham went there and stood there and he knew that the Judge of all the earth does right, that He always does right, that He punishes the wicked who do not repent and believe (Gen 18:25).
Someday, congregation, the war between good and evil will end. Someday, the Lord Jesus will come again with a trumpet blast, with a loud cry. Someday, we will all face judgment even as Lot faced judgment. Someday, congregation, either when we die or when the Lord comes again, we will stand before God's judgment throne.
The most important thing we can do is to get ready, to be ready, for the judgment of God. Are we reluctant, like Lot? Do we try to keep one foot in the world and the other foot in the Kingdom of Heaven? Do we try to accommodate ourselves to the ways of the world or do we live for the holiness of God?
Depart or perish, congregation. Get ready or be destroyed, congregation. What we all need to realize is that what happened to Sodom could and should happen to us. Like Sodom, we all deserve burning sulfur from the Lord. We all deserve His destruction. For, we too are sinners. God sees our sin. He hears our sin. God knows what we do in secret. Our sin cries out to Him even as did Sodom's sin.
When judgment comes knocking, when judgment is imminent, there is only one thing we can do: repent of our sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why is it so important to repent and believe? Let's go back to Abraham's prayer. He asked, and God agreed, that for the sake of the righteous judgment would not fall on Sodom. That continues to be God's policy. For the sake of one righteous – even the Lord Jesus Christ – judgment will not fall. If you believe in Jesus and repent of your sin then – like Lot – you experience God's grace rather than God's wrath.
The Judge of all the earth is coming! Will you be ready?
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