26th November 2023

The judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah

Passage: Genesis 19
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

The chapter read to us by Joey is one of the cataclysmic, I don't know what wording, adjectives to describe the judgement of God falling upon a particular place, two towns, Sodom and Gomorrah and their sin had come up before the Lord and so in the way the Bible expresses God to us God says let us go down and have a look or let us go and make a visit and there is a way of using language in the scriptures that talks about God coming and doing a visitation and the particular times it keeps turning up you can see it's a bit of a technical description as to God's intent to be supervising his world and his people. Sometimes the events... The events that God comes to look at is just an investigation and sometimes it is that he's coming for judgement and sometimes it is that he's coming to bring salvation to some particular difficult circumstance and God has been dealing with Abraham and he's the person that he's asked to leave his hometown and to go off and eventually to come to live in the land of Israel and there's a promise that comes to... to Abraham that one day he'll give that land to him and to his descendants and so we've been looking in the morning services at the idea of the old covenant which was the first arrangement God made with the Israelites that they should be God's people, the Jewish nation and a part of what God had promised Abraham wasn't only that they would be a people to belong to him but that they'd also own the land that he led them to and he'd give it to them. He'd give it to them as an inheritance. And if you're wanting to know a way to look at what's going on in Israel at the moment a very big clue that you could use is the fact that God had promised to them the land and the issue about who actually owns the land is perhaps paramount in understanding what is going on in Israel even now. And though different peoples have come and lived in that area and they include the Jewish people yet it is because the promise... God made to Abraham that he always intends to fulfill and one of the things that happens with God when he makes a promise is that he differs from us as humans and this morning in the morning service I was talking about how there are times when we humanly make promises and we say what we're going to do but circumstances change and we don't get to do it or sometimes we forget or sometimes we're just not telling the full truth and... and that is what humanity is we are not good on the overall at necessarily keeping our word but the Bible says from God God is not a man that he should lie nor the son of man that he should repent, change his mind has he not spoken will he not do it has he not promised will it not come to pass and speaking about the fact that you can never put something in between God and his word he is the guarantee of his word always being true and because of that when God makes a promise then the very idea of faith in God is connected to our trust in him to keep his promises and so the word of God and believing it, trusting it is a part of what it is to have faith and there are many examples of God teaching people through the history histories, the story lines of the people in the Old Testament Abraham and Sarah being one where God has to teach them that his word is inviolable meaning you can't break it, it won't be broken if God has promised it's going to happen and one of those promises had to do with Abraham and Sarah having children, a son in particular through whom this inheritance was going to come and at the time of God dealing with him just before the Solomon Gomorrah bit uh... Sarah had not yet had the child of promise and so how could Abraham go on believing there was no child to show that God was fair dinkum but faith in his case was that he would believe God and similarly with Sarah she was over ninety years of age, I forget the figures, but she was an old lady and God had promised she was going to have a son and so we find that in the book of Genesis and just for a little peek ahead to chapter ahead of where we were in nineteen if you look across in Genesis twenty-one the first two verses you'll find that it's got an interesting statement that has to do with the promise and the Lord visited Sarah notice the language the Lord visited Sarah as he had said and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised and Sarah conceived and bare Abraham a son poor son Abraham in his old age in the time of which God had spoken to him now the fact of the fulfillment of the promise is something that's very integral to the Old Testament a part of what is happening with uh... God fulfilling his promises and uh... but what I want us to notice here with this verse here is the use of the word God visited Sarah so on the morning service we were talking about the visitations of God and the technical meaning it has when there is a visitation that God does and the particular passage we were looking at was Jesus weeping over Jerusalem crying over it that it was rejecting their Messiah that was him and uh... and Jesus lamenting that what's going to happen to Jerusalem will be destroyed which it was in eighty seventy by the time of the New Testament the Romans and he talked to them directly and part of what he said to them in his sorrow of what was going to happen to them was to give the explanation that they had not known the time of their visitation and once again this word being visited by God and not being recognised as so doing by the people as the cause for their later calamities so we were talking in the morning service about this idea of the visitation of God. And here Sarah is visited by God for the sake of fulfilling the promise that he'd made to Abraham and Sarah. So there are different reasons why God comes into action and turns up visibly or significantly through some means or other. And that is what is meant by a visitation. The way that the Church through history has understood that term and made something of it, the Roman Catholic Church has a lot of teaching to do with the visitation of Elizabeth when she was visited by Mary. That's Elizabeth the mother-to-be of John the Baptist and Mary the mother-to-be of Jesus. Those two being cousins. But the two women being cousins, though Elizabeth is much older and Mary is only a young 15-year-old or somewhere around like that. And so Mary visits Elizabeth. And although we're not certain of the exact chronology of when she arrived and was it after she had become pregnant with Jesus or was it after the angel had promised so but it hadn't yet happened, we're not sure. But we do know that Elizabeth was visited by Mary for three months in that period of time where both of the women were going to move toward the time of giving birth to the two sons that would be Jesus and John the Baptist. And the fact that when Mary came, she may well have been pregnant already. Now I'm not sure about the chronologies, the exact timing as to whether she was present because the exact wording of what happens next doesn't specify the idea that the Roman Catholic Church are working on. But the picture they have is of Mary coming with the Messiah in her womb, with the Son of God in her womb. And as she walks in the door, John the Baptist, in the womb of Elizabeth, does a leap. And being leaped by the Holy Spirit, later the scriptures refer to John the Baptist as having been filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. This is the occasion it's talking about. But because the Holy Spirit was involved in John the Baptist in the womb of Elizabeth, she also gets controlled by the Spirit and begins to prophesy. And a part of the wording that she gives is to the fact that her mother, the Lord, the baby Jesus in womb, his mother has come to visit her. And so that episode is called the Visitation in the folklore or the way people remembered the storyline of that Visitation time. So it came to be that people, particularly in reading the scriptures, when they read spots where it says that God visited someone or something like him coming down or sending an angel, two angels down to destroy Sodom, and Gomorrah. That is a divine visitation. And right through the scriptures there's quite a lot of different examples of where God does a visitation but it's always something serious. And it's something whereby he comes either to inspect or he comes to judge or he comes to heal. But a divine visitation is when God turns up in order to bring a solution, an end to whatever, whatever is the issue. And so this morning we're talking about the visitation that God does sometimes in our lives. And that was what the morning message was about. But I had this story of Sodom and Gomorrah and the two angels coming as an illustration of the whole idea of God visiting. And we didn't have time to do it in the morning so I thought we'd use that tonight. Now the two angels come to Sodom in the evening. If you look at the verse, the verse in chapter 19 of Genesis on the screen. Lot sitting by the gate of Sodom, people who were well to do, people who were of a leadership type would have their lead in an ancient city by often meeting other elders like them at the gate of the city where they'd talk about the issues and make important decisions for their city. And Lot is doing that when these two angels come. And, uh, he's sitting there at the gate of Sodom. Now whether he's on his own or with others, we don't know. But when Lot saw them, he rose to meet them. He bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, My lords, please turn aside to your servant's house and spend the night and wash your feet. Now up to this moment in the narrative, we don't know whether what Lot was doing was because he saw through the fact they weren't just men, they were angels. I don't necessarily know that's the case. I don't necessarily know that's the case. I don't necessarily know that's the case. Because he equally can be explained as doing what he did because it was a custom of the ancient world that there were no 7-Elevens, there were no, uh, you know, places where you could get weekend stays, you know, what do you call those places where you stay for the night and pay your money and go on? Um, anyway, uh, um, but the custom was that people would, there was no businesses set up to do that. There was no businesses set up to do that. But people would sleep in the town square. The only trouble is Sodom was known for its homosexuality and it wasn't safe. No one would survive the night sleeping in the town square. They'd be attacked by a big horde of men lusting after raping them. And, uh, I'm sure that Lot knows that. And so he jumps up to do what is the right thing to do to rescue a stranger from such an outcast. To rescue a stranger from such an outcast. To rescue a stranger from such an outcast. And he says, My lords, please turn aside to your servant's house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way. He's hoping they'll get out of there in time. They said, No, we'll spend the night in the town square. But he pressed them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered into his house. Now, before we go on to read how he makes a bit of a feast for them and the rest of the night is going to unfold. It's interesting to see that Lot, though he was someone who was living in a non-Christian place, had a bit of conscience left in him. This is a storyline of someone who's a relative of Abraham and is going to be blessed and rescued because of his connection with Abraham, but he doesn't deserve it. He's actually someone who's happy to take his family and live in an evil place. And he'd have to be aware of how evil it is for him to do this and to recognise that he needs to make sure these people come into his house. He's doing an ancient Eastern thing to offer hospitality. By the way, that was called a love of strangers, and in the New Testament it tells us one of the gifts of the Spirit is to give people capacity to have a love of strangers, and some of our translations will interpret that to the word hospitality. So it actually says love of strangers, but some of our modern versions will write hospitality as a gift that God gives to Christians. But there is a ministry that can be had when we who are inside the church have an eye on the needs of the people who are outside the church. So when it does come those times of people talking about what's your gift and my gift is to play the guitar, it's not. I do have one, but I don't think I'm... I'm gifted to play it. But when we think of what our gifts are, we often give ourselves funny little titles or descriptions of what we can do. But the list in the Bible of gifts is a far more limited list. There's no mention, for example, of youth work as a gift. But there are plenty of people getting around who are good at dealing with youth, and indeed to find a good youth worker is rather hard to do because what's needed in their gift wrap, is quite difficult to find someone to do that. But what I'm saying is that the Bible does have a list of gifts and the love of strangers is one of them. So check yourself whether or not you're not set up to be a person who somehow notices the outsiders. It doesn't only mean the people who come to our church and you see someone and you invite them home to your place for lunch because they knew nobody and they just turned up. And that's one of the best things. You can do to an outsider is to invite them to come home and give them an entrance into the fellowship of the church at that interpersonal way. Now we do that too by having our talkies after the service, especially in the morning. And the reason why we have all the material at the back to make the coffees and the teas and hot drinks and cold is because we give opportunity for there to be the display of fellowship that we offer to outsiders who come. And I think it's been one of the good things our church has been doing in these last few years. There are lots of good things we do, but that's one. But anyway, here Lot is showing that he has quite a touch of the old Hebrew understanding about the need for hospitality to strangers. It was a part of the righteousness they believed God had called them to. In fact, the whole set up of the people of Israel wasn't only for their benefit and for them having everything arranged, but was a set up for them to be a blessing to the other nations, including participation in the temple worship in the special court for the Gentiles that was a part of their temple arrangement. So Lot isn't all bad. He's a relative of Abraham. He's one who believes in God. And he acts well by offering the hospitality. What he goes on to do shows a bit of a hole in his understanding. In fact, it's very terrible. It's part of the solution he gives to the angels so they don't get raped. I think this is showing up, his lack of understanding. But anyway, look at the other verse. The men who came to you tonight, the people outside are crying out, bring them out to us that we might know them. And the idea of know them is sexually. They want to rape them. They're homosexuals of an extreme variety who are going to be violent to strangers. Lot went out to the men at the entrance. Now he's not a chicken. He goes out and confronts them. Shut the door after him. And he said, I beg you, my brothers. Remember, he sits at the gate and acts out being one of the elders of the place. He's appealing to them somehow to respect the role he's been in. I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. So you can tell it isn't just bring them out so we can get introduced to them. It's bring them out for what they intended to do, which was a terrible thing. And do not act so wickedly. But then he goes as a solution. Behold, Lot does. Behold, I have two daughters who've not known any men. Let me bring them out to you and you can do what you please. Only do nothing to these men. Now he's recognized perhaps these men as from God. And so he's looking at his severe need to somehow buy off these folk outside his door who want to rape them. But what his solution is to offer his daughters. Now that is a shocking thing. But it does tell you of his level of thinking. And it's not very good. And it isn't certainly biblical and what the Bible teaches. And what he's offering them is what he never should have done. But it's giving you a window in on his personality. Now I'm beginning to understand something about Lot. And that is that where you give yourself to fit in, listen to me, where you give yourself to fit in, some of what they're like and what they do will rub off on you. And some of the godliness of a crowd that you give yourself to belong to is always in danger of infection coming your way. That's why we're called to be a witness and an influence. We're called to be salt and light and going through the beatitudes we've been recognising Jesus called for us to have that attitude to the world. But even though we're called to be a witness, even though we're called to be a witness, even though we're called to be salt and we're called to be light, nonetheless there is a line that you never cross. And you have to train yourself to have an understanding about this line that you don't cross. You go with them and join with them in their culture as best you can. But where they threaten to change you to be like them, rather than you being an influence to make them like you more godly, if that's not possible for them to to have you in their group and you not be drawn into it, then leave. And I've always advocated for young people particularly in terms of socialisation if the group that you want to be influential in, the group that you want to have belongingness to and all of us have those needs, you know, to send some sense of acceptance. There's nothing worse than going somewhere where you're made to look like an ugly duckling or someone that doesn't fit. And I can tell you that's not the case. I can tell you some stories along that line, but you know what I'm talking about. We have pressure somehow or other to not bring up the points where we differ. But don't let that line ever be passed. If what you're doing by being so friendly to them isn't so much bringing them to be more godly like you, but it's threatening to make you more godless like them, then leave. Make it a rule of thumb that that's just the acid test why your influence is indeed being sold. While your witness is indeed being light, stay there. But if your light's going out because of who you're associating with and if your influence is being laughed at because they see the hypocrisy of what you once said and now what you're doing, then you need to repent of that and get back to God and say, well, you're not going to stick in that group anymore. Well, what happens? They pressed. They pressed hard against the man, Lot. And they drew near to break down. They're crowding him. They're going to break the door down and get the men for themselves. But the men, and remember they're angels, they reached out their hands and they brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck blindness, the men, who were out at the entrance to the house, both small and great. So they... Wore themselves out, groping for the door. It's a bit of a comical scene in one sense. And then the men, that's the angels, said to Lot, Have you anybody else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For we're about to destroy this place because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord. And the Lord has sent us to destroy it. Now he tells those son-in-laws this. And he says to them, what's going to happen? These were people who were going to marry his daughters. And he says, get up and get out of this place for the Lord's about to destroy the city. But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. They didn't take him seriously. And you know something happens when you get to be a bit of a compromiser is that the people of the world see you as a bit of a joke. You compromise. They see you as a bit of a joke. bit of a joke. They don't take you seriously because your compromise for them has already shown your colours. You know, one of the best things you can do is to stick to your witness and don't get changed, suffer the persecution, whatever it is, and they respect you. But if you're someone who runs away from always being looked at as an outsider, if you give in too quick, they don't respect your witness. You can invite them to meetings and tell them about the gospel, but they're not listening because of how you've failed to act as true souls and true light. Well, as morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city. But they lingered. Notice it's one of the things people do when God speaks to them and he's calling them to get up and get out, but you linger. Is there not a better way that you can somehow stay? So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, and the Lord being merciful to him, they brought him out and sent him outside the city and presumably the others as well. Now we were talking in the morning service about the fact of the visitation being often where God comes down either to inspect or to judge. Or to save. In this case, this is a visitation with the intention of God through the angels to save this family on account of him being the nephew of Abraham and because him being a part of the Abrahamic line. Behold, your servant has found favour in your sight. And so replies Lot. He says, Well, if I'm getting on with you all right, then show me this one little bit more kindness. The word I've just heard is, I have come to this place of saving my life. I have come to this place of saving my life. What he means by saving his life is saving his lifestyle, but I cannot escape to the hills lest disaster on the earth happens. And let me go to this little city called Zoar, and Zoar does mean small. And he's saying, It's not a big compromise, it's just a little compromise and I'll live in there and that's being saved. He's still the way you have a compromise to make it possible. He's really quite a bad backslider, is Lot. Well, moving ahead, verse 30, the next verse. The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zohar, and the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire, there's a volcanic eruption somewhere nearby, and sulphur and fire from the Lord, but out of heaven from the skies. And he overthrew those two cities, and all the valley and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground, a whole lot got wiped out. Now, by the way, they've discovered the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, so it's not, I understand, it's not as though this is just a make-believe story. This is something that happened. But Lot's wife behind him did what the angel said not to do, don't look back. And she looked back, and in an instant, she became a pillar of salt, which meant one of those big bombs of volcanic eruption stuff landed on her, and encased with boiling salts, he became a pillar of salt. And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he'd stood before the Lord. He looked down, this is Abraham now looking over the valley and seeing the smoke come up, and he saw what was happening, but his relatives had been rescued. It was indeed a time of visitation. Now, I want to jump to the storyline of this man, Lot, living up near the city of Zohar. He's too scared to live in the city, not knowing whether he'd find acceptance or not. That's his big problem. He always wants to be accepted. And so he's living in a cave outside the city with his two daughters, for he's afraid, it says, he was afraid to live in Zohar. So he lives in a cave, and he's afraid to live in Zohar. He lives in a cave with his two daughters, and the firstborn said to the younger, now, not only has Lot been such a terrible compromise for himself, but you see the effect it's had on his family because he has allowed the culture of the world, the sinful world he's in, to get in them. And they said they just want to have babies. And they said, our father is old, there's not a man on the earth who can come into us after the manner of all the earth. Be aware of the fact, that it is a high pressure on all of us, and particularly for young people, to feel the pressure of what is the manner of the earth. And some of the worst temptations you can end up getting into is when you're surrounded by people for what is the average behaviour, and they all talk to each other about what they're doing and not doing, and they look at you as a strange specimen because you're not joining, and there's a real, more than subtle pressure on you to join the culture of the day. The Bible calls that the world. The Bible tells us, don't love the world for the things that are in the world, they're all going to lead you badly. And unless you come to some decision that you're going to draw a line, and you're going to say, that's a line I don't go over. Unless you resolve within yourself that you're going to do what you know is right before God, you're always going to be a sucker for the pressure that comes from the world and the suffering, and the little suggestions they make, and the longing you'll find within yourself to be acceptable. The only way to get over that longing is to be prepared to experience not having it, and sticking to your guns, and in a funny sort of way, you end up gaining the respect of the world that you're in. Well, they couldn't do that, and it's a bit of a statement about how unsuccessful was Lot in his compromise way of where he lived. That he had no influence on those daughters, and they made him drink wine, and they get him to sleep with them without him knowing what he's doing. First born going one night, the next one, the next. They both get pregnant. And the young babies that come as a result and the names they're given, like Moab and Ben-Ami, are names that reflect two of the groups of people who used to oppose the Israelites. So though Lot, Lot himself was friendly with his relative Abraham and always stood by him and got rescued by angels because of his connection with Abraham, the next generation are going to be antagonists against Israel. And that's also what happens, that there's people who come to church and get right with God, but when they have compromise with the world, sometimes it's not very convincing to the next generation, and they end up opposing the gospel and opposing church and won't be seen deadlyly. Isn't it? It's a terrible thing to lose the generations because the example you gave was not sufficient to gain their respect and their understanding. And this man, his daughters, didn't know just what they were going to leave their heritage to be, the ones who opposed the Israelites. The Ammonites and the Moabites were people who opposed Israel in later incidents. So, what is your heritage depends on whether or not you're going to believe God and stick to him. And sometimes when there's a breakdown in family lines, where once there were godly people and then you look a few generations later and there's no sign of godliness, there often can be discovered a moment of visitation where God came to the church and called on some of those people to get serious with him and to say, but if the call is turned down, and just as Jesus addressed Jerusalem, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered you unto my wings like a hen gets her chickens, but you would not. And it is a biblical example of the fact that when God has grace, when God steps in to save in the sending of Jesus to the people of Israel, their Messiah has come. Yet it never takes away, the place for us to respond and to receive him. So John's gospel says, to as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the children of God, but to those who didn't receive him, they rejected him. He came to his own and his own received him not. And the eventual end of it was Jesus addressing that Jerusalem town as to how they're going to suffer a terrible result in the destruction of Jerusalem. In AD 70 it happens. And Jesus says, because you did not know the time of your visitation. That time of visitation is when God particularly gets active in a moment and comes with the opportunity for there to be a call to come back to him. They could have repented after waving all the palm branches and welcoming Jesus into the city when he talked to them, like, they could have broken down and said, we have done the wrong thing. But, especially the leaders, but they didn't. They would not. And the consequence of not recognizing the time of your visitation is that it is a grace moment, but it doesn't last forever. God comes and calls. You can never say how long, there are lots of examples of him calling and calling, calling for long, there is a time, but there's also examples of God having a time. He calls and it comes to an end. A moment has come where God no longer calls or the person can no longer hear. Because you did not know the time of your visitation. And when someone comes to church a bit because they have friends that take them there or they have family that's brought them up so to come across the years of being in the church, there will inevitably be, some moment, when God comes to call you in the door. I know, I'm the son of a principal of a college. I'm someone that went around lots of churches with my dad. That didn't stop the fact that it came for me the day, the Sunday afternoon, when that was the time of visitation for me. God called me to give in to him and to become a Christian, which I did. And so I wanted to stress that there is, this time of visitation. And when you recognize it's been happening to you, do something about it. Because just because it's an act of God's grace, doesn't mean it makes it automatic. You get in the door, you have to decide that you're going to get up and come. And in the case of Lot, you saw him finding ways to delay. You saw him and his wife lingering. You saw her disobeying those angels. The angel said, don't look back. And when she looked back, the judgement of God that was for the cities fell on her. That's the end of her. And the Bible later on says, remember Lot's wife. Remember Lot's wife. So close to being rescued at a moment that has to do with a visitation by God to help her. To help her escape. But she looked back. Don't get caught up looking back. Get right with God while the opportunity is yours. And find him in your life. Chase him down in your discipleship. Spend time knowing you have your ups and downs. But say, Lord, I want to grow. I want to get stronger. I want your help in my weak areas. Be a person that takes the moment of visitation that God may have granted you. And if he's never granted that before, say, Lord, that preacher tonight talked about a moment, a time of visitation. I'm ready if you want to do it. Wow, God doesn't turn down opportunities like that. Because they're the moments where you find Christ and you find a walk with him that's a beautiful thing. Let's have a prayer. Heavenly Father, I thank you for the story of Solomon Gomorrah. What a tragedy that there was a man related to Abraham being blessed because he's related to Abraham being rescued by angels. What a testimony that would be, eh? But the stupid fellow delays his leaving. Doesn't want to do anything but go to another little city which would probably be just as bad. Oh, Father, please help us. If there's someone here who's under that moment of visitation, help them to do what will be necessary for them to respond appropriately and let you save them. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

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