Sodom and Ourselves
Scripture: Genesis 18:1– 19:38
Sodom and OurselvesGenesis 18:1-19:38
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Pastor Randy Smith
We have made a commitment here at Grace Tabernacle Bible Church to teach as we are commanded, "the whole purpose of God" (Ac. 20:27). We believe the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God. Since it stands over us in authority, we are not permitted to "pick and choose" what we desire to accept. Either we believe it all or reject it as a book on par with fairy tales written by man. My goal this morning is not to defend the full inspiration of Scripture, but rather affirm our commitment to faith in preaching it, even when we run into texts that are sensitive and contrary to culture.
For hundreds of years our country has accepted God's verdict on homosexuality, but now in recent times it has expected God to shift His assessment and adjust to popular belief like the rest of us. My friends, the moment we compromise our Lord's teaching on any subject with the forever changing opinions of society is the moment we no longer have a rock to stand upon and can no longer speak as God's prophetic voice and can no longer share God's love with others.
This morning I would like to cover the now very popular and controversial and even timely subject of homosexuality. As we teach through Genesis, we have before us this subject before we partake in the Lord's Table. First, we will take a quick examination of chapters 18-19 in Genesis. Then I will evaluate some common objections given to Christians. And then I would like to end with an exhortation to our lives. My goal is to address this subject humbly as a redeemed sinner myself with love and kindness adhering faithfully to the Word of God and not exceeding the graphics presented in Scripture.
Please pray for me!
1. An Explanation of Genesis 18-19
So let's begin with a brief explanation of Genesis 18-19. Put your seatbelts on because we are going quickly!
Last week in chapter 17 we learned that God confirmed His covenant with Abraham with a sign. The sign would be circumcision. God again reminded Abraham that he would indeed have a son.
In chapter 18 Abraham is met with three visitors (verse 2). Hospitality, lost in our culture today was highly respected back then in the Middle East. Abraham invites them in, promises them a meal and then like most guys finds his wife and says "cook something" (verse 6) because the best we can do is peanut butter and jelly.
One of three men says in verse 10, "I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son." Only one Person could make that prediction and only one Person could know that Sarah while eavesdropping and hearing the prediction was laughing to herself (verse 12). Who is that Man? Verse 13, "the Lord said to Abraham." It was another appearance of the preincarnate, Jesus Christ. Sarah is rebuked for laughing at God's Word. The response, verse 14, "Is anything too difficult for the LORD?" The other two men were angels.
Our Savior gets to the purpose of their visit in verse 20: "And the LORD said, 'The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.'" Abraham hears about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah and begins pleading with the Lord as an auctioneer going in reverse (beginning in verse 23). "Will you destroy the wicked city if there are fifty righteous there?" "How about forty-five?" "Do I hear forty?" "Thirty, going once." The man whittles the Lord down to ten to which Jesus said, verse 32, "I will not destroy it on account of the ten."
When we turn the page to chapter 19, we see the two angels, without Jesus, come down to Sodom (verse 1). The same scenario of hospitality that we witnessed with Abraham is seen with Lot who had obviously returned to Sodom after Abraham once rescued him from the wicked city. The two angels looked like ordinary men. In verse 2 Lot said, "Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant's house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way." The angels reply that they will spend the night in the town square. Lot knows the dangers of his town and prevails upon them to stay in his home.
News makes it out to the people of the city and, verse 4, the house is surrounded with old and (don't miss this) young men of the city. To which they say to Lot, verse 5, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them." This scene is X-rated. They all wanted to gang rape Lot's visitors. So what does Lot do? He goes out and tries to reason with them (verses 6 and 7) - either very courageous or very insane. There he suggests an alternative. Instead of raping my visitors, verse 8, you can have my virgin daughters! Do you see the perversity of this town? Do you see how corrupt Lot's own thinking had become? The men in the city threaten Lot. Verse 9, "We will treat you worse than them." The angels strike the men in the city with blindness.
The Lord's destruction is coming upon this city from the angelic beings (verse 13). Lot is told to gather up his family. First he tries with his two sons-in-law, but to them, verse 14, "[it] appeared [as if he was] jesting." Lot's life had been one big joke, why should they take him seriously now? Verse 15 Lot is told grab his wife and two daughters because the city is going down, but in verse 16 Lot hesitates! The warning is turned to a command, verse 17, "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away." Lot, I can't believe it, at this time, verse 19, begins negotiating with the Lord. "Not the mountains, I am a city boy!" Verse 24, "brimstone and fire" rains down upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot's wife looks back, unable to turn completely from her past in following the Lord, and as we all know, verse 26, becomes an oversized saltshaker. Sodom and Gomorrah is destroyed.
2. An Evaluation of Common Objections
All right, let's move to the second point and discuss some of the common objections. I'll begin with the specific as it is related to Genesis 18-19 and then expand it to include some general issues.
First, "Isn't it clear that these chapters in Genesis identify homosexuality as a sin?" Answer, "Absolutely." So what do the homosexual advocates do with this text? Usually two things…
For starters, some claim the sin in these passages is not homosexuality, but rather the lack of hospitality. If that were the case, I'd personally be tempted to believe that God overreacted a bit. And it is not the case. Back in chapter 13 the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were introduced to us as "wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD" (Gen. 13:13). The passage deals primarily with homosexual activity. And elsewhere in the Bible, specifically Jude 7, we read that the town "indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, [and is] exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire." Even in 2 Peter 2:6-7 we read, "And if [God] condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men." Throughout the history of our land, even the term "Sodomy" has always meant male homosexual activity.
The other argument commonly employed is that this is a story from the Old Testament, and since there are many commands from the Old Testament that we do not follow today, why are we singling out homosexuality? Answer: Jesus Christ has fulfilled the Old Testament and therefore application of the Old Testament (which still has value as inspired Scripture) must be seen through the lens of Jesus Christ and the apostles in the New Testament. We don't sacrifice animals because Jesus Christ was the final blood sacrifice. We don't stone our children because we are no longer living in a theocracy. These commands were never carried into the New Testament, but the identification of homosexuality as sin definitely is (Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1).
Some people will also claim that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah never really happened. In other words, they believe it was all make believe. That conclusion unfortunately leads to greater problems because Jesus Christ affirmed Sodom and Gomorrah as a literal place that received a literal destruction. In Luke 17 we read, "It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed" (Lk. 17:28-30; cf. 10:12). Deny our story from Genesis and you will have to deny the deity of Jesus Christ. Deny the deity of Jesus Christ and you no longer have a Savior!
You see, my friends, God is the One who makes the rules. We may not like them, but as Creator, He calls the shots. It is as Abraham said in 18:25, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?"
God's rule for sex and marriage is clear. It goes all the way back to Genesis 2 and the marriage union that He created and blessed that "man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). There is no such thing as "gay marriage." God's definition is only one man and one woman joined for life.
Why does it have to be that way? Because God said it! And second, God even explained why in Ephesians 5:32. In speaking of marriage Paul said, "This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church." We must understand that many blessing come within marriage, but the primary purpose of marriage is to illustrate the union of Jesus Christ with His bride the church. A marriage between a man and a woman is intended to display the wonderful Gospel of Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. If marriage were between a man and a man or a woman and a woman we would be left with only Christ and Christ or church and church!
"But it's about civil rights! Are you guys going to treat the gays the way our forefathers treated the American Indians and more recently the African slaves?" There is a big difference between personhood and morality. All people groups are to be treated with dignity and love and kindness, but that does not necessarily mean that we need to endorse what God calls evil. Lumping homosexuality with the sins of our forefathers is comparing apples and oranges.
And what about the civil rights of the heterosexuals? Just this week I read that bill AB1266 was just passed in California and is awaiting the signature of the governor. If made law, public schools K-12 will be required to allow transgender students to choose which restrooms they use and which sports teams they join based solely on gender identity instead of biological chromosomes.
"But it is clear that those two women love each other. Why should you say that is wrong?" We must accept God's definition of love. And according to the famous "love chapter" in 1 Corinthians 13, love "does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6). The Bible repeatedly calls homosexuality, unrighteous. God is love and we must stand by God's definition of love and not society's definition. Furthermore, it is in love for the homosexual that we warn him or her about their relationship. First Corinthians 6:9-10, "Or 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 effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." How can we believe this verse in Scripture and then tell a gay person everything is fine? I'd say that's unloving!
"Aren't we a country about freedom and equality?" Yes and no. Last time I checked pedophiles are not given the freedom they desire - nor are kleptomaniacs or arsonists. Should we sanction marriages for people to have the freedom to marry their pets? Where is the freedom for the polygamist? What about a man that wants to marry his sister?
I know we could spend weeks discussing homosexuality and the culture, but I need to move on.
3. An Exhortation To Our Lives
Lastly, before we go to the Lord's Table, what do we as Christians need to take away from this?
One, we are not without sin ourselves. In our recent studies in Genesis we have already seen the sexual sin of Abraham and Sarah. Lot desired to live in a perverse city with his children and it wasn't for evangelistic reasons. Later in chapter 19 we see Lot's daughters committing incest with their father (Gen. 19:30-38). Folks, these were God's people! In 18:19 it says Abraham was chosen by God. Apart from God's saving grace in our lives, we would likely be engaged in and enjoying sinful behavior as well.
Second, we have no business casting judgment on homosexuality if we are engaged in any sexual sin ourselves. In God's economy, sex is reserved exclusively between a husband and a wife. Anything beyond that is sin. Yet even all believers in the flesh have a tendency to desire and practice what our Lord condemns in this area too. Maybe it is not homosexuality, but are you sleeping around or living with someone who is not your spouse? Are you downloading porn? Are you fantasizing in your mind impure sexual images? We dare not shake our finger at Sodom and Gomorrah if we too are involved with any sexual immorality.
Three, in 18:19 God said the purpose for which He chose Abraham "so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness." We saw the negative example of this in Lot's life. When it came time to warn about the wrath of God, his sons-in-law thought he was only joking because his life with respect to spiritual value had been one big joke. As I mentioned, his daughters committed incest with their father. Even his wife disobeyed the Lord and became a pillar of salt. The man failed as a husband and father. And why? Because he drifted toward sin and found an attraction in it.
When Abraham gave Lot first dibs on the land, Lot chose to live on the outskirts of Sodom (Gen. 13:12). Then he moved into the city of Sodom (Gen. 14:12). Then he hung out at the gates of the city (Gen. 19:1). Then he even gave his daughters to be married to the men of the city (Gen. 19:14). Then he even needed to be dragged out of the city after hesitation (Gen. 19:16). The guy was a believer, but a classic hypocrite. His family is a disaster (the ones left that is) and the story ends with him living in a cave (Gen. 19:30). Let's have more in our families right than the fact that we are all heterosexual!
Four, like any sin, our Lord saves people in the homosexual lifestyle. He forgives their sins and gives them the grace to repent. After saying that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:10, we read in the very next verse, "Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:11). We are all born with distinct tendencies toward certain sins. Maybe for you it is not homosexuality, but for you it is compulsive gambling or jealousy or anger or gluttony or lust with the opposite sex. Whatever it is, there is hope for victory in Jesus Christ. Once again, Jesus Christ is the only hero of the story!
And five, we only have hope because Jesus Christ went to the cross to take sin upon Himself. We all deserve the eternal wrath of God much worse than what was poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah, but Jesus Christ accepted the wrath we deserved as a substitute on the sinner's behalf. He welcomes all sinners to come to Him through faith and repentance to be forgiven and to be empowered to live according to the commandments of God. We can act like Sarah and laugh at the Word of God (Gen. 18:12), or we can turn to Jesus Christ (if we have yet to do so already) and despite the sinful backgrounds we all possess, receive a total pardon from the Judge of the earth (Gen. 18:25). As the song goes, "The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives."