Topic: The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah
TEXT: Gen 18:1-33; 19:1-38 (KJV)
In Genesis chapter seventeen, the Lord had appeared to Abraham and called him to perfection. In this study, he again appeared to him, in company of two angels in human form, in the plain of Mamre. During the visit, Abraham demonstrated uncommon hospitality to the divine visitors, leaving us an example on how to treat strangers. The New Testament records it thus, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality’’ (Heb 13:2; Rom 12:13).
Abraham, being a friend of God, had a close communion with Him. “And the LORD said, shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do… Because the city of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sins is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know’’ (Gen 18;17,20,21). God invariably revealed to Abraham that He would destroy the cities because of their wickedness. This made him to passionately intercede for the cities to avert the impending judgement. However, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah had reached a point where divine judgement was inevitable. “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly” (Gen 13:13; Deu 32:32; Isa 1:9;13:19; Jere 49:18; 50:40; Eze 16:46-56; Amos 4:11; Zeph 2:9; Matt 10:15; 11:24; Luke 10:12; 17:29; 2 pet 2:6). Their judgement serves as warning to restrain anyone who would trifle with divine laws. “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).
1. ABRAHAM’S HOSPITALITY AND INTERCESSION FOR SODOM AND GOMORRAH Gen 18:1-33; Eze 22:30; Exo 32:7-14
While sitting at his tent door, Abraham saw “three men stood by him’’. Apparently, these were divine visitors. He ran to meet them, bowed “And said, my Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash you your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree” (Gen 18:3, 4). It was customary for people in the Bible days to wash the feet of visitors (Gen19:2; 43:24). Abraham, on sighting the strangers, made haste to ensure the washing of their feet, as well as providing a meal. Abraham exemplified the virtue of hospitality to strangers, an act the Lord expects from His children. Jesus underscored the import of this virtue by saying, “…I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in” (Matt 25:35). In his letter to Timothy, Paul the apostle admonished that widows could only be taken into the number “…if she have lodged with strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet…” (I Tim 5:10). In the course of His conversation with Abraham, God reiterated His promise that Sarah would conceive and bear a son.
Hospitality attracts divine blessings. “And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and lo, Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him” (Gen 18:10). Sarah laughed within herself when she heard the Lord reaffirm His promise of a son to her, even in old age. Naturally, it seemed late to have a son but God is a Covenant-Keeper and His power transcends natural limitations. He gave Abraham a son in spite of the “deadness of Sarah’s womb” (Rom 4:19). There is hope for the barren or anyone who trust in the Lord; for God is unchangeable (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8). “And the men rose up from thence, and looked towards Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way, And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know” (Gen 18:16,20,21).
Abraham, having heard of the judgement that was going to befall on Sodom and Gomorrah, stood in the gap to intercede for the cities. “And Abraham drew near, and said, wilt thou also destroy the righteous with then wicked?” (Gen 18:23). The conversation between God and Abraham revealed the righteousness and mercy of God. He is ready to be entreated and unwilling that anyone should perish, though He judges sin because He is holy. In every generation, God seeks men, like Abraham, to stand as intercessors to avert His judgement (Eze 22:30). Abraham was a bold and importunate intercessor, yet simple in faith. He did not charge God foolishly but interceded in humility and reverence.
He said, “peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?” He knew that the judgement of God was based on righteousness. He might have thought that Sodom and Gomorrah should have at least fifty righteous people to justify their being spared. But fifty righteous people could not be found, and as Abraham continued to reduce the figure, God condescended graciously to his pleas. From the beginning to the end of his intercession, God showed to Abraham and by extension to all mankind, that the judge of all the earth will always do what is right. Really, Abraham’s concern in prayer was not only about sparing Lot: “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?…That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: shall not the judge of all the earth do the right?” (Gen 18:23, 25).
God response satisfied Abraham and reassured him that He is mindful of the righteous when He judges the wicked. It is also clear that Abraham was a man of unprejudiced love for all people. He was very magnanimous in his request and pleaded for Lot and all the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. This teaches Christians not to pray for their immediate family members but to extend the same to others. “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplication, prayers, intercession, and giving of thanks, be therefore for all men; For kings, and for that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all Godliness and honesty” (I Tim 2:1,2). It is mandatory for believers to pray for the unsaved (Rom 10:1), persecutors (Matt 5:44; Acts 7:59,60), good governance in our nations (2 Chro 6:37-39), King and rulers (Ezra 6:10; I Tim 2:1-4), one another (James 5:6), the Church (I Thess 5:23), and gospel work (Col 4:3,4; Eph 6:18-20).
.2 ASSAULT AND INORDINATE AFFECTION OF THE DEPPRAVED SODOMITES
Gen 19:1-11; Pro 14:12; I Cor 15:33; Rom 1:18-32; 11:22; Jude 7; Rev 21:8; Jer 6:15
“And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face towards the ground” (Gen 19:1). Lot was sitting “in the gate” when the heavenly messengers arrived the degenerate city. Sitting at the gate was a sign of prominence and leadership (Deut 16:18; 21:19; Pro 31:23). So, Lot moved from merely pitched his tent towards Sodom to settling in the city proper and getting involved in its running affairs. Evidently, Lot had mixed himself with the wicked men of Sodom, though he still retained some virtues he learnt from Abraham. In spite of his un-ceremonial departure from Abraham, he still kept the ethics of entertaining strangers as he has been taught.
However, he must have discovered to his chagrin that has landed himself in a cesspit of spiritual and moral corruption by choosing to live in Sodom. His choice of prosperous-looking Sodom to sojourn ended up becoming a disaster. Pitching one’s tent near “Sodom” could spell doom to any believer who chooses to associate with the world. Well, as the Bible said, “There is a way which seeemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pro 14:12). Lot was willing to tolerate the evil men of Sodom and their ungodly way of life. This complacency brought tragedy to his family, just as it will to the family of any believers who expose their families to ungodly environment and harmful influences simply because of material profit in business or corporate employment. Such believers are surely setting their families up for avoidable calamities, consider, for example, the preventing influence of Sodom on Lot’s family. First, Lot himself became complacent, unable to persuade anyone in Sodom to know God.
Next, his wife, turned out to be a worldly, nominal follower of Jehovah. Finally, Lot’s daughters became incestuous, shameless and ungodly, thoroughly schooled in vices of Sodom. Christian parents should beware of exposing their children to ungodly influences of this present age. The rot in Sodom was pervasive. Men from all quarters besieged Lot’s dwelling in an attempt to perpetrate lewdness. Both old and young were involved and Lot tried in vain to restrain them from their evil intent. Sin knows no tribal, racial or occupational divide; nor was age a disincentive to iniquity and violence in the depraved city. They shamelessly insisted in committing sodomy with the visitors and called on Lot: “…where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (Gen 19:5). This shows the abysmal level of depravity into which they had sunk. The men of Sodom, “leaving the natural use of woman, burned in their lust one towards another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Rom 1:27,28).
Lot’s offer of his two daughters to appease the Sodomites is to be condemned. We must never do evil so that good may come out of it. (Rom 3:8). “And Lot went out of the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly. And they said, stand back. And they said again, this one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs to be judge: now will we deal worse with thee. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door” (Gen 19:6,7,9). Despite being under the danger of impending judgement, the immoral sodomites refused to repent. Not even when they were struck with blindness by the angels. They were hell-bent in their sins, and had characteristics of sinners of all ages who, blinded and hardened by the deceitful glamour of sin, reject God’s offer of mercy to continue in their wickedness.
3. ABSOLUTE DESTRUCTION OF THE WICKED AND IMPENITENT SODOMITES
Gen 10:12-38; Rev 16:9, 11; Job 31:3, Psalm 9:17; 11:6; Luke 13:2-5; Heb 2:1-3
Seeing the impenitence and recalcitrance of the Sodomites, the angels instructed Lot to bring out his relations for rescue. This was a unique opportunity for evangelism given to Lot. It is also the command of a great duty which God has placed on every believer. Lot went out, at the angels’ bidding, to see to the deliverance of those related to him. Unfortunately, the Sodomites’ treated his warning with levity and scorn. To them, “I must do the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man came work” (John 9:4). Many who are repeatedly warned today by faithful ministers of God, but continue in their sins are rushing headlong into certain destruction, just as God had warned Sodom and Gomorrah. But before the destruction descended, Lot, his wife and two daughters were delivered and urged to escape to the mountains.
As soon as Lot was safely out of the way, “…the LORD rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities…” The ungodly and the wicked, fornicators and adulterers, idolaters and murderers, together with those who went after strange flesh were all destroyed by fire. Yes, God is infinite in mercy, slow to anger, eager to forgive, but when people toy with his mercy and continue in sin, He turns around as “a consuming fire” instead of redeeming Saviour. For our world, Christ is the city of refuge. Penitent sinners can run to Him for safety. In the overthrow of Sodom, though God did not find ten righteous people as Abraham assumed he would, the righteous was spared the fate of sinners. In like manner, saints will be taken out of the world, in an experience called the rapture, before the great tribulation when God will rain down his fierce wrath on this present evil world.
It is remarkable that Lot and his family escaped the destruction of Sodom, but tragedy struck as they fled to the place of safety – “his wife looked back from behind him, and she becamea pillar of salt” (Gen 19:26). The calamity of Lot’s wife proves right the axiom, “you can take a worldly person out of the world, but you cannot take the world out of a worldly person”. Lot’s wife became pillar of salt because she was unwilling to break away completely from Sodom. She left Sodom, but Sodom was still in her heart. Her fate was recorded to warn us (Luke 17:32). From the example of Sodom and Gomorrah, the wicked are warned to turn away from their unrighteousness, so also by the example of Lot’s wife, the righteous are warned not to turn from their righteousness (Eze 3:20; 33:13).
Backsliding is perilous to the believer’s soul. “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left on us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it”. (Heb 4:1). Instead of going back, we should, like Paul, make up our minds that we will press on to the heavenly prize. (Phil 3:14). The disaster in Lot’s family did not end with his wife’s instant judgement; the daughters depraved as the Sodomites. They barely escaped judgement because of God’s mercy in response to Abraham’s intercession. As Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and dwelt in a cave together, fearing they might not get husbands, they took turns to commit incest with their father, whom they made drunk prior to the act. Both of them conceived and gave birth to sons who became the father of Moabites and Ammonites respectively.
These tribes turned out to be archenemies of Israel in later years, and were barred from God’s congregation even to the tenth generation (Deut 23:3). Lot lost everything – family, property and morals – which is traceable to his decision to separate from Abraham and pitch his tent towards Sodom. His case was that of a righteous man polluted by mingling with the world. At last, Sodom left him a thoroughly ruined man. He was saved as though by fire (I Cor 3:15). His fate is a warning to everyone to take right decision because it determines one’s destiny.