biblemike wonders

There isn't anything new in what I have to say, but I do see life from an unique perspective. As my body is shutting down, my soul is opening up to a greater and greater relationship with Christ. I am sharing the things I learn as I go through my trials so that those who read what I write will be encouraged in their own walks by how gracious God has been to me in mine. Ask me questiions, dispute my views and most of all pray for me. www.ucfm.net
UCFM Evangelistic Association

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

 

The Troubling Truth of Sodom and Gomorrah

Any evening you can turn on your television set and see some crime solving drama that uses the latest technologies to resolve what appeared to be unsolvable crimes. Probably the most popular of these shows is “CSI”. The show’s theme is to go into one crime scene after another and to surprise us, the audience with the amazing bits of evidence they discover that solves the crime. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could really solve crimes that easily? Unfortunately, most of the magnificent equipment and skill used on CSI either does not exist or at least is not available in this time of tight government budgets.

Using the tools at our disposal let’s take a look at the remnants of this crime scene. What a minute! Was there even a crime committed here? Is there still ancient ash blowing back and forth in the desert wind? It leaves no permanent memorial just an occasional thought that passes by each man’s soul from time to time. If this ash is what is left then it is evidence in part that the patience of God can come to a close and when it does His judgment is swift and final. Just as swift and final as it was for those who mocked Noah. Just as instantaneous as it was at the tower of Babel.

Some objector’s will raise their voices and say, “Wait a second. Why should we be thinking of two cities that burned to the ground thousands of years ago? What has that got to do with us today? It is because God has chosen these cities as examples. As we lay our measuring rod alongside we can see how far we have come and how very far we have to go. Sodom is just a sign along the road. You see road signs all the time. US Interstate Highway 80, Junction Highway 60 ¼ Mile Ahead, Casino Ahead – Food – Lodging – Recreation. Just another sign on the road.

Sometimes signs indicate distances to the next area of rest or lodging. Sometimes signs warn of possible dangers on the roadway. “Slippery When Wet.” “Long Grade All Drivers Check Your Brakes.” “Beware of Black Ice.” What might some of the signs near Sodom have been like? “Beware Sexual Temptation.” “Avoid Sins of Pride.” “Caution do not trust anyone.”

These aren’t what the warning signs were really like, but there were signs and they were so bright that they got God’s attention. Abraham and his cousin Lot had once traveled together, but they had a parting of the way. Abraham generously allowed Lot to choose the richest land for himself and Abraham to the more challenging property. Because of this separation Lot ends up being kidnapped as a prisoner of war whom Abraham must rescue. In the course of that rescue he also helps bring about the defeat of the enemy kings who had started the war. It is here that Abraham becomes known as Abraham the Hebrew, a man due great honor and respect. Yet when Abraham is offered riches by the king of Sodom, he politely refuses it explaining that he has been greatly blessed by his God already. He does take time to offer one tenth of his spoils to the king and prophet Melchizedek. He would not take the tainted goods from Sodom city of sinfulness, but he would certainly honor God by giving a tithe offering to this one king, Melchizedek, who worshiped the Lord God Jehovah with all his heart.

Finally a time comes when three come to Abraham and he serves them a meal. This is not just sharing food as it is in our society today. Serving food to a stranger was considered a duty and an opportunity to be blessed by God. Abraham wants to serve these men with the greatest respect and honor. Eventually Abraham suspects these visitors are from God and in fact one of them is God. Even God displays Himself as capable of having intimates with whom he shares his thoughts and desires. Abraham was one of those chosen to be God’s friend. God does not hesitate to share His concerns about Sodom with Abraham.

Abraham knows that his God, the Judge of all that is right would never judge wrongly. So he comes confidently before God arguing for the souls of any possible innocents that may be there. When God ends the conversation, Abraham breaks it off filled with the knowledge that God can be trusted completely. Abraham has interceded for the faithful and now God’s angels will do the same.

When the angels reach Sodom, they are greeted by foul invitations and suggestions that they participate in immoral behavior. These angels could have destroyed those who wanted to assault them, but first they were examining the populace in response to God’s conversations with Abraham. It is clear that at least part of the great sins of Sodom was sexual depravity in many extremes. Lot even offers to give his own daughters over to be raped by a mob in order to protect the guests in his house, the angels. The angels did not need Lot’s protection. They were looking for evidence of his faith. What did they find? Lot was to selfish to accept the rescue being offered and asks that they spare the town of Zoar so they won’t have to flee so far or give up so much. His daughter’s betrotheds refused to go with them and dishonored the daughters by breaking their engagements. Lot’s wife desired al the finery and excitement of Sodom that she turned back and became a pillar of salt. Finally even Lot’s own daughters tricked him into sexual activity with him so that he fathered his own grandsons. Sodom is one of many great warnings in scripture that tells us what may happen if we disobey God.

When Peter writes to those suffering for their faith under oppressive Roman rule, he warns them that some things may appear tempting to choose, but that they will lead to harm in the end.

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, when He brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly and if he excused Lot, a righteous man, who 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.) – if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desires of the sinful nature and despise authority.” 2 Peter 2:4-10

“Though you already know all this, I wanted to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions or authority but abandoned their own home---these he has kept in great darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” Jude 5-7

Of course most of the people living in our world today would say the same as the people of those days said, “Well, that can’t happen to us!” However Peter is not done warning us about what could happen to us:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and Godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” 2 Peter 3:10-14

So today Sodom is a flashing red light on the page of scripture to warn us of the impending judgment that is coming on this world. Some might ask if I enjoy being a prophet of doom. The answer is of course that I do not. However I have been called and you have been called to spread the good news of Christ’s salvation to warn of the impending wrath to come. It is not a matter of talking about one or the other. We are called to talk about all of it. If I knew a tornado was coming, how selfish and uncaring I would be not to warn people.

Five witnesses are recorded by name in the Bible as having seen Sodom or participating in its destruction in some way. Let’s see what we can learn from looking through their eyes.

“So Abraham said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. It not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I will go to the right; if you go to the right, I will go to the left.’ Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before The Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company. Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Jordan.” Genesis 13:9-12
What did Lot see at this new home? Did he see a city of sin? Well, he might have said something like, “Well, we do have certain lower element in or society.” But Lot saw a city not that very much different than some of the cities we see in America today. This was a major city for its day. There were probably public gardens, magnificent homes, private and specially decorated yards. There were schools and intellectuals, places of commerce, labor unions, well paying jobs. It was a vacation playground of its world. Maybe it was like Las Vegas in the Middle East. Lot became a powerful local figure, a judge and politician. His daughters were engaged to rich local young men with great financial futures ahead of them.

What did Lot gain by his association with this major city and powerful kingdom? Nothing! He lost everything. His family, his home, prestige, position, power, wealth, his happiness, his self-respect, his fellowship with God’s chosen one, Abraham and God’s people, but most of all he lost his fellowship with his Lord-God and Creator. He became so wrapped up in the comforts of this world that he forgot where his first loyalties belonged.

Lot’s wife saw Sodom with wide open desirous eyes. She did love Lot, but the lot she loved was a lot of Sodom. She was probably a social climber in the town. After all she had a responsibility to support her husband’s political career. She probably belonged to everything in town; they were members of the country club, the garden club and even the missionary club. They were probably well respected members of the Presby-Methodistic-Unitarian-Baptarian Church of Holiness. Her whole life was wrapped up in Sodom, her affections, her family, her friends, home, desires, aspirations, hopes and loves. When Lot told her that God was going to burn the whole thing to the ground, she wouldn’t accept it or believe it. God told her not to look back because he wanted her to be looking toward God and not at her past.

Lot’s wife looked back because she did not believe that God would do what He said He would do. Too many today will look back at a judged and burning world they have put al their hope and dreams into

Abraham saw a different Sodom. He saw a judged Sodom. “Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before 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.” Genesis 19:27-28

Don’t get the wrong idea about Abraham. He was not a prude nor was he judgmental. He was a good business man and tribal leader. He was wealthy and God had blessed him in many ways. Christians do not have to hate themselves or live in poverty. There is no virtue in being poor for the sake of being poor. There is no virtue in depriving yourself of good things. It is not wrong to possess things, it is only wrong when things possess you. I pray everyday that I do not own anything that I would not readily hand over to God because it is His,

That is why some people have problems in their giving. They give from the viewpoint of “I’m giving away what belongs to me – my stuff – my money.” If we recognize that everything belongs to God in the first place and that it is His stuff and His money, it becomes far easier to give away something that belongs to someone else. That is why it is so easy for politicians to give away stuff. What their giving away is not their own.

God looked on Sodom. How grief stricken He must have been. “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” Genesis 13:13

“And the Lord said, ‘Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and because their sin is very grievous;’” Genesis 18:20

We must remember that God does not see sin the way that we see sin. We may see some sins and be offended by them, but most of the sin we actually notice we are tempted toward. We examine it more closely in our minds. We give greater consideration to the possibilities we might make of that temptation. God’s heart aches for both the sinners and those upon whom they inflict their sins. Yes, His justice requires recompense for sins against God, but His great loving hear requires mercy and the opportunity to repent.

“Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroy them all.” Luke 17:28-29

It is most interesting to note what the Lord saw as the sin of Sodom. Jesus was perfectly placed to rage against sexual sin and homosexuality. Homosexuality is a sin against one’s self and against one’s creator, but that is not the sin that Jesus listed. He said they were eating, drinking, buying, settling, planting, building. The great sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was ungodliness. The great sin of America, the great sin of Sacramento, the greatest sin of anyplace is ungodliness. It is that basic rejection of God that brought about Sodom’s doom.

There is one more particularly stunning warning about Sodom. It is a view of Sodom that each of us must take. Let’s listen to what the Word of God of says.

“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 until this day.” Matt. 11:23-24

Over and over we are warned throughout scripture to pay attention to all the miracles that are being performed around us; to see how God uses them for His glorification. As we become more and more adept at glorifying God and praising Him for all the wonderful things He does for us. God is without obligation to any of us, but He still pours His grace down upon us. He was wiling and able to that for Sodom, but Sodom and Gomorrah had God figured out. They decided that God was to serve man instead of man serving God. I have learned the hard way that serving God is the best way of living and for knowing the full intensity of His presence in your life.

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