Sunday, September 24, 2017

Genesis 19:1- 16 “SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD” (1)

Last time we saw in 18:1-16 that   God had visited Abraham in the form of His pre-incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus, in the company of two angels.  The first purpose of that visit was to announce the birth of a son to Abraham and Sarah. The second purpose was to announce the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, for we are told that their sin was very grave (18:20). In 18: 22-33 we find Abraham interceding with the LORD for the people of these cities, presuming that there might be innocent people among them. For Abraham, who knows the character of God very well, it is unthinkable that God should destroy the righteous alongside the wicked (18:25). In keeping with His character God promises Abraham that He will not destroy the city, should He find 10 righteous people in it.

Today we come to that text in which the two angels who we find initially in the company of the LORD in Chapter 18, will now enter Sodom and there experience first-hand the wickedness of the entire city. And we shall see that they will not find  10  righteous   persons in that city. The exception will be Lot and his two daughters. We note that even Lot’s wife and his future sons- in law will perish in this terrible judgement on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I have entitled this  message, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, with apologies to Jonathan Edwards who preached a sermon with that title based on  a text  from Deut. 32:35, on July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut, with great effect.  This church had been largely unaffected during the Great Awakening of New England. Edwards was invited by the pastor of the church to preach to them. Edwards's aim was to teach his listeners about the horrors of hell, the dangers of sin and the terrors of being lost. Edwards described the shaky position of those who do not follow Christ's urgent call to receive His forgiveness. During his preaching Edwards was interrupted many times by people moaning, even fainting and crying out, "What shall I do to be saved?" In fact, God used that sermon on a number of occasions to awaken the New England community in the American colonies.    

We observe then that the two angels appear in Sodom.  Lot, sitting in the city gate, invites them to spend the night in his home, and like Abraham he offers them good hospitality. They wanted to stay in the town square, presumably to see what was going on in the city at night. But Lot pressed them strongly, and we have every reason to believe that Lot knew what  might happen to them, if they should stay in the town square that night.  The angels in the form of men, at his insistence  went  home with Lot. Then ,  we  read, that  the men of  the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last mansurrounded the house” and they called out to Lot, “Where are the men… bring them out  so that we may know them…” . That they might know them …intimately.   The intention here is clear. These men of the city wanted to sexually violate these messengers from God. They wanted to ‘sodomize’ them.  This text  forces  us  to deal with the issue of homosexuality, which together with the entire  LGBT movement  has  become  a critical  concern   for  many  thoughtful Christians.  

Is Homosexuality a sin?

There are a number of  biblical texts [1]  which teach  plainly  that  homosexuality  is a sin,  along with  a string of other  moral sins. We will restrict ourselves to one major OT and one major NT text.  In the OT, Leviticus 18:22-24 & 29   deals with a  number of unlawful sexual relations  (e.g.  sexual relations  with close relatives, adultery, bestiality) and among them gives a clear  warning  against homosexual behaviour. "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a woman. It is an abomination.” (Lev.18: 22).

In the NT, in  Romans 1:18-32, the apostle  Paul  speaks about  the fact that  fallen mankind  is on a constant drive to exchange  God  the Creator  for  created things, ‘exchanging  the glory of the immortal God for images …’  (Rom 1:23). As a result we read that God gave  mankind  up (Rom. 1: 24,26,28) in the lusts of their heart to impurity, and what follows is a long list  of  these impurities,  which includes homosexual acts: “ 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (Rom. 1:26,27)

Sexual immorality is one of the chief expressions of man’s rebellion against God and His design for mankind.  Homosexuality is the so called  'cherry on the top'  of it all. Homosexuality   goes even further  against   God’s created order.   Robert Gagnon, a leading scholar on sexuality in Scripture, says  that idolatry and same-sex intercourse equally oppose the designs of the Creator. He sees several strong connections that link Romans 1 to the creation account in Genesis 1–2. In his book ‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’, Gagnon writes, "Idolatry and homosexual behavior are in some measure parallel (not just successive) phenomena since both are presented as wilful suppression of the obvious truth about God and God's design in the natural world."[2]

Now in our day there is a concerted effort to get us to accept that homosexuality is in fact  a normal way of life, as was the case in Sodom. 

Matthew Vines for instance, is a so called evangelical gay theologian. In an article in the New York Times (8th June 2014) he  engages  in a debate with Caleb Kaltenbach, pastor of Discovery Church in California,  a man  who was  raised by gay parents, but who  now is a conservative  pastor. 

On the Leviticus text he argues that, “ Christ fulfilled the Old Testament law, and the New Testament teaches that Christians should live under the new covenant rather than the old one. Consequently, this verse has never applied to Christians. For a man to lie with a man “as with a woman” violated the patriarchal gender norms of the ancient world, which is likely why Leviticus prohibited it. But the New Testament casts a vision of God’s kingdom in which the hierarchy between men and women is overcome in Christ. So not only is Leviticus’s prohibition inapplicable to Christians on its own, the rationale behind it doesn’t extend to Christians, either.” [3]  What Vines is basically doing here is saying that the OT was simply a cultural phenomenon and has nothing to say to modern Christianity. 

And with respect to the Romans passage, Vines says, “Paul is explicit that the same-sex behavior in this passage is motivated by lust…. Christians should continue to affirm with Paul that we shouldn’t engage in sexual behavior out of self-seeking lustfulness… that’s very different than same-sex marriages that are based on self-giving love…”[4] Vines is saying  that the  issue that Paul is addressing here is not  homosexuality  per se, but lustful relationships. He simply brushes aside God’s  creation purposes  in creating a man and a woman  for marriage and re-interprets the issue on  lustful relationships.  How is that?

There are many such attempts to confuse Christians  who are not used to careful thinking upon  these matters.  The fact is  that when   homosexuality becomes  normative in our society, a profound shift will have occurred, for it not only challenges the  biblical meaning and purpose of marriage, but it challenges  biblical morality  altogether. The plain meaning of Scripture  in this matter will be questioned. The biblical pulpit will become a dangerous place , as  pastors will be framed for hate speech, when they  in fact  stand up for what God says  is right.

The story  of Sodom  shows us  that  such a conditioning of society  had  taken place in ancient times.  According to the text all of the men had  begun to endorse this behaviour, and it did not end  with private homosexual relationships, but  in a public and very aggressive  way. The homosexual agenda progressively  conditions society  to accept gayness as  normative, but few are able to see that this system  will in fact become  aggressive  (we see  this happening  in modern societies)  and perhaps the most repressive  opponent of the Christian faith. 

And so we see that the men of Sodom were aggressively prepared to break the door down to Lot’s house. However they did not know with whom they had to do. The messengers of God struck them  with blindness (19:11), and that  was the beginning of the judgment on Sodom. 
But before they  would  destroy that city  they needed to evacuate  Lot’s family … sons-in law, daughters, and anyone  belonging to Lot’s family in the city  (19:12) ….”Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry against this people has become so great before the LORD, that he has sent us to destroy it” (vv. 12&13).  

Lot’s behaviour in v. 8  by the way with respect to offering  his daughters to the mob, is inexcusable. It is clear that Lot lived in compromise. He was spiritually asleep.  His surroundings  had  corrupted and confused  him.  Bad company corrupts good character, though we have reason to believe that Lot did essentially cling to God’s Word.  Weak believers are found at all times in the world. They know what is right, but they are too weak in their knowledge and therefore in their willpower to effectively resist what is coming at them. There is a  difference between an Abraham and Lot.  Abraham had to carry Lot many times!

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

So the wickedness of these cities on the plains from  the perspective of where Abraham lived was well known. There were righteous people that had prayed concerning this, and their  outcry had come to the Lord’s attention (18:20; 19:13). And God was not reacting in a knee-jerk fashion. God had been patient with this people for a long time.  
We may safely assume that they had been warned. 
We may be certain that Lot would have warned these people, for how else could Peter   write these things about him in 2 Peter 2:7,8  concerning,  “righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as a righteous man he lived among  them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul  over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)”.  

The two earlier judgments in Genesis were preceded by warnings. Adam and Eve were warned by God not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The people in Noah’s generation were warned by Noah.[5] 
God has given everyone in Sodom a conscience, just like everyone in Windhoek. The law of God is written upon the hearts of every man and woman and child in this world (Rom. 2:14,15).   

“So Lot went out…” (19:14). Thank God for His Messengers! Without their message of warning Lot would have perished with the rest. He warned his extended family, including his prospective sons-in-law, who thought that this is a joke (19:14).  And as morning dawns the angels urge Lot, his wife and 2 daughters (by now the prospective sons- in law are not listening)   to hurry out of the city of destruction (19:15).  “But he lingered” (19:16a)!  It’s hard to leave people behind that won’t listen … particularly the members of your own family!   “So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city “(19:16b).  

SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF A MERCIFUL GOD

The LORD Jesus Christ came to live in this world – our Sodom. He came to see how men and women behave. The place was so bad that He wept over it. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” This world hated him so much that it killed him.  But God, who is rich in mercy had designed that his death was not going to be simply a murder by evil men. God turned this death into an atoning sacrifice, along with an invitation to pardon the sins of all who look to Him and believe in Him (Jn. 3:16). The lesson is plain.  Flee from your Sodom. Like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, flee from the city of destruction. 
Where do you flee to? 
Flee to Jesus. 
He is your Way, your Truth, your Life (Jn. 14:6). By Him alone you will escape the coming wrath. Remember, that Jesus has warned you about the coming Judgement (Matt. 24,25). And remember that the Judgement will be sudden and unexpected. 
Many think that this is a joke! Flee to Jesus!  He is the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13,14), the door (Jn. 10:7) to your Father who is in Heaven. Do not hesitate! Do not linger! Do not say, ‘Tomorrow’, because that day never comes. Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Hebr. 3:7,15; 4:7).  
Otherwise you will be a sinner in the hand of an angry God.



[1] Key Texts in the Old Testament: Lev. 18:22, 29; 20:13; Gen.19 ;  Key Texts in the New Testament: Rom. 1:26-27;  1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim.1:10; Jude 7.
[4] ibid
[5] Genesis 2:16,17 ;  2 Peter 2:5 tells us Noah was a preacher of righteousness“…and did not spare  the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;   Knowing that Noah was a preacher proclaiming God's truth in some form to the people of his day and given his godly character, we can assume Noah preached about the approaching flood and the need to repent. Offering the world such a warning would be in keeping with God's character, since God typically gives opportunity for repentance prior to His judgments.

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