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Sodom: A Salvation Story

Preached by Tyler Vela at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Hinsdale, IL

What we think of when we hear the name “Sodom”

Fire

Brimstone

Wrath

Vengeance

Sexual perversions

Rape

Destruction

We picture scenes of horrible sin and devastation! We imagine fire and sulfur reigning down on the cities of the valley, nearly killing an entire population in apocalyptic wrath!

In fact, even our English Bibles title this section “The Doom” or “The Destruction of Sodom.”

But what I want to do today is to give you a little Sodom shock therapy.

Rather than thinking of this as a story just about judgment and destructions, I want to show you that the story of Sodom is also a story of salvation. After we are done today, I want you to associate the name Sodom not only with God’s wrath against sin, but also with God’s mercy, grace, compassion, and faithfulness to His chosen people.

But before we begin, let us humble ourselves before our God in prayer.

----Pray----

Imagine yourself sitting on the shore of a beautiful woodland lake. Maybe you are sitting on a small dock, feet dangling in the water… the water is still and the forest is silent. Across the lake you a family of deer coming out of the forest line to come and lap up some of the cool lake water. The sun is shining and you are completely relaxed.

But then, as if out of no where, you here… buh dum (Jaws Song).

Your first reaction would probably be to pull your feet out of the water and get as far away from the water as possible. But maybe you also look around. Where is the trouble going to come from?! What is going to happen?! Who is about to die?!?! I’m the only one here!

Those two little notes can quickly start our hearts racing because they warn us that something is wrong.

Like any good mystery novel or suspense movie, the story of Sodom begins with an eerie silence. It screams at us that something is wrong.

First, only two of the three angels that were with Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre when he pleaded for the people of Sodom come to the city. Where is the third, the one that we have come to know is the Lord himself. Why can the Lord not be present in Sodom?

And they arrive just as night is falling over the valley. Maybe they hills around are lit but the sun has fallen behind the jagged skyline, casting a shadow on the Sodom and the other cities on the valley… It is getting dark…

Lot sees the angels and rushes to meet them. He bows down before them and implores them to come with him to his house. But Lot is the only one from the gate who comes down to greet these strangers. Why do none of the other elders of the city come down? Why is Lot the only one in the entire scene who performs the normal salutation?

And not only that, but the angels deny his invitation. You see, if it was common practice to proved lodging and protection for visitors to the town, it was equally common for those visitors to accept the first invitation. But they don’t, they would rather sleep out on the street than come and stay in Lot’s home.

But Lot urges them, in fact he practically pulled them by the arm trying to convince them to come and stay with him. He does not come out and say it, but his actions show that he believes it would be unsafe for these visitors to stay out in the streets of Sodom over night. These were probably not the first guests ever to Sodom. He has probably heard the mob before. He has most likely seen the devastation of its victims. He knows what happens to outsiders who are found inside the walls of Sodom after dark. And he wants to get them out of the sight of the people of Sodom as quickly as possible.

Then we are told the kind of food that Lot prepared for them. We are told that he fed them unleavened bread. Why unleavened bread? This is the bread that you would make when you planned on leaving quickly. In fact this was the bread that the Israelites made in haste when they were told to leave Egypt. It would be like Lot saying that he would provide them with drive through McDonalds. And what would they get at McDonalds? A Big Mac? Some McNuggets? No, they would be eating sausage biscuits and hash browns because Lot says that they must rise early and leave… before anyone else knows they are there… Lot is hurring them…

Why? Because there is a shark… in the water…

They had just sat down after dinner by the time they heard the rumbling of a mob outside Lot’s front door… Avalanching down upon their location. The scriptures tell us that the entire city had come out, young and old, from every sector. Here in Chicago we warn people to stay away from certain areas at night. Don’t be caught at night alone in Cabrini… or in Lawndale… But here, in Sodom, don’t be caught anywhere. This mob was full of every class of society from the bridge and tunnel crowd to wealthiest of its citizens… some of them had traveled all the way across the span of the city to partake in this little outing.

They came banging on the door, demanding that Lot hand over the two men that had come into the city so that the crowd might, know them… in the Biblical sense…

Here I would like to take a brief moment to tell you about the sin of Sodom… those who say that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality miss what the sin of Sodom was… those way say that the sin of Sodom was that they were taboo in their treatment of outsiders and did not keep to the normal customs of hospitality, miss what the sin of Sodom was.

We are told several times that the outcry against the people of Sodom has become great before the Lord. The idea is not so much that people who have been sinned against have cried out so much that it has finally gotten God’s attention. The idea is that Sodom has heaped up sin upon sin upon sin, in a vile compost pile that has actually reached the courts of heaven. You see the people of the world could not reach heaven in splendor with their tower at Babylon, but here that have reached it with a different kind of tower. Their sin is so great, that they have finally reached the courts of God… with their sin.

And we see this played out in Sodom.

As all the men of the city are pounding on his door, Lot emerges and selflessly begs the people of the city to not act so wickedly. But in doing so he acts wickedly himself. He offers up his two daughters to the crowd, for them to do as they please. Some have attempted to say that Lot is actually trying to trap the people in their own legal system. You see in many cultures of the time homosexuality was not deserving of death like it was in Israel but rape was. In fact, to have sex with a woman who was pledged to be married but had not yet consummated the marriage with her husband, consensual or not, was a capital crime. It is possible that Lot was offering up his daughters, knowing that even these wicked men would not touch his daughters out of fear for their own laws, and would leave his property defeated. This may be supported by the fact that they rebuke Lot, this outsider, for now acting as a Judge among them. One who works and applies the law on the people.

But even if this is the case, Lot still acts wickedly in offering up his daughters no matter what his intentions were. This is not good parenting. You would not find this strategy on Dr. Phil. He does not perform the duty as Father in which he is charged to protect the purity of his daughters.

But regardless of what his intentions may have been, the men of Sodom are not swayed. In fact, they become more violent and threaten not only to violate his guests but to do even worse to Lot.

Then, right as they begin to take Lot by force the angels reach out and pull him back in. Then they miraculously blind the men of Sodom so that they are blind and unable to find the door to Lots house. These men fit the Biblical type of those who are blind spiritually being blinded physically. Maybe they have something like scales over their eyes. And even after they are stricken with blindness it says that they grope around to find the entrance to Lots house for the rest of the night. Divine judgment is supposed to induce repentance, but here, it does not. This small act of judgment shows that the crowd is still persistent in their sin and that the divine judgment on these people has only just begun. It is going to escalate.

The angels warn Lot to gather his family and to leave Sodom as quickly as possible. Lot attempts to persuade his future sons-in-law to come with him and his wife and his daughters because God is about to destroy the city. But for whatever reason they don’t believe him. Maybe they think he is joking, maybe they think he is just drunk again, or maybe they think is throwing a hissy fit over what happened last night, but the point is that they laugh at him. They mock the divine pronouncement of judgment upon them. Sound familiar?

In an ironic twist of fate, it is now the angels who urge Lot and his family to leave the city at day break. Its not safe for you to be found inside the city walls. But the text tells us that Lot lingered… he was hesitant to leave… he had a good life in the city… he was safe. This fertile plain that had captured his eyes when he departed company with Abraham had become his home. He moved out of his tent and into a home… he had achieved high stature in the city, becoming a ruler, judging from the city gates… he had taken a wife… and had children, he had become something like a sodomite! The crops were good, the walls were high, he had roof over his head and money in the bank. He had Sodom on his mind.

The only way to get Lot out was for the angels to grab him and his family by the arms and, in an act of irresistible grace, pull him outside of the city at dawn.

Remember I told you at the beginning that we should begin to think of the story of Sodom as a story of God’s faithfulness? A story of salvation? Well two things he should begin to perk our attention.

This happens at dawn. It is common in the Bible that the breaking of day is the time for salvation. The messianic salvation will be a new day that dawns… God’s mercy for his people is renewed in the morning… Jesus is the light that comes into the world… the gospel light should not be kept under a bowl and the new heavens and the new earth and the temple therein will be eternally day by the light of the glory of the God of our salvation.

We also see that Lot is led outside of the city. This language should immediately call to mind a couple Biblical events… This is where the lepers and the unclean of Israel had to go until they were cleansed, this is where God commanded executions by stoning to take place. This is where the winepress of God’s judgment is pressed in Revelation. This was the place of loneliness and abandonment where God exercised his judgment. BUT also this was the place where deliverance from that judgment vicariously took place! This is where Eleazar was the commanded to perform the ritual of purification. We know the scapegoat was lead out on the day of Atonement… Christ was lead outside of Jerusalem on Good Friday. Outside the city was a place where the sinner or sin bearer would go. In fact, Hebrews 13:11-13 makes then same point when it says,

11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.

Lot is being delivered from judgment.

Lot is told not to stop or to look back until he reaches the hill; until he reaches where

Abraham is. But he begs the angels to let him only go as far as Zoar… after all, he thinks, Zoar is such a small town… surely, God could spare such a small town… its not possible

that this small town can disrupt the plans of God… its and entirely selfish prayer

strangely enough, the Lord allows for it, God says, I grant you this favor also.” But he is

told to hurry because God cannot destroy the peoples of the plain until he gets there. So Lot and his family fled for Zoar.

but

Then, as the sun had fully risen over the valley, God rains down fire, and sulfur. The cities are over thrown and all of the people and the vegetation in the valley were consumed by the wrath of God… Even Lots wife, who pauses and looks back. She is incinerated. The normal translation is that she is turned into a pillar of salt… but it is also possible that she becomes a heap of salty like substance. She longed for Sodom and rejected the direct command of the Lord and was condemned with her people. She had the promises told to her but she rejected them. Sound familiar?

In the last scene of this story we see Abraham. He no doubt hears the fire and the sulfur raining down on the valley. He returns to the place on the cliffs over looking the valley to see the fate of his nephew Lot. But what lay below is a wasteland of destruction… the smoke rising thick and black like the smoke of a furnace. This valley which once had been so lush that Lot chose it over any other land, had now become desolate, and it in fact has remained desolate to this day.

Abraham, just 24 hours before had plead with the Lord to spare the cities if they had even 10 righteous people in them. Now he looked over the plain and saw that there were not 10 righteous people in all of the valley. Maybe he saw in the distance the small speck of undisturbed land. Maybe he knew that Lot was safe. But maybe he didn’t, we are not told. But he did see the answer to his question, “Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” The Lord had judged rightly. God had exercised his wrath against the sins of the people of the plain. And we must come to grips with the fact that they deserved it… that rubs our modern sensibilities the wrong way but we must remember that God was not, and indeed cannot be, unjust.

So Abraham had plead with the Lord to save any city with just 10 righteous people in it, but God said, “Well I’m going to one up you. There are not 10 righteous people in all the valley, but I’m going to spare Zoar on account of 1 person.” Who is that one person? Is it Lot? Directly yes, the Lord spared Zoar because Lot was there, but indirectly we are told that the Lord saved Lot out of Sodom in the first place because he remembered… Abraham. Now we can fully see this story for what it is. We so often think of Sodom as a story within itself, but it is not. Sodom is set within the larger Abraham cycle in the book of Genesis; Abraham, the righteous man who was justified by faith and walked with the Lord.

This story is placed here to show us both that God is holy and righteous and will purge the world of its sin, but also that he faithful to his promises and compassionate to his people. Lot does not deserve to be spared. Lot had become something almost like a Sodomite. To save the men in his house, he offered up his own daughters to a horrible fate, which he will later fulfill himself when he has incestual relations with them. He lingered when he was commanded to flee. He begged the angels to allow him to only go have the distance to salvation. Lot is not a good example of faith for us yet God stays his hand until Lot has reached safety.

Why? Because God remembered Abraham. In a sense Abraham’s righteousness was counted as Lot’s. Lot was spared on account of God’s favor of someone else. Sound familiar?

In fact it is no accident that Jesus tells the cities of his day that their fate will be worse than that of Sodom because they have rejected the Son of God. The eschatological end- times judgment on the world who has rejected Jesus Christ will be far worse than the destruction of the cities of the plain.

But conversely, our salvation will be that much greater. You see, while Lot is not a good example for us, he is a good illustration of us. We live in Sodom and have become something like Sodomites. The feeling of peace, and safety, of wealth and security, of self-service over self-sacrifice that are held out to us by our American, Capitalistic, Consummeristic, Gratification culture, are the same idols that every citizen of God’s kingdom has had to grapple with. When we were dead in our sins, we were numbered among the mob. We were bound for destruction. We were objects of wrath and our sins were deserving of the same fury that God poured out upon the Plain. But even after our regeneration we still need the gospel to remind us that we cannot give up our heavenly dwelling for a permanent place in the city. We should not be found asleep or dragging our heels when we have been commanded to flee, or act wickedly in the name of justice. Once we put our hand to the plow we must not look back. But we do, don’t we? So the

on account of someone

good news is that when we do, we, like Lot, are shown mercy else.

We are not saved because of God’s favor to just Abraham but because of his favor for his only begotten Son with whom he is well pleased. We have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. We are not saved to a smaller city like Zoar, but to the glorious New Jerusalem. We will be brought into the eternal kingdom of our God and king Jesus Christ.

Yes there is mayhem and destruction and wrath in the story of Sodom. But we can now see them as one of the tools that the Scriptures use to point us to the grace and unmerited salvation that we have in Jesus Christ. We will not share the fate of Sodom. We will not partake in the worse destruction of those who reject and mock Jesus Christ. We have been shown kindness and grace and mercy, and discover that God is faithful to his promises and has compassion for us. We have been saved because Christ was led out of the city. Christ was swept away in God’s wrath on our behalf.

Rather than the compost heap of our sins and the dense black smoke of destruction rising up before the Lord, it is the intercession of Christ is the sweet incense of our salvation. Sodom was destroyed because of its sins, to show us that God’s righteousness will be preserved. That God cannot be in the presence of sin indefinitely and that the Judge of all the Earth will not stand the depravity of the human race forever. But also that we, as God’s chosen people, although we were sinful and deserving of death, will not be destroyed because Christ was destroyed on our behalf. Even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Let’s pray.