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Jul 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 21, 2013 – Genesis Chapter 19

A World of Weirdness

“Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your lovingkindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, for the disaster will overtake me and I will die; now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved.” Genesis 19:19-20

INTRO: This is another flood-type story – an act of divine judgment that “cleans the slate”

In fact, specific details link the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah to the earlier flood event
– these don’t make for best-selling stories or sermons in our culture
• they remind us of the ugliest expressions of judgmental religion
– but if we’re going to take scripture seriously we have to must look at them
• acts of divine judgment tell us:
○ it does matter to God how we treat him and others
○ there are consequences to human choices and actions

Nevertheless, only a believer with a sick mind could relish the anguish of people who are punished by God
– God certainly doesn’t enjoy it, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked . . .” (Ezekiel 33:11)
– in fact, he has placed his people in the world to prevent its decay into judgment
• that’s what it is to be the “salt of earth” and “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16)
• so the way we want to approach stories like this, is with great humility

These events are a continuation of last week’s story

It was evening when two “men” reached Sodom
– Lot was sitting in the city gate
• this was a place where business was conducted, court was held, and people met to sit and chat
• Lot invited the strangers into his home – he offered to wash their feet, feed, and shelter them
○ at first they declined, but he kept insisting
– after dinner, men showed up at the door
• three expressions are used to emphasize it was total male population:
1. “both young and old”
2. “all the people”
3. “from every quarter”
○ they were there to sexually abuse Lot’s guests
○ some would commit the act, others would assist or watch

Does this mean that all the men of Sodom were homosexual?
• or that the sin of Sodom was homosexuality?
○ if that were so, why would Lot offer them his virgin daughters?
• there’s another story in the Bible that  follows same plot line (Judges 19)
○ we need to compare these stories to better understand what is going on here
○ the two stories together provide a necessary historical and cultural perspective
• there, the woman offered to the townsmen was raped and abused all night

These stories are about contempt, violence, and the will to power
• they illustrate the most brutal way that locals would degrade strangers
○ put someone in their place, let them know they’re no better than the locals
○ it was a way of showing strangers who was in charge here
• fear of strangers was not uncommon–that they are spies or have come to exploit local population, etc.
○ the Greeks even had a word for it, xenophobia
• if someone tries to use this story to condemn homosexuality, it doesn’t work

Forced sex or group sex is no more an expression of a loving homosexual relationship than it is a loving heterosexual relationship. The intentions of the men of Sodom (and the actions of the men of Gibeah) are as horrifying to gay and lesbian believers as they are to straight believers

What the angels came to observe in Sodom wasn’t one specific sin that deserved punishment
– or even to count how many different sins were being committed
• they came to evaluate the people of Sodom as humans made in God’s image
○ what kind of people were they? What was their nature?
– what did the angels find?
• Sodom’s threatened brutality of strangers revealed the inner condition of the people and their culture
• they were arrogant, haughty, self-absorbed, and without empathy for others

Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it. (Eze. 16:49-50)

– their souls had become toxic
• punishing each individual sin would not change them
○ cut the branches off this tree and they will just grow new ones
• if left alone, their evil could spread, like the outbreak of a deadly bacteria

Lot tried to talk the locals out of violating his guests
– “my brothers” – he stressed a connection between them they should honor
• he assumed they would share similar values and concerns
– whatever motive Lot may have had for offering his daughters, it’s shocking and disgusting
• we don’t have to make excuses for him
– the only thing Lot accomplished with the crowd was that he angered them
• they didn’t but into his “brother” speech at all
○ “this one came in as an alien” — they didn’t buy his “my brothers” speech
○ “He’s not one of us. Now he’s acting like he’s our judge”
• when they rushed the door, the men inside intervened
○ they had to grab Lot “with their hands” and yank him to safety
○ then they blinded the men outside

The angels gave Lot urgent instructions for an emergency evacuation
– collect every family member
• when he tried to warn his sons-in-law, they thought he was joking
– by morning, he was still in Sodom
• the angels began insisting that he get going
○ but Lot kept dragging his feet (they had to leave their “stuff” behind–all the wealth they’d accumulated)
○ they had to grab him by the hand – and his wife’s hand, and his daughter’s hands
• Lot was supposed to head for the hills, but he stalled and argued for a town nearby
○ the mountains were too far and the town was “small,” insignificant
– later he ended up in a mountain cave anyway
• it really highlights his wishy-washy character

At this point, there’s a brief interlude
– the next scene jumps back to Abraham, who also got up early that morning
• he doesn’t say anything or do anything, he just watches
– perhaps the only reason for this insertion is to demonstrate God’s faithfulness to Abraham

The storyteller then returns to Lot and his daughters
– the oldest one panics – they’ll never have children
• so they get their father drunk and both become pregnant by him
– he had offered them to the mob to have their way with them, now they have their way with him
• is there a hint of revenge in their actions?
• the expression daughter used, “lie with,” not “know” (sexually, as in v. 5)
○ it suggests something less personal, a function, means to an end — even rape is more “personal”
○ this is almost clinical, as if Lot merely became a sperm donor
• Lot “did not know when she lay down or when she arose” (said of both daughters)
○ this was not a meaningful experience
• each daughter gave birth to ancestors of Israel’s perennial enemies

A comparison of chapters 18 and 19 reveals matching details

But something strange happens when we enter chapter 19
– it’s like we step into an alternate universe
• a world where everything is twisted
– my folks used to tell my brother and I, “Don’t tease your little sister; it will warp her personality”
• well, they were right
• the story of Lot entertaining guests is like a warped version of Abraham’s story
○ Abraham saw strangers from his “doorway,” Lot as almost mugged in his doorway
○ Abraham reminded God that He was “Judge of all the earth,” the men of Sodom reminded Lot he was a stranger and not their judge
○ Sarah laughed – Lot’s sons’-in-law thought he was joking (same Hebrew word as “laughed”) and both were expression of disbelief
○ Abraham and Lot both bartered with God – Abraham for Lot and Lot for himself
○ Sarah shared Abraham’s promise – Lot’s wife shared Sodom’s fate

What happened to Lot while living in that twisted world?

If we compare him to Abraham, Lot doesn’t show any development as a character
– his wealth increased and he may have hoped to be accepted or honored in Sodom
• and maybe he hoped to be accepted in Sodom
○ but his personal and spiritual growth was stunted
– he became a degraded version of himself

It wasn’t just the environment that did this to him
– it had to do with the compromises he made with his environment
• for example, “Don’t take my guests, take my girls” and, “is it not small

I don’t want to be misunderstood
– I’m not saying that compromise is a bad thing
• people do much evil when they’re unwilling to compromise when wisdom,  justice, and love call for it
– it’s a matter of being wise when we think about compromises
• what is it that you are compromising? Putting at risk?
• what is the kind of compromise you’re willing to make?
○ we need to be wise

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise . . . but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17

CONC: I don’t like Lot – he is not one of my heroes

But I would be lying if I said I’m nothing like him
– I’m pretty sure that God’s angels have had to grab my hand at times

If circumstances drag us away from something or into something, it would be good to at least pause and ask, “Could this be an angel? Could God be having compassion on me?”

There may be a good reason we should take positive outlook on difficult situations or to respond to losses like compliant toddler, when a sharp object taken from it by an adult

Let’s be willing to give up anything that will stunt our growth
Whatever else we give up or lose, we cannot lose God

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