God Against The Sodomites

Note: I will be posting video highlights from this sermon in the coming weeks over on The Line. Stay tuned.Full audio has been posted here.

Introduction: A Different Understanding

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as recorded in Genesis 19 is the object of ridicule and skepticism from many critics. Indeed, Genesis 19 is a difficult passage even for Christians, as it exposes us to one of the more terrifying aspects of God’s character, His justice.

Today we will be taking a different approach to this story in an effort to show that if we understand it in way it traditionally has been interpreted (i.e., God exacting vengeance on a city that has become savagely orgiastic and therefore uncontrollable), we will have understood it in exactly the wrong way.

Tragedy In Sodom

Our story opens with a revelation of the heart of the city of Sodom, as its inhabitants gather around Lot’s house to gang-rape his guests. If we were to interpret this terrible intention traditionally, we might see it as the result of a somehow simultaneous ungratified sexual impulse of all of the men in the town, a kind of savagery. This however doesn’t fit:

• the profile of the inhabitants of Sodom as described by scripture (Ezekiel 16:48-50; Luke 17:28);
• the profile of gang rapes as they are observed today (e.g., prison gang-rapes; the Muslim gang-rape epidemics in Europe and Africa; gang-rapes of young black females by the Klu Klux Klan)

It is far more likely that rather than the result of an absence of moral or social standards, this gang-rape is the result of an excess of them, as gang-rapes are often the result of a social system in which the victim is felt to be of lesser value than the victimizers.
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We also find an additional tragedy in Lot’s daughters, and perhaps all of the women in Sodom. It is likely that, as in many historical and current societies including our own, women in Sodom were oppressed, and were valued for their sexual and reproductive capabilities only. We might infer this from a number of clues, including

• what we know sociologically about the tendency toward oppression in societies in which women are outnumbered by men
• reference to the infidelity of Sodom in scripture (Jude 7, 2 Peter 2:7)
• the mention of Sodom in Ezekiel 16, a passage in which female infanticide is the primary metaphor
• the inability of Lot’s daughters to see themselves as having any other value (Genesis 18:31-32)

Four Views Of God’s Justice

As the story progresses, the reaction of each person who hears about God’s coming justice in Sodom is illustrative of the reaction of humanity to the Bible’s claim that God must and will be its judge. As humans, we can see God’s justice in four ways:

1. God’s Justice As Myth

When Lot’s future sons-in-law are told of the coming justice for Sodom, they think that Lot is making a joke. One possibility for this response is an underlying disbelief in the reality of evil. Disdain for the reality of the need for justice is often the result of disdain for the reality of evil. One only need consult the international mood following any number of atrocities in the last century to find that where evil is understood as real, the need for justice is assumed. It is only where the reality of evil is doubted that the need for justice is despised.

As missionaries in the 21st century, we must be constantly vigilant in our understanding of the reality of evil. In our cultural setting the intellectual pressure of secular materialism is severe. The psychological overhaul of ethics is pervasive. The siren song of recreational diversion distracts whole segments of the populace away from the tragedies and atrocities that are an ever-present global reality. We must fight to understand evil and the need for justice Biblically – as a reality.

2. God’s Justice As Trivial

After being mocked by his future sons-in-law, Lot’s response to the news of God’s justice is apathetic. We find Lot, then, oversleeping on the day of Judgment, forcibly removed from the city by the angels, and finally pleading with the angels to let him escape to a small nearby town so that he won’t meet what he feels to be a disaster in living in the mountains (15-22).

Here again, we see that one’s understanding of justice is usually informed by one’s understanding of evil. Lot’s apparent lack of conviction in the severity of God’s justice underlines his doubt in the severity of Sodom’s evil. A belief that evil isn’t really all that bad will generally result in a belief that justice isn’t really all that scary.

3. God’s Justice As Injustice

Finally we can identify a third reaction to God’s justice for Sodom and Gomorrah by observing our own response to this story. There are two ways to respond to this story that will end in viewing God’s justice as injustice. Both stem from a core belief that evil is not something that I (the observer) do.

First, if we don’t believe that the everyday actions of ordinary humans could be considered evil, we will have a hard time understanding how an entire city could deserve the destruction depicted in Genesis 19. Here, the presence and severity of evil is acknowledged, but evil cannot be something that ordinary humans do because it’s not something that I do.

Another way to see this story – one that will equally lead to viewing God’s justice as injustice – is with a kind of pleasure. The destruction of this city should inspire fear in all of us, because the evil that led God to destroy Sodom is an evil that is entirely within our capabilities (Ezekiel 16:46-50; Isaiah 1:10-17).

If we believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of its unique excesses, and that we ourselves are not capable of its evil, we too will see God’s justice as injustice when He refuses us eternal life in His kingdom (see Matthew 25:41-46).

4. God’s Justice As Reality

The destruction of Sodom is a foretaste of God’s final judgment of the world (Mark 9:48; Matthew 25; Revelation 14:9-11). If we see God’s wrath as real, necessary, non-trivial, and just, even if it is aimed at us, then we are not far from Salvation. If we understand how God’s justice correlates to His view of evil, we might love Him (Deuteronomy 15:11; 24:14; 1 Samuel 2:5-8; Psalm 72:11-14). Finally, if we see God’s justice as the means by which we are saved, we might worship Him forever (Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

Isaiah 1:18

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5 comments so far

  1. Rachelle on

    It’s no surprise There aren’t any comments, til now. I find myself absolutely floored and speechless. All I can say is Wow…

  2. Rachelle on

    Just wanted to clarify that I whole heartily agree, and I have been convicted of the fact that I myself am a sodomite. I am grateful for the way you took it to the cross. Amen brother…

  3. Aaron Youngren on

    Thanks Rachelle! I thought about handing out T-Shirts afterward…

  4. kennethc on

    Tremendous sermon, Aaron. Not until I downloaded it today did I even realize how long the sermon was. Wow… I was completely captivated.

    This ruler of Sodom really appreciates the fact that you took the time to call the men into the ring. PLEASE CONTINUE TO DO SO! We really need it. The worldwide pandemic that is sexual abuse barely receives a whisper here in Sodom. Usually, when it is spoken of… it is quickly silenced, tragically celebrated or merely laughed at. It is so entrenched into our current culture that words like ‘lust’ and ‘porn’ are now part of the everyday professional business vernacular. The terms are trumpeted at management levels, in team meeting and even press interviews as positives to inspire employees, describe business adjectives and measure baseline targets… all while creating products for children. 😦

    The days when I allow all this to penetrate my callused heart I’m not sure whether I should load my gun and run for the hills or melt into the floor weeping. The never-ending line of Lot’s daughters are more than I can bare at times. The sheer numbers and soul damaging stories are truly overwhelming… Without God’s mercy I would have joined them or gone mad.

    The task is daunting, but our LORD is Sovereign.

    PS: I highly recommend ‘The Wounded Heart’ by Dan Allender to everyone… as we all are on the forward battle lines of this tragically ignored pandemic.

  5. Gilles on

    What is deserving of more severe judgment, “arrogance & sexual perversion” or “unbelief”? Evangelicals like to focus on the “sodomy” reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Others say, it was not about perverse sex (or inhospitality if you’re on a different team). It was really about arrogance, pride, idolatry, etc, as you also pointed out. People tend to down play or play up certain biblical themes because I guess we do read scripture with a social agenda of sorts. But it seems when reading the full text in Jeremiah, the many references to the destruction in other scripture books, that rampant, open, sexual perversion is how people (and nations) seem to peak in rebellion against God, as Jude seems to suggest in his Epistle, and as Paul does in his letter to Rome. Yet apparently “unbelief” will meet with far greater judgment than arrogance and sexual sin will, as Jesus warned the people of Korazin and Bethsaida (Mt. 11). Sexual sin is easy to bag on, but rampant unbelief in a nation deluged by the Gospel message…? Whoa, that’s real cause for concern!


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