Fire from Heaven: God Destroys Sodom and Gomorrah, Part 1
August 22, 2004 | Andrew Davis
Introduction: One of the Most Dramatic Moments in Human History. . .and One of the Most Disturbing
We come now in our exposition of Genesis to a most sobering chapter, Genesis 19, one of the most dramatic moments in human history, and also one of the most disturbing. In Israel, there is a place, one of the most remarkable geologically on earth, called the Dead Sea Valley. It is the lowest spot on the earth’s surface, 1,286 feet below sea level. It is a strange place, the Jordan river feeds it constantly, but nothing flows out of it, and so there is a constant accumulation of minerals and salts.
I have heard from people that have been there that you almost can't sink in the Dead Sea, it is so salty and so strange. As you look around in the area, there is nothing living there at all, there is just interesting geological formations, there is a mountain of rock salt, 700 feet high, called Jebel Usdum in Arabic, Mount of Sodom. There is a great deal of evidence of volcanic activity from the past. Amazingly, however, archaeology shows that at one time in that region, there was a vast and extensive irrigation system, and I find this fascinating because it corroborates what we learned in Genesis 13:10, that at one point this whole region was one of the most fertile on earth, maybe the most fertile, it was lush and beautiful and fruitful, like the garden of God, it says.
But now it looks like death, that is all. It really is the valley of the shadow of death. What happened to that region? Well, Genesis 19 tells us what happened, how it was transformed from a lush and fruitful ground to a place which just screams death. Genesis 19, however, is not merely a story of the destruction of a region or a two-city Sodom and Gomorrah and the smaller cities that surround it. Rather, it is a timeless tale of the very nature of God, the character of God, of the passion of God for holiness, of his zeal for His law. And for me as a Christian, the only hope I have when I read this account is to realize that there is also a passion for my salvation in Christ, and were it not for both together, we would despair because God hasn't changed any at all, and we are no better, we are no better.
I have been greatly challenged by the study I have done, and it's not just in one week that we will be looking at it, there is too much in here, but today, I want us to understand the people of Sodom are not sinners out there. This is not just about sexual perversion, about homosexuality, it is about that, but, it is about many other things besides. And, I found myself convicted, especially by a passage in Ezekiel which told me why God did this, which Genesis 19 doesn't tell me. We are going to learn that there, but for the grace of God go I, that I deserved that as well; but in Christ, we have salvation.
And so, it is a sobering tale, but in the end, it is the tale of a salvation of a single sinner who is called righteous by grace, Lot, out of a place of destruction and wickedness, and that's my great hope, and I hope it is yours as well.
The Cast of Characters
Lot: Righteous but Polluted
Now, this drama, perhaps one of the most stunning in all the Bible, has a fascinating cast of characters, the created characters start with Lot. Lot was righteous, but polluted. Lot was righteous, but he was affected by the surroundings.
Lot’s Family: Corrupted to the Core
1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” And, Lot is a living example in the scriptures of that. As you look at the life of Lot, you see exactly that that is what happened. Now, remember the story of the degeneration of Lot. Lot was Abram's or Abraham's nephew, traveled with him, he was with him step by step until there came a conflict between their herdsmen, and it became reasonable it seemed for them to separate, but that separation was a major fork in Lot's road, and from then on it was a descent into degeneration.
As he looked out and Abraham said, "Look, the whole land is in front of you, if you go right, I'll go left. If you go left, I'll go right." Very magnanimous of Abraham. Lot looked down over the plain where Sodom was, and he saw that it was well-watered and lush like Egypt, like the garden of God, it says. And then in Genesis 13, it says, this is before (and in parentheses almost) God destroyed the cities of the plain, so there is some foreshadowing there. But, Lot in Genesis 13, looks down and he is attracted and selfishly chooses the best for himself, and he goes down.
And then in Verse 12 of Chapter 13, it says “Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents toward Sodom.” You see, there's a kind of a pull there, there's like a gravitational pull almost into a black hole or a sink hole, and he is just getting drawn into the lifestyle of Sodom. And then in Genesis 14, he's abducted in the story of the nine kings, he's abducted along with the other inhabitants of Sodom, and Abraham has to go at night and rescue him and get all of his people and his possessions back. That would have been a good time for him to leave Sodom.
He knew better by then, he knew what was going on, but instead he goes back and lives there still, and eventually now, as we see him in Genesis 19, he's sitting it seems almost like a gatekeeper in the community. The gate is a place where official business is transacted and there he sits, he's worked his way into the society, into the culture, he's accepted there at one level, although that doesn't last long as we'll see in this account. Little by little, this is one of the most sorted and despicable tales of a descent from righteousness into corruption, and Lot is an example of that.
A terrifying journey in sin and, oh, the end of a life like that, it ends for Lot at the end of our account, which wasn't read this morning, but we'll get to, God willing, in due time. With him and his two daughters in a cave, a perverted and sordid tale, a very sad descent, and yet for all of that, the Bible calls him righteous. Frankly, if it weren't for Peter’s inspired statement in the 2 Peter 2, I wouldn't think of Lot as a righteous man. I think of him as an anti-example, something you don't want to be. And his life still is that, it is a warning.
But it says in 2 Peter 2:7-8, that “He, God, rescued 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).” Three times in two verses, he is called righteous. What a surprise! But that is how God saw him, He saw him as righteous, and yet he was in some way polluted. We also have in our cast of created characters, Lot's family, they are corrupted to the core. His wife was totally enamored by the life of Sodom and didn't want to leave it, and she testified to that by lingering, by hanging back, by looking back in direct contradiction of what the angel had warned her not to do, and in the end, she was consumed.
His sons-in-law perished in the city, they never made it out, they didn't take their father-in-law seriously at all. It shows how little respect they had for him, and that testifies again, negatively, about Lot. He was not a man worthy of their respect, and they thought he was mocking. His daughters were morally corrupt, as we'll see in the episode in the cave, and no wonder because look how he treats them in the story. I actually think Lot may be one of the worst believing fathers in the entire Bible; he should have led his family to safety morally but instead he corrupted them and ends up in a cave drunk with his two daughters. Lot's weakness and his desire to stay in Sodom destroyed his family, destroyed them. He was a terrible father, and he failed to see the spiritual dangers and what it was doing to his wife and to his children; he didn't leave as he should have done.
The Angels: Holy, Disguised and Powerful
Then you have the angels, they are holy and they are disguised, and they are powerful, and they come into the scene, and Lot doesn't know it. It seems in the text that they are angels, and just like Abraham had entertained the angels without knowing that they are angels in Genesis 18, the same thing happens here.
It says, remember in Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Angels are servants of God to those who are inheriting salvation. That is what it says in Hebrews 1:14, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who inherit salvation?” And, here they are serving Lot, but they are also serving us as the account is written, and we can learn about the nature of God and His holiness, and so they are serving. They are servants of God to bring blessing or wrath, whatever God chooses. They simply do His will and they obey Him gladly.
Now, the wrath that is poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah is God's wrath. Look at Verses 24 and 25, it says, “Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah−from the Lord out of the heavens.” Do you see how strongly it is stated there, this is God's wrath from the Lord out of the heavens, thus, He, the Lord overthrew those cities and the entire plain including all those living in the cities, and also the vegetation and the land; however, it was the two angels who were the effective instruments of that wrath, they brought the wrath to Sodom and Gomorrah. Look what the angel says in Verses 12 and 13, 'The two men said to Lot, ‘Do you have anyone else here−sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here because we are going to destroy this place.’" Did you see that?
And so, God is doing His work through the angels, they are His servants. “The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.” And so, we see the angels. Angels always do with gladness and joy anything God tells them to do, because they trust Him and they trust His purposes, and they are glad to carry them out. They do not hesitate. They are doing His will; they are simply here to carry out God's commands.
The Inhabitants of Sodom: Violent and Perverted
And then finally, concerning the cast of created characters, we have the inhabitants of Sodom. They are perverted, they are violent in this text, and in Ezekiel, we find out that they were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned and did nothing for the poor. It isn't just about homosexuality, you see. It is about the whole thing; it is about the whole way of life. They hated God, they hated the things of God, they were filled with their own lust and with their own desires. They were violent, they were wicked day after day, and the outcry went up from Sodom and Gomorrah up to God. The outcry for justice. Now, that's the cast of created characters. But the central character in this chapter is the character of God. God is the center of all Scripture, and He is the center of this account. What does this account tell us about God? That's the question, because he never changes. He is the same yesterday and today and forever. He never does anything wrong but He is perfectly just and righteous.
The Drama Unfolds in Eight Acts
Act 1: The Angels Arrive and Lot Extends Hospitality (vs. 1-3)
And so, for me, I want to know, what does this chapter teach me about God, the God before whom I will stand on Judgment Day? That's what I want to know. What is God like? Now, this drama unfolds in eight acts, and you've heard it beautifully read by Ryan. The first act, the angels arrive and Lot extends his hospitality in Verses 1-3. It says, “The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. ‘My lords,’ he said, ‘please turn aside to your servant's house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.’ ‘No,’ they answered, ‘we will spend the night in the square.’ But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.” So, here we see the beginning of this drama, and it starts with an act of hospitality. Note, also, as I've already alluded to, Lot's possible position of authority, to sit at the gate. In Proverbs 31, the Proverbs 31 woman, her husband sits at the gate, he takes his place at the gate along with the elders in the community; it's a place where business is transacted. And so, it is possible that Lot had reached a position of authority in the community. Note, also, Lot's remarkable commitment to hospitality.
Notice humility, he bows low to the ground as they come. Now keep in mind, he doesn't know that they are angels, as I read the text, he is entertaining angels without knowing it, and yet he's humble, he bows low to the ground. He insists that they spend the night. Now, the angels fascinatingly are determined to spend the night in the town square. Wouldn't that have been a fascinating night? Wouldn't that have been an amazing thing? The angels, untouchable, powerful, sent by God to destroy, and Lot, not knowing that they are angels, not knowing their power, was terrified for them, and said, "No, my Lords, but please stay with me in my house," and he begs them and pleads with them not to stay in the town square.
“Doesn't it occur to you Lot, why are you staying there? Doesn't it occur to you, get out of there, leave the city, what are you doing living there? Nobody's forcing you to stay, go back with your uncle, it's better with him, even if your herdsmen argue a little, work it out,” but there he is. And so, Lot is humble and he is insistent and he completes the hospitality by feeding the men, the meal is only simple, it's unleavened bread, very much like the bread that was eaten by the Jews the night they escaped from Egypt in the Exodus. The night of the slaughter of the first born, the night of the Passover, it is a meal eaten in haste, not a special meal, and that's what he fed to them.
Act 2: The Sodomites Attack, Lot Fails, Angels Protect (vs. 4-11)
The second act, the Sodomites attack. Lot tries but fails to protect his family and the angels, but the angels don't fail, they protect Lot and his household. Look at Verses 4-11, “Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom−both young and old−surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us,’" and it literally says so that we can know them. We're going to talk more about that God willing, next week, but that is what it literally says, “so we can know them;” the NIV gives us the insight “so that we can have sex with them.”
Verse 6, “Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, ‘No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.’ ‘Get out of our way,’ they replied. And they said, ‘this fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We'll treat you worse than them.’ They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.”
Now, I don't know how news got around in Sodom, that these two men had come, but it went fast and it wasn't long before the house was surrounded, and these Sodomites inflamed by lust want to know them. Now, next week, God willing, we are going to talk about how this cannot mean anything, but what the NIV translates it to be, there's no question, it's not that they are surrounding the house and they want to be hospitable. "We just want to get to know them. Don't keep them to yourself." That is not what is going on here. Lot doesn't react as though that is what is going on, he says, "Don't do this wicked thing." And it would not be wicked for them merely to know who the angels were and be hospitable, there is no question about what's going on here.
It's so strange how people will twist the Scripture and try to get it to fit their lifestyle. We can't do that, but rather all of us, not just one category of people, but all of us, we need to mold our lives to what the Scripture says, not one of us that is righteous. There is no one righteous, not even one. We must be transformed by the Scripture rather than trying to twist it so that it fits what we do. I have been transformed by this story, not in this one area, the area you talk about first, but in other areas as we will discuss God willing.
Notice, also, Lot, while he has a deep commitment to hospitality to the protection of those that are under his roof, at the same time he has a twisted morality on how he's going to go about doing it. He says he offers his daughters who haven't slept with a man and you could do whatever you want with them. What kind of father is this? It's a father's job to protect his daughters, to protect them, to keep them safe, to keep them chaste until marriage. That's a father's job. What is he doing? I don't understand this, I don't know what's going through his mind. That is why I say, if Peter hadn't told us that he was righteous, I would not have assumed it, but instead he tries to push his girls out the door to protect these that have come under his roof.
Well, the violence of the men reaches a fever pitch, they are about ready to break down the door, they are ready to kill, see the wickedness that is involved here. And Lot has tried to protect the angels, but the angels don't need protecting. It's Lot that needs protecting. And that's one of the jobs of the angels there, they are there to rescue Lot, they are there to get him out of trouble, and they do that in a minor way, at this moment, they reach out and go "whoosh" and in he comes and the door shuts. The power of the angels, and that's a little picture of exactly what God is doing for Lot that night. He is there with a forceful arm, an outstretched arm rescuing the righteous out of wickedness.
This is what God does for sinners who are righteous. This is what He does to save us. And so, the angels rescued him and then supernaturally struck these men with blindness as they are surrounding the door, they can't find it. Now, I don't know, reading between the lines, perhaps there was a blinding light that just took away their ability to see, like the glory of the Lord that is shown around the single angel on the night that Jesus was born, but it doesn't say that. All it says is that the angel struck them with blindness and they groped around trying to find something. The time for judgment is almost at hand.
Act 3: Lot Fails to Rescue His Family, Lingers in Sodom (vs. 12-14)
Act 3, Lot fails to rescue his family and lingers a little while longer in Sodom. Look at Verses 12-14, “The two men said to Lot, ‘Do you have anyone else here−sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord, against His people is so great that He has sent us to destroy it.’ So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, ‘Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city.’ But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.” Notice the urgency on the part of the angels, basically saying, "Flee the wrath to come. Flee the wrath to come." Did Lot believe them? Oh yes. He believed it. He's a believer, he's a righteous man, he believed the word of God. Yes, destruction was coming and he tried to go out and evangelize a little bit, but they were having none of it. His sons-in-law thought he was joking; they didn't take him seriously. And so, there's an urgency here, on the part of the angels and there's an impotence on the part of Lot, completely unable to persuade his extended family to flee the wrath to come.
Act 4: Angels Strongly Rescue Lot, His Wife and Daughters (vs. 15-17)
Act 4, the angels strongly rescued Lot, his wife and his daughters. Verses 15 through 17, "With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, 'Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.’" Verse 16, "When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them."
I find my salvation in that verse; I find my salvation in the fact that God is willing to overcome my hesitancy to trust in Christ. He is willing to overcome all of my will, which was heading the opposite direction. He is willing to grab me strongly and rescue me out of the city. Praise God, He is merciful to me and to all of you who have trusted in Christ, and He was merciful to Lot and to his wife and his daughters. Again, intense urgency. The time has come for destruction. The night is nearly over, the day is almost here. The time for judgment is at hand. And notice the incredible grace of God through the angels, a persistent grace, an overcoming grace, a conquering grace. He is there to rescue Lot. Now, once safely out of the city, Lot, his wife, his daughters are commanded to run for their lives. The terrifying urgency must have electrified these people. Imagine getting a command like that, "Run and don't stop till you get to the hills."
It must have electrified them, terrifying. Note also the command not to look back, "Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain!" Disobeying these commands would cost Lot's wife, her life.
Act 5: Angels Graciously Allow Lot to Stay in Zoar (vs. 18-22)
Act 5, angels graciously allowed Lot to stay in Zoar. Verses 18 through 22 say, “But Lot said to them, ‘No, my lords, please! Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can't flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I'll die. Look, here is a town near enough for me to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it−it is very small, isn't it? Then my life will be spared.’" Verse 21, “He said to him, ‘Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.’ (That is why the town was called Zoar.)” Zoar means small, in Hebrew. And so, it's a small, little place. One commentator I read on this whole account, said that the account breaks into two sections, Lot in Sodom and Sodom in Lot, and here we see how Sodom has taken a hold of Lot.
He doesn't want to leave, he's hesitating. He doesn't want to leave the area, he thinks, "Well, maybe I can go to one of these smaller towns and kind of resume something like the life that we had in Sodom. It's just a little town. Can we just stay there, please?" He just doesn't want to leave, doesn't want to let it go. And so, Lot begs for an accommodation to his weakness. Rather than obeying and fleeing to the mountains as he was commanded, he wants to stay in a small town besides. Lot lacks faith and he's focused on his own limitations. He should have trusted the angel's command. Note also, two things about the angels. First of all, how constrained they are. Look what the angel says, "Flee there quickly because I cannot do anything until you reach it." Why not? Why can't the angel do anything until Lot is saved? Because God told him to rescue Lot. God told him, and also because Abraham, his uncle, was praying for the righteous in Sodom, that they not be swept away. And so, God is protecting Lot, and the angels are constrained, they can do nothing until Lot is safe. Note also how powerful the angel is, in that he grants the request and says, "Alright, because you are there, I will not overthrow Zoar."
Do you remember in Genesis 18, how Abraham was interceding? “If there are 50 righteous people, if there are 45, if there are 40 righteous people in Sodom, how about if there are 30, Lord, how about if there's 20? How about 10? Will you spare the city if there is 10?” And remember how I said, one commentator said he should have kept going until there was. . . He should have just asked for one, right? Well, isn't that what happened to Zoar? How many righteous people were there, in Zoar? Well, by the time Lot got there, there was one. And what happened to Zoar? It was spared, God spared the city of Zoar because there was just one righteous person in it.
Act 6: The Wrath of the Lord Destroys Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot’s Wife (vs. 23-26)
Act 6, last, the wrath of the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and it consumes Lot's wife too. Verses 23 through 26, "By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah−from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus, He overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities−and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot's wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt."
The sun rose on Sodom's last day. Usually, God's mercies are new every morning. The sunrise is a picture of the mercy and the love of God. It says in Matthew 5:45, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." That's an example of how the Lord is loving to His enemies, and so we also should love our enemies because that is how God treats his enemies. But that day would be the last day that Sodom would ever experience. And it's a fascinating thing, how life just kind of goes on and the people who lived in Sodom got up and never imagined it would be their last day, never imagined what the events of that day would hold, never thought for a moment that the events that would actually take place, were even a remote possibility. They were just getting ready for their business, perhaps they had some way to pursue their lust or their pleasures planned out that day, perhaps they just were sitting down to get a regular breakfast. Who knows? It was just another day, as far as they were concerned, but it wasn't just another day, as far as God was concerned. It was the last day of Sodom's history.
Now, scholars, archaeologists, experts have looked at the region, they have looked at the seismic activity, they have seen some fault lines there, and they imagine that probably what happened, as one unbelieving archaeologist said, is that at some point there was an earthquake and some other things, there is a lot of pitch, a lot of sulfur in the air, it kind of ignited, and that is what happened. Is that what it says? I think it is pretty clear what it says, but in case there is any question, we as Christians can just take Jesus' word for it. It says in Luke 17:29, "The day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all." It wasn't coming from the ground up, it was coming from heaven down, and the reason was, as we'll talk about, God willing, next week in more detail, God wanted to make Sodom and Gomorrah an example for us, and, therefore, He doesn't leave any doubt as to who is acting here. It is God who destroyed these cities. No question about it. And He did it so that we would fear Him and turn to Him in repentance and trust in Him. That's why he did it.
It was the last day. And it's interesting how He says that he destroyed the vegetation, too. Don't you find that interesting? Well, I actually think that was part of the whole problem. It was a lush area, it was green, it was lavishly appointed, lots of rivers, lots of irrigation system, the whole thing. And the lush land led to a series of bumper crops, one after the other, successful harvest, plenty to eat. I am sure they probably tore down their barns and built bigger barns. They had everything they could need, and probably with it being a major thoroughfare, if you look at the geography, you kind of have to go through Palestine to get down to Egypt and back, the fertile crescent, the whole thing, they probably were fabulously wealthy, trading, getting everything they needed. And so, lush land led to bumper crops, bumper crops led to material prosperity, material prosperity led to a luxurious and comfortable lifestyle. Comfort and ease, and that led to hardened hearts, especially toward the poor and toward the needy, and that led to corruption and wickedness, which eventually had a sexual expression, and all of that, all of it, led to judgment from God.
Now, can you see why it is important for we Christians, not to just think this is about homosexuality? Do you see it? Because if you do that, you're going to say, "That's those strange people out there and God's going to judge them," and you'll forget that there were other issues going on right in here, right in here, and that God wants us to repent as well. And so, God poured down fire and burning sulfur.
Act 7: Abraham Beholds the Destruction, But Not Lot’s Salvation (vs. 27-29)
Act 7, Abraham, the next morning, that morning, got up and beheld the destruction, but he did not see Lot's salvation. Verses 27 through 29, "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. So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived." This must have been a devastating experience for Abraham.
Clearly, in Genesis 18, when he's interceding back and forth over the fate of the righteous in Sodom and over the cities, I don't think this is what he was hoping for. And as I mentioned last week, sometimes you may feel that this is the nature of your prayer life. You may pray for something and get the exact opposite and the evidence is like a smoking cauldron coming up from the plain. And Abraham looks down, but he only can see with eyes of physical sight. God had answered his prayer. Do you see? That when God rained down burning sulfur and destroyed the cities of the plain, He remembered Abraham and brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived. Let me ask you a question. Does God need to tell you every time, when He answers your prayer? Does he have to say, “Oh, by the way, go send an angel to Andy and say, I answered that prayer, this is what I'm doing?" No, He hears the prayer and He acts, but He does not need to send the feedback loop. He doesn't need to send the angel back and say, "Oh, by the way, Lot's safe in Zoar, thanks to your prayer." He didn't say that, but Lot was safe. God remembered Abraham and answered his prayer.
Act 8: Epilogue: Lot and His Daughters in the Cave (vs. 30-38)
Now, the final act is beyond our text section here, but it's Lot and his daughters in the cave, in Verses 30-38, and God willing, we'll see that.
Seven Timeless Lessons
God’s Fearsome Display in Sodom: The Holiness and Wrath of God
Now, I've drawn out seven timeless lessons from this account. I just wanted to go through the account with you, for all of its poignancy and power today, and God willing, we'll go through these lessons next week. But I want to draw out just the first one, and talk about it, because I think it's the central lesson. The central lesson is that, our God is a passionate God, He's not a machine, He's not unfeeling, He's not like a computer controller or something. He is a passionate being, He's a person. And we who have emotions, we who have feelings, we are created in the image of God, and our feelings are a dim reflection of His. Our God has passionate responses to evil and to sin, and Sodom and Gomorrah are a display of God's passion concerning wickedness, it's a display of the wrath of God. And God intended it to be a display, He wanted to put Sodom and Gomorrah on display. Again and again in the prophets and in the writings, Sodom and Gomorrah are examples of the wrath of God.
For example, in Deuteronomy 29:23, when Moses is warning the people of God not to sin, or else their land will become like Sodom and Gomorrah, they knew exactly what he was referring to. Or in Zephaniah 2:9, when Zephaniah was talking about the Moabites and the Ammonites, He says, "'As surely as I live,’ declares the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, ‘surely Moab will become like Sodom, the Ammonites like Gomorrah−a place of weeds and salt pits, a waste land forever.’" Well, they knew what that meant. There was a benchmark of wrath, so that you could understand what God meant. He did it in history. Or Isaiah 13:19, “Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah." And so, He gave an example of His wrath so that we might know what it was like. Ultimately, however, it's not just an example of what God does to ancient cities, it's an example of what He will do to all who do not believe in Christ. It's an example of what He will do to the wicked, on judgment day. He says in Matthew 10:15, "I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town,” that heard the gospel and rejected it.
So, it's worse for the rejectors of Christ than it ever was for Sodom and Gomorrah. Ultimately, therefore, Sodom and Gomorrah are a picture of what hell will be like. That is why it was given. It's a picture of hell. 2 Peter, 2:6 says, "That God condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes," listen, "and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly." Did you hear that? That means Sodom and Gomorrah are an example, a picture of what will happen in the future, to the ungodly. What is hell going to be like? It's going to be a little bit like Sodom and Gomorrah. The only difference is, it was just one morning in Sodom and Gomorrah, and then it was over. Hell is eternal. It lasts forever and ever and ever. A place of wailing and gnashing of teeth. We also see in this, just a picture of the wrath of God, His passion, His initiative, the devastating power of it. And it says in Romans 1:18, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness."
God still has wrath against sin. He hasn't changed. He is very patient. He is very long suffering. You don't see it every day. Not like this. But it is there and it is real. It is a display of His holiness; it is a display of the passion He has for His righteousness. It says in Habakkuk 1:13, the prophet, looking out over the wickedness of Jerusalem, he says, "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" Why? Well, the answer to Habakkuk is, God isn't silent. Sooner or later, the judgment comes. And therefore, John the Baptist, when he came preaching and saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing said, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath. There is a past wrath." Genesis 19 says, "But there is a future wrath. It is yet to come." But amazingly, this is the very cup that Jesus Christ drank for us, at the cross. He drank a cup of fire and brimstone, that's what He drank. And you couldn't see it in Mel Gibson's Passion movie, there's no way to show it.
It's a spiritual reality. Do you remember how in Gethsemane, Jesus shrank from the cup? Do you remember that? He said, "Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken away from me, yet not as I will, but as you will." What was the cup? It was not merely physical death; it was the active aggressive wrath of God against sin. That's what Jesus drank. Oh, the courage of Jesus Christ, oh the incredible love of Christ, that He would drink that cup for me and for any of you who have trusted in Him, that He would drink your cup of Sodom and Gomorrah's share, that He would stand in between you and the wrath of God and absorb it. That He would drink your wrath. And having drunk it, that it's gone. There is therefore now, no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus. Oh, there is a passion in Genesis 19, the passion of God for holiness and righteousness, a passionate hatred for evil, but there is another passion, too, in the Cross of Christ, it is the passion that people like you and me could be saved, that we would not be swallowed up by the wrath of God.
I want to conclude by looking at a passage in Romans. Look at Romans Chapter 5, and we will finish there. Romans Chapter 5, Verse 6 and following, it says, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." Do you see that? Verse 6. Ungodly. Does that offend you? Does it bother you, to be called ungodly? Well, that is what we are, we are ungodly. And those are the ones for whom Christ died. He didn't die for the godly, they don't need any help. But He died for the ungodly, at just the right time. When we were powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man, someone might possibly dare to die. Verse 8, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." You see, Genesis 19 is a demonstration of the wrath of God, timeless demonstration.” The Cross of Christ is a demonstration, both of the wrath of God and of the love of God. It's all in one place. You can see the wrath of God in that Jesus suffered and died in torment, but you can see also the love of God in that He died and you didn't.
He, in effect, went to hell for three hours on the cross, and you won't, for eternity, if you trust in Him. That is the display, the demonstration. Continue. In Romans 5, Verse 9, "Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him!" Can I say to you with all the love in my heart, there is a wrath to come? There is a future wrath, it's coming, it's coming. I don't know when. I don't know the exact circumstances. It's not for us to know the times or dates the Father set by His own authority, but it is coming. And in Romans here, you find the only salvation from that wrath to come. There is no other way. Jesus, by His blood, saves us from that wrath to come, if we will simply trust in Him. Since we have now been justified by faith, it says in Verse 9, "Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath, through Him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life?"
I don't have any idea of your spiritual situation. There is a lot of people here today. A lot of you have heard what I've had to say. One of the tendencies with Sodom and Gomorrah is to say, "Oh, those wicked people out there, how awful are they. May God whip up on them." Okay, if you get that out of this, you've missed the point. Rather, what you need to say is, "That's me, maybe not that exact way but I am called wicked. I am called God's enemy. I am called ungodly." In Romans 5, "I needed a savior and Jesus has come." Can I urge you to flee the wrath to come? If you have never trusted in Christ, flee the wrath to come. Trust in Jesus today. You don't know how much longer you're going to be alive and you don't know when that wrath will come. Trust in Christ today and if you do, He will stand in your place between you and the judgment and the wrath of God and He will drink your cup to the bottom.