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Jerusalem and Sodom

None of us can afford to call good bad, or bad good. The prophet Isaiah says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight” (Isa 5:20-21).

This is a lament that needs to bring a tear to all of our eyes.

Consider, for example, one of the most dramatic and fearsome events of the Bible. In the early pages of the book of Genesis we read about a catastrophic event that changed forever the legacy of the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses tells us that fire from heaven fell on these two ancient communities on the rim of the Dead Sea in spite of the intervention and pleadings of the Patriarch Abraham.

Prior to fire from the sky, the book of Genesis tells us that the plain of the Jordan river was “Well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt” (Gen 13:10). Moses adds, however, that the people of this area were unusually wicked and sinned greatly against the Lord (13:13). Later the book of Genesis describes a kind of out of control sexual violence that preceded the judgment that fell on the cities (Gen 19:1-10).

But, do we have a right view of Sodom’s wrongs? If we had a conversation with God, how would God answer the question, “What were you seeing in Sodom that caused you to destroy them?”

Listen to how the prophet Ezekiel answers this question for us. In the 16th chapter of his prophecy, he tells us what God says as he looks back on the judgment of Sodom. In sober words of warning to the citizens of Jerusalem, the prophet writes in behalf of God, “As I live,” says the Lord God, “neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done. Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit” (Ezek 16:49-50).

No, we can’t afford to minimize any wrong in this list– and certainly not the terrible out-of-control sexual violence that we read about in the 19th chapter of Genesis. But, in the process, let’s not fall into the error of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. Some of them were more interested in judging others than letting their own wrongs open their eyes to Christ. To avoid their mistake, let’s take a moment to reflect on God’s own description of the sin of Sodom. Let’s not forget his point that the sins of Jerusalem ended up making Sodom and Samaria look good by comparison (Ezek 16:46-62).

I know that, for many reasons, this is a tough subject to talk about. But I hope we can have a conversation filled with truth, grace, and a sense of history, rather than the kind of talk that drives people away from Christ rather than to him. Since Jesus never called good bad, or bad good, but still said that he came to rescue rather than condemn, can we help one another do the same?

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14 Responses to “Jerusalem and Sodom”

  1. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Good Morning everyone, Mart, I believe this is one of the harder thoughts for each one to comment on, because i believe it is nearly an impossibility for us humans to believe we really do any thing wrong in our own eyes, even after being born again, this is at least for me hard to see where i do any thing as disaterly wrong as those in Sodom did.
    We can, and usually are able to justfy every thing we say and do, continually.
    I believe and try to do as God asks me to do, stop, and really examine my life according to God’s standards, and judge myself, and contiually ask the Holy Spirit as David did to not only examine me, but cleanse me, and renew my desire to be pleasing God, not just my carnal desires.
    I know beacuse i am human i will never please God in all my ways, but if this desire is not present within me, as the Lord has shown me in 1st Cor. 3:10 that much of life will be burned up, and i do believe in rewards from the Lord concerning not just faithfulness, but doing what ever i am doing for His honor, and Glory.
    Desiring to live in sin can never be for God’s Glory, thereby the desire to please God must be within me at all times, even though as Paul said in Romans 7, this fight must be fought every day.

  2. word5 says:

    All points here are well made and understood. However, please, capitalize all pronoun references to God as in, Let’s not forget His point…

  3. hal.fshr says:

    Mart, your point here is well taken. Rather than focusing on only the sexual excess of Sodom and Gomorrah, we should reflect on other sins they committed from pride and idleness which resulted in the neglect of the poor. It is important for us to look into our own hearts to see these kinds of moral failings and to ask God to help make changes. A spiritual inventory should take place instead of just projecting sin on groups external to ourselves.

  4. pegramsdell says:

    In Matthew 11:23-24, Jesus said that if Sodom & Gomorrah had known what they knew, they would have repented and been saved. Then in verse 28, He says “Come to Me all who are weary”……
    I got very convicted in my heart while reading this blog, and I praise God for His grace and mercy. I am so grateful that I can come to Him and be saved.
    I know that except for God’s grace, there go I.
    I don’t think people need to feel condemned, but loved, and given hope, that they also can come to Jesus and He will give them rest.

  5. desert rose says:

    A problem I have encountered is with an individual who states that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were not about homosexual. This indiviual states that there is scientific proof that the individuals have a different brain and therefore it is biological and not a spiritual problem.

    Sin is sin and in dealing with this individual and their family, I pray that God will touch their lives with the living truth as they discount so much of the Bible.

    But is their any truth in what they are saying? Are those who are doing evil, really have a different brain or chemical imbalance that make them act like this?

  6. poohpity says:

    I do not believe the Lord just looked down and said ” hey Sodom and Gomorrah are bad so I’m going to wipe them out”. I believe what happened was there was an outcry from someone unnamed and the Lord went to check it out. Although He could have seen from heaven He wanted the involvement of Abraham, my hunch is to teach him something. To me it teaches me whenever we are in need of God, He hears our anguish and sends help. I think of the poorest of the poor around the world now and their outcry for help and all of the people who are opening up pathways to get aid to them (ie; Africa, India and China to name a few).

    As far as Sodom and Gomorrah the law had not yet been given. I feel it was the outcry of the innocent that compelled action from the Lord. Ezekiel was later used by God along with every one in the Bible to get people to put God first. From Genesis to revelation that has seemed to me to be the major theme. I also feel that the Lord through His prophets were telling people that you can not look around at the sins of others when you are just as guilty. A sin is a sin and we are all guilty well some of have been justified and that should keep us from looking down on anyone else. Through the freedom from the law we are free to care for the outcries of the innocent and the not so innocent. God loves us , we love God and then we love others.

  7. daisymarygoldr says:

    Right topic to discuss especially during these times when I watch the news and cannot help but let my lips contort in horrifying disgust!
    Forgiveness does not mean that the sin is being accepted as right. God did not compromise with sin by turning a blind eye to its existence. The wages of sin is death which Christ took upon Himself on behalf of the whole world. God’s forgiveness is offered at a priceless price- His own life. We cannot judge because God never appointed us to be one. All have sinned and that disqualifies our right to judge…its just like the ‘kettle calling the pot black’. However, in our sinful nature we are quick to accuse than to forgive. When the only righteous ONE has forgiven us what should prevent us from extending the selfsame grace to each other?
    Desert rose, God hates sin but loves the sinner because He has sovereign knowledge about the chemical/hormonal imbalances in the human body. The genetic or biological basis of homosexuality or any sin in general is not an excuse to wallow in it (Hebrews 10:26-27). We are all born with a sin nature…it is in our genes:( but by faith in Christ we are made a new creation. Therefore, sin needs to be condemned and the sinner to be condoned.

  8. Jwigg says:

    To me the tragedy of God’s analysis of the sins of Sodom and her daughters is this: It is a cap that fits too much of our contemporary Western civilisation too well.

    Since the 19th century and its doctrines of “progress” and Darwinian evolution, the West has somehow assumed that we have the moral, cultural high ground in our world. Such arrogance is ripe for God’s personal intervention. The obscene spectacle of an obesity epidemic in one third of the world and starvation in the “two thirds world” while the world pours food crops into petrol and diesel tanks of its machinery is too much like the words in Ezekiel 16. We have a world where Nietzsche’s will to power is more important to too many leaders than the divine command to love our neighbours as ourselves.

    Karl Marx condemned religion as the opiate of the people, which may be true of false religion. Not so of true religion which is about both a clean conscience and caring for the needy of this world James 1:26,27.

    Lot migrated to Sodom in the search for material security and prosperity. The dialectical materialism of Marxist philosophy has its own counterpart in contemporary Western consumerist capitalism’s assumption that the “good life” may be bought in the market places of the world. It is materialism which is the soul-destroying narcotic of our times.

    Jerusalem, the holy city of God’s temple in Ezekiel’s and Isaiah’s times, had joined the “family” of Sodom Isaiah 1:10ff! When obedience to God comes second to personal comfort and material gain, what passes for religion quickly becomes an accomplice in the murder of true love in society and its replacement with the same lust and violence evident in the men of Sodom on the eve of its destruction.

    We must remember that the modern counterpart of the sexual preferences of the men of Sodom is only part of the offspring of the so-called “sexual revolution” – a revolution which arose in a generation where significant Western philosophers and theologians attempted to tell us that God is dead and that there is nothing beyond the physical universe.

    Our challenge today is to be watchmen like Ezekiel was to his generation Ezekiel 33. It is no accident that there are disturbing similarities between the scrolls found in Ezekiel 2:9 and Revelation 5:1. Our present evil age is about to “unravel”. How dare God’s people stay silent!

  9. lynntate says:

    Part of me whould like to say, I’ve been waiting for this subject to be brought to light. It has been the fashion of many of us (believers)to appoint ourselves as judges of our world. But as stated so well in one of the other comments, how many of us turn that same level of scurtiny on ourselves. So often when I talk to those who do not know the Lord, I find a desire in them to know Him, but they are so “turned off” by the judgmental behavior of Christians, that they want nothing to do with the One we profess to believe in. Instead of seeking and saving those who are loss, we are driving them away. And all to often it is because we want to feel like part of something elite, instead of seeing the honor to do the Lord’s work. None of us should embrace what is wrong. Yet we should all be willing to embrace those who are wrong, and show in that act, the One who embraced us while we were lost in sin.

  10. dep7547 says:

    How is the American industrialist penal system any different than Sodom and Gomorrah? In all honesty, it is probably worse than the two cities combined because not only does violent sexual abuse occur there, but it is also condoned there. Not only that, but much of society believes this to be fit punishment for common criminals–even petty thieves!

    Faith takes a lifetime to develop. I can remember being raised in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, which is one of the most conservative denominations that I know of. I never really began judging homosexuality until I became born again. However, God would not permit that kind of intolerance in me. Even at the peak of my judgmental attitude, I knew that what was done to Matthew Shepherd in Wyoming was dead wrong.

    Whether or not the people responsible for his death were excercising Christian judgment is irrelevant. The fact that they left him to die of exposure on the same fence that they tortured him on makes them more guilty than the sin they condemned! And everyone who knew he was out there but said nothing are as guilty of apathy as the silent population of Sodom.

    Isn’t it ironic that this young man carried the name of the first gospel writer and the name of our savior’s obligation to our souls? Needless to say, I eventually had to reach the conclusion that maybe evolutionist theory might be correct–maybe as population increases, homosexuality develops to prevent rampant overpopulation. If this is true, then our creator knows this and has already provided their testimony when they plea for paradise on the day of Judgment.

  11. desert rose says:

    Mart, I looked up Hebrews 10:26,27 from daisymarygoldr. I started reading from verse 10:2 thru verse 39. In response to daisymarygoldr are these verses saying God’s judgment is upon a believer and thus he will not receive the rewards in heaven. He is instead sending up hay, stubble etc.? How do these verses apply to a believer who is caught up in a life style that the Bible calls sin, but they believe they were created this way? When the Bible says some men were born eunuchs (Spelling?) does that mean they were born without natural affection toward a woman?

    I don’t know if these questions are within this topic as I understand we are to stay within the topics you write.

  12. Hephzibah610 says:

    I sometimes wonder if we have gone beyond “Sodom and Gomorra” in this country. My heart aches for the things we have lost regarding purity, etc. I look to my own heart and wonder how much darkness do I have residing in me? Is my haughty thought or my self-righteous response as ugly as what Sodom and Gomorra went through? When I point a condemning finger at those who are not walking in the light, do my other three fingers point back at my own condemnation for not following God’s prescription? If we believe His Word is not Jeremiah 7:14 is true for us today…is it not up to us (God’s people) to change the fabric of our society…recognize our own wickedness and call on His mercy?

  13. BibleDon says:

    Mr DeHaan,
    The more I read your comments, the more they increase my concern regarding the direction your ministry is taking. Your “Been Thinking” comments here cannot be considered in a pure context-less vacuum. What context? Well, first of all your comments clearly align with the Gay/Lesbian political agenda folks who make comments similar to yours in an attempt to convince us that homosexuality was not the sin of Sodom. Also, how about the organizational context of your newish staff writer Phillip Yancy? Do you agree with his quote, “I have attended gay and lesbian churches whose fervency and commitment would put most evangelical churches to shame. Disapproving conservatives should have contact with those people, and vice versa.”
    Another contextual hook to hang your comments on is your organization’s approving quotations of, and references to Henri Nouwen. While his reportedly abstaining from homosexual behavior is commendable if true, his Roman Catholic mysticism and false gospel would certainly remove him from my recommended reading list.
    Your online musings have also reflected the position that we disapproving conservatives should not be too harsh on Emergent Church types. I know fully well that there is a part of the Emergent spectrum that is somewhat Biblical . Can I assume you are aware that there is a large and influential segment of Emergers who either are silent regarding, or very affirming of practicing homosexuals? Have you heard of Queermergent?
    Your comments here are also elusively vague on the subject of homosexual sin. You mention “a kind of out of control sexual violence”, implying it might not be their perverted sex acts but their violence that God judged. Is there any question what the abomination is that is referenced in the Ezekiel passage? Why can’t you speak out clearly on this subject? God has.
    JUDE 3 “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
    5Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. ”

    Yes, we are all sinners. Yes, we should avoid Pharisaical finger pointing. Yes, we should be dispensers of grace, not just self-righteous grace sponges. BUT, you do a massive dis-service in not calling to repentance those whom God has clearly identified as performing detestable, abominations before Him. It is only through repentance and faith that any of us can enter into the grace of God.

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