Sunday Gathering – Genesis – The Significance of Sodom – Andy Hollingum
May 26, 2024

Sunday Gathering – Genesis – The Significance of Sodom – Andy Hollingum

Passage: Gensis 19

Summary of the Sermon "The Significance of Sodom"

This sermon explores the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis 19,

focusing on the tension between God's love and holiness.

Key Points:

The passage in Genesis 19 is a difficult one, describing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness.
We should hold two things in tension about God:
He is loving (John 3:16).
He is holy (Isaiah 6:3).
His holiness makes his love meaningful.
If we only focus on God's love, we might think our actions don't matter.
God's holiness establishes boundaries and reminds us of our sin.

Why were Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed?

The sermon argues the sin wasn't just sexual immorality (though it is present).
They were also:
Arrogant (Ezekiel 16:49)
Unconcerned with the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49)
This focus on themselves led them to do "detestable things" (Ezekiel 16:49).

The Call to Action:

We should examine ourselves:
Are we arrogant?
Do we consider ourselves above others?
Are we too focused on ourselves and our possessions?
Do we help those in need?
The passage is a call to be more like Christ:
Let him transform our hearts.
Respond to God's love by helping others.

Other Points:

The story is also a reminder that God is just.
He has shown mercy to us, but there is a time limit on his patience.
We should pray for our nation and communities.

Bible References:

Genesis 13:10
Genesis 18
Genesis 19
Exodus 20
John 3:16
Isaiah 6:3
Ezekiel 16:49
Acts 17
Matthew 10
Matthew 11



So we have reached Genesis chapter 19 this morning. It's actually
great if you want to put up the first slide, okay? So you get the drift, right?
So this is, by any stretch of the imagination, this is a very challenging
chapter of the Bible. It's one of those chapters that, and we'll
probably come to a few, depending on how far we carry on through the Old Testament,
that are a bit, kind of like, you know, x-rated, bit 18 rated in terms of the
content. And what I want to do is, I'm just, I'm not going to read it, I'm just
going to summarize it, and then when you get home, if you haven't read it already,
you can read it and see if what I've said is right or not. But in summary, so
you remember last week Chris was speaking from Genesis 18, and now the
second half of that chapter Abraham was chatting with the three visitors, and
actually he ended up debating with God and asking God, if you can find so many
people that are righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah, will you not save it? And there
was this ding-dong going on, and then God draws a line under the conversation at
10, and that's it. And so when we get to chapter 19, what we find is two of those
three people that were with Abraham are angels, and they go to Sodom, and they're
going to spend the night in the town square, and Lot comes out and finds them,
and says, no, no, don't spend the night here, come back to my house. And so he
gives them a meal, they have an evening meal together, and then after the meal we
read that all the men of the town, young and old, gather outside Lot's house and
say, bring out those men because we want to have sex with them. And Lot calls out
and comes out and says, don't do this wicked thing, instead here are my
daughters. Okay, I don't think laughing is quite appropriate, but it only calls
that out. And there's this argument, and the men of the town say to Lot, who are
you to tell us what to do? And the angels reach out through the door and pull Lot
back inside the house and rescue him just in the nick of time, and then they
strike the eyes of those outside the house with blindness so they can't see
and find their way. And then what happens is the two angels in Lot's
house tell him that God is going to destroy this city, it's time for you and
your family to leave. And so he goes out and he finds his two daughters are both
engaged to be married, and he finds the fiancees and tells them that God is
going to destroy this place, we've got to go, and they don't believe him, they
think he's joking. And so, and then they go to bed at night, and then in the
morning the angels say to Lot, come on, you've got to go. And Lot's kind of
dragging his feet and not really moving, so the angels grabs his hand, grabs his
wife's hand, grabs the daughter's hands, and rush them out of the town. And Lot
says, can we just go to this nearby town? So they go off to this nearby town, and
the angels say, don't look back because God is going to destroy this place. And
if you know the story, you know, Lot's wife looks back and she becomes a pillar
of salt. And then at the end of the chapter, Lot and his two daughters, now
on their own, leave that town and go and live in the hills, and the daughters
conspire saying that we're not going to have any children, let's get our dad drunk,
and we'll sleep with him, and we'll get children by him. And so that's what
happens at the end of the chapter. And in the meantime, Abraham is far away, and he
looks out over the plains, and he sees the smoke and the dust rising from where
Sodom and Gomorrah have been destroyed. So, that chapter ought to give you some
questions, right? We ought to have some questions about this. It's just
all sorts of things. Does God really do this sort of thing? Does he destroy
cities like this? Isn't this a different God in the Old Testament than the one
we read about in the New Testament? Hasn't this type of judgment disappeared
with Jesus in the New Testament? Were the crimes that carried on in
Sodom and Gomorrah that bad that it really necessitated God to act in that
way? So, how do we make sense of all of this and apply it in our lives in 2024?
Much of this is really about, sorry, to help us understand that, what I want is
just to think about for a moment, if you bear with me, is a lot of Christianity is
about holding different things in tension, right? A lot of following Jesus
is about holding different things we read in Scripture that on the surface
look to be different, but it's really important that we learn to hold them
in tension. Right, I'm going to try and see if I can operate this, Graham. It looks like
no, so could you do the slide for me? Thank you. Yeah, so for example, we know
that God is one. We also know that God is three persons. Have you figured that out?
How do we hold that? But it's really important that we hold that intention,
isn't it, and that we believe and act on both of those things. We know that Jesus
is fully God, amen, good, and we know that Jesus is fully man, amen, brilliant, but
we've got to hold both of those things in tension. We know that God is sovereign,
but we also know that we have a responsibility. When you and I became a
Christian, did we choose God or did he choose us? Hmm, well both, maybe, perhaps.
Right, and holding those things in tension is really important, right,
because if we overemphasize one side of that equation to the effect, to the loss
of the other, that's what tends to lead us down a little path that leads us into a
bit of error, perhaps sometimes, and ultimately into heresy and that type of
stuff. So if you think Jesus is fully God and you ignore the fact that he's fully
man, you end up with a Jesus that is unable to identify with us in our day-
to-day lives and the reality of what goes on. But if you end up with Jesus who is
just fully man and you ignore the fact that he's also fully God, you end up with
Jesus that's just a good person, and did he even rise from the dead, and what was
the point of his crucifixion? So it's really important, and there's
lots of these, maybe this is another sermon series, there's lots of these, I
think, as we seek to follow Jesus together, that it's good for us to get our
heads around. And so the one particular this morning that I want to just look
at, if we can do the next slide Graham, is how do we hold this in tension?
God is love on the one hand, and we've been singing lots of songs about that
today, but on the other hand, God is holy. Both of those things are equally true,
and both of those things is a key for us to understand. And holding this thing
in tension helps to begin to understand passages like the one that we are
reading about today. We need to embrace both of these things. We know and we love
verses like John 3.16, of course God loved the whole world so much. We've been
singing and praising God for his mercy and his love, and we absolutely should
this morning, that was a beautiful song Jax by the way, and so you know, fantastic
that it speaks from personal experience, what a wonderful thing that is. But
actually we also need to understand God is holy because that puts his mercy in
context. Otherwise if we just think about his love and his mercy and his
grace all the time, it becomes looking like that in a bit of a vacuum. But when
we hold it up against the fact this is a holy God as well, then actually we begin
to grasp more what his mercy and his love and his grace is all about. You see
if our focus is only that God is a God of love, and if we ignore the fact that
he's holy, it leads us down a road where God loves all people. So actually it
doesn't really matter what we do because God still loves me, and actually no
matter what I do I don't have to change because God loves me. And then it
leads us to a place where surely God accepts everybody because he loves
everybody, and then they go to heaven. And therefore there's no need to preach
the gospel because everybody goes to heaven. That is not true, just want to be
really clear. God is, and that's why we need to hold these things in tension,
that God is holy as well as the fact God is love. And when we look at the
holiness of God we see that there are boundaries, there are limits. We see, you
know, we saw that at the beginning of Genesis didn't we? You can eat from any
tree in this garden, not that one over there, but any tree. And what do we do? We
go and eat at the one that we're not supposed to eat from. And ever since
then we've just been loving to cross the boundaries that God has put in place to
protect us and to do us good. And yet this holiness of God is something that
is so traced through the whole of Scripture, it's so important that we get
a hold of it. We think of Moses when he wanted to see God, God says to him, you
cannot see my face and live. And so God lets him see the back of him as he
walks past. We think of Aaron, the high priest, as God gives instruction about
what the high priest should be like. He's allowed once a year to enter the
Holy of Holies in the temple in the Old Testament to make requests on behalf of
people to God, just once a year, and him alone. And because God is so holy and the
high priest is absolutely not, because he's just like you and me, they put bells
on the bottom of his cloak and a little rope around his waist. So as he moves
around in the Holy of Holies they can hear the bells ringing and if the bells
stop ringing that's bad news and they need to pull the rope and get him out.
God is holy. Isaiah cries out, doesn't he? Woe is me because I am a man of unclean
lips and I live in the midst of an unclean people and my eyes have seen the
glory of the Lord. Oh God, oh God, oh God. I think of Peter just as he's in
encountering Jesus and he's been fishing all night and catches nothing and Jesus,
who's not even a fisherman, tells him to put his nets down on the other side and
he pulls them ashore and catches such a massive load. What does he say? Away from
me Lord for I am a sinful man. Paul writing to Timothy at the end of the
first letter, Timothy says God lives in unapproachable light. Wow. And yet we
worship him and we honor him and we give him glory. God lives in unapproachable
light. I'm always struck when I see worship in the book of Revelation at the
end, if it's anything like describing what worship is like in heaven, there's
not many songs about the love of God. It's all worthy are you Lord. Worthy, worthy,
worthy is Jesus. Holy, holy, holy are you Lord. That's the songs that are in there.
Read it when you get home. That's what it's about. And so this holiness of God is
something that is so important that we get a hold of because it also sets up in
context the love of God. And this passage, like others we're going to come to,
make us feel uncomfortable. Does God do this sort of thing? And I think there's
two things that we lose sight of that we need to perhaps get a hold of. First of
all we need to remember that God has made us in his own image. He didn't need
to make mankind. God was completely fulfilled with Father, Son and Holy
Spirit enjoying themselves together in eternity before he created you and I. He
didn't create you and I in order to complete something that was missing in
him. He created us that we would give glory to him and he was fully complete
before that. He owes us nothing. We are his creation. He is the creator and we
are the created ones. And we have turned our backs on the Creator. We think we can
do better. We think we should be independent of him. The Bible calls it
sin. We have turned our backs on one who has created us and yet he is still
sovereign Lord over all the others. He's the one who in that encounter with Moses
when he only let Moses see his back he said to Moses I will have mercy on whom
I will have mercy. It's his divine prerogative to decide who he will show
mercy to. All the more why we sing the songs about mercy with gusto because in
his divine prerogative he's shown it to you and to me. And as we heard last week
as Abraham discusses with God about Sodom Abraham says shall not the judge
of all the earth do right. Abraham was spot-on. God is judge of all the earth
and he always does right. His is the divine prerogative. It's like in an
English court of law where when a judge hands down a sentence he has the weight
of the English law behind him and that is the sentence. There may be appeals and
that kind of stuff but ultimately that is the sentence and that is what is
going to happen. There's no because of the authority of that judge with the law
behind him. That is a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny similarity to God is sovereign over
all the earth and he is the judge and he always does right. Second thing is he
never acts unjustly. God always acts in justice or in mercy and the thing about
this is I think particularly as Western Christians in this day and age we've
come a little bit to expect grace and mercy and we think that anything else
is unjust. We cry out it isn't fair. We expect God to be
merciful. There's sort of a picture I heard of this. In part of preparing for this I read a
book by R.C. Sproul called The Holiness of God which I recommend. Thank you
Jonathan's heard of it. Yeah very good. It's that old. It's that old. But he tells
the analogy that he's a lecturer okay in a college and he tells this story. He
says that he's got 200 students in the class and he sets them an assignment as
part of the course and he tells them you've got to have the assignment in on
that day. If you're a moment late you get a fail. No questions asked. So the
day comes and a handful of students don't hand the assignment in and they
plead with him about excuses and couldn't quite do this and couldn't quite do
that and he relents. He says okay I'll give you a few more days and they hand it
in and he marks them fairly as he marked everybody else. In other words he
showed them a bit of mercy. Right three months later the next assignment's due
and he tells them exactly the same. The 200. He says exactly the same. Hand it in
on that day. Anyone's late. It's a fail. No questions. Gets to that day and guess
what? Quite a few more don't hand it in on that day and start pleading with him
and asking him to you know give him a bit of grace and can we have a few more
days and he says okay and he does that. And then a third time it happens and on
the third time he says you know you've got to hand it in on this day
otherwise it is a fail. About half the class don't hand it in and they plead
with him and he says no I've told you these were the rules you know. You hand
it in on that day you knew and if you don't do it it's a fail. But they said
but you did it before but you did it for those people but you did it before and
we tend to get a little bit like that as we think about grace and mercy and we
come to expect it when actually for God it's a matter of justice. We deserve
justice. You might get grace and mercy but we deserve justice. We live in a
world of injustice don't we? That's 900 postmasters. You know there's
wrongs done to you and me every day by other people but no matter how much
injustice is done to me by other people I've never suffered the slightest
injustice at the hand of God. You've never suffered the slightest injustice
at the hand of God. Though people may mistreat us God never does. We can't
accuse God for the injustices done to me by other people. My sin and your sin
means that we are guilty before God and fully deserving of his justice and he is
never unjust. We often blame God for injustices done to us and harbour bitter
feelings towards him and we think we deserve more grace. But just think about
that for a minute. The whole point of grace is it's undeserved. We can't
deserve more grace. It's undeserved. It's like this. If ten people sin and God
punishes five people and shows mercy to five people has he been unjust? The answer's
no. He's always just. He's shown justice to five people and mercy to five people.
God is never unjust and so here in this passage God demonstrates justice acting
justly to two cities and the surrounding area and showing mercy to four people
and that is absolutely his divine prerogative. So justice falls and these
passages remind us that God sets limits to his patience with us and that someday
he will act with justice. It's like the Apostle Paul as he's going around we
read in Acts 17 he reaches Athens and he sees loads of temples to different gods
and he starts speaking to the Greeks there and he says in the past God
overlooked your ignorance. In the past God overlooked your sin. In the past God
overlooked the fact that you ignored him but now he commands all men
everywhere to repent. There is a time and there is a day when God says enough
is enough and so his justice falls on a society because the outcry to him is so
great. Their sin is so grievous as we read in the previous chapter last week.
Even back in chapter 13 we read that they were sinning, they were wicked and
sinning greatly and so God says this is enough but before we get kind of
smug and think yeah well what they were doing was so bad look at how other
writers of the scriptures use this story. Isaiah in chapter 1 talks about
hypocrisy in worship. He talks about sacrifices but we could just as well say
standing here on a Sunday morning of arms in the air singing our songs and
praying prayers and Isaiah talks about those who are hypocritical in their
worship doing that on a Sunday but for the rest of the week denying God having
any change in their lives it will be worse for them than it was for Sodom and
Gomorrah. Look at Jesus in Matthew chapter 10 he says it will be worse for
any town that doesn't listen to the gospel than it was for Sodom and
Gomorrah. It's just all in the book all right. In Matthew 11 he says it'll be
worse for Capernaum where miracles were performed because they didn't respond
to the gospel than it was for Sodom and Gomorrah and Jude right at the end of
the New Testament talks about the fact Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of what
is to come. So what was it in Sodom and Gomorrah that was so wicked? It's easy
to jump into the whole area of sexual sin that is kind of well understood
about what was going on there but as so often with sexual sin there's actually
something else behind that some emotional insecurity some identity issue
some some some issue around being totally self-absorbed as an individual
and Chris did this last week and I want us to bring us back to it there's a the
answer lies in Ezekiel in Ezekiel chapter 16 and verse 49 we read this now
this was the sin of your sister Sodom she and her daughters were arrogant
overfed and unconcerned they did not help the poor and needy they were
haughty and did detestable things before me arrogant overfed and unconcerned it's
like a trend that they were arrogant overfed and unconcerned and as a
consequence they didn't help the poor and needy and as a consequence they were
proud and did detestable things and it's kind of like a traceable thing in many
western cultures and societies today including our own but before we sit here
and point the finger and say yeah that's right those societies and cultures are
made up of individuals and we're some of those individuals so what does this say
to us because we're not exempt you know are we arrogant what does that mean do
we think we are more important than other people it may be not here maybe
here maybe not here maybe at home in your house in your family do you think
you're more important than other members of your family maybe at workplace maybe
on your street you know we have to watch ourselves you know we do we think we're
right so often and we're not interested in anybody challenging us and giving us
a different view do we use words like well it's my right all of those things
are tinged from a place of arrogance that we just need to be careful are we
overfed we live in a society that has plenty and I know some of us struggle
with things on a daily basis but actually a lot of us in this room can
easily say yeah we're overfed we don't have a big problem we can choose which
supermarket to go to we can choose which which where to get our shopping and even
when we're overfed we still have plenty left that goes to waste or are we
unconcerned about others are we so preoccupied with our own lives and
ourselves that we don't have time to worry or think about anyone else
Mother Teresa said a life not lived for others is not a life the clear call in
this passage is of being preoccupied with our own lives of lining our own
nest that my way is the right way and that becomes something that we just get
sucked into so much in the world around us because society and marketing and
media is sending you those messages every hour of every day all that time
you're on your social media and those things are popping up it's all trying
to suck you in that you are the most important thing this is about you you
can have this you can get that you can do this and there's a clarion call in
this passage that the heart of God is to help the poor and needy reminds us in the
New Testament Paul writing that religion God our Father accepts as pure and holy
is this to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from
being polluted by the world a great example this morning Phil thanks for
helping the poor and the needy in Ukraine but even here on our doorstep we
can be we can rise to that as well as God works in our hearts and if we don't
engage with these matters then we become proud and we can be drawn into detestable
things how do we avoid that well he starts with Jesus right it starts at the
cross let him transform your heart and my heart he has called us out of the
world he has called us into being a new creation he has brought us into the
kingdom of light he has brought us into the kingdom of the Sun that he loves we
have been made alive with Christ we have received mercy so let God soften your
heart and my heart and mold it in his hands and massage it and bring it back
to a place where we are used by him and respond to that so how do we respond to
this in conclusion I just want to look at four people in the passage very very
briefly start with Abraham and really this is what borrowed this from last
week but Abraham what's he doing about the state of society that we're talking
about here he's pleading with God isn't he he's pleading for God to have mercy
you know and we did that earlier this morning didn't we we prayed for this
nation and we're called to pray for the nation we're called to pray for the
society around us and we need to do that on our knees there are loads of prayer
meetings throughout the week in this that we can be a part of or even on our
own even when you're sat on the loo we can be praying and interceding for this
nation because boy oh boy does it need it and if that's too big and too
grandiose you can pray for God to intervene in the local school in the
street where you live in your family in your place of work in your neighbors in
your lives like that but we need to be like Abraham on our knees interceding
God will you please show mercy in this nation because we desperately desperately
need it we need a move of God to change something and shift something and change
the atmosphere and change the way that this life is being lived at the moment
there are people crying out and when we're praying early I'm praying that God
would raise up a younger generation whose hearts will be gripped by his Holy
Spirit we'll have the fire of God in there in their bowels to move them to
bring about transformation in this land but their passion for Jesus would be
such that they mean yes it doesn't matter what the cost is it doesn't
matter what where I end up with Lord I want to follow you and I'm prepared to
bring you into this nation and into this society and bring your values your
integrity your holiness and your love to this place and then there's a lot what
can we say about a lot of it way back in chapter 13 actually this all started
them in chapter 13 of Genesis and verse 10 so Abraham and Lot they both got
loads of servants loads of animals and their servants were arguing with each
other and having argy-bargy and so Abraham and Lot decided they ought to
separate to create a bit of space between them and Abraham generously lets
Lot let's Lot make the choice of where he wants to go first and so Lot looks
up and we read in verse 10 of chapter 13 Lot looked up and saw the whole plain
of Jordan was well watered like the Garden of the Lord like the land of
Egypt towards Zohar this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah so Lot
has looked up and based on pure what reads like pure logic this looks to make
sense if I go there because the land looks good looks good to my eyes this is
gonna work well and he's made logic made sense but he's actually ended up in a
bad place I don't know we don't read I don't know maybe he didn't pray you know
clearly Abraham has got a good relationship with God going on the
through the through the chapters we're reading here maybe Lot wasn't but it
seems like he made a decision on pure logic on his own gifts and abilities and
skills rather than perhaps listening to what God might be saying and he's and he
thought he was doing the right thing he thought this would be good for him and
for his herdsmen and servants and family and so he takes them off down there and
he ends up in a bad place look at what has happened as a consequence his life
is affected by the sinful state of those he's ended up living with messing with
his head he was willing to give his daughters to men of the town he lost
prospective husbands for his two girls he lost his wife he has to flee and if
you bear in mind in chapter 13 the whole point of separating was because Abraham
and lots families and herdsmen and all the rest of it got too big together by
the time we get to the end of chapter 19 he hasn't got any of them there's just
Lot and his two daughters what a tragic mistake making a decision on what seemed
logical what seemed to make sense and ending up in such a disastrous place I
want to say today maybe for you in your life you've made a decision at some
point that seemed to make sense the signs seem to be right the logic seemed
to be there and you found yourself now in a bit of a mess I want to say to you
this morning today just as in our story there was mercy for Lot there is mercy
for you today in Jesus to bring freedom and rescue from that place whether
that's you this morning I want to encourage you to respond to him and then
there's a lot of sons-in-law they didn't take it seriously they thought Lot was
joking maybe as you sat here this morning maybe that's you you don't quite take
this God thing seriously you don't take the idea that maybe God is going to
exercise justice and judge this world one day you don't quite take it
seriously that maybe God is going to exercise justice and judge you one day
and the idea that you're a sinner before a holy God is not something you've
really grasped and the voices around have drowned out the clear message I want
to say today is the day of salvation for you this morning if you are here
don't leave this building without doing business with God today is an
opportunity and then there was lots wife we're not told much about her we're not
really told why she looked back so this did she look back because she was
hankering after something you know in leaving a life of where there was
wickedness and evil was there things actually were vaguely appealing and
maybe for you this morning God is challenging you about leaving a place of
sin leaving something that you know is bad for you but actually you also have a
sense of enjoyment and pleasure about it and God is saying it's time to leave
and you're looking back thinking oh but there's a sense of loss oh but it's so
good oh but but you know actually long for it I want to tell you that is a lie
in the name of Jesus that is a lie there is nothing good there there was
nothing good in Sodom and it's time this morning to press on and take hold of
that for which Jesus has taken hold of you and I close with this the the the
the violence that was exercised against Sodom and Gomorrah in this passage pales
into significance compared to the violence of an incident in the New
Testament where Jesus the Son of God hung on the cross and took on him every
single one of those sins that was going on in Sodom every single one of those
sins that were going on in Gomorrah that were going on in all the towns around
that area at that time every single one of those things that has been going on
ever since that time to the day he hung on a cross every single one of those
sins happened ever since Jesus hung on that cross to this present day and every
single one of those sins that will happen in the future Jesus took them all
on him on the cross and the wrath of God was poured out on him as God exercised
justice on his own beloved son that you and I could know the mercy of God in his
place and the cry this morning is that we would get a hold of that and that we
would get a hold of the mercy of Jesus that is there for the taking not to sit
there and evaluate and pontificate and think oh I wonder if this is true or not
what about other gods what about religious Jesus hung on the cross to
take away the sins of this world that includes everything about your sin in
the whole of your life hallelujah but more importantly he took the justice
that was yours the judgment that was coming to you and me was taken by Jesus
on that cross that you and I could walk free in the mercy of God and that is why
we sing hallelujah to those songs this morning that is we say yes Jax the
mercy of God is a fantastic thing that brings freedom it's not about just
making my life better and making it good because very often we doesn't we will
have trouble it is about being set free from the justice of a heavenly father
who is absolutely right to judge us for the way that we live our lives and the
sin entangles us but in the death of his son has brought freedom

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