With all the turmoil in our world today, it might be time to reacquaint ourselves with the part of our God’s character that is triggered when He runs out of patience. To do this, it is time to reflect upon the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and look what it took to exasperate our God to the point of His destruction of their societies. Sodom and Gomorrah were cities in the plain of Jordan along with the cities of Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar (Bela). These five constituted the “cities of the plain,” and they are referenced throughout both the Old and New Testaments as well as the Quran.
The name Sodom means “burning” located in the valley of Siddim (Genesis 13:10; 14:1-16). The name Gomorrah means “submersion”. These cities probably stood close together and were near the northern extremity of what is now the Dead Sea. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire from heaven in the time of Abraham and Lot (Genesis 19:24). The wickedness of the cities became proverbial. The sin of sodomy was an offense against nature frequently connected with idolatrous practices. The fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is also used as a warning to those who reject the gospel (Matthew 10:15; 11:24; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 1:7).
Sodom was a wicked and vile place. Wickedness had become universal, and they were unanimous in their acceptance of it. Sin was pervasive with both old and young, and from every aspect of society. In God’s eyes, they had achieved the highest level of wickedness (Genesis 13:13). They had created a sin that still bears their name, called Sodomy. They were not ashamed to own it and to force others into their own sinful ways. The people were openly defiant before God. As later, Isaiah would say:
Isaiah 3:9 – “The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.”1NIV New International Version Translations
History documents that catastrophes did occur destroying the area. Because the plain is now under the Dead Sea, science can only speculate as the exact method of destruction. Was the actual agent in the ignition and destruction of the cities a tremendous thunderstorm accompanied by a discharge of meteoric stones? If so, this could have set on fire the bitumen with which the soil was saturated and which was used in building the city. The burning out of the soil may very well have caused the plain to sink below the level of the Dead Sea, and the waters to flow over it. The fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is often held up as a warning in numerous passages of the Old and New Testaments to heed God’s warnings.
The full story can be found in Genesis 19:1-30. This study, however, is not about the sinful acts within the cities. It is clear throughout our Biblical history that when God determines a people no longer seek Him or honor His call to redemption, when people take pride in sin, God moves on. God starts over again to rebuild. Most of us know what it takes to be classified as a sinner. When the world around you is bent on destruction, the question we seek to answer is what does it take to be a survivor?
The people in the story are a man named Lot and his family, a wife, two daughters and their fiancées. Lot has decided to go and live in Sodom. Lot has an encounter with two angels at the gate of the city of Sodom. He is warned that the sinful acts, the casual acceptance of sin by the city’s inhabitants have marked it for destruction. It will be Lot’s full response that we need to look at most closely. First, Lot tries to appease Sodom’s lustful inhabitants when he tries to shield his future son-in-laws from sexual harm by offering up his daughters instead. Lot is not really fighting back on immorality. His appeasement does nothing to de-escalate the issues at hand. Lot believes he is a Godly man and he can handle this.
Genesis 19:14 – “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.”
Point One: Take God Seriously
Here we encounter the first and maybe the most important attribute of survival, “TAKE GOD SERIOUSLY.” When society ignores our God, when it becomes a joke on late night TV, when social media blocks the truth about our God, or when sin does not matter anymore, people step out onto “the plain,” the danger zone. The Apostle Paul says it best, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2) Lot’s future sons-in-law did not become part of the survivors. To Lot’s future son-in-laws, it was just a joke! They would soon perish in the flames on the plain.
Point Two: Fear is Normal
Genesis 19:15-20 – “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. 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. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
Lot hesitated, he wanted to be in Sodom. Without the prodding of those angelic advisors, Lot might have been tempted to stay. However, God frequently sends us, in the hours of our greatest temptation, people (angels) who are not only there to provide advice but to grab our hand and lead out of harms way. Those are the people we need to look for, hold onto as friends. Lot decides to flee with fear and trepidation. Smart choice.
Point Three: Share Your Concerns With God
Genesis 19:18-20 – “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 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.”
Lot is very aware of his limitations. So is God. He is granted sanctuary not in the mountains but closer in a small town called Zoar. Remember, Lot still is a servant of God. God knows this and wants him and his family to survive after the disaster is over. Lot and his family are to be part of God’s continuing plan for our world. God loves each of us too for the same reasons. Pray often, share your concerns. While the part that Lot plays in God’s plan may be confusing to us, it is never confusing to God.
Point Four: Do Not Look Back on Your Decision
Genesis 19:26 – “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”
Lot’s wife longingly looks back in spite of God’s direct instructions not to do that. We must assume because there were aspects of Sodom that she might have been looking forward to enjoying. There was no place in Sodom for unity, compromise, moderation, tolerance, and for God. To be a survivor, we are asked by God to make a clean break from the sin in our world. There is no way to be a part-time Godly person. Each decision we make must be made in accordance to God’s standards, not ours, not our world’s.
Point Five: Follow God’s Plans
Genesis 19:30 – Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave.
Living in the mountains continued to be difficult for Lot and his daughters. The world and its temptations would challenge Lot again. Even in the mountains, Lot could not hide from a sinful world, fathering children with his daughters while drunk. Whether Lot met God’s standards is between Lot and God. However, we know that God’s plans moved on as they always do. God doesn’t give up, we give up. Our world is not an easy place to live in. God’s history continued through Lot and in spite of Lot. What else might we learn from Lot? We can choose to turn a blind eye and accept sin in this world and live comfortably. We can also ignore our own sin or we can choose to know and embrace God’s Law, even if it means discomfort, isolation, sacrifice, even persecution. Each of us is called to choose! However, accepting this world as it is always a dangerous choice.
- Where do you see the injustices within our world, places that sin is tolerated and even promoted?
- Ideas to Explore: Within the church; within governments; How we are teaching our children; Society norms and standards.
- What is your opinion on whether we as a people are being punished by God for our behavior or rewarded for it?
- Ideas to Explore: How our economy is doing; COVID virus; The policies of our country. Political landscape.
- How does someone deal with sin when they are forced to accommodate it in their society?
- Ideas to Explore: Do we ignore it so we get a long? How do we deal with those who are sinful but think that it should now be normal? Since we all are sinful, what are God’s expectations when we see sin in others?
- Are you willing to give up your dream of city life for the mountains? In other words, would you live a different life in order to avoid destruction?
- Ideas to Explore: Business ethics. Personal choices that impact others around us. Are environmental choices part of this discussion?
- Does a high standard of living pose any issues relative to keeping God’s commands?
- Ideas to Explore: Prioritization of our charitable work; helping those in need. Doing with less so others have more. Where does the responsibility for charity lay, government, church or the individual?
- Lot struggled with sin as we all do. What advice would you have given him to help him not fall victim in the “mountains?”
- Ideas to Explore: Why is alcohol a greater problem in isolation? Why is it harder to avoid sin during isolation? What are the benefits of attending religious services? Conversely, what are the downsides of lockdowns on congregations?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations