Sodom: The Attraction and Judgment of Pagan Culture. Genesis 19
Genesis 19:1, the two angels came to Sodom in the evening and we see Lot sitting outside at the Gate of Sodom. That is significant because it tells us that Lot has a position of respect in the society of Sodom. He is well respected and is looked up to. The judges met at the gates of the city and that is where cases were adjudicated and decisions made. It means Lot is in a position of authority, and this means he has become totally assimilated into the society and the culture of Sodom. We have to remind ourselves that Lot is an Old Testament believer though he has totally compromised his spiritual life with the cosmic thinking, the world thinking, that characterized the culture of Sodom and Gomorrah and the five cities that were located around the south eastern shore of the Dead Sea. This reminds us that even believers can imitate unbelievers and their life may not appear to be any different from an unbeliever.
Lot met the angels, he bowed himself to the ground, which was an ancient Near Eastern custom of prestige, and it showed that he recognizes that they have some position.
Genesis 19:2, "And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and you shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, No; but we will abide in the street all night." Why did they say that? First of all, they were testing Lot to see if he is really being genuine and if he is really being hospitable. Secondly, they are there perhaps to investigate the nature of the culture and to demonstrate the perversity and degradation of the Sodomite culture. But Lot continues to insist that they come in and stay with him.
As we look at the culture of Sodom we have to recognize that it is portrayed here as the lowest point of pagan culture, of Canaanite culture at that day. It is a city that is dominated by sexual licentiousness and perversity. It is not just homosexuality, these folks just don't care how they are going to get their sexual pleasure. We often focus on the homosexual nature of this encounter, which is definitely there, and this is where we get our English word "sodomy" which is the technical term to describe homosexual relations, but we have to understand that from this point throughout the Scripture the Bible portrays homosexuality as a sin. It is pictured as, in relative terms, one of the sins of the worst kind. All sin is sin, but different sins have different social consequences and different sins affect those around us in different ways. It is clear from Romans chapter one that homosexuality is viewed by God as part of His judgment on a culture, so it is not just another sin. There are certain consequences to it that are devastating to a society.
When a culture deteriorates so much that it removes restraint from these sins that have tremendous social consequences then that culture is already on the path to self-destruction, and it becomes necessary in the plan of God at times to remove that culture. There are many cultures in history that are much worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, so why is it that God is going to judge Sodom and Gomorrah? We have to understand the role of Sodom and Gomorrah in terms of their location and in terms of God's plan for Israel. God is removing Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain because He is protecting Abraham and Abraham's progeny from the influence of this extreme sexual licentiousness. He is going to do the same thing in another 400 years when He brings the Israelites back from Egypt and they are to completely annihilate the Canaanite culture. There is a reason for that.
Genesis 19:4, "But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter." Notice how this is belabored in the text. Darkness has already come and darkness is often a shroud for the sinful activities of man. This is a reference to the males of the city and it is not just the homosexuals in Sodom, it is both old and young from every quarter—the wealthy, the poor, the middle class. This demonstrate that this perversity has permeated every level of Sodom's culture. There is a huge crowd surrounding the house and they start beating on the door.
Let's stop a minute and think about Lot. We don't have to guess at this because we have a New Testament commentary provided by Peter under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit to tell us what is going on in Lot's soul. 2 Peter 2:4ff. The interesting thing about 2 Peter is that Peter is demonstrating in the second and third chapter the righteousness and the justice of God in condemning and judging man for sin. He is laying out an argument where he is saying that God has clearly judged the human race in cataclysmic judgments several times in the past, and so we can know with certainty that God will eventually judge the human race in a cataclysm in the future and we need to be ready. That is where all this is going, starting in the second chapter and going down through the third chapter. He focuses on these key cataclysmic judgments, beginning in verse 4: "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; and delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.)" This shows that we have to pay attention to Genesis chapter nineteen because it shows a divine pattern on judgment for certain social sins. The Greek word used here for "ungodly" is ASEBES [a)sebhj]. The "A" is a negative, and the root is the word SEBES, which we will see in another word, EUSEBEIA [e)usebeia]. The EU prefix means well or good or beneficial, so the word EUSEBEIA, often translated "godliness," has to do with our positive spiritual growth. So ASEBES has to do with that which is ungodly, it describes people who have no spiritual relationship with God, a person who actively practices that which is the opposite of biblical spirituality. So they are involved in extreme immorality. It is an extremely strong word for sexual perversion and immorality. So God judged them as an example to those who would be willing to give in and allow their sin nature to have free reign in the area of sexual sin.
God delivered "righteous Lot." This is the grace of God. Three times in 2 Peter 2 Lot is described as righteous. He is not righteous in terms of his personal morality, his experiential morality. It is very clear that one of the key lessons in Genesis 19 is that when we as believers become so immersed in the values of the cosmic system around us that it destroys our own spiritual life we are more concerned about the things of the world than we are the eternal realities of the Lord Jesus Christ. But Lot is righteous because he has positional righteousness. Lot was oppressed by the licentious conduct of the wicked. That is interesting because Lot doesn't appear to be someone who is oppressed. He is living there in that culture, has assimilated it, and is very happy living there enjoying all of the details of that the culture of Sodom has to offer. It is a very affluent society for its times, very comfortable, and he likes that. He is willing to give up his walk with the Lord in order to enjoy all of this. The word "oppress" is the Greek word KATAPONEO [kataponew], and it means to be vexed, to be weary, to be oppressed or afflicted. It means at a level in his soul there is a conflict going on. Because he is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and he knows the truth, even though he is living there and is enjoying it, when it is in those wee hours of the morning and is lying in his bed awake looking up at the ceiling, he knows he shouldn't be there. That is a reality for every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. The reality is that the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is not going to be able to just live immersed in a pagan culture without the Holy Spirit convicting them of sin. They are not just going to be able to relax. Lot was oppressed by the licentious conduct of the wicked. This is the Greek word ASELGEIA [a)selgeia] which is an extreme form of licentiousness. In some cases it has the idea of brutality. It indicates that all restraints are removed. These are called "the wicked," the Greek word athesmos [a)qesmoj]. They are lawless, licentious, unprincipled, amoral men. Lot is living in the midst of this completely perverted culture and society and he is trying to find some level of comfort, but he is tormented to some degree. The word translated "vexed" or "tormented" is the word BASANIZO [basanizw] and it means to be tortured, afflicted with pain, harassed internally. He just can't fully relax inside this culture, even though he is fully attracted to it. This is an interesting insight into the psychology of the believer who is living in rank carnality.
Then in verse 9, "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of testing, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." The point that we get from 2 Peter is that the application from Genesis 19 is that God can deliver the righteous no matter what circumstances he is in, no matter how far he has fallen into whatever the sin is, there is the grace of God that can meet him where he is and there can be recovery.
In Genesis 19:4-11 we see the attempted sexual assault on the angels that occurs. In vv. 4, 5 the men of Sodom surround Lot's home and start beating on the door in order to have him turn these visitors out so that "they can know them," a Hebrew euphemism fore sexual relations. Vv. 6, 7, "And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, and said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly." The Hebrew verb for "wickedly" is ra'a, normally translated to do "evil." The Bible uses this word as a synonym for the word for sin, except that it deals with more extreme forms of overt sin. In a vast number of references in the Old Testament the word "evil" relates to idolatry. So here it is clear that God labels homosexuality as a sin; it is "evil." Evil is defined in terms of what people do, not in terms of their personality.
Now Lot shows that he has completely absorbed the values of the pagan culture around him. Verse 8, "Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do you to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof." Isn't this a wonderful protective father! This is another characteristic of paganism: men no longer protect women, and the parents are no longer functioning as protectors of children. So Lot is going to bargain with his virgin daughters. Another thing we see here is that physical abuse becomes normative and acceptable is a pagan society.
In verses 9-11 we see another characteristic of paganism and that is the self-righteousness of moral degeneracy. We see this in our own society whenever anyone stands up for the truth and the absolutes of Scripture the hatred, the venom, the anger that comes at them from the culture at large is just horrendous. Verse 9, "And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door." The Sodomites, after Lot has tried to bargain with his daughters, tell him to get out of the way. Lot is not judging them at all, he is just trying to barter with them and in the process is compromising his own family. They have twisted the whole situation: "He is just trying to judge us, he is condemning us." They almost break the door down and the angels rescue him: "But the men [angels] put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door."
The characteristics of paganism
1) Sexual degradation and perversion becomes commonplace and socially acceptable in a pagan culture. The more a culture is divorced from the absolutes of the Scripture the more sexual deviancy becomes "normal" and accepted. The more it becomes normal and accepted, the more accustomed, even believers become. They may not be comfortable with it but they no longer experience the same level of shame and embarrassment when certain things are talked about than when they first came up. We hear about certain things on TV and in the news and we become desensitized to the shame of these acts and actions that are taking place in our culture. As a result of this there is an increase in violence.
2) Women are no longer protected and valued.
3) There is a total breakdown as a result of that over all distinctions. It is no coincidence that at the same time that we have the rise of radical feminism, which as as its core the idea there is total and complete interchangeability between men and women and the workplace and the rise of homosexuality among men and women, which says the same thing sexually, that men and women are completely interchangeable as sexual partners. The idea is: It doesn't matter whether my sexual partner is a man or a woman just as long as I have my gratification. So there is a breakdown of role distinctions and there is evidence in women assuming male authority positions and a failure of male leadership in the culture. So women want to assume male authority positions such as a pastor, or they take male positions in terms of bi-sexuality. All of this reflects a breakdown in the culture because we no longer understand the role of men and women as image bearers as God created them. So women become sex objects and men become tyrannical and abusers, and it leads to a complete breakdown of marriage and of the family, and eventually society.