Sodom: The Attraction and Judgment of Pagan Culture. Genesis 19
What we see with Lot is a classic example of a carnal Christian who is so in love with all the benefits of human society and human culture that he has just become mired in cosmic thinking, so much so that even when these angels show up and the men of Sodom try to take them out into the square for a gang rape over night Lot can't be convinced that he needs to leave. Even when he is told that God is about to wipe everything out the angels almost have to drag him and his wife out of town, and part of his family stays there. This shows how in arrogance we don't want to face the reality of divine judgment and that sin causes serious consequences, not only in our individual spiritual life but also in the culture and society, and that we have to take strong stands at times that may not always be the most comfortable thing.
The angels warn Lot in verses 12, 13, "And the men said unto Lot, Have you here any besides? son in law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whatsoever you have in the city, bring them out of this place." Here is the opportunity to get out of Sodom. "For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it." How much more clear can this warning be?
Genesis 19:14, "And Lot went out, and spoke unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law." These sons-in-law are married to other daughters than the two daughters who were virgin daughters in verse eight. To these sons-in-law Lot seemed to be joking. This is what happens in the world system. They reject God, and when God is removed there is no sense of accountability. It happens in subtle ways to believers. We think: Well God, I got away with it last time, I'll get away with it this time. And before long we are no longer concerned about God interfering in our life in terms of judgment. God becomes a joke, and that is what happens in the world system. The world ignores the fact that there is a God to whom it is accountable and so God becomes a joke, something to poke fun at.
Genesis 19:15, "And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city." They urged Lot to hurry. Notice, they have to push him. The city is getting ready to be judged and he is acting as though he's not sure he wants to leave. The principle is that the more we fail to separate ourselves mentally and emotionally from the ideas of the cosmic system, the more of an attraction it becomes and the more difficult it is to leave. So there is a warning again by the angels.
Genesis 19:16, "And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city." They had to urge him, he was lingering, and again, the angels took hold of his hand, his wife's hand, and the hand of his two daughters—"the Lord being merciful to him." This is grace and he doesn't want to respond to it.
Genesis 19:17, "And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for your life; look not behind you, neither stay in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed." In other words, they were to keep their focus on where God was taking them, and not to look back because to look back was going to indicate a mental attitude that they really didn't want to leave the sin and the perversion and everything that Sodom stood for. The point here is that when God delivers, don't look back. It is the same sin that the Jews are going to commit later on in the wilderness when they complained and griped and wanted to go back to Egypt, they missed the leaks, the garlics, all the good food. The tendency is to just want to go back to what is comfortable, and when what is comfortable is sin and carnality then it has damaging consequences.
Genesis 19:18, 19, "And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast showed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die." I want to avoid the judgment but don't get me too far away from this. He just can't comprehend that this whole plain is going to be unlivable and so he just wants to bail out. He wants to get far enough away from the scene that he doesn't get roasted but he doesn't want to leave it. There is nothing of what the Bible calls repentance, no change of thinking about his life.
Genesis 19:20, "Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live." So the angel said to Lot: "And he said unto him, See, I have accepted you concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which you have spoken. Haste you, escape there; for I cannot do any thing till you arrive. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar." So he had to get into a place of safety and then the judgment was going to come.
Genesis 19:23-25, "The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground."
Principles: What happens to a believer who is mired or enmeshed in the cosmic system?
1) Definition of the cosmic system: This is from the Greek word KOSMOS [kosmoj] which refers to an orderly system of thinking. Analogy: The cosmic thought that is the cultural values of the community or world around us, whatever it may be. Every culture has its views about life, its views about ultimate reality; and its views about ultimate reality or God affect its values. Values are displayed in terms of laws, in terms of social institutions, in terms of marriage, family, government—all of these things flow out of one's views of ultimate reality. This, then, develops itself out into other areas such as music, visual arts, theatre, dramatic art, etc. All that is part of the cosmic system. There is a world view that is antithetical to a biblical world view. The cosmic system is basically the thinking of Satan. It is first and foremost antagonistic to God. No matter how much God-talk there is, no matter how much people hold up their Bible, go to church, go through ritual, praise and worship for 45-minutes, it is just human works, a salve on the conscience. At the very core, though, because it is not biblical, it is antagonistic to God. Take somebody who goes to church once in every three or four weeks or every time on Sunday, and basically they have right beliefs but there is no real drive forward in their spiritual life. Is that person positive? No, they are not because they are not going anywhere. Positive means that you understand the truth and you want to know the truth and want to go forward in your spiritual life. These people say they believe the right things but it is not evident in anything going on in their life. That is because they are antagonistic to God. They are not going to come up and shake their fist in God's face but they are not positive either. The reality of God and Bible doctrine isn't affecting their day-to-day decision-making at all. They are just out there on the periphery. That is negative volition—a mild sort of negative volition, not like some fire-breathing atheist, but it is still antagonistic to God because it is not positive to God. The second element of cosmic thinking is that it autonomous towards man. Autonomy is a word that means self-law, man ultimately decides for himself, and it is an emphasis that says, "God, you just stay out of it, I am going to lead my own life and make my own decisions about what is right and what is wrong." This is what is at the core of the cosmic system, therefore the cosmic system always generates hostility towards the Bible and its establishment principles. You can't get away from it, it always generates hostility towards the truth.
2) This antagonism to the word can be overt or subtle. Overt is a clear antagonism or rejection of the Word. Or, negative volition can be masked as religion or just a kind disregard. They might go to church but it has no impact on their thinking whatsoever. They don't live any different from the unbeliever down the street. The unbeliever down the street may be nice, may be socially involved, may have a great personality, may give a lot to civic causes and be involved in things, but he is still operating on pure paganism. There are Christians like that, they just show up here and there and they sing songs, and it is all external. There is just this shell but they are not learning to think biblically.
3) Negative volition is anything short of being genuinely positive. Are you driving forward in your spiritual life? Is there still a hunger in your soul to know what God says and to live for Him because of where you are heading? That is positive volition.
4) Like Lot, the negative believer seeks to enjoy all the benefits of the present cosmic system without paying attention to God. They want to enjoy all that the culture has to offer them. There is nothing wrong with enjoying different elements of the culture. It is when that is the heart-beat of the life as opposed to doctrine that is where problems are run into.
5) One result is that there will eventually be an internal conflict of guilt. If you are a child of God and the Holy Spirit is in you, the Holy Spirit isn't going to let just float on down the road in carnality. He is going to constantly remind you of doctrine and the Lord is going to discipline you, according to Hebrews chapter twelve, and you are not going to get away with it.
6) There will appear a superficial rapport with the world—that is the struggle that Lot has—and that produces a callous in the soul towards doctrine. But we are called upon as believers to live in a way that is separate from the world. This is designed to protect the believer's soul from the subtle influences of cosmic thinking around him. It is addressed to the social life of believers. It involves marriage, business, our closest friends and confidants. 2 Corinthians 6:14, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship [rapport] hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an unbeliever?" There is no value in a relationship between a believer and an unbeliever. That doesn't mean you can't have friends that are unbelievers. You need to have some friends that are unbelievers so that you can build relationships and witness to them, but those who are you most intimate, valued friends, partners, wives, husbands, need to be believers. If you want to mess up your spiritual life, if you are single, just end up marrying an unbeliever. It is self-destructive of the spiritual life. 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good morals." This is just a standard proverb that Paul quotes. Sooner or later, if you surround yourself with people who aren't positive, who aren't operating on divine viewpoint, they are going to drag you down and you are going to be influenced, and your spiritual life is going to be degraded because of them.
7) Eventually the scale of values becomes perverted. This is what happens once you start turning a blind eye to these things it begins to degrade and erode your own sense of absolutes, and compromise sets in. Isaiah 5:20, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" What happens in carnality and paganism is is that the scale of values, the scale of absolutes, morality and ethics, becomes totally perverted and reversed. This is why there is the kind of reaction that Lot did when he began to plead with the men of Sodom. They stood back and said, "Look at him, he keeps acting as a judge. He's trying to tell us what is right and what is wrong." They become the victims of slander and ridicule, and this is what happens to many Christians today: they take a stand for the truth and that there is something called the truth.
8) This results in a loss of respect for life, for people as people in the image of God, genuine compassion for those who hurt.
9) When believers get involved in the cosmic system you start seeing role reversals: role reversal in sex, role reversal in marriage, role reversal in church (where they want to have women as deacons and pastors), and this is all a sign of the influence of paganism in our culture.
10) Sexual sin no longer brings a sense of shame. Our sense of right and wrong is being calloused by the fact that we are always being exposed to this talk in the culture around us.
11) Personal comforts become more real and valuable than truth. This is what happens so often in marriages. People aren't really living in a marriage where they are growing together, what matters is their own personal comfort. It is just some way to feed what I want and somehow you get what you want out of this and we are going to call this a marriage. That is not a biblical marriage at all, where you have two people growing together, sharing with each other, and growing together in maturity in their relationship with the Lord.
So the Lord overthrows the cities in verse 25, and in the process what happens? Verse 26, "But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt." Lot's wife looks back, she is mired in the cosmic system. She just can't see the value of the Lord's grace and she wants everything back. So she turns to look one more time. She just can't get her mental attitude out of her carnal value system. God takes her out under the sin unto death.
Genesis 19:27, the scene shifts. Abraham goes out to the place where he had stood before the Lord. Verse 28, "And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace." There had been grace before judgment, but then there was judgment.
Grace before judgment
1) No sin is too great for the grace of God. Even those in Sodom could have turned to the Lord up to this point. Remember, they had some common grace from the Lord in chapter fifteen after when were rescued after their defeat by the four kings from the east.
2) God still protects the disobedient believer even when he is out of fellowship and living in the pig-pen. God is still watching over the prodigal son because he is in the family, but eventually it becomes time for the sin unto death.
3) There is always forgiveness. If you are still alive God has a plan for your life. You can use 1 John 1:9 to get back into fellowship, but the issue then is to stay in fellowship, to grow, to mature, to start applying doctrine and get out of the pig-pen. What happens so often is people get out, take a shower and then jump right back in, and they spend most of their Christian life in this cycle where they confess and get cleansed and jump right back into the pig-pen of the world's system, and they never advance because they are really not positive.
4) Forgiveness doesn't necessarily erase the consequences of an impoverished and perverted soul. If there is no change through doctrine then the soul remains impoverished and perverted and there is no happiness and there is no capacity for life.
5) Cosmic thinking destroys the divine institutions. It destroys the family, and that is exactly what we se in the next episode in verse 30.
Genesis 19:30, "And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters." As a result of the incestuous behavior: "And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon [Ammonites] unto this day." The Ammonites are going to be a real pain for Israel in the coming years. So remember, where are the Jews when Moses writes this? They are on the plains of Moab getting ready to go into the land. Now they understand why they have had problems with the king of Moab and the king of Ammon and all this inter-family rivalry.