You may think you know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah but let me suggest there’s more than you think you know. People have taken the story, pointed at it, and said “see that is the God of the bible. How can I believe in that God.” They rush ahead, and think the story is about humans for humans, but it is a story about God for humans. They rush ahead of the story, and wholly miss the heart of the God who wrote it. The story you think you know is not the story. Lets see if we can find the right story and the heart of God.
The first question is; where does the story of Sodom and Gomorrah start? The answer is, it doesn’t start in Sodom. It starts with Abraham.
The Lord God had appeared to Abraham (in the form of a Man such that Abraham made them/him food) and promised Abraham a child the coming year. Then after the promise, The Lord God decides to tell Abraham a secret. God says “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.” The Lord God then turns to Sodom to begin to walk there. Abraham steps in front of God and poses several questions. Genesis 18:16
“Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous people within the city. Will you then sweep away the place, and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”
God responds with. “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Again Abraham asks God, “How about 45 people will you spare the city for 45 righteous people?”
God says, “I will spare the city for 45 righteous people.”
Again Abraham asked God, “will you spare the city for forty righteous people?”
God says, “Yes.”
Again Abraham asked God, “will you spare the city for thirty righteous people?”
God says, “Yes.”
Again Abraham asked God, “will you spare the city for twenty righteous people?”
God says, “Yes.”
Again Abraham asked God, “will you spare the city for ten righteous people?”
and God says, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”
Two angels walk up to the city gate of Sodom. Lot is sitting at the city gate of the city. Lot sees the two angels in the form of men, and then offers them his house to sleep in and ushers them into his house and makes them welcome and feeds them. They are about to get settled for the night when all the men of the town gathered around Lot’s door demanding that the two new comers be yielded to them that they might “know” them. Lot perhaps knowing they are angels or just that they had accepted his protection tries to shield these angel/men from the violating intentions of the town’s men by offering his virgin Daughters. The towns men refuse the daughter offer and insist on the new-comers. The mob is pounding on the door of the house is about to be broken down. Lot is holding the door shut with his body. A hand gets through the open door gets a hold of Lot pulling him into the maelstrom of hateful intent. Then the two angel/men struck the attacking crowd with blindness. The two angel/men then told Lot to gather his family and leave Sodom immediately, because the cry to the Lord has been very great and the Lord God had sent them to destroy it. As morning was dawning the Angel Men urge Lot to leave again. ( Lot does not seem in a great hurry to leave) Then Lot gathers his daughters and wife to leave but is not fast enough for the Lord God, so he picked them up with the hand of God and placed out side the city. Lot leaves Sodom and Gomorrah eventually going up into the hills. Lot’s wife looks back to the Sodom and turned into a pillar of Salt.
Lot continues to live in the hills in a cave out of fear. He does not go to live in another city but he and his two daughter live in a cave, in the hills. Lot’s daughters thinking themselves eternally without other men, get their father drunk and sleep with him and each conceive a child.
Well that’s the story. Lets start by identifying the characters that generate the greatest debate and perhaps heartache. Who were the men of Sodom? The bible itself does not label them; however, every male turned out to gang rape two new people. Realistically they were predatory rapists. Would it have mattered if the angels that had shown up were female in gender? I don’t think so. I think that any new comers would have generated the same reaction. Lot tries to appease the hateful mob by giving them his daughters who were more than girls, but still terribly immature, indicating a young age. The male population all gathered to sexually assault two people. This says a considerable amount about the spiritual and emotional character of the town. I think that we can infer that the entire town had similar problems. Psychologists have put forth many reasons why rape occurs, control or establishing dominance is one, seeking sexual release coupled with the dehumanization of the victim another, failure the recognize the seriousness of the act itself, or anger at the targeted gender, these are some reasons. Some, all, or other reasons could have been at work in the individuals. Working in concert with each other, for the same outcome indicates previous similar activity. Can you imagine a whole town of rapists? The everyday stress, grief, and anguish caused by living in that environment? The whole town would have been going for water in fear, gathering wood in terror, trading for food or other materials with people who had violated you or a loved one. Which makes Lot hanging out at the city gate a terribly questionable activity. Imagine city life where it may have been normal to relive traumatizing horrible experiences perhaps daily. Even those who were violating others would not be safe. These people were not homosexuals, they are predators feeding on the emotional sexual highs unable or unwilling to empathize with their community members . The fact that christians have long categorized these people as homosexuals shows a deep lack of imagination and an interest in divorcing ourselves spiritual problems we see in the people of Sodom. The crazy part of all this, is when given the chance to leave Lots family did not leave immeadiately. They literally had to be pick up by a giant hand and put outside of the town. Lot’s wife looked back I assume in longing.
We see Lot’s daughters rape their father at the end of the story. The people of Sodom had accepted the habitual violation of each other and themselves as a normal and good way of life. God did not create us to accept nightmare inducing activity as good and normal. He, being the good Father and Shepherd hates things that cause us pain. What should the good Shepherd do when a sheep only chews on its own leg to relax or self soothe?. He created us for Himself and for his Glory. God knew the terrible actions of the general populace and reveals who He is in his action, which firstly is a God of Holiness and Justice.
Lets talk about Lot. Should we presume that Lot was the good guy in this story? That he made it out alive, because he was good? Was he the single righteous man that was worthy of saving? I think that Lot shows that he is not a good guy on several fronts. He tries to give his young daughters to a sexually rabid murderous mob, which as a father I find unforgivable. Then at the end of the story where God Himself has miraculously saved Lot from God’s own justice, Lot does not pray, Lot does not worship, Lot does not repent, he lives in fear. So much fear of normal people that he lives in a cave. God did not say to Abraham I am going to destroy Sodom. God said that He was going to go and see if it was really that bad. Abraham jumps to the conclusion that God will destroy it, it seems Abraham already knows of the deep and terrible sins of Sodom. I think that it is reasonable to think the surrounding area knew about Sodom and Gomorrah and that trying to resettle somewhere else may have been a death sentence. Then Lot and daughters live in isolation and content emotional attachment to their nightmarish past.
What really reveals the heart of God in the story is what God has to say to Abraham. When we initially read the story it looks like God is changing over the course of the conversation. What is really changing during the conversation is Abraham’s understanding of God and ours. Abraham assumes correctly, that God’s action is going to hinge on the number of righteous people in the city. How many righteous people do you know? Could you and nine of your righteous friends, if you had been in Sodom, saved the city? That of course depends what God’s definition of Righteous. God’s definition of Righteous is not simply good, it is perfect. He who never done any wrong, or said any wrong, or thought any wrong might be perfect. So who is that perfect? Jesus was that perfect. Abraham, while judging God, is satisfied that God is still good even though it would have taken ten righteous people to save Sodom. If Abraham had pressed harder, God might have revealed the future. We see at the Cross, it only takes the death of one Righteous man for the sins of many to save a city or a world. God is revealing that because of the Righteous, the predatory rapists of the world might be saved.
We read the story and we think our own sins are not that bad, we aren’t predatory rapists. What does our sin look like to God? To Him who is infinitely Perfect and holy and beautiful our sin must look as filthy and awful as an entire city of predatory rapists. No I don’t think i’m carrying my point too far. God still saves, He has died so that we can be changed. Be changed. He has died so that we can want different things, so we don’t want to stay in our own sinful town of Sodom. Jesus died so we don’t have to be content to be attached and love things that hurt us.
Jesus died so we can have Him, as a God, a King, a Savior, a Father, a Brother, so we can walk in His light with hope. Hope that we are loved better and more fully than we have seen or known. We can be assured God’s love does not injure, does not violate, does not abuse, and does not turn to hate. Because at the the cross Jesus bore our sins, he took our citizenship of Sodom, and He was injured, He was violated, He was abused, He was hated, and we took Jesus’ citizenship of heaven.
We see in Sodom the depth and foulness of our own sin. We see the completed story of Sodom on the Cross and real number of righteous Men required to save us.
Believe, Trust, Love God, Confess, and Repent.