Imagine what it would be like to live in a community in which you must lock your doors each night to avoid being robbed, beaten, or sexually assaulted. Imagine hearing the cries and screams of people outside those locked doors as they are attacked in your city's streets. Imagine meeting some godly visitors in your city and discovering--much to your horror--that they plan to spend the night in those same city streets! Like any God-fearing person you would invite, encourage, and even beg them to spend the night in your home, behind the protection of your locked doors.
Friends, the scenario I am describing is not taken from the twenty-first century. I am trying to give you a mental picture of a city called Sodom as it is depicted in Genesis 19. It was the community in which Lot, Abraham's nephew, lived approximately 4000 years ago! Sodom was the city that two angels visited, after speaking with Abraham. How does a society get so far from God that it begins to behave this way? We will be endeavoring to answer that significant question today as we study God's word. The Bible certainly tells us how Sodom (and the other cities of the plain) became so corrupt. In showing us how Sodom became so sinful, God will show us the risks we face as well. I believe there are four primary reasons as to why Sodom became so sinful.
THE FIRST SIN OF SODOM WAS PRIDE.
The people of Sodom were very proud. Ezekiel 16:49 - "...this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughter had pride..." God had abundantly blessed the cities of the plain just north of the Dead Sea. Their location was excellent. The cities were at the crossroads of many trade routes. They used their strategic location to develop a thriving economy and become prosperous.
Yet, as they grew stronger and stronger economically, and as God continued to bless them, they forgot about the Lord. They became self-centered and proud, thinking that they had earned the wealth themselves. Does this sound familiar today? Wake up, America! How did we begin some two hundred plus years ago? Well, at first we were focused on God as a nation. But, as time passed, we grew strong, and today we are the strongest country in the world (at least for now). Some predict eventual economic failure for the U.S. because of our large national debt. Some believe that we are slipping as a superpower and that our great country is in trouble. Friends, pride is a big part of our problem.
Pride lies at the heart of most sins. Pride makes man think he can handle life all by himself. Our arrogance leads us to believe that fate is within our hands, and whatever good happens to us is because we have earned it. We believe that if we are successful in life, then it must be because we are better than others. That is what pride is, and America is prideful. We have forgotten God and become exceedingly sinful as a country. Our morality and values are at all-time lows, and they continue to plummet. Why? Because America has arrogantly forgotten God!
Pride convinces people they can make up their own minds about what is good and what is evil. Pride tells them they do not need to submit to moral principles from God's word. The beginning corruption of any person or community is quite often this sense of arrogance. Such was the case with Sodom, and the United States appears to be following the same self-destructive path as well.
THE SECOND SIN OF SODOM WAS IDLENESS.
This second sin pertained to their abundance of material blessings and time. Ezekiel 16:49 - "...this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness..." God had blessed the cities of the plain and made them affluent, even to the point of having time for leisure. However, in their abundance they forgot the One who gave them their wealth-they forgot God and became idle!
Pride often convinces people they have earned or deserve all that they have. They forget that people work hard all over the world, yet only a few are blessed with prosperity. The great wealth of Sodom was not because they were better than others, but because they were blessed by the Lord. It is interesting to observe that when God the Father sent Jesus to live a sinless earthly life, He did not have Him born into a wealthy home. Jesus was from a family of carpenters--blue-collar workers, as we would call them today. In so doing, God was demonstrating that a perfect life is centered in honoring Him, not in having wealth or spending lots of time leisurely. Let us always remember that being well off physically is a matter of being blessed, it has nothing to do with being better than others.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:26 - "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Pride will convince man that his abundance is well deserved, and he will happily enjoy his material blessings and leisure time. The problem is that the more important matters of the soul are typically ignored by such a one. Is this not what is happening to most Americans? We are so blessed as a country, yet our nation has forgotten God and the ways of righteousness.
It has been said that idle hands are tools of the devil. That was certainly true with Sodom. Their wickedness was directly related to the fact that they had too much free time. They could have used their free time to do much good, but instead they used it wickedly. A serious problem in America today is idleness and a poor use of leisure time. How much time do Americans waste idly every day? How much time do we spend on trivial things, things that are not going to matter one bit one hundred years from now?
Many of us over-commit ourselves and spend all of our time doing unimportant physical things, all the while ignoring the vital spiritual priorities of life. Others among us have an abundance of leisure time and we spend every minute of it pampering ourselves in one way or another. Friends, how do you use your time? How much time do you spend watching TV and movies or reading magazines and newspapers? How much time do you devote to your hobbies? In comparison, how much time do you spend studying God's word? How much time do you invest in sharing the gospel message with others? How much time do you devote to doing good for others? This is an important subject to think about. The Bible teaches that if we do not make time for God in this life, we will not be with Him in the next (cf. Matt. 22:37).
THE THIRD SIN OF SODOM WAS THEIR UNWILLINGNESS TO HELP THE POOR AND NEEDY.
Ezekiel 16:49 - "...this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." People who are arrogant and believe they are better than others often forget about those who are less fortunate. Consequently, the poor are often neglected or ignored. In Sodom's case, here was a society blessed with abundance and freedom of time, yet they used their time for personal interests and passions, not to the benefit of those around them. They used their leisure time to indulge their selfishness. This attitude, though improper, is easy to understand. If a person believes he is physically well off because he is better than others, then he thinks he has received what he deserves, as have others. If they are destitute, it is because they deserve it.
Jesus lived in a society that thought this way. The Jews of Jesus' day thought the rich were honored by God and the poor had done something to be punished by God. Yet, Jesus challenged that attitude throughout His life. He touched lepers (Mark 1), He ate with tax collectors (Luke 19), and He even healed Gentiles (Mark 7) and Samaritans (Luke 17). Jesus did not subscribe to the notion that the poor deserved their condition, and neither should we! Additionally, Jesus challenged the idea that the wealthy were automatically in good shape with God (e.g., Mark 10:23-25). Jesus knew that riches generally get in the way of serving God. To avoid that snare He taught that man should look beyond his blessings and use whatever he has to help those in need. Certainly that is a lesson learned from the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25ff).
When we see the poor and needy, we must use the resources God has given us to help them. To neglect the impoverished is to fall into egotistical pride and prosperous ease. To do such is to follow the path that Sodom took.
THE FOURTH SIN OF SODOM WAS THAT THEY COMMITTED ABOMINATIONS.
Ezekiel 16:49,50 - "...this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abominations before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit." When I hear the name "Sodom," I immediately think of the sexual perversions prevalent in that city. However, what many fail to consider is how that ancient community found themselves on such a deviant course. It is undeniable that they followed a path that led to destruction. But, where did that path begin? Did it begin with sexual perversion? No, but it did end there. The path they took began with pride, idleness, and neglect of the poor.
Once a person comes to believe that he can handle life all by himself, his affluence comes from his inherent superiority, and the poor are getting what they deserve, such a one will live selfishly, and, as a result, he will abuse others (sexually or in any other way he desires). If one comes to believe that the less fortunate are unimportant, then he will conclude that how we treat them (or mistreat them) is irrelevant. This is how the people of Sodom eventually began to think. When the angels visited that city in Genesis 19, Lot begged them to stay with him, because he knew what the men of the city would do otherwise.
Genesis 19:1-11 - "Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his feet toward the ground. And he said, 'Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant's house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.' And they said, 'No, but we will spend the night in the open square.' But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.' So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, 'Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.' And they said, 'Stand back!' Then they said, 'This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.' So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door."
That is a sad passage of Scripture, is it not? Did you notice who participated in this perverted scheme? The men from all over the city (19:4)! Both the young and old! They surrounded Lot's house, and he had the courage to go out and speak against them. They did not take kindly to his righteous judgment against their immorality. Admittedly, verse 8 is challenging. Why did Lot offer his virgin daughters to the men of Sodom as substitutes for the angels? Did Lot think this would have been a lesser sin, or was he speaking deceitfully, realizing his own life was in danger and that he needed an excuse to get back inside the safety of his house? His motives for speaking such are simply unknown.
In 19:10,11, the two angels interceded and spared Lot and his family from harm. They struck the men at the doorway of the house with blindness. The wording in verse 11 is stunning. Moses indicates that the ones struck with blindness "became weary trying to find the door." These men were so determined to sin that even blindness did not stop them from trying!
Those eleven verses describe the sexual perversion we associate with Sodom. Incidentally, our English word "sodomy" comes from the city name "Sodom." The text itself describes homosexual activity as widespread in that city. God promised to spare the cities of the plain if ten righteous souls could be found therein (Gen. 18:32). Yet, there were not even that many! The sins of Sodom were numerous!
Now, let's draw a conclusion from what we've learned in this lesson. Have you ever heard of a "good" man or woman who suddenly, without warning, does something terrible? For instance, maybe a priest is caught molesting children, or an honor student is found dead after overdosing on drugs, or a teacher has an illicit affair with a student? We often hear horror stories such as these and wonder how "good people" could act so wickedly. How does it happen that a good person, or society, becomes corrupt? The answer is found in Sodom's story. Pride enters the hearts of people who believe they are self-sufficient and can live by their own standards of morality. Out of God-given prosperity comes time for leisure, and, instead of using free time to help the needy and do good, comforts and luxuries are used to indulge the senses. That is when sexual sins (and others) take place. Friends, if we could track down how affairs get started and if we could dissect the events that lead to sexual perversion and other abuses, somewhere along the line we would see these characteristics forming.
Do you trust God as you should or do you trust in yourself? Are you proud and selfish or humble and loving? There is much more that needs to be said about this subject, specifically pertaining to the immoral acts of homosexuality. Next week, we will focus our attention on this sin that was so prevalent in Sodom and is gaining momentum every day in America. We will consider what the Bible and science have to say about the subject. Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.