In the USA, it has become a custom to sing: “God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above.” On Memorial Day, we pause to honor those men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in order to preserve the freedom and liberty we enjoy today. This weekend, as we pause to honor our military heroes, we need to reflect on the state of our nation and our desperate need to turn back to the true and living God. In order to help us, we shall remember God’s dealings with another prosperous nation that rejected God: Sodom.
In Genesis 18, the Lord told Abraham that the city of Sodom was to be destroyed “because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave” (Gen 18:20). Genesis 13:13 tells us that “the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.” What was the sin of Sodom? Ezekiel 16:49-50 says, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.”
Sodom fell into the slippery slope of sin. They had recently won a major victory in battle (Gen 14) and the result was peace that brought prosperity. In this prosperity, the people began to become prideful. They had so much food that there was excess, but the excess was not shared with the poor and needy but wasted. The slippery slope continued in that the people of Sodom no longer had to worry about meeting their needs so they began to pursue the gratification of their wants and desires. No more evident was this than in the area of their sexuality. The people decided that it was wrong to deny their sexual desires and in fact they would only find fulfillment when they found their identity in their sexuality.
2 Peter 2:7-8 gives us a glimpse of what it was like for Lot to live in this society: “Righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard).” What was the sensual conduct and the lawless deeds? Jude 1:7 says, “Sodom…indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire.” If you want a description of what specific acts this includes read Leviticus 18. Here is an important point for us to remember: While Sodom was engaging in selfish prosperous ease and encouraging unrestrained sexual activity; an outcry against their sin was coming before God and He was scheduling the day of their destruction.
The Lord and two angels told Abraham that they were going to Sodom to bring judgment to that land for their sin. As they were leaving, Abraham petitioned the Lord to relent of the coming judgment. Abraham did not intercede for Sodom because he approved of their sin; rather, Abraham sought to intercede on behalf of the righteous ones who would be destroyed in God’s judgment. Abraham interceded before God because he understood God’s holiness and mercy. Abraham knew that God is holy, God cannot tolerate sin, and no sin shall be unpunished. Abraham also knew that God is merciful and gracious. God will punish sin but God is always merciful and will forgive those who repent. Abraham sought to intercede for the righteous in Sodom in the hope that the righteous would be used by God to stem the tide of wickedness.
The Lord’s Punishment
We read in Genesis 19 that the angels entered Sodom and found it to be as wicked as the outcry against it had indicated. To say that the men of Sodom were unfriendly would be a strong understatement (Gen 19:5). In response to their wickedness, “the Lord rained…sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven” (Gen 19:24). The Lord delivered justice to the people of Sodom and the unrighteous were destroyed and the wickedness came to an abrupt end. God also demonstrated His grace in that the righteous were saved. Lot, a righteous man (2 Peter 2:8), was saved from the destruction. In fact, the destruction was not to begin until his family was outside the city.
Sodom and America
America is similar to Sodom. Consider that for many Americans, we choose our food on the basis of taste rather than nutrition. Also, consider that in this country we flush drinking water down the toilet. Tragically, America, like Sodom, has given itself over to an almost completely unrestrained sexual expression. From the magazines at the checkout line to billboards on the interstate to TV shows and movies, the righteous are greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked and as we live among them our righteous soul is tormented over their lawless deeds that we see and hear. America is quite different than Sodom. America is primarily different than Sodom in that Sodom had no Bible, no churches, and no Christian radio/TV. If America wants to be like Sodom, America will end up like Sodom. If Sodom were destroyed for their sin without these blessings, shall America escape judgment for the same sins while enjoying these blessings? As Billy Graham once said: “If God doesn’t punish America; He’ll have to apologize to Sodom.”