Genesis 18:22-19:29 “The Justice of God and Judgment Upon Sodom”

Posted on April 25, 2010. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School- Genesis Class

Genesis 18:22-19:29

“The Justice of God and Judgment Upon Sodom”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bryan E. Walker

Read:

22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 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?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

 

Pray

 

Introduction: What do you think of when I say the word Justice? Try to define justice for me and describe your feelings about justice… Have you ever participated in the criminal justice system as a juror, a victim, or as the law breaker (even a traffic ticket!)? What was it like? When you think of God’s judgment upon the wicked, the lost, what do you think of? Does it bother you? Does it lead you to praise the Lord for his holiness and justice and thank him for his mercy and grace? Does it lead you to pray for the lost and share the Gospel?

Today we will study this question by Abraham, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” and begin looking at ch.19 and the judgment upon Sodom. We will find that God is Just and Merciful and that in his judgments upon sin he is glorified.

  1. I.                   God’s Justice and Mercy are Perfectly Compatible
    1. A.        The Judge of All the Earth
      1. 1.      Vs. 25 Abraham calls the LORD ‘the Judge of all the earth’ The idea of the LORD being the Judge of all the earth is common in Scripture but this precise title is only used here in all of Scripture. See Gen.6-9; Psalm 7:8-17; 94:1-11; Isaiah 2:4; Heb.9:27; Matt. 11:20-24; 25:31-46.
      2. 2.      The purpose of a Judge is to decide guilt or innocence based upon evidence and testimony in a particular jurisdiction. God’s jurisdiction, according to Abraham and the rest of Scripture is the whole earth. We could certainly say the entirety of creation falls into God’s jurisdiction because he is the Creator of all that is. He is the rightful Sovereign over his universe and therefore has the right to Judge.
      3. 3.      In human courts Judges are to be impartial and listen to the testimony and examine the evidence then make a decision. They are to interpret and apply the laws that the legislature or the king have enacted. They are not to accept bribes or give favor to the rich over the poor. Ex.23:6-8; Prov.17:23.
      4. 4.      The fact that God is the Judge of all the earth and that human courts seek justice (when not corrupted by bribes or political pressure and ideology) implies that Justice is real, it does exist and is a good thing to be sought and obtained. If there is no real, eternal, objective justice, then all of man’s attempts at justice are futile and ultimately depend upon “might makes right” and the vagaries of individual cultures, societal fads and the changing values of the people. If justice is only subjective and temporal, then you can do what you will and call it justice. That is in fact what is going on in America’s justice system at an increasing rate today. We see this especially at the Supreme Court level where the US Constitution is frequently grossly misinterpreted and misapplied by those whose job it is to preserve and uphold the Constitution. But despite the failures of our courts (and I believe that our system, as flawed as it is, is the best in the world) we still believe in and seek after justice. Justice is objective, it lies outside of us and is timeless.
      5. 5.      If you have ever been wronged you know what it is like to feel INJUSTICE and you know that deep inner longing for justice to be served to the one(s) who did you wrong. There is an inner sense of right and wrong so strong that even thieves know when they have received an injustice, though they may be blind to their own unjust acts. This inner feeling of justice and injustice is a hint that there must be a true, objective, eternal Justice out there somewhere that is perfect and inevitable. Almost every culture has a concept of an afterlife that includes some sense of justice, the just receiving some measure of a reward and the unjust being punished. In Genesis 18:20 the LORD speaks of the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah being great. The injustices done there, the raw wickedness, was so great that the victims were crying out for justice, or perhaps, as in Gen.4, the blood of the victims was crying out from the ground.
      6. 6.      In order for justice to be real and not imaginary or subjective, justice must be all knowing or omniscient. In our courts today there are a lot of people in prison, even on death row, who are being exonerated now due to the availability of DNA evidence. 15-20 yrs ago that was not available and people were wrongly convicted due to inadequate evidence and poor testimony. But objective justice must have access to all the facts, justice must know the intentions of the hearts of the lawbreakers and all extenuating circumstances. Yet Justice is a concept, not a person. It seems we are ascribing attributes of personhood to justice. Here again what we see is that in order for true justice to exist there must be a link with a real person who is omniscient, wise, completely honest, who will judge rightly every time. If there is in fact Justice there must be a Judge who personifies Justice, the Judge over all the earth whom Abraham knew, walked with, spoke with. Apart from the God of the Bible there can be no justice. For justice to exist there must be a spiritual realm where truths exist in their purest and eternal form. They must exist in a person and God is that person. In our text God is sending his representatives, the two angels, into Sodom to check it out. Now this is an anthropomorphism in the sense that God, being omniscient, knew perfectly well what was going on. The angels though are a sign that would show God is fair and is actually checking the evidence. The angels will also rescue Lot and his daughters so mercy and justice kiss.
      7. 7.      The Independence of God contributes to his Justice. Because God is eternal, spiritual, and uncreated, he is independent from us. God does not Need us or anything else, therefore he can be a totally independent Judge of all the earth. He cannot be bribed or influenced in anyway. Acts 17:24-25 shows this independence.
      8. 8.      God is unchanging, immutable, Malachi 3:6 “For I the LORD do not change”. Psalm 33:11 “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” Justice will never change under God’s unchanging rule.
      9. 9.      God is omnipresent- therefore justice is inescapable. The long arm of the Law of God can reach everywhere; one cannot hide from the Lord nor escape justice. Although it may seem like some of the wicked prosper in this life, in the end, God’s justice finds them. Psalm 139:7-12

10.  God is wise and always chooses the best goals and means to his goals. Job 12:13 “With him are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding” God is wise in applying his justice and his mercy.

11.  God is truthful, he cannot lie and his Word is inerrant, infallible and is the final, ultimate standard of right and wrong.

12.  God is Good, all the time. The Judge of all the Earth is Good, and he is the absolute standard for all that is good. His justice, though severe, is Good. In the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah we still can see the Goodness of God. Jesus says in Luke 18:19 that no one is good except God alone.

13.  God is Holy, Holy , Holy, and is unstained by sin and evil and is therefore a pure and righteous Judge who can do no wrong.

14.  God is righteous and will always act in accordance with what is right, and he determines what is right. Moses writes in Deut. 32:4 “All his ways are justice…just and right is he.”

  1. B.        Sodom’s need for judgment
    1. 1.      According to Rom 3:23 all men are sinners and in Rom.6:23 the wages of our sin is death and in Heb9:27 after death all men face the judgment. But there are degrees of sin, and apparently Sodom and Gomorrah were excellent at sinning. From the text we see in 19:4ff the men of Sodom wanted to rape the two angels. And it wasn’t just 2-3 bad guys, vs. 4 “the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man” were involved in this assault. It was a wicked city. The angels were probably very striking in appearance. (On a side note, it is this passage that leads me to interpret 6:1-4 the way I do. I believe that although angels and demons are primarily spiritual beings, they can take on flesh in some fashion) Ezekiel 16:48-50 shows that their sins encompassed more than homosexuality, they oppressed the poor and were proud and gluttonous.
    2. 2.      When Abraham was interceding for Sodom he started by assuming 50 righteous lived in Sodom. After thinking it all through, he whittled it down to 10. In the end, only Lot and his two daughters, 3 in all, survived out of a few thousand.
    3. 3.      Here we see a principle that tells us that a leavening of a few godly people can actually help a city survive the just wrath of God. If there had been ten righteous, God would have spared the city.
    4. 4.      How wicked is our country? Do we deserve a judgment similar to Sodom’s? I believe so. Why haven’t we received our judgment? God may be withholding judgment because of the Church in America. As the salt and light, we are acting as the preservatives in our culture. But sooner or later, Jesus is coming back and will judge the nations.
    5. 5.      This judgment upon Sodom was not just a natural disaster. Although we can certainly use natural disasters to seek the Lord and to repent of sin, I believe there is a  unique judgment of God here in Gen. 19. God can and does use natural disasters to judge, and he even uses other nations to judge as in Israel’s case.
    6. 6.      Application- we must evangelize, we must make disciples and start new churches. We should not neglect the political and moral realms either. We have a biblical duty to be involved in our political and cultural system and be salt and light.
    7. C.        God’s Mercy
      1. 1.      God was not hasty in judging Sodom- he waited until their sin was very great, full up, complete. He allowed Lot to settle in Sodom and perhaps Lot was somewhat of a witness before the Sodomites. Clearly in some ways Lot was compromised but he is declared righteous in 2Peter 2:7 and he is rescued by God’s angels here.
      2. 2.      Vs. 16 The LORD was merciful to Lot. When Lot lingered, when he hesitated to flee the city of destruction, the angels seized him and dragged him out of the city with his wife and two daughters. The Lord had to radically interfere with a believer to get him to safety.
      3. 3.      Why was Lot hesitant to take action? It may have been shock or perhaps just indecisiveness. But our clue is earlier in ch.13 when Lot chose the well watered plain and left Abraham the high and dry land. Lot seems to be a bit self centered and focused on material wealth. Perhaps he was hesitant to leave all of his belongings and his house. Clearly his daughters’ fiances’ were scoffers and it is likely the daughters and wife were also hesitant to leave. The wife ended up looking back longingly and turning into a pillar of salt. The daughters were corrupt as well as the end of the chapter makes clear. Notice the progression in Lot’s life: in 13:12 Lot settles among the cities of the valley, pitching his tent near Sodom. In 14:12 he was captured because he was living in Sodom. Now he is sitting in the gate of Sodom in 19:1, indicating that he is an elder in the city. This has both good and bad connotations. It is good that the city had a righteous man, albeit compromised, in their midst. He alone receives and protects the two strangers, the angels, while the city men attempt to rape them. He exemplifies the ancient creed of hospitality as did Abraham (although next week we shall compare and contrast Lot and Abraham) while the city spurned its obligation. But there is clearly the idea here that Lot had become one with the Sodomites in too many ways and this endangered him and his family.
      4. 4.      Lot’s pleas led to Zoar being spared. It is clear that all the cities of the plain were to be destroyed in verses 17-22, but due to Lot’s plea, Zoar is spared. Notice again the contrast between Abraham’s intercession and Lot’s. Abraham was concerned for their souls, Lot was concerned about his convenience. But God was merciful anyway and again spared wicked sinners on the basis of just one righteous man’s selfish plea. Waltke writes, (p.278) “Lot is pleading that God spare Bela (see 14:2), one of the cities of the plain otherwise under God’s judgment (19:25). He argues that since the walled village is small, its quantity of sin is less and/or it is not worth bothering with. His argument betrays a lack of faith, a jaded spiritual evaluation of justice, and an effete taste for depraved urbanity….His selfish plea that God spare Zoar as a place for him to live without regard to righteousness functions as a foil to Abraham’s plea for Sodom on the basis of God’s compassion and righteousness….God’s grace to very imperfect people is amazing and accommodating (see 16:9).”
      5. 5.      Keep in mind that the Lord had previously allowed these cities to be taken captive in war and had used righteous Abraham to deliver them. The king of Sodom had dealings with Abraham and knew Melchizedek so he had been exposed to the Lord and his righteousness yet had not repented. Contrast with the people and the king of Nineveh in the book of Jonah, who, upon hearing the gospel, believed and repented and their city was spared destruction. In God’s mercies he had given Sodom opportunities they had rejected.
      6. 6.      The Lord rescued Lot and his daughters even knowing the abysmal depravity of drunkenness and incest they would later indulge in.
      7. 7.      Application: How many times have we compromised with the world and allowed the worldly values to guide us instead of Scripture so that we reach the point of being accepted by the world? How many times do those closest to us, like Lot’s sons in law, laugh at us when we try to communicate the gospel because of our own compromises and sins? Do we hesitate to believe and obey when the Lord is clearly warning us? Do we have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the safety of obedience? Have we bargained with God so that our small sins, like Zoar, would be deemed acceptable instead of fleeing to the hills? Do we want to end up like Lot, saved perhaps, but with a sullied reputation?
    8. D.        God’s Mercy and Judgment Meet
      1. 1.      When we understand that all men are sinners and deserve only God’s wrath as discussed above, and we see God’s willingness to listen patiently to Abraham’s intercession we see that God is a God of mercy, grace and forgiveness as well as a Holy God of wrath and justice. God spared Lot and his daughters. God spared Zoar on account of Lot.
      2. 2.      God’s Mercy. God’s mercy is God’s goodness applied to those in need, who cannot help themselves and deserve judgment. He withholds the judgment deserved. God’s Grace is his giving goodness to those who do not deserve it. God not spares us his judgment, he forgives us and adopts us as his own. God’s Patience is God’s goodness in withholding punishment over time and for the redeemed, he continually forgives and restores as he seeks to discipline us and restore us to the right path.
      3. 3.      Frequently these three attributes are all linked. Ex.34:6 “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”; Psalm 103:8 “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
      4. 4.      Application: we are to be Merciful to others, Matt.5:7 Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. We are to always live and grow in God’s grace, it is not just a one time deal for salvation. We are to give grace towards others and love those who hate us. We are to be patient, it is a fruit of the spirit in Gal.5:22-23.
      5. 5.      In the Cross of Christ we see the Ultimate Meeting of God’s Mercy and Judgment. At the cross God’s wrath was poured out upon Christ who bore our sins. God the father, in his holiness, had to look away and abandon his own Son on the cross as he bore our guilt. The punishment that we deserved was given to Christ. Rom.3:25; Isaiah 53:6; 2Cor.5:21; John 3:16.
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    This blog exists to study the bi-vocational ministry, explore the Bible & Theology, and look at current events, history and other world religions through scripture, and have fun doing it!

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