Sermon on Genesis 19:15-17, 23-29
1st Sunday of Advent
Don’t Look Back
Text: Genesis 19:15-17, 23-29
The begging and pleading had nearly crossed the line and become annoying. Yet we can still categorize it as persistence. He would not give up. He kept trying and trying, praying and praying. For the sixth time he pleaded with the Lord, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” [The Lord] answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” God had planned to destroy the city of Sodom. But Abraham almost negotiated God down to promise that if there were 10 believers in the city he would not destroy it. Considering that Abraham’s nephew Lot and Lot’s wife and two daughters were believers, Abraham was really only asking God to spare the city if six believers outside his family could be found.
There weren’t. There weren’t even 10 total believers in the entire city of Sodom—that’s how sinful it was. Can you imagine if I was sent here to start this new church in Palm Coast and I found when I got here that every church in town was empty and that there weren’t even seven other Christians besides my family in the entire city! We hear more about the wickedness of the city just before the Old Testament lesson this morning. At the beginning of Genesis 19 two angels came in human form to the house of Lot to warn Lot about what was going to happen. When the men of the city saw these two angels they got excited. They surrounded Lot’s house and demanded that the two men come out so that they could have relations with them.
Apparently Lot’s conscience had been worn down from the society around him. He reprimanded the men of the city for wanting to do such a sinful thing . . . and so he offered them instead his own two virgin daughters to use and abuse for the night. Not only was the city completely corrupt, but even this family of believers had been influenced by the sin around. Thus, God’s judgment was not going to change. Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surounding cities were going to be destroyed.
We pick up with verse 15, “With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.’” Shouldn’t that have been enough? Two angels appear. They are sent by God. They tell you that within a few minutes your entire city will be destroyed—and you and your family with it if you don’t leave. Shouldn’t that have been enough for just about anyone? Yet the first part of verse 16 tells us that Lot hesitated. He loved his home and his life in that wicked city so much that he didn’t want to leave. So we see in the rest of verse 16, “The men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.” Despite his hesitancy, the Lord was merciful and spared Lot. The angels had to drag his family out of the city by the hand like they were little spoiled children throwing a temper tantrum. And as soon as they got out of the city, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
Shouldn’t that have been enough? Angels of God dragged them out of the city and ordered them to run for their lives! Yet in the five verses left out between these two paragraphs, Lot actually says “No.” He doesn’t want to flee to the mountains. He doesn’t want to go. So he begs that he could simply go to a nearby little village called Zoar. It would appear that Lot’s faith was quite weak. He hesitated to leave his past life behind. He was reluctant to follow the Lord’s demands completely.
That’s when the frightening and terrifying occurred. Verse 24: “Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.” Verse 28 says that the next morning when Abraham looked, the entire city looked like a burning furnace. Try to think back to your high school science days when you did experiments with that putrid substance called sulfur. Then try and picture in your minds the scenes when wildfires rage in California or here in Florida. Then think about one of those days when it rains so hard in Florida the rain drops almost hurt when they hit. Now combine it all together. A Florida hurricane made of fire that reeks of sulfur. Not a thing was left behind one the entire plain—not one human, not one animal, not one piece of vegetation. Frightening!
While that terrifying scene was taking place, all Lot, his wife, and two daughters had to do were two simple things: Run and Don’t Look Back. Two short and simple commands. You would think commands from God given by angels would be easy enough to follow. But Lot’s wife couldn’t leave her past. She couldn’t leave her home. She couldn’t leave her worldly pleasures behind. “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”
One could argue that there is hardly a more terrifying event in all of Scripture. Perhaps we could think of the wrath of God and the destruction of the worldwide flood at the time of Noah. But they had 120 years of warning as time to repent before the flood waters came. Here there seems to be no warning at all for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. And while the flood waters were devastating, you can hardly compare them to fire and sulfur raining down from heaven burning up everything to a crisp! This event in Scripture is completely terrifying! To see God’s wrath and anger against sin here is absolutely horrifying!
There was one time I was teaching a Bible class in Tennessee on the book of Zephaniah where Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned. I asked, “Whatever happened to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah?” One visitor was there in Bible class and she blurted out, “Ah, they all moved to San Francisco.” That wasn’t the right answer. These people were completely destroyed, and not just because every man in the city seemed to be practicing homosexuals. This story isn’t just about homosexuality. While God is very clear that homosexuality was and still is a sin and that he hates that sin, that’s not what the story is about. The true story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about sin. These people were wicked and rebellious people who completely rejected God. There weren’t even 10 believers in the city! It just so happens that their sin of choice was homosexuality. But it was because in that gross wickedness they rejected God that he completely destroyed them. They sinned. They rejected God. He wiped them off the face of the earth. That’s terrifying!
You would hope that we would listen to a warning like that. If two angels sent from God showed up on your doorstep, we would listen. If God sent us a direct message that he was going to destroy our wicked country of America, we would be on the first flight to Europe. If God ordered us, “Run and Don’t Look Back,” we would follow orders! Or would we?
Hasn’t God already appeared? Has not Christ already come to this world? Do we not already have his living and holy Word? Hasn’t God given us a direct warning to Run and Don’t Look Back when he says in the Bible, “Flee from sexual immorality,” “Flee from idolatry,” “Flee the evil desires of youth.” Does not Paul encourage us in Romans, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” And then today we just heard in Luke 21 from Jesus himself how terrible it will be on Judgment Day. He repeats those thoughts in the book of Revelation as we hear how everything will be destroyed and sinners will will burn forever in the fiery sulfur of hell.
Friends, if you think Sodom and Gomorrah is terrifying, that’s nothing compared to what God will do on Judgment Day. Everything will be completely destroyed, not just a few cities in the Middle East. All the wicked and sinful will be toast in the fires of hell, not just a few who live in two infamous cities at the time of Abraham. Sodom and Gomorrah is a real story, but it is just a picture of the horrible wrath of God that is coming against sin. We have our warning. God says, “Avoid temptation. Flee from sin. Resist Satan. Run and Don’t Look Back.”
But oh how we want to be like Lot. “I hear you Lord, but I really like this world. I don’t know if I can give up my greed. I really love all my possessions. What do you mean I should give up some of these luxuries and give back to you?” How easily we can love this world and the things around us—without even knowing it. Lot seemed to know that homosexuality was wrong, but the wickedness wore away his conscience so much that he offered up his two daughters. Maybe we know the gross sins around us. Maybe we too can identify homosexuality or pedophilia as the gross sins of the world around us. But do we flee from what’s written in books, or what we hear on the radio, or what we see on TV and in movies? Are our minds clear of thinking about what others actually do? Or might our consciences be worn down like Lot’s? God tells us to live our new Christians lives. We are his children. We are on the path to heaven. But might we pause to look back like Lot’s wife? “But I just have to curse sometimes. I like to laugh at those dirty jokes now and then. I just have to talk about what she did last week.” Listen carefully to what Jesus says in Luke 17, “Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it!”
Brothers and sisters, it doesn’t take homosexuality to make God burn with anger over sin. God hates every sin. No matter how small or how great, every sin is disobedience. Every sin is rebellion. Every sin leads to hell. And God promises that every sin will be punished. Sodom and Gomorrah will happen again. That day is coming, and that day is called Judgment Day.
But there is another side to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s interesting to note which name for God is used most often in the story—the LORD with all capital letters. The LORD, or as some say in English, YAHWEH, is God’s name of free and faithful love. It’s God’s name of unchanging love and mercy. While it was the LORD who punished sin and destroyed Sodom and Gomorroah, it was also the LORD who used that event to save Lot. It was that same LORD who spared Lot from the sin of the city and from the destruction of the city. Even though Lot and his family were sinners every bit as much as the rest of the city, verse 16 says, “The men (angels) grapsed his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daugthers and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them.” The LORD in in his free and faithful grace saved Lot from the impending destruction.
Just as Sodom and Gomorrah applied to us and our sin today, so also does the story of Sodom and Gomorah apply to our salvation today. The LORD, the God of free and faithful love is still a merciful and forgiving God today. Oh, his wrath and hatred against sin is still the same. But all of that anger and punishment for sin has been redirected—away from us and onto Jesus. For the same God who sent the fire of punishment on Sodom and Gomorrah is the same God who endure the fire of hell on the cross. The same God who punishes sin with death is also the same God who himself died as a sacrifice for all. The same God who spared Lot and his family is the same God who today now spares us by his free and faithful grace.
For the world, Judgment Day will be the most terrifying day imaginable. The flood, Sodom and Gomorroah—they are nothing compared to the destruction and punishment that are coming for unbelievers on that day. But for us—for believers—Judgment Day will be the most glorious and wonderful day imaginable. For the day that brings judgment and punishment to others will be the day that brings everlasting triumph and joy to us for by faith we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
So Run. Run and Don’t Look Back. As the apostle Paul says, “Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Or as the writer to the Hebrews says, “Throw off everything that hinders and so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endure the cross.”
Be like Lot and his two daughters. Run and Don’t Look Back. Fix your eyes on Jesus, and patiently wait his second Advent. And as his holy Word closes in Revelation, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
You can download a copy of this sermon here.