Story 32: Sulfer and Fire

Genesis 19

 

Abraham had been bargaining with God.  It was a remarkable day all around.  The LORD had come with two angels to visit Abraham and his wife, Sarah, in order to bring them a message.  Within the year, old, aged Sarah would have a baby.  But this was not the only message they had to give.  The LORD explained to Abraham that because of their horrific corruption and sin, Sodom and Gemorrah were about to be destroyed.  These were two cities that lay on the plains below the hills where Abraham lived.  Lot, Abraham’s nephew, lived in Sodom.  Abraham beseeched the Lord, asking that if there were fifty, or thirty, or even five people left in the city that were righteous, God would relent from His judgment. And the LORD agreed.

The two angels left their LORD and Abraham and went straight to Sodom.  They arrived there in the evening.  The day was starting to cool off.  Lot was sitting out at the entranceway to the city.  When he saw the two men coming, he went to them and bowed his face to the ground before them.  How regal they must have been, the very messengers of God!

Lot invited the men to come and stay the night in his home.  They could wash their feet and get rest before leaving in the morning.

“‘No,’ they answered, ‘We will spend the night in the square.’”

Lot knew that was a bad idea for the men to sleep outside in his city.  Sodom was not a safe place at night.  He continued to insist until the men finally agreed to come to his home.  He baked them bread without yeast and they sat down for a meal.

Meanwhile, word spread throughout the city that two visitors had come to town.  The men of the city began to gather outside the door of Lot’s house with vicious plans.  Pretty soon, every last man, both young and old, was waiting there.  Every single male was prowling at Lot’s door.

Life in Sodom had grown so perverse and sinful that every one of them wanted to take the guests of Lot and be with them the way a man is only supposed to be with his wife.  They had no shame standing there together, demanding that Lot hand his guests over to them.  They were not only perverse, they were dangerous.  They boldly and angrily declared their right to violently force their desires on the visitors.  Imagine the mob…imagine the evil fury as they made their demands!

Lot knew what the men of Sodom were like.  This was nothing new.  He had bravely brought the visitors into his home to protect them.  They were under the roof of his house now, and now guarding them was his highest priority.  It was a matter of personal honor.

He courageously went outside his house and carefully shut the door behind him.  He stood before the filthy horde and said, “‘No, my friends.  Don’t do this wicked thing.  Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man.  Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them.  But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.’”

It is hard for us to imagine how dangerous the mob had become.  The tension of their willful anger filled the air. He couldn’t just walk away.  It would only make them worse.   He was forced to choose between protecting his guests and protecting his daughters.

When Lot chose to live in a wicked place with awful men, he chose to put his daughters at risk.  In the culture of his day, the highest priority went to protecting visitors to the home.    When Lot invited the men, it was with an understanding bound up in Lot’s honor.  They had no part in the wickedness of Sodom, and it was Lot’s job to protect them.  He was forced to make an offer that would destroy his own family.

When the men of Sodom heard Lot offer his own daughters, it should have shocked them.  They should have realized how despicable they were being.    But the hard-hearted men of the city were enraged by Lot’s words.  They screamed out that Lot had come to Sodom as a stranger.  Who was he to judge them?  This was their way of life, and Lot was getting in their way.

The mob knew they had more men on their side.  They could do whatever they wanted, and nobody could stop them!  So they viciously threatened to do the same to Lot as they were going to do to his guests if he didn’t hand them over.  Wickedness had completely deformed their souls.  They were filled with utterly savage violence and aggression.

The angels heard all that was going on.  They opened the door and grabbed Lot, pulled him back into the house, and slammed the door shut.  Then the angels struck the men who were struggling at the door with blindness so they couldn’t find their way in.  Imagine them blind and stumbling around, still filled with their lust and rage, yelling out threats as they felt along the walls, looking for the door.

Once Lot was back inside, the angels finally told Lot why they had come. The outcry against Sodom for its ongoing sin had been heard by God, and they had come to destroy the city.  They asked him if there were any more relatives in the city that he could save.  There were two men who were to marry his daughters.  Lot went to his son-in-laws and begged them to flee with him.  He warned them that God’s judgment was on its way.  But the men who were to marry his daughters only laughed.  They refused to believe him and treated it like a joke.

Early the next morning, the angels told Lot to take his wife and daughters and run.  If they stayed any longer, they would suffer for the sins of the rest of the city.  Lot paused for a moment, and the angels grabbed his hands and the hands of his wife and daughters and pulled them out the city gates.  How the LORD showed Lot mercy upon mercy, even when he resisted the help of His holy angels!

Once they were out of the city, the angels told Lot to flee to the mountains. Lot didn’t want to go there.  He argued and asked to be allowed to go to the next city.  The angel agreed, but told them to hurry.  The judgment could not begin until they were safely away.  Lot and his family hurried off, and God waited for them.  By the time they were safely away, the sun had risen. Then God began to throw down His judgment.  He rained burning sulfur down from Heaven onto the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  It fell down on the whole plain, destroying every human and killing all the plants.  God waged His wrath against the filth the people had brought and totally overthrew them.  Lot’s wife turned around to look, and the judgment of God came instantly.  She turned into a pillar of salt.

Early the next morning, Abraham came out of his tent.  He went to the place where he had stood with the LORD the day before.  He looked out over the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and saw a thick, dark layer of smoke.  The whole plain was like a furnace, broiling hot and smoking from God’s judgment.

God had agreed to spare Sodom if there were ten righteous people left in the city.  But the people of the city had become so depraved that there weren’t even that many.  Now Abraham understood the fullness of their filth.   But God remembered His servant Abraham and saved the life of his nephew.

When the LORD and his two angels came to Abraham’s tent, He came to give His righteous children a message of new birth and hope.  A son would be born to Sarah within a year!  But He also came to bring the message of Sodom’s doom and destruction.  It would be a mighty warning to Abraham and his descendants, and it would teach them justice.  They were never to become like Sodom.

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