Genesis 19:12-26 (The Destruction of Sodom, Wake up America)

Genesis 19:12-26
The Destruction of Sodom
Wake up America

Introduction: Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather off the California coast for several days. As night fell, the captain noticed the patchy fog and decided to remain on the bridge. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “Light. Bearing on the starboard bow.”
“Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain asked.
The lookout replied, “Steady, captain,” which meant the battleship was on a collision course with the other ship.
The captain called to the signalman, “Signal that ship. You are on a collision course. Advise you to alter course 20 degrees.”
Back came the answering signal, “Advisable that you change course 20 degrees.”
The captain said, “Send another message. I am a US Naval senior captain. Change course 20 degrees.”
“I am a Coast Guard seaman second class,” came the reply, “Change your course at once.”
The officer was furious. He spat out, “We are a battleship squadron. Change your course 20 degrees.”
The flashing light replied, “I am a lighthouse.”
The squadron changed course.

Today we’re going to see how heeding or failing to heed warnings can affect the course of one’s life, the course of an entire city, or even the course of history itself. It’s funny to joke about battleships and lighthouses, but when eternity is at stake, the humor fades…

Text Verse: But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; 7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Jude –5-7

Eternal fire, along with all of its associated pains is real. Hell is real and the Bible has given us examples of it to show us both how to avoid it and what the consequences are for not doing so. And so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. Pay Heed to What’s Important

Throughout history, there have been records of people being warned about coming tragedy which have been completely ignored – and this, for a host of reasons – stupidity, arrogance, disbelief, and denial among other things. The tide of wars has changed, empires have collapsed, space vehicles have fallen back to earth, lives have been lost – all because of unheeded warnings.

On April 15th, 1912, the Titanic sunk in the Atlantic after hitting an iceberg. The captain of the ship, Edward J. Smith, slid to the bottom with it, even after receiving several warnings about ice. The Bible is full of such unheeded warnings as well.

12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place!

Although this isn’t standard operating procedure with God, there are times when He saves people out of a coming calamity. When King Zedekiah asked Jeremiah the prophet to inquire of the Lord about the fate of Jerusalem, Jeremiah proclaimed doom upon the city in graphic detail – every type of disaster that was coming upon the city and the people.

But in a demonstration of mercy, He also gave this word to Jeremiah – “Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. 9 He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes out and defects to the Chaldeans who besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be as a prize to him. 10 For I have set My face against this city for adversity and not for good,” says the Lord. “It shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.”’ Jeremiah 21:8-10

Many of us have known or heard about someone who had a feeling they should skip a plane trip, stay home instead of going out with friends, or having some other urge that leads them away from a disaster that otherwise would have ended them. Although this doesn’t always happen, it shows us that God is in control of the details and everything that occurs is because He directs it.

13 For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”

I’ve lost favor with quite a few people over the years because I stand on the biblical truth that disaster never occurs apart from God’s will. After the planes struck the twin towers on 911, several noted preachers stood up and said it was judgment on America.

Of course, the news media ate them alive and over time they either partially or completely retracted their stand. But they were right at the beginning – 911 was judgment upon sin, as are all tragedies. Calamity comes to either remove sin or protect from sin.

Not all our tragedies are because of sin, but some come to save a person from even worse. When a child dies, for all we know, God looked through time and saw that death was far better than what otherwise would have happened. We simply can’t know what God knows and what we perceive as evil may have a very good reason.

The Bible shows very clearly that judgment upon Sodom was directly the result of their sin. And the authority ascribed to the judgment by the messengers was clear – “the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” “Yes, but – we’re different than Sodom. 911 wasn’t a judgment on us! It was because of the wickedness of Islam.”

And so we close our eyes and fail to see the truth of what’s happening. Of course 911 was an act against America by Islam, but that has nothing to do with the root cause of it. If we were living rightly, no power could come against us. Who is it that protects the righteous and judges the sinner?

And the method and means of His judgment is as varied as the outcome of the judgment itself. Nobody who believes in an all knowing God disputes that He is aware of everything that occurs. This is the meaning of Omniscient… He knows all.

But when something catastrophic happens, we suddenly forget this truth and say that God surely wouldn’t allow that – as if this all-knowing God let something slip. But Amos knew better –

If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid?
If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?(3:6)

Disaster was to come upon Sodom and disaster came upon America. Sodom was destroyed and America was given the grace and the chance to repent just as wicked Nineveh was when Jonah was sent to them… but of course we haven’t. Does anyone think God stopped watching? Do you think God isn’t still warning…

The Titanic’s first warning came from another passenger ship called the “Caronia.” On the morning of April 14th, Captain Smith posted the message on the bridge before leading a religious service for the first class passengers. The second warning came in the afternoon from the “Baltic.” Smith showed it to Joseph Ismay, the chairman of the White Star Line. In the evening, a warning made to another ship was overheard by the crew, and later, two more came in from other ships, but they were ignored by operators distracted by personal messages coming in for passengers.

14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.

The most important news that these men would ever hear in their lives was met with disbelief. “Judgment? Here in Sodom? The flood was a myth and there’s no Lord. I’ve taken philosophy and evolutionary science and I can assure you you’re wrong. We’re heading to the bar, come with us and drink it off Reverend Lot.”

Many years ago, Billy Graham was writing a book and his wife Ruth was looking it over. She had just finished a section about the degradation of America’s morals, the corruption of religion, and the abuse of the blessings God has granted us and she turned to Billy and said, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

I heard him mention this in one of his crusade messages. He, along with many others, have led the call to repent and turn from where we’re heading. The late Chuck Colson was another prominent voice. These men, along with pastors and preachers have been calling out, but nothing is turning the tide.

September 11th worked for about 2 months, but then it was forgotten and since then we’ve only gotten worse. We elect politicians who are openly gay, we watch television which promotes gay life, we throw money at gay musicians, Christians openly post on Facebook about their Starbucks coffee of the day, knowing full well that they are prominent supporters of the cause.

On Saturday, 18 August 2012, the democrat party’s platform committee endorsed gay marriage for the first time and called for the repeal of the federal law that recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman. And yet,,, about ½ of our nation will vote for barak obama and many more will support lower level democrats for the congress, senate, or state and local offices.

But every democrat who runs does so on this platform. One cannot separate their vote for a candidate from the platform. To vote for a democrat, any democrat, is to implicitly support this platform.

And abortion… it’s easier to get an abortion than to have knee surgery. Since Roe vs. Wade was upheld by the Supreme Court, 50,000,000 lives have been destroyed by abortion in America.

Almost 4000 will die by abortion today, and in the short time that we’re meeting here on the beach 300 will die… little arms and legs being torn off of little bodies before being sucked through a vacuum cleaner for disposal in a landfill. And we turn our eyes towards barak obama and cheer on our national leader.

The warning from the angels rings today – “Get up, get out of this perverse place; for the Lord will destroy this nation!” The midnight cry was heard in Sodom and it will be heard again someday at the coming of Christ for His bride. Those who are left will receive the judgment of God upon their unrighteousness.

On the evening of April 14th, Captain Smith attended a private dinner party. While the captain rubbed shoulders with the wealthy diners, the crew overheard a warning from the “Californian.” After dinner, the captain had a conversation with his second officer, Charles Lightoller. It isn’t known what they discussed. The captain went to bed without giving orders to change course.

15 When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.”

Four people…only four. Abraham had asked the Lord to spare the city if ten righteous could be found – not even half that came out alive. At dawn, when the city’s eyes were heaviest and the smell of the previous night’s debauchery still hung thickly in the air, Lot is urged to get his family up and move. Punishment is coming…

16 And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.

Amazingly, Lot lingered. He halted in his steps as the men implored him to move. The Bible doesn’t tell why, but if we go back to chapter 13 we’re reminded that he was a man of wealth. He had flocks and herds, tents and servants. He had so much stuff that he and Abraham couldn’t live together.

He was also a judge in Sodom. Lot had many things, he had status, and he had position, but he had little of value. He hadn’t converted a single soul nor even convinced one person that their wicked life was wrong. He probably lingered out of remorse – both for the loss of his stuff and for the loss of those he failed to talk to. Lot would be, from this point on, a lonely and broken man.

You know, Jesus really is coming back. Why would you bother listening to a sermon if you didn’t believe that? If you’re here, then it’s because you either believe the Bible or are curious about it. Either way, this book says that Jesus is returning and His return is imminent.

That means there is no moment when He couldn’t come. And so it could be at any second. When He arrives, there won’t be any lingering or thought. It will happen in the twinkling of an eye. So if you have work to do before then, I suggest you get it done.

That coworker you’ve been meaning to talk to about Jesus… the time is coming. Your family member that needs to hear again… the time is coming. The neighbor you wave to every morning… Jesus is really coming.

17 So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”

The words from the men’s mouth are emphatic – “Escape for your life!” Here there is only destruction and death and there is only one means of escape.

This is so similar to what Jesus told the Nation of Israel in a prophecy about what is coming in the end times. After the rapture, when the entire world is gathered to destroy them, the Jews who are willing to heed will need to be ready –

15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

II. Mercy from the Lord

18 Then Lot said to them, “Please, no, my lords!

Depending on what translation you use, the answer that Lot gives is either directed toward one or two – Lord or lords. And it is either God or man – Lord meaning Jehovah or lords meaning angels.

If you read the King James, it has the divine name, if you read the NIV it indicates two, but the divine name is footnoted as possible. If you read the NKJV, it indicates two. Pay attention to your footnotes, study the differences, and make your conclusions.

Based on what previous verses say, as well as verses ahead, it is the Lord – Jehovah, who is the likely addressee. He has appeared with the other two now in order to bring vengeance upon the sodomites. Our text verse today from Jude indicates this as does the great passage of God’s judgment from 2 Thessalonians 1 –

6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.

Yes,,, it is the Lord and He really, really is angry at sin and He really, really will come to destroy sinners. The Lamb is also the Lion.

19 Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die.

It was probably a very long and sleepless night for Lot. He also has his daughters, his wife, and whatever stuff he had grabbed on the way out the door. When he looked at the distance to the mountains, he was probably overwhelmed. Abraham is 99 years old and Lot is older than Abraham. His old body couldn’t take the stress.

When I was driving around the US, there were times that mountains would jut right out of the ground toward the sky many, many miles in the distance. I remember thinking to myself how tough it must have been on people first settling the land. The flatlands below the mountains would hold in the heat and were often devoid of any shade or water.

This is the way it is where Lot is as well. Although the plain of the Jordan at that time was well watered, as you got away from the Jordan, it would be parched and miserable. Along with the sleepless night and stuff to carry, he couldn’t imagine facing another ordeal like this. And so he begs for mercy once again…

20 See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”

Instead of a long and tedious flight to the distant mountains, which would include a trek up them as well, he asks the Lord for divine mercy on himself and his family. While doing this, he’s actually calling for mercy on a town that was set for destruction.

It was a one of the cities allied with Sodom during the war mentioned in chapter 14 and was probably similar in its customs, culture, and worship. However the Lord – who knows the future – also knew that this request would be made before it was asked.

Thus there is a demonstration of mercy even in divine judgment – apart from the righteous. A portion the wicked would be spared. Maybe this was God’s way of giving Lot a chance to tell the people of that town about Him after failing to do so in Sodom.

21 And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. 22 Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

Before this, the city was called Bela – meaning “Destruction.” Ironically, the very name it held was the thing it didn’t receive. From this time on it would be known as “Little” instead of Destruction, “Zoar” meaning “Little” – the little town which received the Lord’s mercy.

James tells us this about the petitions of a righteous person – “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Lot fervently petitioned the Lord and the Lord responded, saving an entire city. Zoar will remain not only for a while, but would still exist over 1000 years later at the time of Jeremiah.

23 The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.

Early in the day, at the time of the rising sun and at the same time that Lot enters Zoar, we read a most interesting verse – “v’Yehovah himtyr al sedom v’al amorah gophrit v’esh me-eth Yehovah min ha’shemayim”

The thought is that “Jehovah caused it to rain from Jehovah.”  No distinction is to be inferred between the hidden and the manifested Creator. The Lord who is seen on the earth is the Lord who calls down judgment and He is the same Lord who sits enthroned in heaven, sending down that same judgment. Interesting, isn’t it…

We look at pictures of Jesus cuddling animals and we sing songs about God loving all the children of the world, but the same Lord who really cuddles cute little fluffy beings and who blesses little children is the same Lord who looks with wrathful eyes at the wicked sins of men – men who try to hide or men who openly flaunt their debauchery.

Both are exposed to His ever-seeing eye. People who look too intently on one aspect of Jesus – like His love while disregarding the others are only deluding themselves. The same type of destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah will be used on the unrepentant world someday – fire and brimstone – an eternal swim in the Lake of Fire.

These Old Testament pictures are given to us for warnings of what lies ahead.

25 So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

This is the end of all wickedness. Though men become rich, powerful, or famous, it is worth nothing when destruction comes. The book of Lamentations details the destruction of God’s own people because they rejected Him. All alike are bound under sin and all alike will be judged – either be in oneself or in a substitute.

And only one Substitute will satisfy the wrath of God – that of His only begotten Son. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of God, but it is inevitable. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, the plain was destroyed, and the all the inhabitants of the cites – all of them, young and old, male and female, wealthy and slave – all of them were destroyed.

Along with this, the lush and well watered land surrounding the Jordan, with all its trees, fields, and crops was laid waste. Go there today and all you will see is heat, ruined land, undrinkable water, and shimmering mountains in the distance.

The people and buildings that are there now are entirely at the mercy of a supply line bringing in food, water, and provisions. Without that, it would be a miserable place left for only the hardiest animals and reptiles which call the area home.

Even bleaker than this is the prospect, and eventual reality, of the torment of hell. God has given us these examples as warnings and He has also provided the avenue to true life – overflowing with an abundance of Water. And He asks each of us to choose life and come to the Water of that Life… come to Jesus.

III. The Unheeded Warning

26 But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

One of the seemingly incredible stories from the Bible… this is on par with a donkey speaking and a prophet riding a chariot to heaven. And yet, it is what happened. Lot’s wife, possibly named Iscah, became suitable seasoning for curry or maybe goat stew.

For whatever reason, be it out of curiosity, the memory of secret sins pulling her back, or sadness at the loss of possessions or friends, she turned back to look. The divine warning had been given and it was rejected.

In today’s church, such a person would be called an apostate. This is a person who has made a profession of faith, lives among the righteous, and who probably even acts like a believer, but they never truly believed. When they called on Jesus, they were crossing their fingers, or maybe their toes, and lying in their heart.

Maybe you’re just like her. You come out to Church on the Beach, you post nice things about Jesus on Facebook, you may even wear a cross – but inside, you just don’t believe. Your eyes are looking back at the world in longing and your thoughts have never really fixed on the Lord. Today would be a good day to change that.

If you go to the area where she was crystallized today, there is a pillar called Lot’s wife. It isn’t really her though. One intellectual soul determined the amount of erosion on a pillar of salt based on the wind and rain conditions of the area and determined that she would have melted back into the earth many centuries ago.

Capt. Smith was awakened by a member of his crew after the ship scraped an iceberg. At 2:20am on 15 April 1912, Captain Edward J. Smith sunk with his ship – taking along 1516 others – precious human souls with him – into the watery deep.

Divine warnings are posted along life’s highway. Some are more easily noted than others, but they’re there. The Bible says that the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows forth His handiwork. It tells us that His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that we are without excuse,

Just like the warnings for Capt. Smith, God warns us through His creation, through His prophets, and through the cross of His own Son. How many warnings do we need to show us that God really, really is angry at sin? But we turn around and ignore the signs.

I mentioned Billy Graham a while back. Recently, he posted a prayer letter on his website which he addressed to “deceived America.” Will his words go unheeded? If so, we will find an unhappy ending to our American experiment. Here’s what he said–

“Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

She was probably thinking of a passage in Ezekiel where God tells why He brought those cities to ruin. “Now this was the sin of . . . Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before Me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).

I wonder what Ruth would think of America if she were alive today. In the years since she made that remark, millions of babies have been aborted and our nation seems largely unconcerned. Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.

Just a few weeks ago in a prominent city in the South, Christian chaplains who serve the police department were ordered to no longer mention the Name of Jesus in prayer. It was reported that during a recent police-sponsored event, the only person allowed to pray was someone who addressed “the being in the room.” Similar scenarios are now commonplace in towns across America. Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone—except God.

Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control.My heart aches for America and its deceived people. The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance. In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was the lone world superpower—wealthy, unconcerned, and self-centered. When the Prophet Jonah finally traveled to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning, people heard and repented.

Proverbs 16:18 says that pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. What we need to do is to let go of our pride, shun our haughty nature, and with humility and remorse petition the Lord to be merciful upon us for our many, many sins.”

Thank you Billy. Now let me take two more minutes of your time to explain again, as I have so many times before, about the work of the greatest Jew of all – the Lord of Creation, Jesus…

Next Week’s sermon – Genesis 19:27-38 (A “Lot” of Mistakes? Rethinking the Time in the Cave)

The Wages of Sin

The messengers said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here?
Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, anyone in this city
Take them out of this place!  For its destruction is near
Because the outcry against them has ended the Lord’s pity

He has sent us to destroy it, and this we will do
So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law
But they just laughed him off thinking he had a loose screw
And so sadly Lot made his withdraw

When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry
“Arise, take your wife and your two daughters… you’d best scurry

Lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city
Because the outcry against it has ended the Lord’s pity

But he lingered, so the men took hold of his hand
And the hands of his wife and his two daughters also
The Lord was merciful to him and gave the command
To get away before on Sodom destruction would blow

“Escape for your life! Do not look behind you as you flee
Don’t stay anywhere in the plain. In the mountains there is safety

Then Lot said to them, “Please, no, my lords!
Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight
You have increased your mercy through your life saving words
But I cannot flee to the mountains… man I’ve been up all night

See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one
Please let me escape there until the Lord’s destruction is done

And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing
I will not overthrow this tiny little city
Hurry! Escape there, for I cannot do anything
Until you arrive there. Yes, I will show pity.

Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar
It received the Lord’s mercy and there Lot went
But when the sun rose and Lot had gotten that far
The Lord’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah was to be spent

Then the Lord rained from heaven brimstone and fire
On Sodom and Gomorrah came the wrath of God
Everyone in the city was consumed in the pyre
Because by wickedness all the people had trod

So He overthrew those cities and all the plain
And all the inhabitants who resided there
Never would they be rebuilt, no never again
Because the people wouldn’t the Lord’s name declare

But Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt
With no one to blame, it was only her fault

What about us living today?
Will we turn from our grievous sin
Can our land repent and God’s wrath allay?
Or is it too late, have we done ourselves in?

With the Lord mercy can be found
If we will humble ourselves from city to city
But if we don’t turn our hearts around
The outcry against us will end the Lord’s pity

Oh sinful land turn once again to Jesus
Let us give him honor and praise
When we do, He will show mercy on us
And we will walk in His light all of our days

Hallelujah and Amen…


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