Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “The Story of Sodom Gives Us Advent Hope” based on Genesis 19 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, December 2, 2018
Some cities are so well known they get their own nickname…like Milwaukee – sometimes called Brew City because of the major breweries that were located there or Cream City because of the light colored bricks used on so many of the buildings. If I gave you a few seconds you could come up with list of other nicknames for different cities: The City with Big Shoulders, Steel City, Mile High City, The City that Never Sleeps. All those nicknames highlight some kind of characteristic or quality that city is known for and many times is kind of proud about too.
What is Sodom known for? It certainly is known. It was wiped out about 4000 years ago, yet just about everyone recognizes the name Sodom and its twin city Gomorrah. Historians agree that Sodom was an advanced city…a wealthy city…a sophisticated city. At one time the land was lush and rich (remember, Lot went to live there for just that reason). But Sodom isn’t known for any of that; it’s known for perverse sin and extreme unbelief. Whenever Sodom is referred to in the Bible it is being held up as an abomination…an embarrassing model of immorality.
- In Genesis Moses tells us about their perverted views of sex and their abusive and violent behaviors.
- In the book of Ezekiel we learn that the people of Sodom were well-to-do and they used their wealth to over eat and over drink and over indulge in whatever they pleased, meanwhile, neglecting the poor and needy.
- In his second epistle, Peter talks about the filthy lives and the lawless men in Sodom.
This was Lot’s home. This believing man, nephew of Abraham, lived smack dab in the middle of this godless and immoral city. And yet, The Story of Sodom Gives Us Advent Hope.
Sometimes it’s not always so easy for me to relate to some of the believers in the Bible. It’s hard for me to put myself in the shoes of the shepherds who were in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night, and all of a sudden – surrounded by a great company of angels. That just doesn’t happen to me every day…or ever. But I can relate to Lot. He was surrounded by people
- who were comfortable taking advantage of others
- who over indulged in food and drink and desires of the flesh
- who hoarded their wealth and stepped on and over the less fortunate
- who had a perverted and ungodly view of marriage and family and sex.
You’d think Lot was living in America in the year 2018. So pervasive the sin and wickedness, I wonder if sin started to feel kind of normal. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel like you are so surrounded by wickedness, it starts to seem normal?
- Is it normal that there are 40-50 million abortions each year, worldwide?
- Is it normal that 12% of websites on the internet are dedicated to pornography?
- It is normal that about $5billion is spent on pornography each year?…Americans spend over half that. Just imagine what that is doing to our marriages and the development of our youth.
- Is it normal to have same sex marriages?….to have sex outside of marriage?…to have debates about whether or not homosexuality is a sin or whether or not there are only two genders?
- Is it normal to allow our society and our media and our entertainment industry to shout in our ears, telling what is right and wrong and telling us what relationships should look like and telling us how we ought to view human life and human sexuality?…and if we’re not careful, the more we listen to them, the less we are listening to our God…and the duller our conscience becomes.
Unfortunately, I can relate to Lot. He was a believer, a sinner himself and surrounded by sin. How could he survive without getting gobbled up? God rescued him. When [Lot] hesitated, 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. It wasn’t the strength and virtue of Lot that delivered him. It was the mercy and the love of God. In fact, the angels needed to grab hold of Lot and his family and pull them away. Again, I can identify. I was a product of this sinful, evil, wicked, ungodly place….weren’t you too? Weren’t we all conceived and born in this filth? And yet God, in mercy, grabbed hold of us and pulled us away…he pulled us into his family of believers. It wasn’t our virtue that saved us, but his mercy and grace. Today, a burning Sodom reminds us – that’s what could have been…should have been our fate…fire and brimstone.
Fire and brimstone. Lot ran away from that. I would too. Who would run into the fire? Who would purposely go to great lengths are run smack dab into the middle of God’s fire of judgment? Jesus would. Jesus did. Evil. Wickedness. Over-the-top, pushing-the-boundaries, perversions – that’s what Jesus was accused of…those were the offenses, along with so many others, that were nailed to the cross. Every bad decision, every bad thought, every bad word, every bad example….those were nailed to the cross with Jesus too…and the fire and brimstone of God the Father rained down on the Son, so we could receive the smile and favor of the Lord. Today, a burning Sodom reminds us – God is serious about sin…he’s also serious about providing a payment for that sin.
You know, archeologists have some minor disagreements on where exactly Sodom and Gomorrah were located so many years ago. Some say the remnants are now buried under the southern half of the Dead Sea. Others, based on some fairly recent findings, believe the ancient cities were a little further west. In fact, one of the excavation sites unearthed shards of pottery, buried under 3 feet of ash. The pottery, they say, is covered in a frothy, glassy substance, suggesting that the temperatures may have been as high as 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, disagreement by historians. Some say a meteor hit Sodom. Some say it was an earthquake that caused some kind of unusual volcanic eruption. Some say, we’ll never know how Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
And we say, Oh yes we do know. The Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah. When we are tempted to think lightly of our sin, let the burning Sodom serve as a reminder of God’s law and judgment. God is God and he will not be mocked. When you are tempted to feel overwhelmed at the wickedness that surrounds you and to worry about your kids and grandkids and how will they ever make it through this cesspool, let the burning Sodom serve as a reminder of God’s hand of grace. In 2 Peter, we are reminded: the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.
The Lord gave Lot and his family a safe haven in a place called Zoar. What safe haven has he given you? What is your Zoar? Hasn’t the Lord given you safe haven within this family…this gathering of believers?
- Here you are surrounded by not perfect people, but sinners like yourself…but they are seeking to help one another in our faith walk, not sabotage each other’s faith.
- Here you have God’s law which identifies sin – it may make you feel uncomfortable but that’s far better than celebrating sin and thinking it is normal and ok.
- Here you have God’s gospel which assures you that those sins have been washed away.
- Here you have the Lord Jesus himself who says, Have no fear, little flock, for the Father has chosen to give you the kingdom. And he knows how to rescue his own.