, , Wed. after 2nd Sun. after Epiphany
Who are the two persons called “angels” in our text? Many think that they are created angels. Yet the Hebrew word translated “angel” can also refer both to men and to the Son of God. My opinion is that these angels were an appearance of persons of the Trinity. The angels said, “We will destroy this place.” Later it says that the Lord rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. So it sounds to me that the logical conclusion is that the angels are the Lord. But I do not want to press this point too strongly in a text that does not more clearly make this identification. On this matter, at least, you are free to have a different opinion.
But where Scripture presents a plain meaning, you are not free to interpret it as if it were unclear. Yet many people today want to cast obscurity over plain Bible passages. For them, all of Scripture is open for debate.
Example: Is homosexuality a sin? This is an appropriate topic because of our text. If I ignore this Word of Scripture in light of the obvious leaning of our society, then I would be a poor shepherd. I am not here to make people happy by avoiding all offense. The Word will sometimes give offense, if I am faithful.
Sodom was an example of extreme wickedness. The outcry against them had grown great before the Lord. Surely there were many examples of different kinds of evil deeds that they committed. But in our text we see especially one horrible sin: homosexuality.
Saint Paul says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. … Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man – and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves … God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
The Spirit through Paul reveals that homosexuality is a sign of the corruption of a society that has rejected the knowledge of the true God. After worshiping false gods, in time they grow so wicked that they twist God’s gifts of marriage and sexuality into an abominable mockery. In Sodom, this meant that they had resisted God’s efforts to bring them back to truth and righteousness. Through Lot and Abraham and others, God had called out to them, wanting to show them mercy. But they kept turning away from Him until they became examples of corruption in our text.
God patiently kept back His wrath for a very long time. But eventually, He must act. He shows us how much He detests sin by the severe destruction He unleashed upon Sodom and Gomorrah.
In America, we should take note. Various sexual perversions are rampant. Homosexuality is only one of many examples. What is perhaps worst is that a large section of society no longer condemns such vile actions, but celebrates them, and condemns anyone who does not join them in celebration as haters. Even our government has endorsed such unions and calls them “marriage” which the Creator of marriage never intended.
When lawlessness is called love, how long can our nation endure? How long will the Lord withhold His hand? There are preachers who call out for America to turn back, but they are often ignored or condemned.
Lord, have mercy upon us, and grant us repentance. Let this poor, foolish nation turn back to you.
So what do we do in the midst of rampant immorality? Saint Peter says that righteous Lot was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked. In our text, we may glimpse the frantic, tortured man who struggled in the midst of wickedness.
He offered his daughters to the crowd of lustful men. Either he was lying to the men as a ruse to save a desperate situation, or he was panicked into making a horrible suggestion.
His daughters were apparently engaged to marry men of the city. We may try to excuse Lot for preparing to join his girls to wicked men. Perhaps the men gave an appearance of goodness that fooled Lot. In any case, Lot should have been more careful. In the end, these men did not believe Lot’s message that the city was to be destroyed. They laughed at the messenger who would have saved their lives.
Lot also delays in leaving the city. Was he trying to spare the city as long as possible with his presence? Was he desperately trying to find a few more people to save? In any case, he should have listened and obeyed more promptly the command of the angels.
We may guess that Lot’s morality was under constant attack in this city of wickedness. Even if he resisted the wickedness for himself, he was surely tempted to compromise, or to simply remain silent. He may have become frustrated at the resistance of the Sodomites to God’s truth, and frustration often leads a man to stumble into foolishness.
We should guard ourselves. We must not compromise with evil. We must not lose our patience and resolve to stick to the Word of God, even when it seems that no one listens. The Lord will work faith when and where it pleases Him. We must be faithful, and He will rescue us from this wicked world in due time.
We know that Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. We do not have to conclude that she was an unbeliever just because she disobeyed the angels’ command not to look back. There are other possible reasons why this is so. Perhaps she forgot as she was overcome with sorrow. Perhaps she was startled by the flashes of light and sounds of destruction, and looked back in reflex. Most likely it was from weakness that she faltered and was destroyed.
Christ our Lord says, “In the day when the Son of Man is revealed, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife.” This almost certainly refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, when delaying escape meant to be caught by enemies. So we cannot conclude much about Lot’s wife from that, except that when it is time to do something decisively, do not turn back. Engrave the commands of the Lord so strongly upon your mind that you are not distracted. In times of confusion, may we not falter.
Finally we see Abraham observing the giant plumes of smoke from the destruction of the cities.
Abraham surely remembered that just a few years before he had been the instrument of salvation for the people of Sodom. When they were carried off by a huge force of soldiers, Abraham, with only about 300 men, conquered the vastly more numerous army. So the people of Sodom were rescued by Abraham with the help of the Almighty. Yet they did not therefore give heed to the God of Abraham, or if they did at all, it did not last long. They should have at least been grateful enough to be drawn to Abraham’s nephew, Lot, to hear more about this God. If not the whole city, at least some of them would have been saved from the calamity to come. But it did not happen that way. Their wicked hearts were set on a path of self-destruction.
What must Abraham have felt? Frustration, pity, and godly sorrow, surely.
We also may look in pity upon our nation. Poor lost souls are heading for destruction. Whatever efforts we may do because we want them saved may not penetrate their hearts. We must be patient and trust God. His Word will not be without effect. Yet not all will be saved. We must sometimes watch friends, neighbors, even family, turn away from the Lord.
Lord, have mercy upon our loved ones and neighbors. Bring them to Yourself, according to Your will.
He knows our sorrow. He feels it as well. He does not desire the death of sinners, but rather that they turn from their wicked ways and live. Yet so often stubborn hearts refuse to hear.
If you struggle with a sin like homosexuality, the Lord wants you to turn to Him. Even if you think He could never love you, be reassured that He has paid a price of pain and death that you cannot imagine because He wants you to have eternal life with Him. Whatever you have done or been or still are, He holds out to you His gifts of repentance and forgiveness and salvation.
If you do not think that you have sinned all that much, remember that we have all had hearts of stone. Remember that the Lord had mercy on us sinners, all doomed to death.
Remember that He desired your salvation when you were still His enemy. Remember that He suffered for the worst abominations and most heinous perversions. Even for you, He bled and died. His terrible wrath against sin fell upon His Son. The wrath that rained down upon Sodom was not so horrible as the anger that crushed Christ. Not only Sodom’s sins but all sins were heaped upon the innocent Son of God. He did not refuse to die for any, but paid the whole price.
He also leads you by His Word to faith. Although your old Adam wants to excuse and justify your sins, He keeps you in repentance by His Holy Spirit. The Lord would not have you lost. He knows that you are prone to weakness and foolishness. If left to yourself, you would throw away this salvation. But His loving hand is with you, and His holy angels near you. So He will be with you through this wicked world of horrors and pain and confusion, until that bright day when all fear is ended. All flesh shall be raised, and we shall dwell in peace with Him forever.
In His Name, Amen.
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