Do You Care About Others?

Explore the Bible Series

February 3, 2008

 

Background Passage: Genesis 18:1-19:38

Lesson Passage: Genesis 18:20-26; 19:12-16

 

Introduction: At first glance, the stories recorded in our lesson material donít seem to relate to one another.A common thread does bind the two accounts.The appearance of the heavenly messengers reveals two lessons. First, God is gracious and faithful to his people. Despite the frailty of Abrahamís faith and many missteps along the way, God kept his word.For the first time in the Abraham story, Godís promise became time-specific.Within a year, Sarah would bear the long-expected son. Second, God intended to judge Sodom and Gomorrah. For Abrahamís sake, God chose to spare Lotís family, but time had run out for the wicked cities of the plain.

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   The Appearance of the Three Men (18:1-15)

A.    The arrival of the men (vv. 1-8): Abraham sojourned near an Amorite man named Mamre (See Genesis 14:13), and, while living in this region, three men appeared to the patriarch.The text indicates that one of the men was the Lord (a theophany- God appearing in the form of a man).Some have attempted a Trinitarian interpretation, based on this passage, but the text, it seems to me, wonít bear that weight. Abraham greeted the respected visitors in typical Middle Eastern fashion: he bowed before them, washed their feet (most likely required a servant to complete this task), and prepared a hearty meal for his guests.

B.     The prediction of the birth of Isaac (vv. 9-15): As preparations of the meal continued, the Lord predicted that he would return in a year to mark the birth of a son to Abraham.Sarah, listening from her tent, laughed at the notion that a menopausal woman would conceive a child. The Lord challenged Sarahís cynicism and restated the promise that she would bear a son, in a year.Sarah, embarrassed and afraid, denied that she had laughed at the message of the Lord. Note, however, that her unbelief did not negate the Lordís promise and mercy.

 

II.                Godís Dealings with Sodom and Gomorrah (18:16-19-38)

A.    Godís revelation to Abraham (18:16-21): Abraham accompanied the messengers as they departed from Mamre, and, as the travelers neared the cities of the plain, the Lord revealed his plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. The wickedness of these cities had not escaped the Lordís notice, and he determined to judge their grave sin (See attachment for a brief discussion of the nature of Sodomís sin).

B.     Abrahamís intercession (18:22-33): Abrahamís intercession may appear like he haggled with the Lord, seeking to strike some kind of deal to avert the destruction of the cities.However, we should note the patriarchís careful humility and submission to the Lordís sovereign, righteous prerogative (See especially 18:25). Instead of haggling, it appears that Abraham had a genuine concern for the people of Sodom, and his compassion compelled him to plead for them.

C.     The Rescue of Lot (19:1-22): Abrahamís nephew had chosen the fertile plain when he separated from his uncle, in Genesis Thirteen.At first, Lotís family lived in tents pitched near Sodom, but, by the time we find him in Genesis Nineteen, his family had taken up permanent residence in the city. Clearly, the populous of Sodom knew Lot well.Two of the messengers entered Sodom, and Lot greeted them with warm hospitality. In time, the men came to Lotís home and demanded that the messengers come out of the house so that the men of Sodom might ďknowĒ them.Lot, alarmed by the press of the crowd, offered his virgin daughters to the lecherous masses.Undeterred, the men violently assailed Lotís house and were struck blind (the Hebrew word denotes a stunned, senseless state) by the angels.The messengers warned Lot of the impending destruction of Sodom; yet, the reluctant man lingered in the city, perhaps because of his station and wealth.Eventually, the angels seized Lot and escorted the hesitant family out of warmís way.Still, Lot negotiated with the messengers.He pleaded that his family might find refuge in Zoar rather than take refuge in the hills.

D.    The destruction of the cities of the plain (19:23-29): After Lot had left Sodom, God rained down fire and brimstone on the plain.Some have attempted a naturalistic explanation for this destruction, but the text makes clear this was divine judgment on the cities. Lotís wife looked back on the destruction, despite the warnings of the angels, and the destructive elements consumed her.

E.     Lot and his daughters. (19:30-38): Oddly, Zoar, the city Lot chose, rejected him, and the forlorn remnants of Lotís family hid in the hills.The two daughters conspired to seduce their father.They got Lot drunk and had relations with him.Each daughter bore a son: Moab and Ammon.

 

 

The sin of Sodom: The text does not explicitly state the sin that brought Godís judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah; in fact, the Bible does not imply that a particular sin brought this destruction.It seems reasonable that these people sinned in many ways.

 

Isaiah 3:8-9 says that their speech and deeds are against the Lord. This may refer to blasphemy and acts of deliberate defiance of God.Jeremiah 23:14 indicates that the cities of the plain were guilty of adultery, lying, and injustice.In addition, the prophet Ezekiel (16:49) outlined a number of Sodomís transgressions: pride, gluttony, luxurious living, and oppression of the poor.These lists do not overlap in their accusations; therefore, we must conclude that city was guilty of a broad range of sins.

 

Traditionally, many Jewish and Christian commentators have concluded that homosexuality was at the heart of Sodomís wickedness.Genesis Nineteen gives some indication of sexual sin in Sodom.The word ďknowĒ, in verse five, probably has some sexual overtone.Some commentators object to this view on the grounds that the Old Testament often employs this word without any sexual connotation; however, the Book of Genesis uses this term several times where the author clearly indicated physical intimacy.Furthermore, the fact that Lot offered his virgin daughters to the men seems to indicate some sexual intent in their advances. In the New Testament Book of Jude (v. 7) we find a dual reference to ďsexual immorality and unnatural desires.ĒThis seems like an unmistakable indication that homosexuality characterized the cities of the plain.

 

In 1981 John Boswell wrote, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, an American Book Award winner.Boswell was a life-long Roman Catholic, but he vigorously disagreed with the teaching of the Church on the issue of homosexuality.He concluded that Sodom demonstrated a remarkably inhospitable environment to the visiting messengers.This, he concluded, was the sin of Sodom. Furthermore, Boswell wrote, ďThe New Testament takes no demonstrable position on homosexuality.ĒI respect Boswellís scholarship, but I do not understand his position on the teachings of the Bible.Other scholars have argued that modern Christians make too much of this sin.They observe that only a handful of texts deal with the topic; therefore, contemporary Christians exaggerate the importance of this moral issue.This criticism may have some validity.It is true that the Bible devotes more material to other transgressions, and Christian ethicists need to retain some proportionality.However, I have some concern about this kind of reasoning.How often does the Bible need to mention an issue before it becomes normative for Christian living?†† Whatís the magic numberófive, ten, twelve?There is sufficient revelation for us to conclude that this lifestyle, like many others, does not please the Lord.

 

For a helpful, thoughtful treatment of the homosexual issue, I suggest John Stottís, Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today.