Monday, July 31, 2017

The Sins of Sodom

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by John Martin, 1852
       In Luke 17:26-30, the Lord stated:
26 And as it was in the days of Noe [Noah], so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 
27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 
28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 
29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 
30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
A cursory review of these scriptures would leave one with the impression that the sole subject matter of this passage was that destruction came upon the people of Sodom and those of Noah's time suddenly and without warning, taking them in the midst of their daily activities. And, in fact, a fair reading of the initial outpouring of judgments as related in Revelation is that it will be sudden and take the majority of people unaware. However, this scriptural passage is generally cited not just for the warning that destruction will be sudden, but that the sins of those particular peoples will also be rampant in the last days. (See also Rev. 11:8 which refers to the latter-day Jerusalem as a spiritual Sodom). In particular, in this post, I want to focus on Sodom.

        If Sodom was mentioned because its sins will be repeated in the last days, then there follows the question: what were the sins of Sodom?  In the Spring 1975 General Conference, President Spencer W. Kimball had this to say about Sodom:
       Abraham knew that the cities of the plains—Sodom and Gomorrah and other places—were wicked cities, housing wicked, godless people, saying with Cain, “Who is the Lord that I should know him?” (Moses 5:16.) He was aware that destruction of those cities was imminent; but in his compassion for his fellowman, he begged and pleaded with the Lord, “Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city,” will you spare the others of the city? (See Gen. 18:24.) That pleading being granted, came Abraham again and prayed that the cities would be saved if 45 were found, or 40 or 30 or 20 or down to ten, but apparently there could not be found even ten, in those vicious cities, who were righteous. (See Gen. 18:24–32.) 
       The evil continued. The sin was too well entrenched. They had laughed and joked about a destruction. The transgressions for which Sodom had apparently been renowned continued on. In fact, the people wanted to take advantage of the pure angel men they had seen come into the city. The vicious men pressed and would have broken down the doors to get to them. (See Gen. 19:4–11.) 
       Everything was done that could be done by Abraham to save the city, but it had become so depraved and wanton that to save it was impossible.
In other words, the sins of Sodom were so great that the Lord treated it much as we might a deadly disease or infestation of some deadly plant or insect: something that had to eradicated quickly and completely before it had time to spread.This tends to repudiate the theories advanced by some people that the sin had to do with something rather mundane. It has become popular to postulate that the sin of Sodom had to do with their treatment and general inhospitality to strangers. However, if boorish behavior was all it took for God to rain fire and destruction on a people, the Earth would have been cleansed repeatedly throughout history.

       Turning to scripture, it is clear that the sins of Sodom were, in large part, sins of sexual immorality. From the account in Genesis, we read:
1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; 
2 And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. 
3 And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. 
4 ¶ But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 
5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. 
6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, 
7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. 
8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. 
9 And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. 
10 But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. 
11 And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.
This account provides some of the information we need to answer the question. First of all, the men of Sodom wanted to "know" (Hebrew:  יָדַע (yada)) the Angels. That term, "know," is used throughout the Bible (including just 3 verses later) as a euphemism for sex or intercourse. And we know that the term is not being used in its common meaning of "know" or "become acquainted with" because Lot not only remonstrated against the men for behaving wickedly, but also shut his door behind him when he addressed the men, and offered them his two virgin daughters in an attempt to convince them to leave the Angels alone. None of which he would have done if the men of the city simply wanted to greet the Angels.

        Second, it is notable that it was not just 1 or 2 percent of the men of the city, but all of "the men of the city," "both old and young"--that is, the mature men as well as the youth--that wanted to join in the planned gang rape of the Angels. This is further buttressed by the earlier fear that Lot showed when the Angels suggested that they would sleep in the streets; no one was safe on the streets.

        But this is not all. Ezekiel has the following concerning the women of Sodom:
         49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 
         50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
(Ezekiel 16:49-50). So, in this verse we are reading that the women were proud (willful) and haughty or wanton (compare with Isaiah 3:16), fat and idle, and uncharitable. In addition, the women were also involved in abominations. Charles Pope explains, as to this latter point:
The Hebrew word is תּוֹעֵבָ֖ה (tō·w·‘ê·ḇāh) which refers to any number of things God considers especially detestable, such as worshiping idols, immolating children, wrongful marriage and also homosexual acts. For example, Leviticus 18:22 uses the word in this context: Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.
      And from Jude, we learn:
       7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. 
       8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
The Greek word for "fornication" is ἐκπορνεύσασαι which can be translated as "having indulged in sexual immorality." And the phrase "going after strange flesh" is, in the Greek, ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας which is a phrase associated with homosexuality or other abnormal sexual practices. In addition, as verse 8 makes clear, those in Sodom were obsessed with thinking about their loathsome practices ("filthy dreamers"), defiled the flesh (this is probably a reference to immorality, although it could also apply to tattooing or other "body modifications"), and despised standards and spoke evil of God.

       It is very possible that Paul had Sodom in mind when he penned these words:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
(Romans 1:21-32).

      In his 1975 talk cited above, President Kimball spoke of the spreading immorality of that time:
        Again we see history repeating itself. When we see the pornography, the adulterous practices, homosexuality gone rampant, the looseness and permissiveness of an apparently increasing proportion of the people, we say the days of Satan have returned and history seems to repeat itself. 
        When we see the depravity of numerous people of our own society in their determination to force upon people vulgar presentations, filthy communications, unnatural practices, we wonder, has Satan reached forth with his wicked, evil hand to pull into his forces the people of this earth? Do we not have enough good people left to stamp out the evil which threatens our world? Why do we continue to compromise with evil and why do we continue to tolerate sin?
And I think he put his finger on perhaps the real issue with Sodom: it was not just the fact that they were sinners, but that they forced their degeneracy upon everyone else.

        And we have reached that point. It is not just the fact that photographers and bakers have been punished for not providing services for gay weddings, but that the depravity is everywhere. Consider these headlines from just the past couple of weeks:
       A GP, let’s call her Sue, said: “I’m afraid things are much worse than people suspect.” In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries caused by frequent anal sex; not, as Sue found out, because she wanted to, or because she enjoyed it – on the contrary – but because a boy expected her to. “I’ll spare you the gruesome details,” said Sue, “but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that.” 
       Her patients were deeply ashamed at presenting with such injuries. They had lied to their mums about it and felt they couldn’t confide in anyone else, which only added to their distress. When Sue questioned them further, they said they were humiliated by the experience, but they had simply not felt they could say no. Anal sex was standard among teenagers now, even though the girls knew that it hurt.
Dreher goes on to relate how he has been told that porn addition is rampant among young men preparing to attend a seminary so they can become ministers. He notes that in Japan it appears a large number of men are not having sex with women because it just easier to watch porn. He comments:
 Let’s say that our own children manage to get through childhood without having porn colonize their minds and hearts. One day, we want them to marry and start families, if that is their calling, right? Think about what the ubiquity of porn does to the prospect of finding life partners who are capable of loving them, in soul and body, in a caring, compassionate, righteous way? This is not a crisis that we can face adequately as individual families. We have to do it as a community. We have to do this as a community embedded in Weimar America, where there is widespread indifference or even contempt for our values. We not only have to do our utmost to protect our sons and our daughters from it, but we have to rescue those of our children who have been ensnared by it.
I think Dreher understates the problem. We have reached the point where it nigh impossible to protect our children from this caustic culture centered on sex and self-indulgence.

        Christian writer Scott Lively has pointed out:
Fifty years ago homosexuality was illegal throughout the entire world, except for Sweden which had decriminalized sodomy in 1938.  In the space of just half a century this tiny 1-3% of the population have made themselves a global political power with greater influence in the courtrooms and legislatures of the world than the Church of Jesus Christ.  This astonishing transformation surpasses that of Darwinism, Marxism, and even Islam in its speed and breadth of reach.  To my thinking, this can only have been accomplished by the god of this world (Satan, 2 Cor 4:4) who knows his time is short and is making his move.  What is more alarming is the shocking apathy of the church, which I take as a sign of the apostasy warned about by Jesus in Matt 24:12.  The “love of most” for the truth of God truly has grown cold.
We are the remnant, living, like Lot and his family, among the wretchedness of Sodom. This is no longer something that lies in the remote future. We are living in this world right now, and the crowd is even now pounding on the door to force us to participate in their decadence.

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