Chardon church of Christ

Sermons from the Chardon church of Christ

Too Close For Comfort

Posted by Chardon in Genesis 19

Too Close For Comfort  
Genesis 19: 1 – 29

OPEN: Just like today, back in the 1690s Jamaica was an island paradise. Palm trees in the sand, tropical breezes, beautiful beaches. People of wealth sought it out then just like they do now. And many of them built huge mansions at a town called Port Royal.
Now, Port Royal wasn’t a “tourist trap.” It was a Pirate city - hailed as the “17th Century Sodom.” And those who lived back then knew it as one of the wickedest and most depraved cities on earth.
If you could think of something evil people would do... they did it. But then - in 1692 – God came down and brought judgement on Port Royal. In the space of less than 10 minutes, the thriving
sea port was shaken by 3 earthquakes (one of which at about 7.6 on the Richter scale) which was followed by a tsunami. Port Royal literally sank into the Caribbean, never to rise again.
An eyewitness described the scene: "The earth heaved and swelled like the rolling billows, and in many places the earth crack'd open, open'd and shut, with a motion quick and fast.
And in some of these places people were swallowed up, in others they were caught by the middle, and pressed to death. The entire event was filled with the noise of falling mountains at a distance, while the sky was turned dull and reddish, like a glowing oven"
Of the city’s population of approximately 6,500 people about 2,000 died in earthquakes and tsunami. Afterwards, lacking of shelter and clean water, nearly 3,000 more died of disease. The people of Jamaica were so shaken by what took place, and they were so convinced that it was God who’d destroyed the city that a religious revival swept through the island and they promptly outlawed piracy. To this day, many Jamaicans believe that Port Royal's destruction was the price exacted by an angry God for its sins.
They called it the 17th Century Sodom. Someone else referred to it as the Sodom of the West. Now, why would they do that? Why would they refer to this city as... Sodom?
Well they did that, because Port Royal’s sinfulness and destruction sounded a lot like the story of Sodom in the Bible. In the Bible, Sodom is synonymous with wickedness... and judgment.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote: “Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah.” Isaiah 13:19
Jude 7 declared that: “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
Peter agreed – in 2 Peter 2:6 we’re told “by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes (God) condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly”
And Jesus said that His coming would be like "the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.” Luke 17:28-29
Sodom is mentioned 26 times outside of Genesis in Scripture. And it’s spoken of as a place that had existed and stood for God’s judgment.
But, did Sodom and Gomorrah actually exist? And were they actually destroyed as Genesis describes? For a long time skeptics would scoff and say “Nahhh, I don’t think so.”
But they don’t say that anymore. In late 1960s archaeologists found the ruins of a major city in the area called “Ebla.” Over 4,000 years ago, this city Ebla was a major merchant center
with a population of more than 250,000 people. And there, archaeologists found tablets written about 800 yrs. before Moses... written in a language very much like ancient Hebrew. And on these tablets were the names of various cities throughout Palestine. Places like Joppa, Damascus, Gaza... and Sodom and Gomorrah.
Nowadays NOBODY questions whether these cities existed. They’ve discovered that these cities lay along a major merchant route of the day (the King’s Highway). Up until a few years ago, many scholars thought these cities lay underneath the Dead Sea, but more recently, they believe they’ve found their remains to the West and South of the Dead Sea.
You can read about certain archaeologists who have found strong evidence about these cities and how they were destroyed. They stated that the evidence from radiocarbon dating... indicates that a group of civilizations flourished in the area for over two millennia, until approximately 1700 BC, when the mud-brick walls of the buildings in the region simultaneously disappeared and only the stone foundations remained.
At the same time, the pottery in the settlements was heated into glass in the space of milliseconds, according to the results of an analysis of the Zircon crystals formed in the process, indicating that they were briefly exposed to temperatures of approximately 4,000 to 12,000 degrees Celsius, comparable to the temperature of the surface of the sun.
Evidence seems to indicate that approximately 40,000 to 60,000 people living in the region were killed, and a 500-square kilometer area was rendered uninhabitable for about 600 to 700 years. They believe that the area was stripped of its topsoil, and that salts from the nearby Dead Sea were spread over the land, destroying its fertility.
“The Bible records the Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with “fire and brimstone.” Brimstone is Sulphur.
Throughout Sodom and Gomorrah... brimstone is found embedded in the ground. It is highly flammable and when ignited it produces a toxic gas, Sulphur Dioxide (SO2). There is only one area on earth where Sulphur “stones” are found... Sodom and Gomorrah. Sulphur found elsewhere on earth rarely exceeds 40% purity. The Sulphur at Sodom and Gomorrah is approximately 96% pure.”
So, Sodom and Gomorrah DID exist, and they WERE destroyed by God. But now the question is... what can we learn from that? The most obvious lesson is this: You REALLLLLY don’t want to tick God off. There is a point where God won’t look the other way any longer.
Now, there are many people who talk about God being a God of love who wouldn't do something like this. And to some extent they're right - God is a loving God. John 3:16 says “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...”
He loved us so much He was willing to offer a precious sacrifice so that our lives could be changed. But God is also a God who despises evil, and when push comes to shove He HAS and He WILL destroy those who go too far.
***So, the first lesson is this: you REALLY don’t want to tick God off. But for most people that’s not an issue. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say: “Hey, I want to make God angry today.” Instead, most people kind of “back into” sin. They don’t start out being evil. They just start hanging around evil people... and that changes them.
For example, do you know how Lot ended up in Sodom? I mean, he had to know it was a wicked city. In fact, when the angels came to town, Lot insisted they stay at his house that night because HE KNEW the evil the sodomites would do to them if they were caught on the streets by themselves. So how did Lot end up in the city to begin with?
Well in Genesis 13, Lot and his uncle Abraham were tending their flocks not too far away from that city,
and their herdsmen weren’t getting along real well. So, Abraham looked the situation over and he said to Lot “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left." Genesis 13:8-9
The next few verses say “Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) ... Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom.” Genesis 13:10 &12
So, we’re told Lot moved his tent as far as Sodom. Another version says he moved NEAR Sodom. He wasn’t IN the city... but he was close. But why? Why did he move near this evil city? Well... because it looked pretty good... it was like the garden of Eden.
But in the next chapter we read that Lot has moved. It says “(Lot) was dwelling IN Sodom.” (Genesis 14:12) So, he had been living NEAR the city of Sodom. Now, he’s living IN the city of Sodom. But wait... . In Genesis 19:1 we’re told that “(When) the two angels came to Sodom in the evening... Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom...”
Lot was “sitting in the gate”? What was Lot doing at the gate? Well, in ancient cities, there was no “courthouse” in town. If you had a dispute with your neighbor, you took your case to the wise men at the GATE of the city, and that’s where Lot was. He was an honored member of the community. People respected his judgment.
So, Lot starts living OUTSIDE of Sodom. Then we find that he’s living INSIDE Sodom.
And then we find that Lot is a leading citizen (at the GATE) in one of the most evil and wicked cities on earth. Why would he do that????
Well I believe his thinking can be summed in 4 words: “I CAN HANDLE IT!” He believed Sodom wouldn’t affect him... he was too righteous to be changed by the evils of the city.
But... could he? Could Lot handle Sodom? Well, let’s think about that. When the Sodomites come to his door demanding to sleep with his visitors Lot said: “Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” Genesis 19:8
Hmmm. Did I hear that right? Lot offered to give his DAUGHTERS to these evil men... That’s what it says.
Would you do that? I’d hope not. It doesn’t sound right to me, but it apparently sounded right to Lot! But why would he do that? Because he lived in Sodom and that’s the kind of thing that Sodomites would do. Lot thought he could handle it! But he couldn’t. Sodom changed him. God tells us “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” 1 Corinthians 15:33
So, Lot couldn’t handle it. How about his family? The text tells us that the angels are rushing them out of the city and they’re told NOT to look back. But Lot’s wife looks back... and she never left town.
And then there’s Lot’s daughters. “Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, 14So 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.” Genesis 19:14
What happened to those sons-in-law? Well, they died! Why didn’t the angels try to convince these young men to leave town?
Well, because they were as wicked as everyone else in Sodom. Lot was allowing his daughters to marry wicked men.
APPLY: Many Christians will say “I CAN HANDLE IT.” I can handle the alcohol/drugs, I can handle the negative peer pressure from friends, being surrounded by cursing and foul mouths. I can handle ... you name it. They know that what they’re doing is probably something they wouldn’t want Jesus catching them doing... but they think it won’t affect THEM.
And maybe they’re right. But what about their kids/grandkids/nephews/nieces? YOU might start out pure as the driven snow and just get a “little dirty.” You might say “I’ll only go THIS far... and no farther.” But the young ones who look up to you will use that “little farther” as their base line. That’s where they’ll START - where you stopped - because you accepted it as normal.
One of the lessons of Sodom is – hanging around sinful atmospheres does bother you, whether you realize it or not.
One last thought. What do you do if someone you love is in Sodom? What do you do if they’ve allowed themselves to live too long in an evil world. You know they’re hurting themselves, you know they’re headed for destruction. And you just feel SO helpless! Is there anything you can do?
Well, there’s one more part of this story. Before God sent his angels to destroy the city of Sodom, He paid Abraham a visit. And God told Abraham what He had in mind. Do you remember what Abraham did? He bargained with God.
23And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Genesis 18:23-24
Yes, God said... He’d spare the city if there were 50 righteous within the city.
Now, why would Abraham ask that? Why ask if God would spare the city if he found only 50 righteous people? Because he knew LOT was in that town and he wanted to save him.
But he also knew Sodom was a wicked city... so he bargained some more. "Suppose 40 are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it." Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there." He said, "Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it." Then he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."
Of course, God knew there weren’t even 10 righteous people in the city. But you know what... God knew what was important to Abraham. And for the sake of Abraham... and his prayer, God did what He could to save Lot and his family.
Now, one observation – who did God send to Sodom to rescue Lot and his family? Angels! The Bible teaches that when we pray God sends angels to work on our prayers (Daniel 9:23 and 10:12).
Hebrews says they are “ministering spirits ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” Hebrews 1:14. When we pray, we unleash the very powers of heaven.
Be aware, no matter what we pray, God will not ignore the freewill of those we pray for. If they chose to ignore God, our loved ones do so at their own risk (as Lot’s wife experienced). However, our prayers are mighty and make it so that even the most difficult of our loved ones will feel their impact. Prayer our most powerful tool. Thus, we should always pray to God for Him to save your loved ones and work in their lives. As Jesus taught us, we should ought to always pray.... And NEVER GIVE UP!
INVITATION

Based on a sermon by Jeff Strite

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