The second passage with which we will deal is the story of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is a lengthy story, and understanding the context of it is quite necessary, so I will quote it at length:
Genesis 19:1-14 (ESV)
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, "My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way." They said, "No; we will spend the night in the town square." But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.Prior to the story, Abraham, Lot's uncle, pleaded with God to save the city of Sodom. God agreed that he would spare the city if there were but 10 righteous people in the city. Of course after the quoted section, Lot and his wife and daughters flee and the city is destroyed by fire and sulfur.
But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them." Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, "I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 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." But they said, "Stand back!" And they said, "This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them." Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.
Then the men said to Lot, "Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it." So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, "Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city." But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
As we look at this passage, allow me to quote a statement I made yesterday.
When reading the Old Testament, the minimum requirement for a Christian is to see God's attitude then as close to how he feels now. In other words, if people were to be executed or punished for something in the Old Testament, then it is probably at least a bad idea now. (For this principle, I must give credit to this great professor.)I believe this should be a guiding principle to our study of the Old Testament. Many principles can be directly, literally applied to our lives today. But, even if they can't, we should at least see God's attitude as consistent through all times.
In dealing with this passage, the essential question is, "Why was Sodom destroyed?" Fortunately this question is directly answered in the text: "because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD." This is the same answer given both to Abraham and to Lot.
What was this "outcry?" The narrator does not directly say anything, but that God was checking it out to see if the outcry was true. Instead, the writer characterizes the people of Sodom by telling a story of how they reacted to the presence of the angels. The night the angels arrived, every single man of the town showed up at the house asking Lot to let the angels out so that they could "know" them. This was not an invitation to dinner and conversation. Later, Lot offers his daughters who have never "known" a man. They knew him didn't they? Rather, this "knowing" is certainly sexual.
Many have made the argument that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for general immorality. However, the specific kind of immorality indicated by the author of the story was homosexual desire.
To demonstrate that God is not after this nation in particular, the next story at the end of Genesis 19 tells of an incestuous encounter between Lot and his daughters. This results in the formation of the Ammonite and Moabite nations which become enemies of Israel for the remainder of their history.
In this story, God is directly dealing with sexual immorality. So as to be clear, the author feels it necessary to enumerate, in narrative form, the various kinds of sexual immorality that are unacceptable. Therefore, the pervading principle is that sexual immorality, especially homosexuality, multiple partners, and incest, are destructive behaviors that could lead to annihilation.
As for the modern application, there is no city on earth where every man is a participant in homosexuality. However, if we are to take our guiding principle to heart, then God must be very clearly opposed to homosexual behavior, among other things. We must make another thing clear though. Does God actively seek to destroy those who sin against him?
No! In fact, God even made an effort to check the place out and see if the accusations were even true. As with all people that God thought of destroying, he allowed an opportunity for repentance. He even brought Lot, someone who knew the true God, to the city, possibly with the hopes of providing them another chance at righteousness. However, in their final moments, the men of Sodom demonstrated their entire rejection of God. Still, God chose to save those who had remained loyal to him alone.