How Do I Worship From the Sodom and Gomorrah Story?


What do I do with passages in the Bible like this?

The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.  Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.  And He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

Genesis 19:23-25

Or this one?

Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, He who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength?  ‘It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.’  Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?  ‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.  For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come.  I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me.  I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.’

Isaiah 63:1-6

Well, let me first give the answer I’d give my children:  Believe them.  God says here in the Isaiah one, for instance, that He has vengeance to be poured out on the nations.  He is God, so I am to believe Him.  

But I can lend a hand when it comes to passages that aren’t as plain Jane God-is-talking-and-telling-me-what-He’s-done-or-going-to-do by expanding on that a little.  So, if the questions are like this:

“What do I generally do with passages and stories in the Bible that talk about God’s wrath?  How do I worship from them?  How do I apply them to my heart?  How do I point my kids to Jesus with the Sodom and Gomorrah story when we come to it in family worship?”

Well, I’d start my answer with a question of my own to get to the heart of the matter:

“What is the Bible?”

The Bible is not a self-help book.  The Bible is not a collection of advice.  The Bible is not the best attempts of human beings to understand God.  The Bible is the Word of the only living God, and that Word is also a story that is all about Jesus.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.

Jesus, in John 5:39

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.  And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’  But He answered, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Matthew 4:1-4

So the Bible is God’s Word, His communication to human beings, and it is also a story that is all about Jesus Christ.

Well, if that is what the Bible is, then when we get to parts that are about God’s vengeance and wrath, His good anger towards sin, God must be telling us humans something that is ultimately about Jesus.

Okay, fair enough, Wade.  I’m with you so far.  But what?  What is He telling me about Jesus that I should be applying to my heart or teaching my kids or preaching from my pulpit in the stories and the passages like the ones below?

  • The Flood in Genesis, when He destroys all the land animals and people who have the breath of life, all except those on the Ark, because of sin.
  • The judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, when He destroys two wicked cities because there aren’t any righteous people in them except for one little family.
  • The judgment laid on Israel and Judah when they are conquered and stripped bare and many slaughtered for their idolatry an wickedness, though eventually a remnant get to return home in peace.

Well, there are certainly more than one thing, but I will offer what I think might be the most important one:  God is showing us the unimaginably deep cup of ferocious good anger that Jesus took on Himself.  God is showing us what Jesus bore in order to spare those who would believe in Him.  

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’  And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Luke 22:41-44

Jesus was in agony in the Garden of Gathsemane because He was about to be slain on a Roman Cross for all who would believe in Him.  He was less than 24 hours away from being forsaken by God so that we wouldn’t have to be.  He was about to have the sins of the world laid on His scarred and innocent back.  I believe Jesus experienced more shame, more pain, more wrath than any human being ever has or ever will, and He was totally undeserving of it.  God chose, before the foundation of the world, to put Himself forward and receive His own vengeance so that those who trust in Jesus could be spared.  Like Noah and those on the Ark, we are rescued from the raging sea of God’s judgment.  Like Lot and his daughters, we are plucked from the fire even though we are undeserving.  Like Ezra and Nehemiah and Zerubbabel and Sheshbazzar, we who have believed get to go home to God’s country despite our past sins.  And it is all because Jesus bore the flood of God’s wrath for our evils.  He received the fire that Sodom did.  He was exiled so that we could come home.

So what do I do with the stories and passages about God’s shocking vengeance?

I thank the living and loving God that Jesus bore that vengeance for me on the Cross.  Jesus fulfilled God’s Law so that I can receive His Gospel.  He took my sin’s penalty of death so that I can have His righteousness’ wage of life.

Jesus received the justice so that I can receive the mercy.

The cup my Jesus drank is one I am now spared.  And someday we will both get to share a far different one at a very special banquet table, one that He has been preparing for some time.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’  And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’  And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Revelation 5:11-14

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Hang On to Your Towel

  
To my fellow believers in Jesus Christ:

Don’t throw in the towel.  

I know what discouragement feels like and tastes like. I know what it is to have pain or failure or sadness grip your throat in the middle of the day. Or to have them crash over you in waves a few seconds after you wake up in the morning, once your head clears. I know what that’s like.  

But don’t give up.  

We have a Savior who knew great sorrow. And He now stands resurrected and glorious and radiating power and beauty at the right hand of God. Our Savior knew the sounds of mocking, and knew what it felt like to be deserted by your friends and your family. He saw the brutal ugliness of sin up close, where it snarls and spits at you and beats you with whips until you bleed.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  

Hebrews 4:14-16

Peter knew what it was like to sin massively and publicly and then be repaired and restored by the grace of that Great High Priest. Moses knew the patience of that same God after having the Lord mercifully respond to his anxieties about being a poor speaker or leader. Ezra and Nehemiah saw the power of that God’s unshakeable love as He brought His people back from their exile and their discipline. Those who have gone before us have seen that their flaws and their frailties and their failures are not the last word in the story of a child of God; the forgiving and resurrecting grace of that God is.  

Since then, we have this great hope procured by this great Priest, don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. I don’t care how bad it is, I can tell you with confidence that He knows your pain, that He cares, and that He can bring you to eternal joy by grace through faith. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart that you are truly an adopted child of God, and that you have all that comes with that unspeakbly sweet adoption.  

Your chest may tighten over a financial collapse, but it can’t separate you from Jesus. Despair over brokenness in your marriage may crush you, but it can’t pull you from your Savior. You may feel guilt and shame over your sins, but they cannot remove the seal of the Holy Spirit from your soul.  

If you’re feeling the pull to give up, hang on to that towel a little longer. For the believer, it never ends badly. The grave won’t be able to hold your bones, and the Devil will see you dancing at the dinner of the Lamb he so hates.  

I can sympathize with your pain, but more important than that is the fact that He can.  

Hang tight. You have a better Jesus than you can even begin to imagine.  

21 Quick Hit Statements on the Old Testament

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1) It’s the most misunderstood piece of literature in America.

2) It is a part of one story, not just a connected companion of the New Testament.

3) It was Jesus’ favorite thing to quote, and He taught that it all pointed to Him.

4) God preached the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith to Abraham in its first book, Genesis.

5) It was written by God using men (their minds, hearts, and hands) to put the words down.

6) There are laws God gave in it that were only for the Jewish people living in Israel for about 1,000 years, but also laws God gave that reveal His desire for human behavior for all time. God always condemns idolatry, but if you read Acts or the letters in the New Testament, you’ll see He does not always condemn shellfish.

7) It contains poetry, history, preaching, future-telling, pieces of wisdom, and other kinds of writing, and all of them (in their own way) point to Jesus.

8) The oldest book in it was probably written about 1400 BC, and the newest book in it was probably written about 500 BC.

9) A lot of its books are technically anonymous, not having author statements (like Paul’s letters do).

10) Moses wrote 5 (and maybe 6) of the books in it, Solomon probably wrote 3, and Jeremiah probably wrote 2.

11) We can trust that it’s God’s Word because Jesus trusted it’s God’s Word.

12) Copies of many of its books about 1,000 years older than any previously known copies were found in some caves by the Dead Sea in the 1940s. The fact that they were almost identical to the copies from 1,000 years later backs up the claim that the Bible is the most accurately copied piece of writing in human history by a long shot.

13) God has the same character and heart in it as He does in the New Testament. Compare Ezekiel (OT) and Revelation (NT), Nehemiah (OT) and 1 Peter (NT), Proverbs (OT) and James (NT), or Exodus (OT) and Acts (NT).

14) God commanded care for the poor, oppressed, foreigner, and widow in it.

15) God killed sinners who wouldn’t repent (turn from their sins and to Him) in it.

16) God saved a prostitute named Rahab, a cursed non-Jew named Ruth, and a philandering husband and murderer named David in it. And then He put all three of them them in the bloodline of His Son Jesus.

17) It helped to shape the English language through the King James Bible and the German language through Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible.

18) It contains the most Godly love poem ever written: Song of Songs.

19) It contains descriptions of God’s coming victory over sin and death and His re-creation of the world.

20) It contains clear pictures of Jesus (check out Isaiah chapter 53).

21) Its main points are the same as the New Testament’s: God is perfectly good, we sinned against Him, He wins, and we can be a part of it (and part of His family) by His grace through our faith.