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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Farmhouses in York County along York Heritage Rail Trail 9/8/15
Stately old farmhouses near the York Heritage Rail Trail

"Lessons From Sodom"
(Part 1)

In the next four messages we will consider a most disturbing scene in the Bible, the destruction of Sodom. In writing to the Corinthians Paul wrote concerning the events of Old Testament history that "these things happened as examples for us" (1 Corinthians 10:6). Although Genesis 19 is not encouraging in the sense we normally use the word, it is very thought- provoking and instructive. Furthermore, a foundational verse for those of us who have a high view of Scripture is 2 Timothy 3:16 which states, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness."

We hold to the inspired, inerrant, reliable view of the Bible and firmly believe we have here in Genesis 19 a record of an actual historical event. Archaeology has confirmed that these cities existed.* However, t
o many in the modern world this is just a meaningless, fictitious story and very politically incorrect. Tragically, as disbelief and cultural accommodation has crept into the church, there are more and more professing "people of faith" who see this as fiction or some type of illustrative lesson rather than an historical record.

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"But they said, 'Stand aside.' Furthermore, they said, 'This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.' So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door" (Genesis 19:9).

Genesis 19 is certainly one of the most grievous chapters in the entire Bible, chronicling God's judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah.
In Genesis 13:13 we read, "Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord." God had warned of impending judgment. As the day drew closer, out of loving concern for his nephew Lot, Abraham  pleaded for a withholding of God's judgment so that Lot who lived there might be saved (Genesis 18:16-33).

Chapter 19 records the fateful day of judgment. There is some powerful instruction in the early verses that parallels the evil in our own day summed up in the underlined portion of our daily text: "So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door." The image of pressing in hard and trying to break down the door is a pattern of how evil works in all generations and in many circumstances. Though Christians rise up and take their stand the tide of evil is ever pressing in.

The minimal context needed to understand this passage is verses 1-11 and we encourage our readers to read this. It's a very ugly, sordid scene.

Lot was sitting at the city gates when two angels (some versions use "messengers") came to the city. Lot offered them hospitality but they initially refused stating, “No, but we shall spend the night in the square” (v.2). At Lot's strong urging they agreed to stay at Lot's house and a feast was prepared with unleavened bread (the first reference in the Bible). Up to this point we have a kind scene of hospitality.

However the warm, hospitable setting darkens when the new uninvited arrive. Talk about crashing a party! "Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have sexual relations with them.”  What a horrific picture of utter decadence. The word "Sodomy" comes from this passage. The unbridled lust of these men was astounding.

But Lot's response is also appalling. His years living in Sodom had so warped his character that he made an equally utterly decadent offer. "But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to
them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.” Although his commitment to being hospitable and protecting his guests is commendable it's impossible to fathom that he couldn't come up with a much better alternative!

But even this did not satisfy the band of Sodomites crowded at the door lusting for Lot's guests: "But they said, 'Stand aside.' Furthermore, they said, 'This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them.'" The phrase, "treat you worse than them" must mean a desire to kill Lot in order to get to the heavenly guests.

This brings us to the main verse that I have been musing for some time now,
"So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door." Lot was still outside and they must have been pressing hard against him to break down the door.

"So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door." I think of this when I see the persistent forces of evil coming against those who seek to stand true for God's righteousness in our own age. Here in America, as our slide to utter decadence increases day by day, a current battle line is "religious freedom of conscience". That is, one should not be required to do something that violates his or her conscience. Up to our present time this was generally honored and reasonable accommodations and consideration was practiced.

But, O my, has that ever changed with the purveyors of perversions demanding that we endorse or in many instances that we place our blessing on their lifestyle. Of course the main battle lines now are in regard to sexual morals and pro-life issues. What really grieves me are those who profess faith in Christ but who stand in agreement with the forces of evil.

And of even greater concern are those whose duty it is to preach the whole counsel of God without fear or favor of man. Paul was clear of conscience when he declared, "I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God." He further instructs the shepherds of the church of God, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood" (Acts 20:27,28).

Today we write to the remnant, those who are determined to stay faithful regardless of the cost. May God strengthen and equip you! We end with a text from the armor of God section. "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:13).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer:
Father, when we take up the full armor of God, we are able to stand even as the fiery darts of the devil are hurled in our direction. As we consider those who are standing for the right and being attacked by the enemy we lift them up in prayer and esteem them as people of solid integrity. Though at the present their circumstances may make them feel less than victorious, soon theirs will be the victory march. For when we are not hesitant to proclaim the whole will of God we truly are victorious, when we have not allowed the enemy to overcome us, but we instead overcome our enemy. Keep us faithful, trusting, and demonstrating in love the whole will of God. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Tomorrow's message will be based on the response of those who felt the impending judgment of Sodom was a joke.

Additional thoughts from today's extended text:

1) When Lot extended hospitality to the guests he stated, “Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” The angels had come to Sodom to destroy the city to judge and destroy. It seems Lot was clueless about this. Rather it seems he wanted to get them on their way, perhaps indicating a desire for all to return to normal. I wonder in our own age when judgment comes how many will be clueless?

2) Today's text has the first reference to "unleavened bread" in the Bible which of course became very well-known at the Exodus.

3) Was the sin in this account the lustful desires of Sodom's men (homosexuality) or their forcefulness (seeking to break down the door & force themselves upon the angelic visitors). Historically interpreters have seen it as both which is our view. Regardless, homosexuality is universally condemned in the Scriptures.
The "Eternity Matters" study site makes these points:
  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior describe it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referring to God’s plan for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles....
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptance of homosexual unions of any kind. There are no exceptions made for “committed” relationships.
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to LGBT couples parenting children.
4) In spite of Lot's own warped sense of morals he received mercy: "But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door" (Genesis 19:10).

"But the men (the angels) reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway" (Genesis 19:11). Notice that it seems even after being struck with blindness they continued their efforts to get in the house. "They wearied themselves trying to find the doorway." Such describes the persistent drive of sin. You would think being blinded might give them serious pause to give consideration to their ways but their lust was so great they continued clamoring for the doorway even though blinded.

York Heritage Rail Trail

On Labor Day we took a bike ride along the Heritage Trail in York County Pennsylvania. This trail shares a line with one of the oldest railroads in America. We rode over 32 miles yesterday and Stephen rode into Maryland crossing the Mason Dixon line. After riding with a slight uphill grade 16 miles (one way) I was tuckered out. While Stephen rode onto the Maryland line I hung out at the New Freedom station and telegraphed a message, "I'm tired. Come pick me up" but no one came. Maybe that's because the telegraph poles we see along the way have no wires! Thankfully, the 16 mile return to our car was a much easier grade and more enjoyable!

Cabooses In New Freedom, PA along York Heritage Rail Trail 9/8/15
Red cabooses In New Freedom, PA along York Heritage Rail Trail

New Freedom station on York Heritage Rail Trail 9/8/15
New Freedom station on York Heritage Rail Trail

Stone arch bridge along York Heritage Rail Trail 9/8/15
Stone arch bridge along York Heritage Rail Trail. If you look hard you'll see Brooksyne on the left waving from the top.

Bikes along York Heritage Rail Trail 9/8/15
Goliath like Bikes along York Heritage Rail Trail. So often we see designs made by art schools that make no sense to us. But these three bikes are a perfect complement to the bike trail with people of all sizes and ages riding.

York Heritage Rail Trail near Maryland state line 9/8/15
York Heritage Rail Trail near Maryland state line
South of New Freedom the trail hits a summit, the high point on the line, then it's a slow grade down I suppose eventually reaching Baltimore and sea level.

Birthplace of commercial ice cream York Heritage Rail Trail 9/8/15
So now you know!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Preacher Tell Me Like It Is"  Video  Greater Vision

"Preach the Word"  Video   Gold City

York Heritage Rail Trail

* "The Discovery of the Sin Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah"

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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