The Gospel for the City in Genesis 18-19

Genesis 18-19 contrast Abraham and Lot as Abraham is visited by angels and a theophanic presence of the Lord who brings affirmation of God’s promise, while Lot is visited by angels of judgment without any theophanic presence of God. These chapters also take us back to Lot in Sodom and let us know how he fared in the city culture that had allured him.  Abraham apparently had hope in Lot’s ability to counteract the allurement of Sodom’s culture and to influence others toward the God of Abraham. His intercessory prayer ends with a plea to spare Sodom, if only ten righteous persons could be found there.  But even if, and it is questionable, Lot’s family of four could be called righteous, the tepid spiritual influence of Lot leaves the city under judgment. Abraham’s intercession cannot prevent the inevitable judgment of a city that defies God.

It appears Lot did not fare well in Sodom. Instead of being an influence for the God of Abraham, Lot has succumbed to the power of the dominant culture of the city. He honors the good cultural value of hospitality and the evil cultural value of promiscuity while dishonoring his God-given parental responsibilities of protecting his daughters and of preserving the one-flesh relationship of marriage.  When called upon by his angelic visitors to flee the city under judgment, his appeal to his future sons-in-law is not taken seriously. They could not imagine why Lot would fear God’s judgment on a culture that he had come to affirm.

Lot, in God’s mercy, is forced from the city with his wife and daughters. His wife loses her life because she had already lost her soul to the allurement of the city. The deleterious impact of the depraved city culture is evident also in his daughters who get their father drunk and commit incest with him.

These chapters again contrast Abraham and Lot and affirm God’s selection of Abraham as the one through whom He will create a new humanity bringing together the nations of the world.  Lot fails to influence the city for God while Abraham relentlessly cries out to God to spare the alien city. Also the ignoble birth of sons through a drunken Lot’s incestuous acts contrasts with God’s promised gift of Isaac through an aged and doubtful Sarah. Abraham is distinguished from Lot because he believes the promise of God. It is only through Abraham-like faith in the promise of God (now centered in Jesus Christ) that we see the false promises offered by the enticements of urban culture

As we labor in cities which often display the depraved culture of Sodom, we hope, unlike Lot, to withstand the allurement of cultural values that deny God and to counteract those values with a godly life and witness to the gospel. Like Abraham we intercede for cities deserving of judgment, hoping that God in his mercy will delay judgment. We recognize as Peter did later, that Sodom-like conditions often exist in urban centers, calling out for judgment, yet God in His longsuffering sometimes delays that judgment, ‘not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’ We also realize that not all our prayers of intercession are answered in the way we desire. Sometimes the ‘Sodoms’ of this world are destroyed with only an undeserving few being rescued through God’s mercy.

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On September 10, 1970 I came to understand the great love of God for me, a sinner and a rebel. That evening I received God’s forgiveness and a new life through Jesus Christ, who died in my place and rose again to offer forgiveness and new life. I have been senior pastor for over 30 years planting two churches in Buckingham, PA and Queens, NY and serving two other churches in Brooklyn, NY and Roslyn, PA. I am currently the lead pastor at Grace Church of Philly.

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