Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 3/22/09.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1).
When I "heard" this title, I shuddered. Who wants to think about that sordid story which always leaves a bad taste in my mouth and mind? Yet, I couldn't shake it and knowing that God had something for me in it, I said, "Show me, Lord, and I'll write it." You are welcome to come along as we take the journey together. I can assure you that this writing will not be a tirade against sex sin. We've all had our craw full of those from the time we were knee high to a duck.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah's violent execution begins in Genesis 18, which gives the account of how the Lord and two men, later described as "angels" appeared to Abraham. He was by this time 99 years old, a very wealthy man with a barren wife, thus no heir. The Lord often popped in on the Patriarch, with prophecies and news of what was to come. In an earlier heavenly visitation, God had promised Abraham, "the whole land of Canaan...as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you, and I will be their God" (Gen. 17:8). That was God's unilateral and unconditional promise (Gen. 12:7; 15:4-6,18; 17:5-7; Ex. 3:8; Num 10:29; Deut. 30:5). Abraham's commitment was to keep the covenant of circumcision, which he did (Gen. 17:10-14, 23-27). He obeyed, not to give God permission to keep His promise, the way modern day evangelists often depict our response to the gospel, but rather, as a sign that Abraham believed God. This is the point of repentance and baptism under the New Covenant. We don't do those things to get or allow God to save us, but rather as an acknowledgment that we believe God has already saved us through the blood of the Lamb and the Resurrection and reconciliation power of the Spirit.
Back to Genesis 18, God appeared to Abraham with two angels, stayed for lunch and announced to the aging Patriarch, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son" (Gen. 18:10). Sarah, who had been eavesdropping inside the tent, laughed to think that her worn out womb could produce a child with her husband's ancient sperm (Vs. 11-12). Of course, the Lord, who heard her laugh, asked, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Vs. 13). This excellent question still empowers me today. Before the Lord left, He told Abraham His destination: "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know" (Gen. 18:20).
This begins Abraham's bargaining with the Almighty, resulting in the promise that IF God could find as few as 10 people who were righteous in the cities, He would spare them. You may recall that when their flocks and herds had multiplied so much that they could no longer dwell together because the land would not sustain them, Abraham gave Lot the choice of where he would live (Gen. 13). Lot and his family pitched their tents to the East toward Sodom and Abraham went West toward Canaan. At the time of this story, Lot was apparently now a wealthy city dweller of some stature because Gen. 19:1, relates that when the angels arrived at Sodom, Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. In ancient times, that was where the elders of the city sat to watch over it, and to make judgments about disputes; it was a place of honor. He offered the angels the hospitality of his home, food and lodging for the night, which they accepted. The trouble started later when the men of the city came to Lot's house and demanded he send the visitors out to them so they could have sex with them (Gen. 19:5). From this verse began the hue and cry of righteous people down through the ages against the sin of homosexuality. But is that all we can learn from the account?
Centuries later, when Ezekiel was railing against the sins of Jerusalem and comparing that city to Sodom, he raged, "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done" (Eze. 16: 48). That's significant, because so far as I can discern, Jerusalem was not known for homosexual activity. I think the point is that sex sin was always a metaphor for the spiritual idolatry and prostitution which Israel engaged in over and over. The Lord was their husband and their King, but they offered themselves promiscuously to the gods of the neighbors round about them, sacrificed their children in worship to idols, and defamed the living God. The prophet ranted, "You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband!" (Eze. 16:32).
Ezekiel gave an expanded definition of Sodom's sins, "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom. She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen" (Eze. 16:49-50).
Last year, a friend from Holland sent me a link to a commentary about the sin of Sodom which I'll summarize here. The thought provoking article was written by Kimberly B. George: "Key details within the story itself, when understood within an ancient Near East context, reveals this text is not about modern notions of sexual orientation, at all. Rather, this text is showing heterosexual, male to male rape that stems from xenophobia, pride, and a desire to dominate another, not sexual orientation. Rape is first an act of violence and power before it is an act of sex, and we must have that principle in our hermeneutic (a $10 dollar word meaning theory of interpretation)....Scholars point out that in Middle Eastern culture, men are shamed when they are in the "passive" sexual role, which is seen as akin to the female position and therefore dishonoring in a patriarchal world.
She concludes "The ultimate hubris is trying to rape angels of God. The tale of Sodom is seemingly layered with more theological meaning than often given credit for. A myopic condemnation of homosexuality as the exhibited wickedness arguably misses significant clues as to the fuller nature of the story. When, we surrender sexual orientation as the focal point of the text, the narrative's details begin to breathe with new meaning." End quote.
No matter how you define or characterize it, Sodom's sin became a byword for evil throughout scripture and down to our modern world as well. Why would it please the Lord to consider this topic, I wondered, since sex sin has been beaten to death from pulpits, Christian broadcasting, books, videos, and parental warnings. Over the time of The Glory Road ministry, God has had me writing and proclaiming the difference between religion (Law and self-effort) and Life in the Spirit (the indwelling Christ). Religion has always ranted and raved about sin, especially sex sin and its evil consequences.
Under the Law of Moses, everything rested upon man to be obedient, do good and eschew evil. All the prophets had Ph.D. degrees in railing and ranting, nagging, threatening and cajoling. Still, the people sinned. For almost 2,000 years, preachers, pastors, and priests have raged and warned, threatened hell fire and eternal damnation, and still sin persists, neither extinguished nor even diminished much. So what's the point and what's a Christian to do?
Paul had the only answer for the sin problem that I've ever found in almost 68 years of living and trying to be a Christian. As our readers know if they've even had one eye open, we have consistently shared what we've been given, which is that being a Christian is NOT about what we do for God, but what He has done for us in Christ Jesus our Lord. "But what do we do to keep from sinning?" people still ask. Paul's commentary on the subject is powerful, and worth reading again: "The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 6:10-11).
The King James version renders it "reckon yourselves dead." Reckoning is an old fashioned word meaning to count, to calculate, to consider. I encourage you to read the whole chapter of Romans six, because in it Paul explained that we died with Christ, symbolized by baptism, and we were resurrected with Him as well: "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (Rom. 6:4). Paul declared that our new life, our "new creation" is a result of the GLORY OF THE FATHER! Clearly, that's a "God job" from start to finish. The sinner in the pig pen is as far from glory and as incapable of generating it as anything on this earth could be.
"But isn't reckoning a work?" someone is bound to ask? It is one of those Holy Ghost mysteries, I think, because "everything comes from God" (I Cor. 11:12). Yet, we can cooperate with God, even if it is only, "I can't do it Father, but YOU can do it through me," or as some say, "I'm willing to be made willing." Surrendering to God is the only answer I've found, but it has taken me almost 68 years to get to the place where I'm worn out and beat up enough to be willing to do it. Surrendering is beyond my efforts, but God does it through me.
Now all this brings me to what's bothered me for years, something which Sodom as a metaphor for sin represents, and that is my question of why do human beings who believe that Christ died for their sins, and who are doing all they can to live the Christian life, still drag around their old sins as though they had a ball and chain around their ankle? Why? If I'm forgiven, does God still throw my sins up in my face? Does He continue to remind me of what a worthless, rotten puke I've been? Does He put me down at every opportunity and make me feel like a worm? Of course not, but some Christians do that to each other. It bothers me to the bottom of my soul that church doctrine has historically majored in the horrors of sin to the neglect of the glory of God reflected in the face of Jesus Christ. Church liturgy still has the congregation declare themselves sinners as part of the service. How can you see yourself seated with Christ in heavenly places, if your face is still buried in the muck and mire of your forgiven sins?
The answer to why that is, of course, is GUILT, the kind of guilt that comedians ascribe to Jewish mothers, but which Gentile mothers as well as preachers, pastors, and priests have used with limited success. I appreciate the Weymouth Translation, because it effectively utilizes the word "guilt," to show God's deliverance power. Here's the RSV: "Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God" (Rom. 5:9). Weymouth's translation is so much richer, "If therefore we have now been pronounced free from guilt through His blood, much more shall we be delivered from God's anger through Him." Perhaps because it hasn't been preached or taught by church leaders, Christians seem to be aware only that they are free from sin, without fully realizing the implications of what that means.
Of course, only God can open our eyes to see the entire scope of the gospel. Words, even beautiful, poetic words, theologically sound words spoken by Paul and others cannot reveal what God intends us to know without the Spirit's interpretation. Many of us are feeling the drumbeat of a deeper move of God in these days, and my urgent prayer is that one thing the Spirit will reveal is who we are in Christ and who He is in us. This alone enables us to walk out of our pathetic cells, where we've languished like galley slaves, into the sunshine of His love. We will no longer see ourselves as only servants, stooped and bent from carrying the heavy load of sin and guilt, but as sons of God, which we are! We will cast off guilt and shame, and rejoice: "and those whom He has predestined He also has called; and those whom He has called He has also declared free from guilt; and those whom He has declared free from guilt He has also crowned with glory." (Rom. 8:30, Wey.). Getting free from the burden of guilt will transform us all.
Guilt and judgment go hand in glove with unforgiveness. Before we can forgive others, with His help, we must first acknowledge our sins which He has forgiven, see them nailed to the cross, and walk on into resurrection life. Only when we have faced our own sins can we give up judging others. When by grace, we realize the full significance of our own forgiveness, we can forgive others who trespass against us. Whatever our difficulty, be it guilt, forgiveness, fear, envy, or lust, it is covered by the blood. May the Spirit reveal to us the length and breadth, the depth and height of Paul's declaration: "Who shall impeach those whom God has chosen? God declares them free from guilt" (Rom. 8:33, Wey.). Sodom's sins, like Jerusalem's and ours, were covered by the blood.
Ezekiel prophesied, "I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your (Jerusalem) own fortunes in the midst of them, that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all that you have done, becoming a consolation to them. As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate; and you and your daughters shall return to your former estate" (Eze. 16:53). God would not be God if He could lose anyone! The "how" of it is the blood of the Lamb, and the "why" is Rom. 11:32: "For God has locked up ALL in the prison of unbelief, that upon ALL alike He may have mercy" (Wey.). That includes every last one of us from Cain to Sodom, from Jerusalem to the rest of the world!
Father, we thank You for forgiveness of sin and freedom from guilt. You have exchanged our garments stained scarlet by sin, for white linen robes, washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. We cherish these gifts and more than that, we worship and adore the GIVER of them. In Christ, Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Working for Jesus? Surrendering to God, II
Fighting the Good Fight? Surrendering to God, III
A Covenant with Death? Surrendering to God, IV
The Family Fix, Surrendering to God, V
Your Mortal Body, Surrendering to God, VI
Judgment: His or Ours? Surrendering to God, VIII
Why did Christ have to die? Surrendering to God, IX
The Pearl of Great Price,Surrendering to God, X
Tested by Fiery Trials, Surrendering to God, XI
Sibling Rivalry, Surrendering to God, XII
When Parents and Churches Fail, Surrendering to God, XIII
The Blessed Hope of His Appearing, Surrendering to God, XIV
Does God Need Us? Surrendering to God, XV
Does God Need Our Faith? Surrendering to God, XVI
The Glory Road
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This created was created on 3/19/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last updated on 07/29/09.