You rarely see people contort themselves pretzel-like as they do when they try to make scripture–and God–more palatable to modern-day sensitivities. Just take a look at when they talk about Sodom and Gomorrah. Trust me–I’ve listened to a bunch of podcasts and sermons on this subject from both sides of the spectrum.
The truth is, this is not a pretty story. But we can’t skip it, either. So let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about that time when God rained fire down on the wicked cities on the valley of Sodom. What were these people’s sins–sins so grievous that God wiped it out from the map by raining down fire from heaven?
And why is it so important that we understand this story?
Featured Essential Oil: Grapefruit.
— [THEME MUSIC] —
Hi! Welcome to Feels and Flowers, a Christian podcast where I share with you a gospel based entirely on love: Love God, love yourself, love others and where every week we cover the history and healing properties of a plant or essential oil. My name is Paula Perez.
So…. at last we reach Genesis 19: the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. We have talked about Genesis 19 in the past before, particularly as it affected Abraham’s nephew Lot. This week, we will revisit Genesis 19 and see what it tells us about the character of God as we continue our journey through Genesis.
You rarely see people contort themselves pretzel-like as they do when they try to make scripture–and God–more palatable to modern-day sensitivities as when they talk about Sodom and Gomorrah. Trust me–I’ve listened to a bunch of podcasts and sermons on this subject.
The truth is, this is not a pretty story. But we can’t skip it, either. So let’s talk about this, let’s talk about that time when God rained fire down on the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. What were these people’s sins–sins so grievous that God wiped it out from the map by raining down fire from heaven.
And why is it so important that we understand this story?
But before that, let’s talk about our featured flower. This week we are talking about Grapefruit essential oil.
— [FLOWER MUSIC] —
Grapefruit gets its name by the curious way in which it grows on a tree–in clusters, which look particularly grapelike when the fruit is young and green.
High in vitamin C and full of beneficial compounds, it is a hybrid of pummelo and sweet orange. Also, unlike other citrus fruits, grapefruit originated in the West Indies rather than South East Asia. It was first written about in 1750 as a fruit from the Barbados which was also called “the forbidden fruit” though it’s not really clear why it was forbidden.
Initially, the fruit grew wild and there was little commercialization of the fruit. More often than not grapefruit trees were chopped down to make room for more useful crops. However, in the 1820s seeds were brought over to Florida and eventually Grapefruit became a popular crop so that by 1880s there were shipments of the fruit being sent to New York and Philadelphia. The fruit spread from the Americas to the rest of the world where other countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Cyprus, Morocco and others also began growing the fruit commercially.
A friend of ours has been supplying us with the most delicious, sweet, and juicy grapefruits I have eaten in my life. But there’s many more uses to Grapefruit than simply eating it. Learn the benefits of using Grapefruit Essential oil at FeelsAndFlowers.com. Now, back to Genesis 19.
— [FLOWER MUSIC FADES OUT] —
I was about 8 years old when the fire happened.
We lived in the southern outskirts of Mexico City–a mountainous, rocky, and sparsely inhabited area. The roads were newly paved, houses were in all stages of completion, and though there was sewage, we relied on our own cistern and water tank for running water. The upside was that it was a fairly quiet neighborhood and there were open fields a few hundred yards from our home. We just had to walk eastward to the end of the street and bam–a large open field strewn with volcanic rock that stretched out for miles and miles where sometimes my grandpa and I would go hunting for wildflowers and herbs. BUT there was also, a few hundred yards away from my home, a shanty town of rowdy squatters who settled an area about the size of a block and lived cheek by jowl in shanties they built themselves without any regard for building codes, safety laws, zoning regulations, or even the wishes of the local government. The local government, you see, had designated that area for a sports center or some such thing to bring up the cache of our newly established neighborhood. This settlement of people hoping to get some free property was not good optics. It was crowded and dirty and a little dangerous too.
Most of the houses were small, drafty, structures of fibrous cardboard-like material, coated with black, water-proofing material much like asphalt. A few houses were made of plywood and corrugated metal for roofing. But on the whole it was not safe or clean.
There were many, many people living there, some rowdy, some troublemakers, all of them law-breakers who kept making a fuss because they weren’t wanted. Yet, they weren’t all bad. In fact there was a family in the midst of it who were friends of ours from church.
They were one of the lucky few who had managed to build a proper masonry structure. They even had a little patio off the kitchen, walled off on all other sides. It was a bit stark, but at least there was a bit of sunshine, not to mention that off the eaves of the building they’d hung a pretty little birdcage for their a songbird.
Because they were religiously inclined, they decided they wanted to witness to their neighbors. So together with my dad, who was a church elder, they hosted Bible studies in the evenings once or twice a week for their rough and tumble neighbors.
Dad had me work the projector in those eventings, and there I sat along with 20 or so strangers and a scattering of children in the dark for what seemed like hours and hours, counting down the minutes until the end when we would all partake of hot tea or chocolate and maybe a little snack.
I guess that’s why the fire made such an impact on me. You see, I knew those people. Not personally, but I knew them as human beings with cares and worries with children like me.
The fire happened suddenly one afternoon, and spread with fearsome speed and ferocity. What caused it? I am not sure. When I asked my father about this event he said that there were strong suspicions that someone had started the fire on purpose–as a means of clearing off those bothersome people. No one was able to prove it, but… if you think about it, there’s no easier way to disperse a settlement built from flammable odds and ends than to throw a match on one of the pitch-covered roofs and let the fire get out of control.
And that’s what happened.
By the time we heard of the fire and we ran up to the open terrace that was the third floor of our home, the fire had spread so much so that it seemed impossible to contain. The black smoke rose high into the pale-blue sky as large flames consumed the town. I remember watching for long minutes, hearing the cries of people who were scrambling to get out as quick as they could and watched helplessly as their homes and belongings went up in flames. I don’t know if I really heard their cries. I was, after all, a distance away watching wide eyed on my safe perch. But I do remember the sound of crying in my ears. It could have been me. Probably it was me, especially as the gas tanks in people’s homes began exploding, and I began to feel afraid that our home would also catch fire. The situation was so dire that the large water trucks sent in to try to quench the fire had to turn back.
By some miracle the fire did not claim the entire community. In fact, I overheard the adults talking about how amazing it had been that the fire had not gone beyond the home of our friends from church. It had been, they said, as if God had protected it from the destruction and had set the limit at their house.
That was a miracle, and it was a miracle too, that no person or child had been hurt. Everyone had managed to get out of harm’s way….
That is, everyone except the pretty little songbird whose cage hung from the eaves of our friend’s home. They’d found it’s blackened remains among the ruins of the wrecked patio–still in its cage, though they had opened the door to set it free.
* * *
I said it once… I’ll say it again. You rarely see people contort themselves pretzel-like as they do when they try to make scripture–and God–more palatable to modern-day sensitivities as when they talk about Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s not a pretty story, yet… it wouldn’t be so difficult for us to talk about it if we actually got its message right.
You know, I am so sick of hearing people try to pass this story off as just a lesson against the same-sex relationships: A cautionary tale against sexual immorality and wantonness. And yes, you see that in full display in this story. Yet, there’s so much more about this story and about the people of Sodom.
There’s just something so heartbreaking about someone who will not be saved no matter how much you want and try to help them. The door to their cage is open. All they have to do is heed the warning and fly away from the coming danger.
Yet sometimes no appeal, no miraculous act, no threat of danger is enough for someone to save their souls. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is much like this. As we read it, note all the appeals that were made to the city before its destruction.
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening. Lot was sitting at the city gate. He saw them and got up to welcome them, bowing before them and said, “Please, my friends, come to my house and stay the night. Wash up. You can rise early and be on your way refreshed.”
And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.”
3 But he insisted, wouldn’t take no for an answer; and they relented and went home with him. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
4 Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who are staying with you for the night? Bring them out so we can have our sport with them!”
6-8 Lot went out, barring the door behind him, and said, “Brothers, please, don’t be vile! Look, I have two daughters, virgins; let me bring them out; you can take your pleasure with them, but don’t touch these men—they’re my guests.”
9 They said, “Get lost! You drop in from nowhere and now you’re going to tell us how to run our lives. We’ll treat you worse than them!” And they charged past Lot to break down the door.
10 But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11 And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.
12-13 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have any other family here? Sons, daughters—anybody in the city? Get them out of here, and now! We’re going to destroy this place. The outcries of victims here to God are deafening; we’ve been sent to blast this place into oblivion.”
14 Lot went out and warned the fiancés of his daughters, “Evacuate this place; God is about to destroy this city!” But his daughters’ would-be husbands treated it as a joke.
15 At break of day, the angels pushed Lot to get going, “Hurry. Get your wife and two daughters out of here before it’s too late and you’re caught in the punishment of the city.”
16-17 Lot was dragging his feet. The men grabbed Lot’s arm, and the arms of his wife and daughters—God was so merciful to them!—and dragged them to safety outside the city. When they had them outside, Lot was told, “Now run for your life! Don’t look back! Don’t stop anywhere on the plain—run for the hills or you’ll be swept away.”
But Lot protested, “No, masters, you can’t mean it! I know that you’ve taken a liking to me and have done me an immense favor in saving my life, but I can’t run for the mountains—who knows what terrible thing might happen to me in the mountains and leave me for dead. Look over there—that town is close enough to get to. It’s a small town, hardly anything to it. Let me escape there and save my life—it’s a mere wide place in the road.”
“All right, Lot. If you insist. I’ll let you have your way. And I won’t stamp out the town you’ve spotted. But hurry up. Run for it! I can’t do anything until you get there.”
Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar, Little, or Insignificant.
23 The sun was high in the sky when Lot arrived at Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.
26 But Lot’s wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.
27 Abraham got up early the next morning and went to the place he had so recently stood with God. He looked out over Sodom and Gomorrah, surveying the whole plain. All he could see was smoke belching from the Earth, like smoke from a furnace.
* * *
How many opportunities and how many appeals did the people of these wicked cities have before destruction came upon them? Many. Additionally, keep in mind that a few years before their ultimate demise Sodom and all the cities of the plain had already suffered great calamity. Remember when all the people were taken captive? They would have surely been scattered and sold into slavery had not God used Abraham as his instrument of salvation back in Genesis 14. Additionally, a holy man lived among them as a marked example of righteousness. Yet once the people of Sodom and Gomorrah made it back home they returned to business as usual. Despite Abraham and Lot’s witness, they did not turn from their sins.
And what was the nature of their sin? Here is where many get it wrong. The Bible lists the sins of Sodom in many places: Depravity, sexual sin, lack of hospitality (Genesis 19); Fragrant and shameless display of sin (Isaiah 3:9); immorality and every kind of sexual perversion (Jude 1:7); filthy conduct and wickedness (2 peter 2:7); pride, gluttony, and laziness, Ignoring the oppressed and the poor. Putting on airs, and living obscene lives (Ezekiel 16:19-50); They committed adultery and walked in lies while strengthened the hands of evildoers. And no one turned back from their wickedness. (Jeremiah 23:14).
Honestly, this sounds an awful lot like our world today. We are a materialistic, pleasure-seeking lot who are forgetting to look out for our neighbors and who side with the oppressor rather than the oppressed. We are the people who have been receiving warning after warning about what is coming and we shrug it off. We joke and dare to laugh about it. We are becoming hard of hearts–what is also known as the unpardonabble sin. Not because God will not pardon our flagrant disregard for his law, but because we do not feel the need for repentance or salvation. In fact we are dead set against it.
God can send his angels to warn us, God can use mighty preachers to beseech that we turn our ways just before it rains fire on us, God can perform miracles as a last-ditch effort for us to turn away from sin, but if our hearts are hardened and resolutely away from God, we will be like the men of Sodom who even though they had been struck with blindness, still groped for the doorknob to Lots house, determined to sin.
In short, the sins of Sodom is the ultimate sin from which you can never go back. It is resolutely ignoring the warnings, eschewing the acts of mercy, and, in fact, striving against the power that wants to save you.
God won’t let sin run rampant forever. That’s a fact. He stepped in when the outcry against Sodom grew too great. For underneath the glitter of luxury, prosperity, and opulence lay all the worst of Sodom: all kinds of wickedness, all kinds of oppression, all kinds of abuse, all kinds of horrors inflicted upon innocents. They seemed to be hidden from view, but not hidden from the God of justice who heard every cry.
One day God will also step in to put an end to all the pain and suffering going on in this world. There will be warnings beforehand, there will be appeals, maybe miracles. Be sure to heed the warning. Be sure to save your soul. Flee the gilded cage before the fire gets to it, and seek refuge in the bosom of our loving father.
— [WRAP UP] —
If you’ve reached this far, thank you for listening.
Send me flowers! If you’d like a shoutout or you just want to say hi, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoy Feels and Flowers please be sure to leave a rating on Apple podcasts.
Until next time… please remember that you are beautiful, you are loved, and you were made with a purpose.