Monday, November 09, 2015

Where Wickedness Rules

My Life Group’s lesson for Nov. 8, 2015, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" as our guide …

FIRST THOUGHTS

Finish this sentence: “What happens in Vegas…” (“...stays in Vegas!”)

What are the ramifications of living by that slogan?

Who saw the new Bond flick this weekend?

I’m not blaming Bond, but right about the time he hit the scene started a 50 year period in America that has seen immorality embraced in the popular culture and religious morals on the decline.

The sex industry alone is bigger than the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball combined. Many of our sitcoms are a string of vulgar sex jokes.

I have heard preachers refer to the U.S. as a modern Sodom and Gomorrah, but I'd like to think that God could find 10 righteous people in order to keep us from being destroyed.

America may not be a runaway train towards God’s judgment. But as we’ll see today, sins have consequences, and extreme sin ends up with tremendous destruction, whether on a personal level or nationwide.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Genesis 18:16–19:38

*** The last two lessons we've talked about Abraham's faith and learning to trust and obey God in a new covenant.

*** In Genesis 18, God and two angels spend time with Abraham. God confides in his "good friend" Abraham that the vile cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would be destroyed.

*** We'll see how Sodom and Gomorrah lacked even ten righteous people who would make their cities worth saving.

MAN’S SIN (Gen. 18:20-21)

20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is immense, and their sin is extremely serious. 21 I will go down to see if what they have done justifies the cry that has come up to Me. If not, I will find out.”

*** Sin and consequences.

--- Sodom and Gomorrah were prominent cities in Canaan, probably located in an area now covered by the Dead Sea.

--- The people who lived there were cruel, murderous, idolatrous, and especially perverse. Sodom and Gomorrah are synonymous with unchecked and community-destroying sin.

--- Ezekiel chapter 16 defines Sodom's sins: “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."

--- Jude verse 7 describes the sins of the cities thusly: "In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire."

*** God's gotta see this.

--- A month ago we talked about the Tower of Babel and how God "went down" to take a look for Himself.

--- Similarly, God tells Abraham He will "go down to see" just how bad things have become in Sodom and Gomorrah.

--- Did God really have to visit the cities? Of course not. He knew what was going on. But this showed Abraham that God wasn't making a snap judgment. He does not punish without warning (Amos 3:7-8 - Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. The lion has roared—who will not fear? The Sovereign LORD has spoken— who can but prophesy?).

God is just in his decision to destroy the wickedness.

*** Question - How is God’s view of sin different than the world’s view of sin? What happens when a culture ignores sin to the point that sin becomes the norm?

ABRAHAM’S INTERCESSION (Gen. 18:22-25)

22 The men turned from there and went toward Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the LORD. 23 Abraham stepped forward and said, “Will You really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will You really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people who are in it? 25 You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

*** 50? 40? 30? OK, 10? There's gotta be 10!

--- Abraham intercedes on behalf of the people there, either due to sympathy for the righteous who would suffer with the wicked. However, the more likely reason is that he knew that his nephew Lot (who was his brother from another mother) and his family lived in Sodom.

--- Lot continually made bad choices that gave Abraham grief. From choosing the finest pasture land to buying a place in Sodom, Lot was a pain. No doubt Abraham looked forward to family reunions with less than unbridled joy. (Love Worth Finding)

--- If God hadn’t told us Lot was “righteous” (2 Peter 2:7, 8 – “delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day be seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.”), it would be very difficult to identify Him as a citizen of God’s kingdom. The story of Lot is a classic example of how easily the world is able to pollute and corrupt a righteous mind. (Grace to You)

--- When is the last time you prayed over a city or for a person that they would be saved? In our "me" culture we can forget easily to pray for salvation to happen in a city but only with the power of God can it happen. Pray today for salvation to ring out in our city. Then go and share the good news today! Don't get to the place where you have to barter for souls. (Bro. Joseph)

*** Question – God listened to Abraham, but what about us? Do prayers change a situation, or just help us to understand God?

GOD’S GRACE (Gen. 19:12-16)

12 Then the angels said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here: a son-in-law, your sons and daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of this place, 13 for we are about to destroy this place because the outcry against its people is so great before the LORD, that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were going to marry his daughters. “Get up,” he said. “Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. 15 At daybreak the angels urged Lot on: “Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he hesitated. Because of the LORD’s compassion for him, the men grabbed his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters. Then they brought him out and left him outside the city.

*** Angels among them.

--- Abraham had been visited by two angels who went on to facilitate Sodom and Gomorrah's destruction. They went in to get Lot out. (Or as in "The Bible" series, slice and dice the Sodomites.)

--- A mob of men - young and old - surrounded Lot's house. They weren't there to make new pen pals. They wanted to have their way sexually with the angels.

--- Lot tried to protect them, even to the point of offering his virgin daughters in exchange. (For real. Clearly God saving Lot wasn't because Lot was a man of perfect ethics and common sense.)

--- But the men weren't interested in ladies, so the angels blinded the men, who still tried to break down the door!

*** It's for your own good!

--- The angels tell Lot that the cities were judged by His wrath, but God was offering grace to Lot and his family.

--- Lot hesitates. Unlike Abraham, who picked up everything to move to Canaan when God said to go, Lot was afraid to give up his home, his things, and his standing in the community. It’s so hard to give up our sins and trust God, even when you know the consequences are eternal.

--- The angels then have to physically drag Lot's family out of their home to safety.

--- God's compassion spared Lot from destruction, an act of grace to save Lot from himself.

*** Only four left Sodom.

--- Despite Abraham's pleas to save the cities if even ten righteous people were found, only four left. His daughters' fiancés laughed off the warning. Ultimately only three made it to safety because Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt.

--- In the next scene, Lot’s daughters get him drunk and have sex with him to have children. (Seriously, these people were saved by grace and grace alone!)

*** How is the enemy infiltrating Christian homes (e.g., immersion in modern technology, exposure to secular entertainment)?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

What are some of the most creative ways you or someone you know punished a kid or were punished as a kid?

Except for the nightmares on Super Nanny, children hopefully learn early in life that actions have consequences.

If they disobey their parents, they get in trouble. If they run across the street without looking, there are dangers. Learning about consequences is one of the most important lessons they learn.

As Christians we are also to be careful about the temptation of pitching our tent towards Sodom, and the consequences of our actions. God both rewards and disciplines believers.

We were all headed to a personal Sodom and Gomorroah until we were saved from sin. Thankfully God took us by the hand so we would realize we needed a Savior!

*** The good news is that God – the righteous judge - always attempts to offer us grace before judging sin.

*** God does not act according to our whims, petty complaints, or perceived slights but responds with justice to the plight of the oppressed, victimized, and broken-hearted.

*** Sin happens, and the consequences are very real, but be assured that between our sin and the consequences we experience is God’s offer of grace.

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