Friday, October 28, 2016

Was God just to destroy Sodom & Gomorrah? Or is God a moral monster?

CC 2.0 via Flickr
Reading the historical accounts in the Old Testament, from thousands of years ago I sometimes ask myself: Could this really be true?  Isn't this too fantastic?  I have my doubts, just like anyone else.  But there is something intriguing about these ancient sagas.  God manages to amaze when we inquire.  We can certainly throw up our arms intellectually and say, 'preposterous.'  But if we actually reach out with a bit of faith, a bit of inquiry and begin to study these things... well that humility can take us to the truth.

Let's look at one account, the account of Abraham and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  This is a classic account.  It's culturally relevant.  We know these terms, even if we aren't theologians.  God sends fire and brimstone and down upon this city of completely innocent bystanders.  Then again, not really.  But God destroys a full city of people, thousands, a city renowned for it's evil ways in the ancient world.  

All of us, most of us are thinking one thing as we read these words: How could God do this?  How could he slaughter all these people?

Now, if this was a legendary account that issue would probably not come up.  Why?  Because it might discredit the account.  But just as I'm thinking those questions Abraham asks God a question.

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Genesis 18:22-26 NIV

Abraham keeps lowering the number of people who theoretically could be in the city that might be righteous.  The angel of the Lord continues to respond, that if there are only a few who are righteous in the city, he will spare the entire city on their account.  Ultimately, God is explaining to Abraham, and to us today, that he isn't cavalier in his decisions.  He doesn't destroy the righteous along with the evil.  He destroyed that city because 100% of the people in it were evil to the core.  

The people of Sodom and Gomorrah routinely committed child sacrifice.  Rape was common. All sorts of sexual perversions.  All kinds of evil were taking place in this city.  They rightly deserved to be punished, just as if someone raped and murdered your own mother, you'd want them tried, sentenced, and convicted.  

That offends our modern sensibilities of course.  If so, so be it.  I find it so fascinating though, that Abraham asks the question that we're all asking at that moment.  "Is this fair?"  God's succinct answer is,"yes."  

The hardest thing in the universe for us to accept is divine accountability, the fact that we are liable for our daily behavior to God almighty.  I know, my mind fights it too.  It's because the poles have been reversed in reality through the fall of man.  Instead of us working from the precept that God is sovereign, which is the factual reality, instead we operate from the inverted perspective that we are sovereign, and instead we fly back into the face of God and attempt to judge his actions.  We look at the troubles of the world, decrying God's goodness in the face of such evil.  But God didn't do those evil things, humanity did.  And when he corrects things, through his holiness and divine justice on people who act in evil, we instead blame God and try to judge God.  The poles are reversed.  Instead of judging God, we should try to understand that our perspective is limited, God's perspective is eternal, and he judges us, because he's qualified in every way to do so, and we don't have to judge God's actions, we can trust that he is perfect, and holy, and true.  We don't understand now, but we will understand later.  That doesn't encourage your thought, as Gandalf might say, but it's the truth.

Again and again Jesus said, "I'm telling you the truth."  The world lies to us day and night.  Jesus cuts through all that with a very hard truth: That the son of God had to come into the world to receive for us exactly what Sodom and Gomorrah received justly for their excessive sins.  Jesus came to be the offering for us, to take our punishment, and wipe away our debt of sins and give us eternal life.  The holiness of God and the fear of God can help us to comprehend this mystery.  

"Worthy is the Lamb" artistic depiction cc 2.0

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