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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:You can't face two cities at the same time
Text:Genesis 19:26 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:2016-10-30
Added:2016-10-31
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2014 Book of Praise

NKJV

Psalm 98:1

Psalm 65:2

Psalm 1:1,2,3

Psalm 9:1,3,4,5

Psalm 98:3,4

 

Read:  Genesis 19, Luke 17:20-37

Text:  Genesis 19:26

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When you read through Genesis 19 there are three things that stand out:  the horror of sin, the urgency to escape and the devastating finality of God’s judgment.

Genesis 19 is a shocking Bible chapter to read.  The sin of the men of Sodom, the inexcusable words of Lot when he offered to hand over his daughters so that the men of the city might do to them as they wished, Lot’s wife looking back and turning into a pillar of salt and then Lot’s daughters who willfully became pregnant through their father, all of this is just horrible.

And then the sense of urgency that comes out in this chapter also.  The urgency in Lot’s voice where he insisted strongly that the two angels stay with him rather than spend the night in the open square of the city.  The urgency of the angels when they told Lot to take his family out of the city.  The urgency Lot felt when he told his sons-in-law, “Get up, get out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city!”  And the urgency of the angels who took Lot, Lot’s wife and his daughters by the hand and hustled them out.

And then Genesis 19 has us look at the devastation of God’s judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah through the eyes of Abraham in Genesis 19:27,28.

“And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD.  Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.”

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were gone, wiped out by a torrent of fire and brimstone, and the Jordan plain that Genesis 13:10 described as looking like Paradise had turned into a place that looked like hell.  The sight of smoke and the stench of sulphur was in the air, pillars of salt had formed, every bit of vegetation had been destroyed and where the cities once stood was nothing but a dead sea and a harsh, barren wasteland.

But there is something else that hits us in this chapter also, and that that is what it says in Genesis 19:26.

“But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”

And it is not so much what happened to Lot’s wife that is so shocking: rather it is the fact that she turned to look back!  That after all that she had experienced and after everything that had happened, her heart was still back there in Sodom. 

  Our Lord Jesus Christ refers to this in Luke 17:31,32.

“In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away.  And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.”

“Remember Lot’s wife!” Jesus says.  Do not be like her.  Just as Lot’s wife should have firmly turned her back on the city of Sodom and looked to the city of Zoar for safety so we must turn our back on the city of man and turn to the city of God.  Because you can not face the cities of Sodom and Zion at the same time.  And that is the message that I wish to preach this morning.  I preach to you God’s Word under the following heading:

 

You can’t face two cities at the same time.

  1. Turn from Sodom.
  2. Turn to Zion.

1. Turn from Sodom.

The city of Sodom was a terrible city in which to live and you have to ask yourself: what was Lot, a righteous man, doing in a city like Sodom?  In Ezekiel 16:49-50 the LORD described Sodom saying,

“Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.  And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me.”

And Genesis 19 describes that “abomination”, telling us how, when the two angels came into Sodom and went to Lot’s house for the night,

“the men of the city, both old and young, all the people from every quarter surrounded the house.  And they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight?  Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.’”

I’m not going to describe what the men of Sodom planned to do to these two angels: this is something for the children to ask their parents at home.  But what I do want to emphasize is that the sin of the men of Sodom was terrible.  In Genesis 15:16 the LORD had said to Abraham that “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet compete” but when it came to Sodom, their sin or iniquity was complete and they deserved the judgment that they got.

But Lot was different.  When the two men came to Sodom, Lot knew how dangerous it would be for them to spend the night in the city square and so, determined to protect them, he insisted that they spend the night at his house.  2 Peter 2:7,8 says that Lot was “oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked” and that his righteous soul was tormented from day to day, seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.

But what was Lot doing there in Sodom?  Why was he and his family living there?

The book of Genesis tells us how this happened.  When Abraham obeyed God and went to Canaan, Lot went with him but then in chapter 13 they had a problem.  Both Abraham and Lot had become very wealthy and the land could not sustain them both.  There was strife between their respective herdsmen and so Abraham said to Lot,

“Is not the whole land before you?  Please separate from me.  If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, it you go to the right, then I will go to the left.”  (Genesis 13:9)

But Lot was greedy.  And so it says in Genesis 13:10,11

“And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go towards Zoar.  Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east.  And they separated from each other.”

And then Genesis 13:12 says that

“Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.”

But it did not end there for Lot and his family.  In Genesis 14:12 it says that Lot dwelt in Sodom.  He had to be rescued by Abraham at that time, since Lot and all of Sodom had been taken captive by Chedorlaomer.  But Lot did not learn his lesson and in Genesis 19 we still find him in Sodom – but this time sitting “in the gate” as a respected citizen of the city.  And so it was that while Abraham still lived in tents, Lot was at home, living in a house as a citizen of Sodom.

And that was a problem.  Psalm 1 warns of what happens when one walks “in the counsel of the ungodly”, when one “stands in the path of sinners” and “sits in the seat of the scornful” and Lot reaped the harvest of his compromising behavior. Lot may have been righteous in that he continued to be bothered by the wickedness of Sodom, but he was willing to place his righteousness to the side in order to have the benefits of a life in Sodom.  He should not have done that – and his foolishness had terrible consequences for himself, his wife and his daughters.

But the LORD had mercy on Lot.  He “remembered Abraham” Genesis 19:29 says, and “He was merciful to Lot” it says in verse 16.  And so in spite of Lot’s weakness, the LORD sent the two angels to warn Lot and to compel him to leave the city.  The two angels had only been in Sodom for a couple of hours but it had been an eventful two hours.  Having come to Sodom in the evening, they joined Lot at his house and had a meal with him, a feast verse 3 says.  But before they had gone to bed, the men of the city had surrounded Lot’s house and demanded that he hand the two angels (whom they thought were like men) over to them.  But Lot, determined to protect his visitors from the vile intentions of the men of Sodom, stepped outside, closing the door behind him.  And he said,

“Please, my brethren, do not act so wickedly!”

And then, whether he meant it or not, Lot then went on to say something deeply offensive to our ears:

“See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”  (Genesis 19:8)

Lot was determined to protect his guests, but to offer his own daughters instead is something he should never have said.  But the men of the Sodom were not interested.  Verse 9.

“And they said, ‘Stand back!’  Then they said, ‘This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them”  So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door.”

And with these words the people of Sodom sealed their fate.  Abraham had asked God if He would spare the city for the sake of ten righteous men if they could be found there, but the angels only found one righteous man – Lot – and the people of Sodom rejected him and his pleas for them to change their behavior.  Sodom and Gomorrah were ripe for judgment.

  Then the two angels grabbed Lot, pulled Lot into the house with them and shut the door.  And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, so that they could not find the door of the house.

And then the time for judgment had come.  And so the men said to Lot,

“Have you anyone else here?  Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city – take them out of this place!  For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.”  (Genesis 13:12,13.)

So Lot went out to speak to his sons-in-law, sons-in-law who may well have been with the men who’d been trying to hammer down Lot’s door a short time earlier.  But these men laughed at him and thought he must be joking.  These men had no fear of God in their hearts and we wonder how Lot could ever have agreed for such godless men to marry his daughters in the first place.

But for Lot’s family also, to leave Sodom and to turn back on all their possessions and flee for the mountains appeared to be too much.  Whereas the angels urged them to hurry, Lot and his family dallied and dithered until it was almost morning.  You would think that after all that they had seen and experienced in Sodom and after all that had happened to them that night that they would have run from Sodom, thankful to have escaped with their lives.  But that was not how it was.  The pull of Sodom, the lifestyle and the wealth, held them back until the angels grabbed the hand of Lot, his wife and his two daughters and dragged them outside the city.  And bringing them outside he said,

“Escape for your life!  Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain.  Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”  (Genesis 19:17)

But this was too much for Lot.  “Please, no my lords!  That is too far.  I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die.  Let me escape to this little city.”

  And the angel, ever merciful as God is merciful, allowed this and he said to Lot,

“Hurry, escape there.  For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.”

And so they hurried: Lot, Lot’s wife and his two daughters.  And just as Lot entered the small city of Zoar, the sun came up and the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah.  And He destroyed the cities and the entire plain and everyone who lived in the cities and all the vegetation.  And it became a barren wasteland as it is to this day.

But Lot was safe, along with his daughters, in the small town of Zoar.

But not Lot’s wife.  Genesis 19:26.

“But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”

After all that had happened, after all that she had experienced, how could Lot’s heart still be back there in Sodom?  How could she turn from Zoar, the city of refuge, and look back towards Sodom?

Our Lord Jesus Christ referred back to this in Luke 17.  In Luke 17 the Lord Jesus spoke about the coming of the fullness of His Kingdom and the day of judgment and He said, “Watch out!  The Son of Man – that’s Jesus – is going to come but at a time when you do not expect it.”  Luke 17:28-30,

“Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot:  they ate, they drank they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so it will be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.”

But then Jesus went on to say in verse 31,32

“In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away.  And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.”

Do you understand what the Lord Jesus saying here?  He is saying that when the Day of Judgment comes you will not have time to go back for anything!  When the day of judgment comes it will be as severe and as sudden as the fire that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah.  And then you can not be thinking about trying to save your possessions or going back for anything.  And therefore also today, knowing the wrath that is to come, you need to turn away from everything that is dragging you away from your service to God and you need to turn to Him, you need to serve Him and you need to follow Him alone.  Remember Lot’s wife, remember what happened to her!  The angels had said to Lot and his family, “Escape for your life!  Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”  But Lot’s wife looked back.  And Lot’s wife was destroyed along with the men and women and the possessions of Sodom.

How foolish she was!  How foolish Lot’s wife was to have her heart set on things that were going to be destroyed in a torrent of fire and brimstone.  Lot’s wife learned the hard way that you can not face two cities – Sodom and Zoar – at the same time.  And so she died.

But what about you?  There is a warning here for you and for me.  Jesus said “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”  But do you?  Has your heart turned to God?  Or is it still somewhere in Sodom?  It seemed such a small thing to turn her head to look back to her home in Sodom but for Lot’s wife it cost her her life.  But what about you?  1 John 2:15 says

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

You can’t have it both ways. You can not have a love for God and a love for the world at the same time.  For the sake of your life, brothers and sisters, turn from Sodom and look towards Zion.

 

2.  Turn to Zion.

The sad story of Genesis 19 does not end there but it goes on in verse 30 to say

“Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar.  And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave.”

What a sorry sight!  Wealthy Lot, who had lived a life of luxury in Sodom, had lost his wife, had lost it all, and now he lived in fear in a cave.  By living in Sodom Lot had compromised his faith and he had compromised his family and now he reaped the consequences.  Now his life was one of alienation, disgrace and misery.

You see, that’s what happens when you try to face two cities – Sodom and Zion – at the same time.  Remember Lot’s wife!  Remember Lot’s family!  You may go for years with things looking good on the outside but watch out!  Hosea 8:7 says that “If you sow the wind you will reap the whirlwind.”  Be sure, Numbers 32:23 says, “be sure your sin will find you out.”

But when your sin does find you out, when you do come to your senses, then turn back to God.  Repent of what you have done and the life you have lived and you will be forgiven.

If only Lot had done that!  If only Lot had repented of his foolishness and returned to Abraham!  If only he has sought refuge in Abraham’s tents, how things would have been different not just for Lot – who it appears drowned his sorrows in wine – but also for Lot’s daughters.  If Lot along with his daughters had turned to the LORD then they could have married one of Abraham’s servants, members of Abraham’s household and heirs of God’s covenant promises.  But they did not.  Rather, following the ways of Sodom – and perhaps doing what even Sodom would have found repulsive – Lot’s daughters deliberately had children by their father.  And one was called Moab and the other was named Ammon.

And Moab and Ammon became two nations who lived on the far side of the Jordan River and who despised the descendants of Abraham.  When the people of Israel wanted to pass through Moab on the way to the Promised Land the Moabites tried to curse them through Balaam and later led them into sexual sin.  The Ammonites were no better, for they joined Moab in hiring Balaam and they refused to allow Israel to pass through their land.  As a result of this the people of Moab and Ammon were cursed by the LORD, and the LORD said in Deuteronomy 23:3,

“An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever.”

That’s where Lot’s descendants ended up:  outside the covenant community and outside the house of the LORD.  Many years later the LORD would say in Zephaniah 2:9,

“Therefore, as I live,” says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Surely Moab shall be like Sodom, and the people of Ammon like Gomorrah – overrun by weeds and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation.”

And yet God’s mercy would extend even to the people of Moab and of Ammon.  The LORD had said to Abraham that “In you all the nations of the earth will be blessed” and that would even include the nations that came from the incestuous relations between Lot and his daughters.  Many years later a young woman from Moab – Ruth – would go with her mother-in-law Naomi to Bethlehem in Israel.  And Ruth the Moabitess would say to Naomi in Ruth 1:16,

“Wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”

And Ruth would marry Boaz and they would have a son named Obed.  He would be the father of Jesse, Jesse would be the father of King David, and David would be the ancestral father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And a descendant of Ammon too would be found in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ.  One of Solomon’s wives was Naamah, an Ammonite, and she was the mother of Reheboam who was king after Solomon.  And there we see God’s grace, His mercy, that He would see to it that Lot’s descendants would form a link in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But that’s not all for God’s grace would also be poured out on the land of Sodom.  In Ezekiel 47 the prophet Ezekiel had a vision about the temple in Zion, in Jerusalem.  And from the temple there was water flowing, water that became a magnificent river as it flowed down into the Jordan Valley and into the Dead Sea.  And now listen to what it says about that water in Ezekiel 47:8-12.

Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. 10 It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt. 12 Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

Now I know that this was a vision and I know that we should not look for a literal river of water coming from Zion to transform the Dead Sea.  But do you see what is promised here?  Do you see how Christ would come to heal the land?  Do you see the glorious future that awaits the people of God?  What Ezekiel sees in his vision is the region of Sodom of Gomorrah restored to how it was before the LORD destroyed it with fire and brimstone, but better!  What Ezekiel sees in his vision is the complete renewal of all things with the coming of Jesus Christ.  And what Ezekiel sees in his vision is similar to what the apostle John sees in a vision in Revelation 22:1-3 where it says,

“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.”

That is what we, God’s children may look forward to when we turn our face to the City that is to come.  You can’t face two cities at the same time, it is true.  Remember Lot’s wife and know that judgment will come to the sons of disobedience.  But for we who turn to Zion, for we who turn to God in Jesus Christ, we may look forward to a future that is exceedingly beautiful.

Brothers and sisters, which city have you turned towards?  Where is the focus of your attention?  You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t face two cities at the same time.  Remember Lot’s wife!  Turn your back on Sodom and look towards Zion.  And you may look forward to the glorious blessedness that will be ours forever.  Amen.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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