Summary: Two godly men, one faithful & one compromised
Background: judgement on Sodom
[Show pic of Dead Sea.] The ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah have been discovered southeast of the Dead Sea. Both places were destroyed at the same time by an enormous conflagration. The destruction debris was about three feet thick. Archaeologists found that buildings used to bury the dead were burned by a fire that started on the roof.
What would cause every structure in the cemetery to be destroyed in this way? The answer to the mystery is found in the Bible. "Then the Lord rained down burning sulphur on Sodom and Gomorrah -- from the Lord out of the heavens" (Genesis 19:24). The only conceivable explanation for this unique discovery in the annals of archaeology is that burning debris fell on the buildings from the air. But how could such a thing happen?
There is ample evidence of subterranean deposits of a petroleum-based substance called bitumen, similar to asphalt, in the region south of the Dead Sea. Such material normally contains a high percentage of sulphur. It has been postulated by geologist Frederick Clapp that pressure from an earthquake could have caused the bitumen deposits to be forced out of the earth through a fault line. As it gushed out of the earth it could have been ignited by a spark or surface fire. It would then fall to earth as a burning, fiery mass.
It was only after Clapp formulated this theory that Sodom and Gomorrah were found. It turns out that the sites are located exactly on a fault line along the eastern side of a plain south of the Dead Sea, so Clapp’s theory is entirely plausible. There is some evidence for this scenario from the Bible itself. Abraham viewed the destruction from a vantage point west of the Dead Sea. The Bible records what Abraham saw: "He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace" (Genesis 19:28). Dense smoke suggests smoke from a petroleum-based fire. Smoke rising like smoke from a furnace indicates a forced draft, such as would be expected from subterranean deposits being forced out of the ground under pressure.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah became an example in the Bible of how God judges sin. "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" (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
Foreground: Abraham vs Lot
At the front of this grim picture are Abraham and Lot, the two chief characters in this awful calamity. We are going to consider this evening some comparisons and contrasts between them, and see what God would have us learn from the examples they set us.
Comparisons- two godly men
Are you a godly person? If so, how is this reflected in your behaviour? Four areas: 1. Hospitality; 2.Humility; 3.Speaking against evil; 4. Choice of partner.
1. Their hospitality (18:1-8; 19:1-3)
a. Sitting in the gate, the place of judgement and rule (18:1; 19:1)- in Abraham’s case, while he could have been having a siesta; in Lot’s, while he could have been down the pub
b. Seeing the visitors (18:2; 19:1)- they both had an eye out for weary travellers
c. Excellent hospitality- foot-washing, freshly-made food, offer of bed for the night (18:1-8; 19:2-3)
d. No expectations of reciprocity- the very act of giving was enough for them both
Unstinting hospitality very good thing! Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Even though Jesus didn’t have a house, he still washed His disciples feet and made breakfast for them on the beach (John 21).
2. Their humility towards God and his angels
a. Rising to greet (18:2; 19:1)- “You shall rise before the hoary-headed…and fear your God: I am the LORD” (Lev.19:32)
b. Bowing to ground (18:2; 19:1)- you can’t get much more respectful than that
c. Courteous titles- ‘my lords’ (18:3; 19:2)
d. “Nothing but dust and ashes” (18:27); “you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life” (19:19)
1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” And in due time, later in the Bible, Abraham is described as friend of God (James 2:23) and even Lot is depicted as a righteous soul (2 Peter 2:8).
3. Their righteous speaking against evil (18:25; 19:7)
a. Abraham appeals to God not to destroy the righteous along with the wicked (18:25)
b. Lot appeals to the Sodomites not to “do [a] wicked thing” in assaulting his guests (19:7)