Summary: God extends mercy before judgment becomes the only option. It is only after the church turns away and the world rejects mercy that God judges. Sodom reveals the picture of God’s deep mercy.
God’s Mercy Revealed in Sodom
17 And the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,
20 And the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,
21 "I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know."
22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.
23 And Abraham came near and said, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
The end of Genesis 18 and Genesis 19 deals with the sin and destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Most of the time people focus on God’s judgment against sin, but I want to bring attention to God’s mercy. It is true that God will not tolerate sin. However, judgment is always God’s last alternative. Mercy is always extended before judgment falls. The Bible makes it clear that “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). But the Bible also tells us that many will enter the wide gate that leads to destruction, but few will enter into the narrow gate, which leads to eternal life. Why is it that God says He desires mercy yet most will enter destruction? The Bible says that man’s condemnation is that they love darkness rather than light and people who practice evil hate the light because it exposes their deeds (John 3:19-20). Because they do not want to leave sin, they either run from the light or try to extinguish the light. God does not choose judgment; people choose judgment over forgiveness because they don’t want to submit to a Holy God.
As we walk through the history of Sodom, keep this in mind. You will see God’s loving mercy first. As men revolt against God and glorify godlessness, the only remaining alternative is justice. I believe God executes justice with a broken heart. But His mercy does not overrule justice. His mercy paid the penalty of His justice, therefore, forgiveness is freely given to anyone who will receive it.
Revelation to the Righteous
The fall of Sodom and Gomorrah begins with God revealing the sin of these cities to Abraham. God always reveals a nation’s sin to the righteous and the righteous are called to pray and seek healing. The Bible says, “The effective prayer of the righteous man accomplishes much”. The balance of the land is in the hands of the righteous. If a nation falls from righteousness, it is God’s people who have failed, not the godless culture alone. Often quoted is 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Notice the key phrases are ‘My people’, ‘called by My name’. It is God’s people who must humble themselves, seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways. A godly church can’t help but impact a godless culture. But when a church begins to conform to the culture or compromise scripture to meet the will of the culture, it loses its godly impact. When darkness and light meet, darkness disappears. There are only two alternatives to the culture verses the church: The church will impact the culture for good, or the church will extinguish its light and be impacted by the culture. There is no way an ungodly culture can sit comfortably in a church unless the church is not standing on God’s word. Our calling is to be a light in the culture – or the world. It is ok for us and others to be uncomfortable and even offended at times. God did not ask us to be non-offensive; He commanded us to shine His light. When our life doesn’t measure up to the word and principles of God, we will be uncomfortable and convicted. We are uncomfortable because we are forced into the realization that we are making a willful decision. We will either turn toward the light in repentance or we will lash at the light. The Bible says that Jesus is the rock of offense, but whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame. Or as Jesus put it, “blessed is he who is not offended in Me”. When we are convicted by His word, we are either offended or conformed to His image.
God’s reveals the coming judgment to the righteous so that we can become instruments of God’s grace. We reach out to save others as Lot was commanded or pray and intercede as Abraham did – or both. Abraham did not rejoice in the destruction of the wicked, but pleaded for mercy based on God’s own character. Proverbs gives us the same insight. We are told not to be glad or rejoice when our enemies fall because of God’s wrath. It displeases God and He will turn away from punishing him (Proverbs 24:17). This is because God takes no pleasure in judgment, but desires to show mercy.