A Catastrophe Sent From God – Sodom: a city that earned destruction
“Do you have anyone else here – sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or any-one else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place.” (Genesis 19:12-13)
Should a catastrophe be read as a punishment from God? Do floods, famines; earthquakes come because God is angry? The Bible’s answer is, “Sometimes, and sometimes not.” In Genesis, several catastrophes seemed to “just happen” – they were not a punishment or a warning, though God used them to advance his plans. These included several famines such as the one that brought Joseph to power (Chapter 41), a war (Chapter 14), a rape (Chapter 34)
But a few catastrophes God took full credit for – like the one at Sodom and Gomorrah. As usual, the Bible shows little or no interest in telling is the scientific facts about the destruction. Was it a volcanic eruption? The Bible doesn’t say, and the area, now apparently at the bottom of the Dead Sea, cannot easily be investigated. The Bible stresses not how it happened, but why.
Sodom was a wretched place. The whole town saw the coming of strangers as a chance for homosexual gang rape. Sexual violence was not the town’s only problem. Ezekiel 16:49 says that Sodom was, “arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” God would have let the city stand if Abraham could have located just ten righteous people. Apparently, ten such people did not exist. God’s great patience finally ran out.
Years earlier, Abraham had refused to accept even a well-earned reward from the government of Sodom (Genesis 14:21-24). He wanted nothing to do with such a society. But Lot had chosen the path of prosperity, the easy and successful life on the fertile plain near Sodom.
Lot had become a somebody there, a civic heavy who made important decisions in the city gateway. He was so entangled with life in Sodom he hesitated to leave until it was nearly too late. When Sodom went up in smoke, his hard-earned importance disappeared too. The shock was too great for him. Unable to start over, he ended up in a cave, too drunk to know that his two daughters were having sex with him. He is the perfect example of a man who, excessively tangled in a corrupt system, cannot bear to leave it behind.
Jesus did not let his followers think of Sodom simply as “those terrible people.” He warned them that God would be even harder on those who saw Jesus’ miracles, but ignored them (Matthew 11:24). God’s patient has a limit.
Life Questions: Are any catastrophes of our time punishments from God? How would you know?