Decay . . . it’s the lot of all the earth. The whole of creation was subjected to futility and decay, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected in hope. (Rom 8:20) Joel Rosenberg just posted some, well, I don’t know how else to say it . . . some repulsive headlines at his blog. I won’t repost any of it, because it’s just too bad. But not talking about it won’t make unspeakable things go away. I do suggest you read it, though there will be bits you may disagree with.
Cannibalism (of living people) , Mommy Porn (whatever that is, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know), Sex Selection Abortion . . . who would have thought, a few years back, that such would be the headlines today? Think of a pile of rotting garbage; think of the smell, the feel of the air as you breathe it (after you’ve held your breath as long as you can). That stench is better than this. Comparing this to garbage evokes images of Gehenna, which was the word Jesus used at times, and that many translators render “hell.” Gehenna was, amongst other far darker things in history, the city dump of Jerusalem. Fires were set there to consume some of the refuse and in an attempt to purify the air, because even rank black acrid smoke is preferable to some things you might otherwise smell. It was here that the bodies of the slaughtered were thrown by the Roman military following the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 AD/CE.
We are in that sort of hell. No, not all of us, but as a nation, America is metaphorically going to hell, or Gehenna, if you prefer. The garbage dump. Is this God’s irrevocable judgment on our national sin? Is it too late for us? Is it impossible for America to turn around? All appearances say that it is certainly too late, but perhaps that depends . . .
In the story of Sodom’s destruction, YHWH makes a stop first to visit with Abraham. After some things of concern to Abraham, YHWH segues into His plans for Sodom:
Then the LORD said, “Should I hide what I am about to do from Abraham? (Gen 18:17 HCSB)
For some reason, YHWH wanted to discuss Sodom’s impending judgment with Abraham. Why? Apparently this was because Abraham was about to become a very important person:
Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him so that he will command his children and his house after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just. This is how the LORD will fulfill to Abraham what He promised him.” (Gen 18:18-19 HCSB)
I’ve always wondered what this had to do with what came next. Why would God’s plans for blessing Abraham impact His plans for judging Sodom? Usually when I find what seems to me a non-sequitor like this, it turns out to be the key to the whole story. So why did YHWH feel the need to consult Abraham? Surely He knew what He would do. There are a few who might suggest that YHWH’s knowledge is so limited that He did indeed have a need to come down in what many describe as a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus and see the wickedness of Sodom with His pre-incarnated eyeballs. But that doesn’t ring true to me. The idea that Abraham talked YHWH into concessions He didn’t want to make also seems dubious.
Now I have no doubt that Abe’s intercession made a difference. If Abraham had failed to intercede, I suspect that YHWH would have judged Sodom the same. I suspect He knew there were not ten righteous men in Sodom (read the rest of the passage here). In my opinion, He also knew that Abraham would intercede. Perhaps Abraham also needed to know that — that he cared enough. Or perhaps Abraham needed to learn this about YHWH: that He desires to be merciful and He desires an intercessor. Or maybe this was written for our benefit, because we need to know it.
God ended up judging Sodom. There were not ten righteous people there — but He did remove Lot and his family beforehand. And if Lot is the standard for a “righteous man,” one wonders what the rest of the inhabitants must have been like. The point here, though, is that YHWH seemed to want Abraham to be the kind of man who balked at the thought of Sodom being destroyed. Even though He knew He would have to wipe out the contagion of Sodom, He didn’t want His action to go unchallenged by the father of His chosen people — the people upon whom He would place His name, to set them up as a city on a hill and a source of blessing for the rest of the world. What does that say about us? Perhaps YHWH has placed us here in this period of history to stand in the gap; to petition Him for mercy for the world around us. Do we want to take a chance at not doing what Father has historically wanted His people to do?
More next time . . .