Imagine what it would be like to live in a community where your door had to be locked and bolted after each person went outside or came in – day and night. If you didn’t, the possibility of being robbed, perhaps beaten, and maybe even sexually violated was real. Sounds like some places in the United States today? This was in the days of Sodom, Gomorrah Admah, and Zeboiim. Actually, this was in the days of Sodom, Gomorrah Admah, and Zeboiim, the cities which lay near the Dead Sea in the time of the patriarch, Abraham.
Of course the first thing that comes to mind when someone speaks of Sodom is their homosexuality. Remember? Remember Lot when the angels from God came to warn him to get out of Sodom because God was going to destroy the cities of the plain of the Dead Sea? The men of Sodom demanded that Lot send the angels who had come into his house out to then so they could “know them” in a carnal way. (Genesis 19:4-11). From this incident Sodom became a synonym for brutal, perverted sexual practices.
But you may be surprised that the sin that condemned them was not simply their homosexuality but a whole list of other sins as well. That is the way it is with sin. Seldom does it stay isolated as one practice. In fact, particular sinful practices are usually only the symptom of something wrong deep within the heart.
But before we get to that we must get the background of the passage that tells us what the rest of Sodom’s sins were.
In Ezekiel 16 the Lord speaks to His people of the nation of Judah who were in captivity because of their wickedness and idolatry. In this chapter God compared their unfaithfulness to Him to prostitution. He said they didn’t charge their clients, didn’t collect a fee, they paid them! In all the wickedness Israel, Judah, Jerusalem had done – they were not satisfied (Ezekiel 16:29). This is the way of sin – once one gets into it they become so addicted to it and can’t get enough. Sin creates a hunger that can never be satisfied because sin offers no lasting satisfaction. I know it is trite, but the oft quoted statement about sin still is true…
“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” (Anonymous).
In the first 13 verses, God tells of His love for Judah and of all that He had done to honor her. He says he had found her like a newborn infant cast out into the wilderness to die as soon as it was born. He rescued her, provided for her, clothed her in the finest clothing and watched her grow as a beautiful maiden. Although God had loved them and blessed them abundantly in so many ways, they turned from the Lord and lost their way.
What they received, they thought of as their accomplishments. They thought that what they were experiencing was the fruit of their labors! They were living the “good life” – they thought they had it made! They took the blessings and gifts of God and perverted them with idol worship.
God, through the prophet Ezekiel, compares the kingdom of Judah to Samaria and Sodom. He says they were “sisters” – of the same kind – with Samaria and Sodom, only Judah had become more corrupt than either of these.
“And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways.” (Ezekiel 16:46-47).
So, what were the sins of Sodom? And how had God’s own people outstripped even this most wicked of places on earth?
“As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16:48-50).
Sodom fell because of pride. The blessings from God were turned into a belief that they were the result of personal accomplishment. This often happens when a nation enjoys economic prosperity and/or when they are militarily strong.
Pride lies at the heart of almost every sin. Pride convinces us that we are the ones to determine what is right and that we can infallibly identify that that is wrong. Nationally, politically, America is the epitome of pride. As a result of our modernistic thinking, we have the idea that there is no problem that we cannot solve. Our way of life – democracy – is the way for all other nations to live and that we have the right to impose it on the whole world. This attitude fails to take into consideration that God may have different ideas – e. g. He may allow the punishment of nations with totalitarian, dictatorial governments.
Religiously, the attitude that says that we have it all figured out – that we have God in a box – and that everyone else must come to us for truth is nothing but pride. Humility demands that we admit at least the possibility that we may be wrong about some things. Humility demands that we study the Bible, not to arrogantly confirm our ignorance, but to sincerely learn the truth. And humility will cause us to deal patiently with others whom we perceive to be in error.
If we are really learning what the Bible teaches, we will consistently be changing. Change is the essence of growth. Lack of change shows either laziness in study or a pride that says “We have already arrived.”
God next says that Sodom had an excess of food. Throughout history – and even to this day – the human condition has, for the most part, been one of a hand-to-mouth, subsistence living. Want and need have been all too common – and still are. This is not to say that poverty or subsistence living is in itself a virtue. It is to say that poverty is not conducive to pride.
Sodom did not suffer from want. Situated in a fertile plain – the lower Jordan valley. They probably engaged in raiding their neighbor city states – taking spoil. They looked to making others be in need as the means to make their lives better. When people have plenty they tend not to think of God. They cannot picture themselves with more when they have all they ever wanted in this life.
“But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.” (Deuteronomy 32:15).
The name “Jeshurun” in Hebrew means “upright.” It is a name applied to the Jews in this text with irony. In the preceding verses God describes how he had taken His people, much like in the previous reference of Ezekiel 16, blessed and provided for them, giving them an abundance of food only to have them become fat like a bull and rebelled against Him. A situation of plenty seems to cause men to forget that they are dependent on God for “daily bread.”
They were afflicted with prosperous ease – idleness. God put man on earth to work – to earn his livelihood – to be creative. But there is also the need for rest and relaxation. Time to relax is something that all of us want and need at the end of a hard day. We would like to just relax and unwind. All understand the need for such occasions, but have we used our “free time” to be productive? The old adage, “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop” is undoubtedly true.
Ease and fun have become a national obsession. We don’t work to live, we work for the week-end and for vacations when we can enjoy our leisure. We look forward to retirement so we can “enjoy life.” It would be wise for us to beware. The lack of need contributed to the pride of Sodom and pride was what was behind their sin.
Part 2 tomorrow.