In the coming weeks, we will read how God institutes the role of priest to stand between God and sinful humanity to plead for them, sacrifice for them, pray for them. Interestingly, Abraham even defends and mediates between God and the city of Sodom, acting as a sort of high priest on behalf of that city. Yet they do not clear the low bar of righteousness that Abraham pleaded for (only 10 righteous people) and they are destroyed. Only Lot and his family are spared and this not necessarily due to his own righteousness but rather (at least partially) to the mediation of Abraham (19:29).
But the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are not the only ones shown to be sinful in these two short chapters. Abraham and his party also repeatedly reveal an ugly, sinful side. See if you can keep up: Lot offers his daughters to the angry mob, Lot’s wife longs for the wicked city of Sodom, Lot’s daughters get their dad drunk and sleep with him and then Abraham tells the half-lie about his wife being his sister (again!).
Yet this is a fitting precursor to the characters we find all throughout the Bible. The stories are almost infamous surrounding David and Bathsheba, Sampson and Delilah, or the entire Israelite people during their wanderings in the desert. Or consider the New Testament example of Peter being told by Jesus, “Get behind me, Satan”. Not exactly good PR for God’s elite.
However, this should be encouraging to us for at least two reasons. First, if there is something in our Bible that would call in to question the character of one of our spiritual heroes, it actually lends an air of credibility to our story as true history. After all, if the Bible were all made up stories and fabrication, who would make up such broken, faltering fathers of the faith? This is what modern-day apologists call the “test of embarrassment”.
Second, it is encouraging to us because we are all of the broken, faltering sort ourselves. As Paul wrote, “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong . . . so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:26,27, 29)
1. In what ways did God demonstrate both justice and mercy in his dealings with Sodom and Gomorrah? With Lot?
2. What other embarrassing examples can you think of regarding biblical characters and their moral failings? Have you ever found consolation in God’s dealings with such people? Share an example.
3. Read 2 Corinthians 4:5-9. Do you identify with this imagery of “jars of clay”? Are there times when you don’t act as if your “power is from God and not from us”?