Genesis 19.1–29: The overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (18 January 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters. Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.

Pray

Pray

Lord, prepare me to receive your word. Clear my mind and warm my heart. Assure me of your loving purposes for me, and speak into my life today.

Read

Read

The Sinfulness of Sodom

1When the two angels came to Sodom that evening, Lot was sitting at the city gate. As soon as he saw them, he got up and went to meet them. He bowed down before them 2and said, “Sirs, I am here to serve you. Please come to my house. You can wash your feet and stay the night. In the morning you can get up early and go on your way.”

But they answered, “No, we will spend the night here in the city square.”

3He kept on urging them, and finally they went with him to his house. Lot ordered his servants to bake some bread and prepare a fine meal for the guests. When it was ready, they ate it.

4Before the guests went to bed, the men of Sodom surrounded the house. All the men of the city, both young and old, were there. 5They called out to Lot and asked, “Where are the men who came to stay with you tonight? Bring them out to us!” The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with them.

6Lot went outside and closed the door behind him. 7He said to them, “Friends, I beg you, don't do such a wicked thing! 8Look, I have two daughters who are still virgins. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want with them. But don't do anything to these men; they are guests in my house, and I must protect them.”

9But they said, “Get out of our way, you foreigner! Who are you to tell us what to do? Out of our way, or we will treat you worse than them.” They pushed Lot back and moved up to break down the door. 10But the two men inside reached out, pulled Lot back into the house, and shut the door. 11Then they struck all the men outside with blindness, so that they couldn't find the door.

Lot Leaves Sodom

12The two men said to Lot, “If you have anyone else here — sons, daughters, sons-in-law, or any other relatives living in the city — get them out of here, 13because we are going to destroy this place. The LORD has heard the terrible accusations against these people and has sent us to destroy Sodom.”

14Then Lot went to the men that his daughters were going to marry, and said, “Hurry up and get out of here; the LORD is going to destroy this place.” But they thought he was joking.

15At dawn the angels tried to make Lot hurry. “Quick!” they said. “Take your wife and your two daughters and get out, so that you will not lose your lives when the city is destroyed.” 16Lot hesitated. The LORD, however, had pity on him; so the men took him, his wife, and his two daughters by the hand and led them out of the city. 17Then one of the angels said, “Run for your lives! Don't look back and don't stop in the valley. Run to the hills, so that you won't be killed.”

18But Lot answered, “No, please don't make us do that, sir. 19You have done me a great favour and saved my life. But the hills are too far away; the disaster will overtake me, and I will die before I get there. 20Do you see that little town? It is near enough. Let me go over there — you can see it is just a small place — and I will be safe.”

21He answered, “All right, I agree. I won't destroy that town. 22Hurry! Run! I can't do anything until you get there.”

Because Lot called it small, the town was named Zoar.

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

23The sun was rising when Lot reached Zoar. 24Suddenly the LORD rained burning sulphur on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah 25and destroyed them and the whole valley, along with all the people there and everything that grew on the land. 26But Lot's wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.

27Early the next morning Abraham hurried to the place where he had stood in the presence of the LORD. 28He looked down at Sodom and Gomorrah and the whole valley and saw smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a huge furnace. 29But when God destroyed the cities of the valley where Lot was living, he kept Abraham in mind and allowed Lot to escape to safety.

The Origin of the Moabites and Ammonites

30Because Lot was afraid to stay in Zoar, he and his two daughters moved up into the hills and lived in a cave. 31The elder daughter said to her sister, “Our father is getting old, and there are no men in the whole world to marry us so that we can have children. 32Come on, let's make our father drunk, so that we can sleep with him and have children by him.” 33That night they gave him wine to drink, and the elder daughter had intercourse with him. But he was so drunk that he didn't know it.

34The next day the elder daughter said to her sister, “I slept with him last night; now let's make him drunk again tonight, and you sleep with him. Then each of us will have a child by our father.” 35So that night they made him drunk, and the younger daughter had intercourse with him. Again he was so drunk that he didn't know it. 36In this way both of Lot's daughters became pregnant by their own father. 37The elder daughter had a son, whom she named Moab. He was the ancestor of the present-day Moabites. 38The younger daughter also had a son, whom she named Benammi. He was the ancestor of the present-day Ammonites.

Who is the Greatest?

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus, asking, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”

2So Jesus called a child, made him stand in front of them, 3and said, “I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. 4The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child. 5And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me.

Temptations to Sin

6“If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied round his neck and be drowned in the deep sea. 7How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such things will always happen — but how terrible for the one who causes them!

8“If your hand or your foot makes you lose your faith, cut it off and throw it away! It is better for you to enter life without a hand or a foot than to keep both hands and both feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. 9And if your eye makes you lose your faith, take it out and throw it away! It is better for you to enter life with only one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

10“See that you don't despise any of these little ones. Their angels in heaven, I tell you, are always in the presence of my Father in heaven.

12“What do you think a man does who has 100 sheep and one of them gets lost? He will leave the other 99 grazing on the hillside and go and look for the lost sheep. 13When he finds it, I tell you, he feels far happier over this one sheep than over the 99 that did not get lost. 14In just the same way your Father in heaven does not want any of these little ones to be lost.

A Brother or Sister who Sins

15“If your brother sins against you, go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves. If he listens to you, you have won your brother back. 16But if he will not listen to you, take one or two other persons with you, so that ‘every accusation may be upheld by the testimony of two or more witnesses,’ as the scripture says. 17And if he will not listen to them, then tell the whole thing to the church. Finally, if he will not listen to the church, treat him as though he were a pagan or a tax collector.

Prohibiting and Permitting

18“And so I tell all of you: what you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and what you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.

19“And I tell you more: whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?”

22“No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven, 23because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants' accounts. 24He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of pounds. 25The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. 26The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ 27The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.

28“Then the man went out and met one of his fellow-servants who owed him a few pounds. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. 29His fellow-servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ 30But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. 32So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. 33You should have had mercy on your fellow-servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ 34The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”

35And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Ezra Reads the Law to the People

1By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns. On the first day of that month they all assembled in Jerusalem, in the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law which the LORD had given Israel through Moses, to get the book of the Law. 2So Ezra brought it to the place where the people had gathered — men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. 3There in the square by the gate he read the Law to them from dawn until noon, and they all listened attentively.

4Ezra was standing on a wooden platform that had been built for the occasion. The following men stood at his right: Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and the following stood at his left: Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.

5As Ezra stood there on the platform high above the people, they all kept their eyes fixed on him. As soon as he opened the book, they all stood up. 6Ezra said, “Praise the LORD, the great God!”

All the people raised their arms in the air and answered, “Amen! Amen!” They knelt in worship, with their faces to the ground.

7Then they rose and stood in their places, and the following Levites explained the Law to them: Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah. 8They gave an oral translation of God's Law and explained it so that the people could understand it.

9When the people heard what the Law required, they were so moved that they began to cry. So Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law, and the Levites who were explaining the Law told all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God, so you are not to mourn or cry. 10Now go home and have a feast. Share your food and wine with those who haven't enough. Today is holy to our Lord, so don't be sad. The joy that the LORD gives you will make you strong.”

11The Levites went about calming the people and telling them not to be sad on such a holy day. 12So all the people went home and ate and drank joyfully and shared what they had with others, because they understood what had been read to them.

The Festival of Shelters

13The next day the heads of the clans, together with the priests and the Levites, went to Ezra to study the teachings of the Law. 14They discovered that the Law, which the LORD gave through Moses, ordered the people of Israel to live in temporary shelters during the Festival of Shelters. 15So they gave the following instructions and sent them all through Jerusalem and the other cities and towns: “Go out to the hills and get branches from pines, olives, myrtles, palms, and other trees to make shelters according to the instructions written in the Law.”

16So the people got branches and built shelters on the flat roofs of their houses, in their yards, in the temple courtyard, and in the public squares by the Water Gate and by the Ephraim Gate. 17All the people who had come back from captivity built shelters and lived in them. This was the first time it had been done since the days of Joshua son of Nun, and everybody was excited and happy. 18From the first day of the festival to the last they read a part of God's Law every day. They celebrated for seven days, and on the eighth day there was a closing ceremony, as required in the Law.

In Corinth

1After this, Paul left Athens and went on to Corinth. 2There he met a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, for the Emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3and stayed and worked with them, because he earned his living by making tents, just as they did. 4He held discussions in the synagogue every Sabbath, trying to convince both Jews and Greeks.

5When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul gave his whole time to preaching the message, testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. 6When they opposed him and said evil things about him, he protested by shaking the dust from his clothes and saying to them, “If you are lost, you yourselves must take the blame for it! I am not responsible. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7So he left them and went to live in the house of a Gentile named Titius Justus, who worshipped God; his house was next to the synagogue. 8Crispus, who was the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with all his family; and many other people in Corinth heard the message, believed, and were baptized.

9One night Paul had a vision in which the Lord said to him, “Do not be afraid, but keep on speaking and do not give up, 10for I am with you. No one will be able to harm you, for many in this city are my people.” 11So Paul stayed there for a year and a half, teaching the people the word of God.

12When Gallio was made the Roman governor of Achaia, Jews there got together, seized Paul, and took him into court. 13“This man,” they said, “is trying to persuade people to worship God in a way that is against the law!”

14Paul was about to speak when Gallio said to the Jews, “If this were a matter of some evil crime or wrong that has been committed, it would be reasonable for me to be patient with you Jews. 15But since it is an argument about words and names and your own law, you yourselves must settle it. I will not be the judge of such things!” 16And he drove them out of the court. 17They all seized Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the court. But that did not bother Gallio a bit.

The Return to Antioch

18Paul stayed on with the believers in Corinth for many days, then left them and sailed off with Priscilla and Aquila for Syria. Before sailing from Cenchreae he had his head shaved because of a vow he had taken. 19They arrived in Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He went into the synagogue and held discussions with the Jews. 20The people asked him to stay longer, but he would not consent. 21Instead, he told them as he left, “If it is the will of God, I will come back to you.” And so he sailed from Ephesus.

22When he arrived at Caesarea, he went to Jerusalem and greeted the church, and then went to Antioch. 23After spending some time there, he left and went through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the believers.

Apollos in Ephesus and Corinth

24At that time a Jew named Apollos, who had been born in Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he proclaimed and taught correctly the facts about Jesus. However, he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home with them and explained to him more correctly the Way of God. 27Apollos then decided to go to Achaia, so the believers in Ephesus helped him by writing to the believers in Achaia, urging them to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who through God's grace had become believers. 28For with his strong arguments he defeated the Jews in public debates by proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.

Reflect

Daily Reflection on Genesis 19.1–29

The men – only two of them by now – who'd visited Abraham were now with Lot. They were faced with sexual assault, which Lot tries to avert by offering his virgin daughters instead. The potential offence against the ancient code of hospitality was regarded as more serious than the rape of his daughters, something we now find deeply shocking. He and his family – minus his sons-in-law, natives of Sodom, and his wife, who looks back in evident regret – are helped by God's messengers to escape to Zoar, a small town which thereby avoids the destruction of the other cities of the plain. Lot's choice of the greener grass has ended wretchedly, and his trials are not over yet.

This is not an uplifting passage, but it's a very thought-provoking one. There are several themes in it. One is the ugliness of sin, which destroys communities and forces decent people into impossible situations. Another is the inevitability of judgement: while many atrocities do go unpunished, a story like this expresses God's abhorrence of evil.

The most sobering message is perhaps that sometimes there's nothing believers can do to influence a situation or make it better. We need to withdraw to a refuge, like Zoar – perhaps the thinking that lay behind the use of the name for so many Welsh chapels.

Pray

Pray

God, help me to grieve with you at the reality of evil and the wickedness of human beings. Preserve me in this fallen world, and help me to change it.

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