Law and Gospel—in Genesis

Have you ever noticed that after a spiritual high, that a low period follows? Such is the case as we continue reading from Genesis 17 (high) to Genesis 18-19 (low) with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But even there God’s mercy has the final word. God speaks Law to condemn and punish sin (Sodom and Gormorrah); but God also speaks Gospel (salvation) for Lot (his deliverance), and for Abraham, namely, the promise of his descendant confirmed again, now with a time frame attached.

Devotional Thoughts

In Genesis 18 three visitors come to Abraham. Abraham acts as the appropriate host for them. Quickly Abraham discovers that these are not ordinary visitors. In 18:10 we discover that Yahweh (LORD) himself is speaking.

The LORD said, “I will certainly come back to you in about a year’s time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!” (Genesis 18:10)

This confirms the promise that the LORD (Yahweh) had stated several times (Gen. 12, 15, 17) that Abraham would have a descendant, in fact, many descendants. While Sarah listens at the entrance to the tent she erupts into laughter. And who wouldn’t do that? Sarah thinks: “After I have become shriveled up and my lord is old, will I have delight?” (Genesis 18:12). God’s response in 18:14 “Is anything impossible for the LORD?” becomes descriptive about another birth to an old woman (Luke 1:37). But then the phrase reaches its ultimate use in describing God’s saving work:

Those who heard this asked, “Then who can be saved?”

He replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:26-27)

But these visitors have another aspect to their journey— the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is immense, and their sin is extremely serious” (Genesis 18:20).

When Abraham hears about God’s intention, he begins questioning the LORD (Yahweh). “Will You really sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” And then he starts the intercession ”Would you destroy for the sake of 50 righteous? 45 righteous, and so on down to 10 righteous? The LORD (Yahweh) shows his mercy in that if only 10 righteous people were found he would relent from destroying the cities. But such was not to be.

In chapter 19 the focus is now whether there are even 10 righteous people in the two cities: there are not. As the visitors come to Sodom, they are welcomed by Lot into his house. Due to his relationship to Abraham and his hospitality to them, God plans to spare Lot and his family, if they will flee.

Sadly, even Lot fails in this whole episode.

He said, “Don’t do this evil, my brothers. Look, I’ve got two daughters who haven’t had sexual relations with a man. I’ll bring them out to you, and you can do whatever you want to them. However, don’t do anything to these men, because they have come under the protection of my roof.” (Genesis 19:7-8)

While cultural hospitality dictated Lot’s response to protect his guests, his offer of his daughters is equally evil.

Then Lot faces their fury, and he is pulled to safety by the men/angels. These protectors of Lot then bring Lot and his family out of the city. Lot pleads to go to Zoar because he is not able to get as far away as his protectors demand. When he and his two daughters are safe, then the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah takes place.

Then out of the sky the LORD rained burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from the LORD. He demolished these cities, the entire plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and whatever grew on the ground. (Genesis 19:24-25)

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah, a paint...

The Destruction Of Sodom And Gomorrah (by John Martin)

The sin of the two cities and their destruction become significant foreshadowings of sin and God’s punishment throughout the Old Testament and New Testament. Isaiah even prophesies that Judah could have become like these two cities, except for God’s intervention.

If the LORD of Hosts had not left us a few survivors, we would be like Sodom, we would resemble Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:9)

Babylon will not be so fortunate:

And Babylon, the jewel of the kingdoms, the glory of the pride of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. (Isaiah 13:19)

By the time of Jeremiah and the destruction Jerusalem, however, conditions deteriorate among God’s people. Jeremiah laments:

The punishment of my dear people is greater than that of Sodom, which was overthrown in an instant without a hand laid on it. (Lamentations 4:6)

Sin is sin, and unrepentant sin is still that. And God’s judgment is upon those who continue in sin. Jesus even notes this when speaking of his own city, Capernaum:

And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until today.  But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11:23-24)

So also in 2 Peter 2:6 and Jude 7.

And yet—God calls in mercy. His desire is not destruction but mercy:

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

The episode with Lot continues downward as sadly his wife turns back to look at Sodom and she dies. His daughters then each sleep with him to have any hope of a continuing legacy. The older one gives birth to Moab, forming the people, Moabites, and the younger one gives birth to Ben-ammi, forming the people, Ammonites. While there is tension between these peoples throughout the Old Testament, there is also one note of hope. One woman from the Moabites, Ruth. will eventually marry into the descendants of Abraham, Boaz. They become great-grandparents of David (Ruth 4:18-22; Matthew 1:5-6).

Genesis 20 presents another instance of Abraham protecting himself by using Sarah as a defense (“she’s my sister”). This follows the similar pattern of Genesis 12:10-20. However, more detail is included in this episode. While some claim that this is an example of repetition or even different sources, there really doesn’t seem to be any reason to not accept that these are two separate incidents. In both cases God protects Sarah, Abraham, and even the king (Pharaoh and Abimelech).

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About exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian
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