Paganism and Homosexuality: Cultural Self-Destruction. Genesis 19:1-14
In 1787 Alexander Tyler, a classics in history professor at the university of Edinburgh was asked what contributed to the fall of the Athenian republic. "He said, "A democracy is always temporary in nature. It simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time the voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidate who promised the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's civilizations from the beginning of history up to the present is about two hundred years. During those two hundred years these civilizations go through the following sequence. They begin in bondage, and so they move from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, and from courage to liberty. From liberty to abundance, from abundance to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, and from dependence back into bondage."
Once people hit the prosperity test then it is easy to just forget about the Lord, easy to become complacent, it happens in individual lives and collectively it happens in cultures and in societies; and once you become complacent, that leads to apathy where you just don't care any more about getting the truth or even applying or living the truth. Once you do that then the guard is dropped and evil, human viewpoint and paganism begins to come in. So there is the move back toward dependency and into bondage, and this is ultimately a tyranny to the sin nature. We see a classic example of that in Genesis chapter nineteen.
Genesis chapter 19 gives us the story of God's judgment on Sodom, on the cities of the plain, because of their perversion. We now have to set some framework, some background, to understand why God destroyed these cities and in terms of being able to understand application. Application of the Scripture isn't always only about how to figure out our won spiritual life and deal with our own problems. When people today focus only on that they are merely manifesting the same traits as the rest of the culture. It is the whole counsel of God that teaches us how to think biblically and how to interact with the events that surround us so that we can have real discernment in our lives and can understand everything that is going on. So we have to study passages like this in terms of how they present God's viewpoint on society, on culture, and on history. As we look at this chapter we are going to pick up a lot of principles of application related to understanding culture and civilization, how God governs the affairs of men, and how establishment laws operate. God established certain principles which He built into the human race, into the warp and woof of creation so that even before the fall these were necessary to follow in order to provide stability for man. These divine institutions now in a post-fall environment are disobeyed, and then they are violated what happens is that cultures and societies, whether it is a family or a church or a small local area or business, fail to follow them then they become enmeshed in the tyranny of man's sin nature. It always leads to self-destruction.
Genesis 19 is actually a part of a section of Scripture that began in Genesis 18. All of the events which happen in chapters 18 & 19 occurred within a 24-hour period. Chapter 18 provides the introduction. There is a test for Abraham. From chapter twelve everything focuses on Abraham until we get to chapter nineteen which focuses not on Abraham but on what is going on around him. So in conclusion what we see in chapter 18 is that verses 1-15 focus on a test for Abraham related to grace orientation, his grace orientation towards God, to these visitors who are coming to his tent, and his hospitality. Then in vv. 16-33 we see how that grace orientation is built on with his application of impersonal love. He finds out that God is going to bring judgment on Sodom, and although Lot has not treated him well and has abused the freedoms that Abraham gave him, abused Abraham's generosity, Abraham is going to intercede for Lot. The chapter provides a prologue or introduction to the main scene of judgment in chapter 19. So chapter 19 completely shifts the focal point to what is going on in Sodom.
As we approach the chapter we should ask ourselves a couple of questions. What is important about this episode with Sodom? There is this large section of verses here that don't have anything to do with Abraham at all, with his spiritual life, with God's covenant with him, the scene completely shifts. The first answer is that this serves as a warning to the nation Israel. Remember that Genesis is really the prologue to the Pentateuch and is written by Moses just before the people go into the land. And it is written to tell the people why God has chosen them, what God is going to do through them, and why they are a special people, why He has enabled them to defeat the Canaanites and why the Canaanites must be destroyed. This is a foreshadowing of that event and in chapter 19 we are going to see a warning that God gives Israel about assimilating to the culture of the Canaanites, that if they assimilate to the paganism of the Canaanite culture it will inevitably lead to a deterioration and downfall, and just as God judges the Sodomites God is also going to have to judge Israel.
The second answer that presents itself is that God is going to teach again, as He has twice already in Genesis the importance of judgment salvation. Judgment salvation was first taught in Genesis chapter three after Adam and the woman disobeyed God. God announced to them that there was going to be judgment as a result of that and what the consequences of that judgment were. Then God provides a gracious solution, so He teaches grace, that salvation can't be on the basis of their own works. God killed animals to provide them with the skins in which He taught the doctrine of salvation, that salvation would come through a sacrifice. Then in the next major judgment in Genesis was the judgment of the flood, and once again we see these two principles working together. The first principle is God's grace in providing a solution. He gave Noah the mission to proclaim the gospel, that there would be one way to be delivered from this flood, and that would be through the ark. So there is the gracious announcement of the coming judgment and the way of escape. The new generation after the flood began with eight believers who all understood the truth, and it is only a couple of generations before everything starts developing into pure paganism.
When we look at judgment salvation one thing that always comes out that is such a problem to people, and that is that God provides one and only one way of salvation. He doesn't let us decide how we want to be saved. There has to be an understanding of sin and righteousness. That is really the supporting doctrine for salvation, that the righteousness of God is violated. The righteousness of God was violated at the fall, it was violated in the civilization that led to the flood, and it is violated here in chapter nineteen, and that is why the righteousness of God is such a key element in the prologue of Genesis 18:16-33. The key issue there was righteousness. The point that Scripture makes again and again is that because God is righteous and man fails to meet God's standard of righteousness God is impelled by His own character, His own integrity, to judge mankind. And throughout all of the judgments we see elements of God's love. God delivers in grace, and in the case of the deliverance of the king of Sodom and all of the Sodomites from Chedorlaomer He uses the deliverance in such a way to focus our attention on their rejection of grace. There has been grace all the way through this, and a key principle in Scripture is that grace always precedes judgment. God can bless those who are operating on imputed righteousness. This is why God can bless Lot. Lot possess the imputed righteousness of Christ, he is positionally righteous. So God blesses righteous Lot and delivers him and He judges and condemns and destroys unrighteous Sodom.
That all deals with the second answer the question, which was that God is teaching judgment salvation, that His righteousness when violated must present judgment from His justice on fallen man, and that God also deals with man in grace and provides a redemption solution.
Going back to the first answer, this provides a warning to Israel of what God will do to them if they follow the path of the Canaanites that are in the land—Sodom foreshadows the perversion where the rest of the Canaanites were eventually going to go. Once man descends into paganism, apart from the grace of God and apart from biblical principles, all human society is going to degrade to the level of the Sodomite culture—if they assimilate the paganism of the Canaanites. That warning of God to Israel also applies to any society and any culture down through human history that degenerates and perverts the social institutions that God established from the creation for the order and peace and stability of the human race.
This warning is referenced in Deuteronomy 29:21-27, "And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law: so that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; and that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor bears, nor any grass grows therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath: even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what means the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: for they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not [idolatry], and whom he had not given unto them: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book."
Historically what happened to Israel is that they did assimilate to the paganism of the Canaanites. They adopted the idols and they bought into the fertility nature gods that dominated the surrounding nations and eventually bought into the Baal worship and the worship of the Ashere. This led them into sexual perversion and degradation. What we see here is that the Bible shows there is a relationship between rejection of God, social degradation, and sexual perversion. Sexual perversion is not morally, spiritually, and socially neutral. This is one of the myths that we hear from the so-called "gay" crowd, the homosexuals, that this isn't any different from heterosexual relationships, that they can have faithful homosexual relations—which is a lie, they can't, they don't, it is extremely rare. But what the Scripture is showing from a biblical viewpoint is that there is this connection between rejection of God, social degradation, the loss of freedom, and sexual degradation. And they can't be separated, they always go hand in hand down through history. If that isn't understood then people are just living the lie and going down the same path as what happened in Canaan. So the events of Genesis chapter nineteen are also designed to lay a foundation for what God is going to do in Israel in the future and to serve as a warning to the nation of what happens when you get away from the divine institutions, when you get away from the law, and what happens when you get involved in fertility religions and start thinking in terms of paganism.
That is why it is so important for us to understand why we can't think like pagans. Why we have to do an analysis of the culture around us is because these ideas constantly seep into the culture of local churches. You can rarely find churches today that aren't getting into praise and worship music and the contemporary chorus stuff, church growth and all these things. People are bringing all these pagan ideas with them, with all the baggage that they bring with them into the church, and nobody is teaching them how to identify the elements of pagan thought in their own mentality.
1) In 2504 BC was the flood.
2) The next major event comes between the flood and Abram and we don't know when it occurred: the tower of Babel. Bible references suggest that it occurred somewhere between 2300 and 2200 BC.
3) Abraham is born about 2166 BC. Why worry about these dates? There is a progression and a deterioration that takes place during this time. As opposed to evolution society isn't gradually improving. What we see is a degradation that occurs in society after the flood, a deterioration. This occurs dramatically in these two to three hundred years between the flood and the tower of Babel.
4) During the approximately two to three hundred years between the flood and Babel the human race multiplied incredibly to at least several million people. There would have been few deaths and if they had large numbers of children then they could easily have reached a population of several million. Some of them spread out throughout the Middle East but they really didn't scatter around the earth as God had commanded. They began to establish major urban areas and seemed to localize around Babel. That is when there was the episode of their rebellion, building the tower of Babel over against God's command to scatter.
5) Spiritually that time period began with eight people who were all believers and who all understood the existence of God, the righteousness and justice of God, and the grace of God. They understood that He was a personal God, an infinite God.
6) In three generations Nimrod is born, the grandson of Noah, and there was seen the start of the perversion of religion into nature religions and the worship of the forces of nature, and especially fertility and sexuality. This begins in that period between the flood and the tower of Babel.
7) This degeneration is described for us in Romans chapter one. Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." So what was going on in that period was that men were rejecting reality as God defined it. They are worshipping other gods and deifying nature, and they are suppressing the truth. They no longer want to look at the world as God said it is but are starting to twist and distort it and come up with alternate views and explanations of reality. Verse 19, "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Now this is not stating the validity of the argument known as intelligent design. Those are philosophical arguments and they can be taken apart by any good logician at times and sometimes they are not stated very well. But what this is saying is that everything in creation is of such a nature and God has structured everything so that there is something in the human soul that receives a non-verbal testimony from the stars, the sun, the moon, and everything is broadcasting to man created in the image and likeness of God, that God exists. It is a non-verbal revelation. Everyone knows it so that in the last phrase of verse 20, "they are without excuse." No one can say they didn't know. Verse 21, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful [this is the post-flood civilization]; but became vain in their imaginations [they structured creation myths that were foreign to reality], and their foolish heart was darkened." Verse 22, "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." Some of those today who promote the evolution theories have multiple Ph Ds, tremendous IQs. Why are they fools? They said there is no God. Once you reject God then everything else starts to fall apart. Verse 23, "And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." This is the first stage in the development of human viewpoint religion after the flood. They began to worship nature, animals, and the forces of nature. Therefore, as a result of that comes the first cycle of divine judgment, v. 24: "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves." Their immorality, the lust in their hearts, dishonoring their bodies among themselves, is all judgment on them because they rejected God. God begins to take the restraint off a society or group of people the more negative they become and it gets worse and worse sand worse. Verse 25, "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." Then in verse 26, the second cycle of degeneracy: "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature [lesbianism]: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is shameful, and receiving in themselves that penalty of their error which was due." We live in a society that has lost the impact of the shame, the stigma that should be there. That shows how even our souls become calloused to the sin that is around us. Verse 28, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful." A perfect description of the post-modern society and a perfect description of what was going on in the Canaanite culture in the ancient world. We see it really played out in the book of Judges.
To understand what is happening we have to go back to a breakdown of the divine institutions. A divine institution is a social structure that God has established for the safety, security, perpetuation and stability of the human race.
The first divine institution is individual responsibility. Man is accountable to God, but what happens when man rejects God to whom do they then become accountable? They become accountable to whoever has the power to enforce whatever rules and laws there might be. That is called tyranny. So once there is a breakdown in individual responsibility man becomes subordinate to strong men, tyrants, despots, and that is really what there was after the flood when some of the most tyrannical leaders in human history developed in terms of the divine kings of Egypt and the kings of the Mesopotamian empires. These were men who were much more tyrannical and despotic than any of the despots of our era.
The second divine institution is marriage. The husband is the leader in the home. When that is perverted the home breaks down. The home is the institution in which values are perpetuated to the next generation. They are taught, they are handed down; parents discipline a child.
The third divine institution is the family where the parents are the authority.
These three divine institutions were all established before the fall, and they are what breaks down when we get into Sodom. There is no individual responsibility to God, there is no accountability to anybody, so we can do whatever we want to with our own bodies and with our culture. So marriage then becomes perverted resulting into all sorts of sexual sin and perversion. Then, third, the family breaks down once the marriage breaks down and as a result of this the whole society just becomes fragmented.
The fourth divine institution is governing judicial authority. God established with the Noahic covenant when He delegated the authority to take human life when someone has committed murder. That is such a tremendous responsibility that all other legal action flows from that. When man has the responsibility to take the life of another human being because they have committed murder then man has the right to execute justice and judgment in all lesser areas. So we have the delegation of judicial authority and that becomes the basis for human government.
The fifth comes out of the tower of Babel, which is when God divides the languages, divides man into various tribal groups, and it is that distinction that becomes nations. That is important for the perpetuation of the human race, and the ultimate authority there is back to God because God is the one who governs history. That is what we see in the breakdown in Sodom and Gomorrah: God is going to intervene because all the divine institutions have broken down and He is going to take them out as a national entity.
8) As part of the religious degeneration we see that social and sexual degeneration develops. The biblical viewpoint is that these things always go together, and when man rejects God's authority he also rejects God's established institutions. Not only does man pervert himself but he perverts God's intention for society and the institutions for society.