The Expository Files


Effects of Sin

Genesis 19

The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 is quite revealing for many reasons, but especially in regards to the effects of sin on people and their decision-making. At least four circumstances in the story show the different, deleterious effect of sinfulness on the people involved.

Sodom has a reputation for great sinfulness (Genesis 13:13). The report has come to God, and He sends His angels, in the form of men, to the city (Genesis 18). They lodge for the night with Lot, Abraham's nephew (Genesis 19:1-4). Then the difficulty begins.

But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called unto Lot, and said unto him, "Where are the men that came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them."

And Lot went out unto them to the door, and shut the door after him. And he said, "I pray you, my brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters that have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing, forasmuch as they are come under the shadow of my roof."

And they said, "Stand back."

And they said, "This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them."

And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and drew near to break the door (Genesis 19:4-9).

The Sodomites demand to do a horrendous thing in violating guests. Lot tries to bargain with them, but they will hear none of it.

We will set aside the ethical questions involving Lot's wager and instead focus on the reaction on the Sodomites. They are offended at Lot's "judgment." But what did Lot say that was so condemnatory?

Some reason that the Sodomites' reaction comes, in part, from previous experience with Lot. That may or may not be; we cannot say either way. But we do see that Lot "dares" to say that the Sodomites intend to "do wickedly" (Genesis 19:7). That, it seems, sets off the Sodomites. This sojourner now presumes to judge their behavior!

They are exactly right, but so is Lot: their intended action is wicked. Even in the twenty-first century, most people would recognize that what the Sodomites intended to do is wrong.

The Sodomites cannot really argue against what Lot says, and so they condemn him for his righteous judgment. Their consciences were pricked by his words, but it did not lead to repentance!

Such is the reaction that many have when their sinful actions are exposed for what they are. Their claims are bolstered in America by the growth of relativism in postmodern thinking: every individual decides what is right and wrong for him or herself. Therefore, if a person does not feel that their actions are sinful, they're not, no matter what anyone else might tell them. The entire idea that any behavior can be objectively called "sin" is even under fire! In such a climate, therefore, the reaction makes sense: who, really, can be the judge of such actions?

Too many in the modern world forgot the same thing that the Sodomites forgot: there is a God, and He does have an objective standard of right and wrong. Lot can call their actions "wicked" because God calls them "wicked" (Genesis 19:13)! The Sodomites can attempt to justify themselves, but they will not succeed.

It is important for us to remember that God is the ultimate Judge, not ourselves, and we must always speak His truth with love and compassion (James 4:12, Matthew 7:1-5, Ephesians 4:15). Nevertheless, we must call out sin for what it is (Ephesians 5:11). People might demand to know who we are to "judge" them. We can remember that the Sodomites asked Lot the same thing, and it certainly did not justify them. Avoiding the matter does not change the sin-- but it does show the level that many will go to in order to justify their actions. They know, deep down, that their actions are unjustifiable or at least open to criticism, but it is easier to condemn the messenger than it is to repent. Therefore, we see that one effect of sin is the willingness to condemn anyone as a "judge" who calls out their behavior for what it is, rather than coming to terms with the error of their ways.

The story continues, and things do not improve.

But the men put forth their hand, and brought Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves to find the door (Genesis 19:10-11).

The angels intervene to save Lot from certain death, striking the Sodomites with blindness. We are not told exactly how this blindness was accomplished, but it certainly does not stop the Sodomites. They persist in their futile attempts to satisfy their lusts.

Such represents the blindness that sin causes. They do not understand their physical blindness as an indication of the folly of their pursuit, and they continue, ever doggedly, in their attempt for satisfaction.

Most people do not experience such an evident and specific sign from the power of God, but how many ignore or deny the consequences of their sins? How many drug addicts, sexually immoral persons, gamblers, abusers, and others suffer great physical, emotional, or mental anguish because of their sin and yet persist in it?

Such people are likely not thinking clearly, just like the Sodomites of old. They have so entirely given themselves over to their sin that they obey its every command, regardless of the consequences. Any qualms or desires to change are often suppressed because of fear or frustration in failure. Even after sin has made life miserable, many such persons remain in it.

Sin, therefore, often blinds those who serve it, and they intend to fulfill the lusts of the flesh no matter the cost.

And the men said unto Lot, "Hast thou here any besides? Son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whomsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of the place: for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxed great before the LORD: and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it."
And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons-in-law, who married his daughters, and said, "Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy the city."
But he seemed unto his sons-in-law as one that mocked (Genesis 19:12-14).

We will speak shortly regarding Lot's compromises, but here it is clear that the men to whom his daughters are betrothed have more affinity with the Sodomites than with Lot. We are not told why it is that they think he is joking with them, but it is clear (as if it weren't already) that the Sodomites have no fear of God. Lot's words do not faze these men in the least, and they of all people have a reason to give him at least some credence.

Most people who have an inkling about the power of God, realization of what He has done in the past, and the ability to perceive wickedness, would probably at least schedule an impromptu vacation when such a message was brought. Those who were wise would not trifle with such a message.

But Lot's sons-in-law do not have that fear. "Who is this God who would destroy the city?" they may ask themselves. Perhaps they did not understand why God would think to destroy Sodom. Lot was a foreigner anyway. It must be one of his crazy foreign ideas.

Peter speaks of people in his own days who mock the idea that God will come one day in judgment (2 Peter 3:1-7). He reminds them of the days of Noah and the flood, and we could add to that the day of God's visitation upon Sodom. Yet how many today openly mock the idea that Christ will return and all people will be called into judgment? How many others think that they have no reason to fear for such a day, since they do not perceive the wickedness around them or in themselves (cf. Matthew 7:21-23)? How many think that those who proclaim the return of the Lord to be joking?

God, on the other hand, is quite serious, and the resurrection of Jesus is the proof (Acts 17:30-31). Human beings have developed sophisticated technology that allows for warnings for all sorts of natural disasters, and many people are more than willing to drop everything and flee when the signal is given. God has provided constant warning regarding spiritual disaster, and yet how many are willing to heed it and obey (Matthew 24:45-51)?

A life of sin in the midst of sin separates people so thoroughly from God that they often do not pay any attention to His warnings, just as Lot's sons-in-law would not listen to him. Sin, therefore, separates from God and leads to great hostility with Him, so that God's word seems to be folly or a joke (1 Corinthians 2:11-15, Romans 8:1-9).

God visits Sodom in judgment; the city is destroyed with fire and sulfur from Heaven (Genesis 19:17-28). Lot's wife did not make it; she looked back and became the pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). Lot and his two daughters make it safely to Zoar, and then flee to the hills.

And the first-born said unto the younger, "Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father."

And they made their father drink wine that night: and the first-born went in, and lay with her father; and he knew not when she lay down, nor when she arose.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that the first-born said unto the younger, "Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father."

And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he knew not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the first-born bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Ben-ammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day (Genesis 19:31-38).

In a very concrete way, Lot now lies in the bed he prepared for himself. He was given the choice of where to live, and he picked the verdant valley (Genesis 13:10-11). His tent moved from being pitched toward Sodom to being in Sodom, sitting in the gate of the city, and even betrothing his daughters to Sodomites (cf. Genesis 19). His wife is now a pillar of salt because of it all, and now his own daughters are compromised.

They know that there are still men running around; they are just convinced that they are cursed, for whatever reason, and will not obtain husbands. Therefore, in their minds, they will either be wards of their father forever and childless, or they can compel their father to become drunk and have children through incest. Their choice is evident.

Even if we were to grant that such is their choice, and that no man would want them after the events in Sodom, they still break one of the great social taboos of most of history. It demonstrates that regardless of any attempt of Lot to instruct his daughters in righteousness, sinful, worldly, result-motivated thinking dictated their decisions. Only in a sin-affected mind does it make more sense to have children through incest than to have no children at all!

We have been called to live in the world to be witnesses for Christ while remaining not of this world in our conduct (1 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 12:2). That is a tough balance to strike. But the effect of pervasive sinfulness is made evident in the example of the daughters of Lot. They probably did not learn from Lot that it was more important to have children sinfully than to be childless, but they learned the lesson anyhow. And, for whatever reason-- a lack of instruction, the influence of their mother, or just the influence of Sodom itself-- any teaching of Lot to the contrary did not win the day.

How many other "good, righteous" young men and women turn away from God and begin living according to the standards of the world, choosing the worldly perspective and not the godly one? They may not make the same decision as Lot's daughters, but when confronted with the righteous, sacrificial way of life versus the sinful, desire-satisfying way of life, they choose the latter. Perhaps it was a lack of instruction. Perhaps one or both parents were not the influences they should have been. Maybe they just imbibed too deeply from the well of culture, or allowed their friends to change their views. The result is the same.

Sin is not just a problem of the flesh; it is also a problem of the mind. That's where it starts (Matthew 5:28, Philippians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 10:5, James 1:14-15), and that's when the calculations begin. Lot's daughters knew what they were doing. Because of it, Lot is now thoroughly disgraced.

Lot goes from a man of much wealth and stature to a man residing in the hills, an exile from men, with his daughters and (grand)sons. Moab and Ammon will obtain shares of land near Israel but will always be inferior. Lot may have survived the destruction of Sodom, but he did not emerge unscathed. Such goes to show what happens when righteous people accommodate themselves to sin.

Sin's effect can even be felt among the righteous, leading them to no longer think according to God's ways, but accommodating themselves to the worldview of their environment. When their minds are conformed to this world, their actions soon follow (Romans 12:1). Such is why it is not enough to simply oppose sin in the flesh-- we must also oppose sin in the mind, and learn to conform even our thoughts and perspective to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

Sodom is now a byword for sin, and its effects are evident. Those in sin are hostile to God, ignorant of Him, often blind to the consequences of their own behavior, condemnatory to those who call them out for their behavior, and an influence for ill upon others. Such is why it is so important to follow the Apostle's command:

Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good (Romans 12:9b).

By Ethan R. Longhenry
From Expository Files 16.6; June 2009