I once heard a minister tell an audience, "The Old Testament isn't relevant to our times. There isn't any need to study it anymore."
How wrong he was! One reason I love reading the Old Testament is because it explains the New Testament in clear, simple terms. Its stories are full of types and shadows of eternal truths, played out in the practical lives of real people.
For example - in the Old Testament, Israel is a type of Christian, and Egypt represents the world. And Israel's journey through the wilderness represents our spiritual work as Christians. Also, the tree that healed the waters at Marah is a type of the cross of Christ. And the rock that produced water in the desert is a type of our savior, who was smitten on the cross.
Indeed, scripture makes clear that all of Israel's physical battles mirror our spiritual battles today: "All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). Even the tabernacle and its furniture are examples of heavenly things: "Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount" (Hebrews 8:5).
All these Old Testament examples are meant to keep us from falling into unbelief, as Israel did. The author of Hebrews writes, "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (4:11). In other words: "Study the Old Testament, and learn from Israel's example. Don't make the same mistakes they did!"
Whenever I don't understand a truth in the New Testament, I turn to the Old Testament to find it illustrated in some way. For example - let's say I want to learn how to bring down any spiritual walls the devil may have built up in my life. I would turn to the story of Joshua, to see how the walls of Jericho were brought down. Israel's physical battle with those walls provides me with a picture and a pattern, to help me understand how I can bring down all walls that keep me from attaining fullness in Christ.
Likewise, if I want to learn about prevailing in prayer, I would turn to the story of Jacob, to see how he wrestled with the angel. Or, if I want to learn how to protect my anointing as a minister, I would read about Samson, to study how he lost his anointing.
In this way, the story of Sodom provides us with a powerful example of God's hatred for sin. The apostle Peter writes, "God...turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly" (2 Peter 2:6). Peter is saying, "There's a purpose in what God did to Sodom. His dealings with that city should be a lesson to every society!"
Let's consider the story of Sodom, that we might uncover the New Covenant truth it illustrates:
The New Testament Is All About Getting You Out of
Sodom, Getting Sodom Out of You, and Getting You
Onto a Mountain - Into The Presence of the Lord!
In Genesis 19 we read the story of Lot, who was Abraham's nephew. The apostle Peter describes Lot as being just and righteous (see 2 Peter 2:7-8). Yet Lot lived in a place he never should have been - in wicked Sodom.
Even today, Sodom is associated with all that is evil, violent, perverted and ungodly. The city's sins became so vile and wicked, their stench reached into heaven. And finally God said, "Enough! The sin of this city has risen to heaven. Now I'm going to burn Sodom to the ground!" (The Hebrew meaning of "Sodom" is "scorched, burnt.")
Most of us think of Sodom as a type of modern-day wicked city - such as San Francisco, with its militant, in-your-face homosexuals; or New York City, with its greed and violence; or New Orleans, with its devilish Mardi Gras. But the truth is, we need only to look at our own hearts to find Sodom.
You see, we all are born with the Sodomite nature - a heart that is exceedingly wicked, full of every evil thing: "Yea, in your heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth" (Psalm 58:2). "Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord" (Proverbs 6:14). "An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief" (verse 18).
Jesus himself says the Sodomite nature is in us from birth: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man..." (Matthew 15:19-20).
Despite this nature, God called Lot righteous. Yet Lot had a deep spiritual problem: He was bound by an unseen cord to Sodom! The vile city had a hold on his heart. And Lot couldn't break loose from it, despite the continual decay of his soul: "For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds" (2 Peter 2:8).
Lot knew better than to remain in Sodom. Scripture says, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful" (Psalm 1:1). Lot should have decided, "That's it - I've got to get out of here! If I stay any longer, this iniquity will lay hold of me. It will cost me my soul!" But he never had the willpower to go.
God had already given Lot at least one opportunity to leave. In Genesis 14, we read that a confederate army of kings invaded Sodom and Gomorrah, looting the cities and taking the people captive. Lot and his family were among those captured (see Genesis 14:12).
When Abraham heard about the attack, he armed his 318 servants and pursued the invaders. And, through God's miracle-working power, he overcame those enemy kings and recovered everything: "He brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people" (verse 16).
Lot had received supernatural deliverance from Sodom. But instead of leaving the wicked city, he went straight back to it!
My late friend Leonard Ravenhill, the great prophetic man of God, wrote a book called Sodom Had No Bible. Indeed, Sodom had no scriptures - but that city did have one of the most powerful sermons ever preached to humankind. The sermon was Abraham - a godly man who stood for righteousness.
The people of Sodom saw Abraham worship, pay tithes and walk humbly before the Lord. And when he refused to accept a reward for rescuing their city, it was a loving rebuke to their wicked lifestyle. Abraham wouldn't accept even a shoelace from Sodom! (see verse 23).
This godly man's example should have sent shudders through Lot - but it didn't. Lot still refused to leave Sodom. I've often wondered, "Why didn't Lot go? The Bible says he loved God. Surely he was concerned for his own soul."
I believe God is making a point to us in this passage. The point is, no person - not even a holy preacher like Abraham - can deliver us from the sin in our heart. No one can bring us out of Sodom - because human flesh has no power in itself to provide full and complete deliverance!
I See Lot as a Type of
Old Testament Believer
Lot represents a kind of struggling Christian today. This believer has received by faith the imputed righteousness of Christ. Yet his soul is vexed by the sin he sees both in society and in his own heart. He knows he loves God. But something remains in his soul - perhaps a wicked habit or persistent evil thoughts.
God's law tells him, "Lay aside every weight and besetting sin. The wages of sin is death." Indeed, the law continually demands this believer's obedience. Yet it also continually condemns his heart. Every time he fails, it screams out, "Guilty!"
This Christian knows he is powerless to walk away from his sin. He has promised God time after time he'll do better. But he always gives in to his iniquity. And he ends up crying, "I'm totally bound. I have no power to overcome this." He can't get himself out of Sodom!
Under the Old Covenant, absolute obedience was required. God's law made no allowances for even the slightest disobedience. Simply put, the soul that sinned died.
Those commandments were laid out clearly, describing the perfect obedience a holy God requires. Yet the law made no provision in the flesh for such obedience. And man found himself utterly unable to keep the law's demands. Paul called the law "...a yoke upon the neck...which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear" (Acts 15:10).
Yet, Paul also describes the law as a "...schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24). The law exposes our hearts, teaching us we are weak-willed, helpless as babies, in need of a savior.
At this point, you may be wondering, "Why would God demand perfect obedience from us, and yet not provide us with power to comply?" The Bible makes it clear: God had to bring us to a place where we realized we had no power to escape our sin!
It took Israel four hundred years of affliction to learn they couldn't provide their own deliverance. They couldn't rid themselves of their slave masters in their own strength. They had to have a deliverer - a God who would reach down and bring them out of their bondage.
And it took centuries - up to the time of Zechariah - for Israel to recognize their need for a redeemer. They finally became convinced they needed a savior who would "...be unto (them) a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her" (Zechariah 2:5). God himself would be the fire around them - and the glory within them!
Yet many Christians today still have not learned this lesson. They are living under the law - striving in their flesh, making promises to God, trying to get free from their sin. They wake up each day saying, "This is the day, Lord! I'm going to find the strength and willpower to break these chains. With just a little more effort, I'll be free!"
No - it will never happen! It will only end in more guilt. The law is meant to drive them to the cross - to acknowledge their helplessness, their need for a redeemer!
Perhaps you're resting comfortably, thinking, "This message doesn't apply to me. I have no besetting sin. I'm not involved in fornication or adultery, and I don't drink or smoke. Praise the Lord, there is nothing of Sodom in me."
You could not be more mistaken! James writes, "Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James 1:14). We all are enticed by our lusts - every one of us, with no exceptions!
James then adds: "...when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin..." (verse 15). He is speaking here of the birth process. In each of our hearts is a womb of lusts - and every sin we commit is born from that womb. Just as no two babies are alike, no two sins are alike. Each person produces his own kinds of sin. And, over the years, many Christians grow comfortable with their secret sin. Like Lot, they become blind to it and begin to take it lightly.
I think of many such examples within the body of Christ: We wink at the sin of seeking others' praises. We wink at the sin of lusting for position. We wink at the sin of pride over our spiritual roots, our biblical knowledge, our consistent prayer life. We may see ourselves as a humble, kind, teachable - but we are not!
God doesn't take any of our sins lightly. I learned this the hard way. Today, as I look back over nearly fifty years of ministry, I cringe at those times I was deceived by the sin of pride.
I remember being the featured speaker at a particular ministers conference. I thought, "The Lord has blessed me with such great revelation. I'm not impressed by any of the big-name people here. God set me apart from birth as an anointed preacher!"
Not long after that, I ended up under the Holy Ghost's searchlight - and it shone directly on my pride. If I hadn't clung to Paul's exhortation to put the former things behind me, I would have fallen into despair. But God showed his mercy to me. I thank the Lord for his grace and longsuffering toward me, then and now.
Today, my heart-cry is, "Lord, I know I'm not the humble, unassuming minister I've always thought myself to be. I've been cocky, self-assured, driven. Now I realize any anointing I have is because of your lovingkindness!"
My lusts may not be your lusts. But I believe there are three things we all must do, if we are to be delivered from Sodom:
1. We Must Take God at His Word
That He Is Serious About Burning
Out Of Us All That Is of Sodom!
"The Lord said...the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and...their sin is very grievous" (Genesis 18:20). We all love to hear about God's mercy, grace and longsuffering. But we don't want to face the fact that someday soon he will come against everything that is of Sodom!
God revealed his nature to Moses this way: "The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin..." (Exodus 34:6-7). Yet in the very next phrase, God added: "...[I] will by no means clear the guilty..." (verse 7).
The Lord was saying, "I will not wink at sin! Yes, I am merciful and longsuffering. But the time is coming when I my patience with your sin will end. And that is when Sodom will burn!"
Lot was given this warning. Two angels came to him, saying, "Get out quickly, Lot, before you're consumed with iniquity!" "...Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters...lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city" (Genesis 19:15).
We know Lot didn't take this warning seriously. In fact, he slept so soundly, the next morning the angels had to rouse him. Lot's sons-in-law must have thought, "If he really believed the warning, he'd be on his way out of here right now. But he's doesn't believe it - so, why should we?" This should be a lesson to us all! We can witness about Jesus' return all we want. But if we don't live as if Christ is about to return, no one will listen to us!
Now, I believe in what are called "divine ultimatums." This is when the Holy Ghost knows your sin is about to bring you to ruin. Yet, before your secret lust bursts into a consuming flame, the Lord comes to you and says: "I am the God of grace, and I want to deliver you out of this. Now, turn from your sin. Obey my word!"
These ultimatums are found throughout the Bible. For instance, Acts tells us Ananias and Sapphira were warned not to grieve the Holy Ghost by lying to him. And when they did, they dropped dead (see Acts 5). Likewise, Paul warns against grieving the Spirit: "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).
It doesn't matter how much you pray or fast, or how faithful you are in doing God's work. If you won't admit your sin is conceived of your own lusts - and if you don't believe God will deal seriously with it - you are deceived!
2. You Must Stop Trying to
Make a Deal With Your Sin!
Lot's day of reckoning finally came. A wild mob of Sodomite men surrounded his house, pounding on the door and shouting obscenities. They demanded that Lot send out the two angels so they could rape them: "And they called unto Lot...Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them" (Genesis 19:5).
It was a horrifying scene. Yet Lot's reaction was to try to strike a deal with the men. Evidently, Lot was a judge in Sodom because he sat at the city gates, and he had a reputation to protect. So he tried to reason with the mob. He even went as far as calling them "brethren" - proving he had taken Sodom's sin too lightly!
"...I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which 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..." (verses 7-8).
One theologian writes that Lot knew these men wouldn't harm his daughters, because they were homosexuals. Perhaps Lot reasoned to himself, "These men are partying sodomizers, looking to fulfill their perverted lusts. They're no threat to women. If I send my daughters out now, they'll come home tomorrow morning unharmed."
How foolish! Even if that were true, Lot would have been trying to rid one sin with another. But it is impossible to bargain with lust! Whenever you try to build limits around it, it always breaks out, spilling beyond its borders.
Lot is an example of what hidden sin can do to a righteous man. He clearly was deluded. His sin had produced in him such a dangerous condition that he would give up everything to save face - including his beloved family. He probably thought, "If this works, I'll save my daughters and my reputation as well. Everything will remain as it was before. Life in Sodom isn't so bad after all!"
This man was not ready to face reality! He was dragging out his moment of reckoning - still wheeling and dealing, trying to delay God's deliverance in his life. And beloved, that is the attitude many Christians have today. They convince themselves, "My God is a God of mercy. He delivered me from my sin before, and he'll do it again."
No! God is saying to you through this passage, "No more bargaining. No more trading a lighter sin for a heavier one. It all has to go!"
3. Lot Never Did Get Out
Of Sodom on His Own!
Lot would have died in the holocaust, had not God taken matters into his own hands. The Lord literally grabbed Lot and his family and pulled them out of the city: "While he lingered, the men [angels] laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city" (Genesis 19:16).
What a glorious picture of our Lord's New Covenant grace! As Lot lingered on the brink of destruction, with no strength or will to deliver himself, God hand-led this confused, deluded, sin-bound man to safety. He was telling Lot, in essence, "I love you, and I'm not going to let you die in this holocaust. You're a righteous man, Lot - and I've warned you. Now, come!"
"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). The literal meaning for "without strength" here is "without an ability or will." God says he is willing to act for us - because we have nothing to give!
The Lord had one more directive for Lot: "...Escape for thy life; look not behind thee...escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed" (Genesis 19:17). The mountain here represents God's presence, a place alone with him. We see this image repeated throughout scripture: It was on a mountain that Moses was touched by God's glory...that Christ was transfigured before his disciples...that Jesus sought his father in prayer. All these things happened on a mountain.
"Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness" (Psalm 48:1). "...let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths..." (Isaiah 2:3). The message here is: "When God delivers you by faith in his promises, run straight to the mountain of his holiness!"
Yet Lot still wasn't willing to run to God's presence. He said, "...I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die" (Genesis 19:19). Instead, he asked God to let him take a detour to Zoar.
God allowed it. And Lot did eventually end up on the mountain. But once he was there, something worse than Sodom happened. Lot got drunk and was seduced by his two daughters, who bore sons from the incestuous acts. What a tragic picture! And it all happened because Lot - though delivered - would not move on to fullness in God.
That Is the Old Testament Type
- But Now Let Me Show You
the New Testament Truth!
I believe the following passage reveals how God delivers us out of Sodom:
"According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:3-4).
God comes to us in our deluded, bound condition with powerful promises of full and complete deliverance. He says, "I pledge to deliver you and keep you from iniquity. And I will give you a heart to obey me. Now, let my promises lay hold of you!"
What a wonderful, freeing truth! We are led out of our sin as we lay hold of God's promises. Think about it for a moment. Peter says the believers he was addressing in this epistle had "...escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (verse 4). How did these Christians escape sin? They were given divine power - life and godliness - through their faith in God's promises!
Dear saint, your father wants you to know fullness of joy in Christ. And that joy will break out only as you are freed from the power of sin. So, allow the Holy Spirit to go into the womb of your lusts and remove everything that is unlike Christ. Pray to the Lord right now:
"Oh, Father - I agree with you about my sin. The stench of my compromise has reached into heaven. And I know it has to go immediately! Lord, I receive your loving, divine ultimatum. And I lay everything down before you. Set fire to everything wicked in me. And let your promises take hold of my heart. Lead me to the mountain of your holiness!"
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