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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, July 20, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Genesis 18:20–32

Then the Lord said, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me, and if not, I will know.”

So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to my lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh, do not let my lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to my lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh, do not let my lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” (NRSV)

What was the grave sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?

The prophet Ezekiel addressed this, saying, “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease but did not aid the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49). They did not care for the vulnerable in their own cities, and they did not extend hospitality and safety to travelers and strangers passing through from other places. And it wasn’t just that everyone was scraping by. Some had “prosperous ease” and excess of food but were greedy and prideful and allowed others to die in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Jesus references Sodom and Gomorrah in the Gospel according to Matthew. Jesus says to the seventy-two apostles he sent out, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words . . . it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town” (Matthew 10:14–15). The sin of not welcoming travelers was a matter of life and death in the ancient Near East, and one that Jesus took very seriously.

The story of men trying to attack angels in Sodom is often used as a judgement on the LGBTQ+ community (Genesis 19:1–11). Historically, interpreters have said that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was homosexuality. But Lot did not believe the men were gay men. He offered his virgin daughter to be assaulted by them in place of the angels they wanted. And when Lot resisted the violent men, they called him an “alien,” an outsider, and tried to attack him, again demonstrating that the men of Sodom did not welcome “strangers” but instead attacked them. And the angels saved Lot.

God of justice, help me to study your holy scripture thoughtfully and deeply. Give me courage to welcome strangers and willingness to share the resources that I have. Give me conviction to learn about those who are different from me. Soften my heart to love, and open my eyes and mind to see your image in all those whom I meet. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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