Genesis 19 - Reflection

'Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ Genesis 18:25

Brothers and sisters, Amelie, my daughter, is just getting to the stage where her sense of justice and injustice is starting to show. She can’t quite say ‘That’s not fair’ just yet, but you can see it bubbling up inside her. We don’t need to teach our kids about fairness and justice we just need to channel it so that they can deal with it in the right way. Justice and fairness are built into each of us because we’re made in the image of a God who is the source of all that is just and fair. ‘Daddy, that’s not fair’ is just a first expression of part of our God-given likeness, and today’s passage (Genesis 18:16-19:29) has us focus in on God’s justice along with God’s mercy.

God’s justice is right, 18:20: ’Then the Lord said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.’ The victims of Sodom and Gomorrah’s crimes have been screaming for justice, and God has heard them. Sometimes we see this, don’t we? A place becomes so corrupt that it simply can’t be saved, it must be torn down. Sodom and Gomorrah have gotten just like corrupt corporate giants, just like Nazi Germany, and the victims are crying out, and God hears them. What is this great crime? What is it that has caused God to leave heaven and come down to investigate? It turns out Sodom is inhospitable! Last time we studied Genesis, we saw the importance of God’s people being hospitable because God is a hospitable God; and straight after Abraham’s hospitality to the angels we now see the exact opposite, the inhospitable town of Sodom. However, when I say ‘inhospitable’ don’t just think of someone not inviting someone else for Sunday lunch; things have gotten far worse in Sodom (Have a read of Genesis 19!) Notice—as you read it—that God doesn’t just take the victim’s word for it (as important as that is), no God goes and investigates for Himself. God puts Himself on the line, and goes into the lion’s den to see what this terrible city has become. After a careful and thorough investigation it turns out that Sodom & Gomorrah are as bad as people said, and God experiences this first hand. Justice needs to be done. And as we read chapter 19 it would be right to scream out, not just 'that’s not fair’, but also ‘God You must do something’. Justice is as important—if not more important—to God as it is to us, and God will see justice is done! Let us pause for a moment and let that truth sink in. Perhaps you’ve seen victims of injustice on TV; perhaps you’ve read about them in the papers; perhaps a neighbour, relative, or friend, has experienced a travesty of justice, or perhaps an injustice has happened to you. Well the God of Abraham, the God of Jesus, the God of the whole world sees and hears the cries of victims, and whether it is in this life or the next God will see that justice is done. Perhaps now victims are being overlooked, perhaps you have sought justice and it has been denied, and you are crying out in your heart ‘that is not fair’. Well God hears that cry, and He sees those tears, and God will one day put all things right.

Now, Abraham totally gets that justice needs to be done, and Abraham knows that justice needs to be done in Sodom and Gomorrah. However, Abraham wants to know about the flip side. Abraham wants to know if God is only about justice, only about punishing wrong-doers or whether there is more to God that that. Abraham has got to know God really well over the past twenty years or so, and he has been putting the jigsaw pieces together. Abraham has got to know this God of Love, and now as God is talking about justice—God is talking about doing away with a corrupt city—Abraham asks the questions we all want an answer to: ‘Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ What happens next is that Abraham asks God a load of questions along this theme. God lets Himself be interrogated—lets Himself be taken on a speed date if you like—so that Abraham and the reader, can get to know what He is like. Verse 23: ‘Then Abraham approached [God] and said: ‘Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?’ Is the God of the Old Testament who people say He is: just a deity interested in cold, hard, justice? And Abraham on behalf of us all is allowed by God to quiz Him about just this issue so that we can get to know what God is like. The Lord answers Abraham’s question just as Abraham and we had hoped, verse 26: ‘The Lord said, ‘If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’ ‘No’ says God ‘I’m not so fixated on justice—on punishing the wicked—that I will deal with a town, or any group of people, indiscriminately. I will not allow the righteous to get caught up in the mess. God answers as Abraham knew He would. God is a God of justice, Yes! But He is also a God of mercy a God who will do what is right. God will save the righteous. The ‘righteous’ are God’S people, those like Abraham back then, and those who are Christians now. Yes, God has a heart and a care for all victims, but especially as He has promised, for those who trust and believe in Him.

Where does that leave us? We have heard of how our God, is a God of justice and mercy. A God who cares that injustice is punished, and a God who cares that the righteous are saved. And if that is who our God is, then how can we not follow in His footsteps; to call out injustice wherever we find it; to stand up to bullies, criminals, and the wicked wherever we come across them; to pray for the victims, to bind up the injured, to feed the hungry, and to help the oppressed. The Church is not to hide in our buildings but to go out into the streets. Not just to care for the victims, but also to fight to make sure that the structures and people which created victims in the first place are brought to justice, and punished appropriately. We are to offer the Gospel to victim and oppressor alike, certain that the only way in which either will be made whole is if they come to know the God who made them; the God who came to earth, to put right what we have made wrong. That is the God we worship as Christians, and that crucified God is the One we are to serve, by standing both for justice, and also for mercy. Amen. (from Fr Mike).