I have heard the question raised, “Is God judging America for our national sins? How else are we to explain natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and plagues?” I do not know how to answer that question other than to turn to scripture, which is the final authority.
What comes to mind is Abraham’s intercession for the city of Sodom. Genesis 18:20-33 records how the Lord met with Abraham on his way to investigate the grievous sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham proceeded to negotiate with the Lord on behalf of any righteous people he might find in Sodom: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”
What about fifty? Forty-five? Will you spare the city if you can find forty righteous people? What about thirty? Twenty? Then Abraham reached out in audacious faith, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
The Lord agreed to withhold judgment for the sake of ten righteous people if they could be found in Sodom. “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” Unfortunately, there were not even ten and Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.
This true story teaches . . .
- God is holy and his judgments are legitimate. Divine patience has a breaking point (Genesis 15:16). Abraham knew this as he was praying for Sodom, “Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” Earlier events in Genesis reveal God’s willingness to exercise righteous judgment against entire civilizations.
- The Lord reveals his plans to his people. Just as he spoke to Abraham about what he intended to do, so he has given repeated warnings in scripture for us to read today. I think that is why God-fearing people suspect strongly that God is acting in judgment, warning our nation about the consequences of sin. The danger to America is only going to get worse if we do not repent in humility before God.
- God’s people are called to pray for the nation (Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Timothy 2:1-3). Abraham was convinced there were righteous people in Sodom, and so he appealed for the city on the basis of God’s justice. Those who were connected to the Lord by faith, as Abraham was, were considered “righteous” throughout the Old Testament. Those who rejected the will and word of God were called “wicked.”
- The implication in Abraham’s prayer and the Lord’s response is that the righteous remnant have a preserving effect upon society. They do this by living righteously and teaching their children to do the same (v. 19).
- God’s judgment of Sodom teaches us that social evils bring social consequences. Entire populations suffer for the evils that are tolerated by a society.
- God is willing to withhold judgment. The God of justice is also a God of mercy. He always does what is right. If he judges a nation for its hubris and arrogant unbelief, he is just. If he withholds judgment, for the sake of a believing remnant, he is just. If he rescues that remnant just before judgment falls, he is just.
- The righteous will ultimately be saved. The twin themes of Genesis 19 are destruction and deliverance. Lot was rescued just ahead of the destruction that fell upon his city. The fact that a man of Lot’s dubious character would be delivered, magnifies the grace of God in the rescue of sinners (2 Peter 2:7-9).
Pastor Randy Faulkner