[A new initiative for public witness in political context; see also the Jeremiah 19 Liturgy]
The Sodom Lament
John C. Rankin
Leader: Today we gather in the name of Jesus to remember why Yahweh Elohim overthrew the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah nearly four thousand years ago. There is nothing new under the sun. Our nation faces the same judgment today, for the same aggregate reality of sexual anarchy that leads to social anarchy and thus, to the trampling of the poor and needy.
People: In Genesis 1, the social order is created for male and female together as the image of God to govern his good creation and have children.
Leader: In Genesis 2, man and woman become one in marriage as the foundation for the social order.
People: In Genesis 3, the ancient serpent divorces the decision making between the woman and man in order to destroy marriage and the social order.
Leader: In Genesis 4, this brokenness leads to murder and bigamy.
People: In Genesis 5, the reassertion is made of the equality and complementarity of male and female, marriage and parenthood.
Leader: In Genesis 6, the judgment of the Flood is due to the reification of women in the building of harems – the very mockery of marriage.
People: In Genesis 9-11, the stage is set for the Canaanites and Babylonians to advance the triad of sorcery, sacred prostitution and child sacrifice, further degrading faithful marriage.
Leader: In Genesis 16, Abraham yields to taking a concubine, and this broken marriage yields endless wars between the nations through the pain of Ishmael not having access to his father.
People: In Genesis 19, the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah is due to a sexual anarchy that morphs into social anarchy and the trampling of the poor and needy, as the biblical concept of marriage is but a distant memory.
Leader: The Bible mentions Sodom forty-eight times, from Genesis to Revelation, often along with her smaller sister city Gomorrah. And in eighteen of these texts, the sins of Sodom are given reference, and a complete profile emerges.
People: In Genesis 13:10-13, Sodom and Gomorrah are referenced well before their destruction, when Lot chooses to settle there: “Now the men of Sodom were sinning greatly before the LORD.”
Leader: In Genesis 18:20-21, we read: “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.’ ”
People: In Genesis 18:22-33, Abraham intercedes for the coming judgment of Sodom, but not even ten righteous people could be found in the city.
Leader: In Genesis 19, two angels of Yahweh, appearing as men, come to Lot’s house (nephew of Abraham) to evacuate him and his family from the coming destruction. Then “ … all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’ ” Lot protects the angels, but not his daughters, and the angels rescue him and his daughters from such evil, for he still has a conscience.
People: These men were pansexual – willing to have sex with men or women, but as rapists in both cases. Sexual anarchy and social anarchy erupt in the middle of the night as the apex of Sodom’s degradation, after which Yaheweh rains down burning sulfur, consuming the two cities and immediate environs.
Leader: In Deuteronomy 29:16-28, Moses uses Sodom and Gomorrah as an example for the Israelites if they break the covenant. They will be liable if they worship detestable idols and false gods, causing a “root” which “produces such bitter poison.”
People: In Deuteronomy 32:31-35, Moses refers to Sodom and Gomorrah in the parallel idioms of poison, bitterness, the venom of serpents and deadly poison of cobras.
Leader: In Isaiah 1:9-31, Sodom and Gomorrah is used as an example of judgment upon the “Daughter of Zion” (Jerusalem) – they were worshiping false gods, doing wrong, with hands full of blood, committing evil deeds, oppressing the downtrodden, the fatherless and widows, acting like a harlot, were murderers, rebels, sinners, thieves who loved bribes, and engaged in sacred prostitution.
People: In Isaiah 3:8-9, Jerusalem staggers like a drunk, and “they parade their sin like Sodom” – against a backdrop of those sins being sorcery, boys as the rulers, oppression, the youth rising up against the old and the base against the honorable, lawlessness, youths oppressing the people with women ruling over them, the plundering and “grinding the faces” of the poor, and haughty promiscuous women flaunting their wealth.
Leader: In Isaiah 13:19, “Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of Babylonian pride,” the source of all pagan religion, “will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah.”
People: In Jeremiah 23:9-24, the analogy to Sodom and Gomorrah is at the center of judgment being pronounced on false prophets. “The land is full of adulterers,” and “ ‘[t]he prophets follow an evil course and use their power unjustly. Both prophet and priest are godless, even in my temple I find their wickedness,’ declares the LORD.’ ” And then the analogy: “And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.” Thus, they will “eat bitter food and drink poisoned water,” the prophets who speak false “visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD,” they who despise Yahweh, they who proclaim false peace, they who refuse to speak truth to the people, they who should “have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.”
Leader: In Ezekiel 16:44-58, the judgment on Jerusalem is rooted in a comparison to pagan nations as her parents, and her older sister Samaria (long before judgment and exile), and the interwoven metaphor of Sodom. We see the language of despising husbands and children, detestable practices, of depravity. “ ‘Now, this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.” The language of judgment then includes shame, wickedness, and consequences of lewdness and detestable practices, all due to breaking the Mosaic covenant.
People: In Zephaniah 2:8-11, Moab and Ammon are compared in their judgment with Sodom and Gomorrah, and thus, destruction of their gods. They have taunted the Jews and made threats against their land, thus taunting and mocking Yahweh.
Leader: In Matthew 10:11-16, those who refuse hospitality to the disciples of Jesus face a judgment more severe than Sodom and Gomorrah (and the same is recorded in also Luke 10:1-12).
People: In Matthew 11:20-24, Jesus judges several cities on the north side of the Sea of Galilee that refuse to repent of their sins, in spite of having seen his miracles. The largest, Capernaum, will accordingly face a judgment more severe than Sodom and Gomorrah.
Leader: In Luke 17:26-37, Jesus has been speaking prior about the coming of the days of the Son of Man. And by means of analogy, he speaks of the judgment in Noah’s days on a people unconcerned with their wicked lives. He then follows with the analogy of the judgment on Sodom, and the fate of Lot’s wife.
People: In Romans 9:29, Paul quotes Isaiah 1:9, making mention of how Sodom and Gomorrah left no descendants.
Leader: In 2 Peter 2:4-22, we read that the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah is “an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly,” and where “Lot” was “a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard).” [Yet too, Lot is a compromised man by continuing to live in the city – a war in his soul.] The language of this analogy to Sodom and Gomorrah continues and describes such sinners as yielding to the corrupt desires of the sinful nature, despising authority, being bold and arrogant, slandering celestial beings, being blasphemous, “like brute beasts, creatures of instincts,” carousing in broad daylight, being blots and blemishes.
People: The language used by Peter is comprehensive: “With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed – an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey – a beast without speech – who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.”
Leader: “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”
People: In Jude 5-16, there is great interface with the language in 2 Peter, also citing Sodom and Gomorrah, and later adding a reference to Cain: “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their home – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”
People: And in Revelation 11:8, the linkage between Sodom and Egypt is made, where figuratively the Lord was crucified.
Leader: In the early sixth century B.C., as we read in Jeremiah 19, the prophet took the elders and priests in Jerusalem out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom. This was the site of the continually burning trash dump, also the location of the high places for idolatry, and of making child sacrifices to Ba’al – burning them alive in the fires of Topheth.
People: Both child sacrifice and the sexual anarchy of Sodom and Gomorrah destroy human lives and threaten the civilized order.
Leader: Yahweh told Jeremiah to buy a clay jar from the potter, and later he said to him: “Then break this jar while those who go with you are watching, and say to them, ‘This is what I will do to this place and to those who live here, declares Yahweh. I will make this city like Topheth.’ ”
People: Jeremiah then went to prophesy the same judgment in the courts of the temple, to all the people in Jerusalem.
Leader: Thus, here today I break a clay jar in the biblical mode of calling this nation to repentance, of the brokenness we are pulling on ourselves as a nation. Also, and especially, in the prayer that we will turn from our sins and avoid the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.
People: We know the Lord God Almighty, through the Lord Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the final Judge in all matters, and that mercy triumphs over judgment for all who seek it.
Leader and People: We conclude with the words given to King Solomon by Yahweh Elohim, and applicable to all who name the true Creator:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.”