PATRIARCHS AND PROPHETS # 14
Abraham and the Destruction
Fairest among the
cities of the Jordan Valley was Sodom, set in a plain which was "as the garden
of the Lord" in its fertility and beauty. Here the luxuriant vegetation of the
tropics flourished. Here was the home of the palm tree, the olive, and the
vine; and flowers shed their fragrance throughout the year.
Rich harvests clothed the
fields, and flocks and herds covered the encircling hills. Art and commerce
contributed to enrich the proud city of the plain. The treasures of the East
adorned her palaces, and the caravans of the desert brought their stores of
precious things to supply her marts of trade. With little thought or labor,
every want of life could be supplied, and the whole year seemed one round of
The profusion reigning
everywhere gave birth to luxury and pride. Idleness and riches make the heart
hard that has never been oppressed by want or burdened by sorrow. The love of
pleasure was fostered by wealth and leisure, and the people gave themselves up
to sensual indulgence. "Behold," says the prophet, "this was the iniquity of
thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in
her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and
needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before Me: therefore I
took them away as I saw good." Ezekiel 16:49, 50.
There is nothing more
desired among men than riches and leisure, and yet these gave birth to the
sins that brought destruction upon the cities of the plain. Their useless,
idle life made them a prey to Satan's temptations, and they defaced the image
of God, and became satanic rather than divine. Idleness is the greatest curse
that can fall upon man, for vice and crime follow in its train. It enfeebles
the mind, perverts the understanding, and debases the soul. Satan lies in
ambush, ready to destroy those who are unguarded, whose leisure gives him
opportunity to insinuate himself under some attractive disguise. He is never
more successful than when he comes to men in their idle hours.
In Sodom there was
mirth and revelry, feasting and drunkenness. The vilest and most brutal
passions were unrestrained. The people openly defied God and His law and
delighted in deeds of violence. Though they had before them the example of the
antediluvian world, and knew how the wrath of God had been manifested in their
destruction, yet they followed the same course of wickedness.
At the time of Lot's removal
to Sodom, corruption had not become universal, and God in His mercy permitted
rays of light to shine amid the moral darkness. When Abraham rescued the
captives from the Elamites, the attention of the people was called to the true
faith. Abraham was not a stranger to the people of Sodom, and his worship of
the unseen God had been a matter of ridicule among them; but his victory over
greatly superior forces, and his magnanimous disposition of the prisoners and
spoil, excited wonder and admiration. While his skill and valor were extolled,
none could avoid the conviction that a divine power had made him conqueror.
And his noble and unselfish spirit, so foreign to the self-seeking inhabitants
of Sodom, was another evidence of the superiority of the religion which he had
honored by his courage and fidelity.
Melchizedek, in bestowing
the benediction upon Abraham, had acknowledged Jehovah as the source of his
strength and the author of the victory: "Blessed be Abram of the most high
God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the most high God, which
hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand." Genesis 14:19, 20. God was
speaking to that people by His providence, but the last ray of light was
rejected as all before had been.
And now the last night of
Sodom was approaching. Already the clouds of vengeance cast their shadows over
the devoted city. But men perceived it not. While angels drew near on their
mission of destruction, men were dreaming of prosperity and pleasure. The last
day was like every other that had come and gone. Evening fell upon a scene of
loveliness and security. A landscape of unrivaled beauty was bathed in the
rays of the declining sun. The coolness of eventide had called forth the
inhabitants of the city, and the pleasure-seeking throngs were passing to and
fro, intent upon the enjoyment of the hour.
In the twilight two
strangers drew near to the city gate. They were apparently travelers coming in
to tarry for the night. None could discern in those humble wayfarers the
mighty heralds of divine judgment, and little dreamed the gay, careless
multitude that in their treatment of these heavenly messengers that very night
they would reach the climax of the guilt which doomed their proud city. But
there was one man who manifested kindly attention toward the strangers and
invited them to his home.
Lot did not know their true
character, but politeness and hospitality were habitual with him; they were a
part of his religion--lessons that he had learned from the example of Abraham.
Had he not cultivated a spirit of courtesy, he might have been left to perish
with the rest of Sodom. Many a household, in closing its doors against a
stranger, has shut out God's messenger, who would have brought blessing and
hope and peace.
Every act of life, however small, has its bearing for good or for evil.
Faithfulness or neglect in
what are apparently the smallest duties may open the door for life's richest
blessings or its greatest calamities. It is little things that test the
character. It is the unpretending acts of daily self-denial, performed with a
cheerful, willing heart, that God smiles upon. We are not to live for self,
but for others. And it is only by self-forgetfulness, by cherishing a loving,
helpful spirit, that we can make our life a blessing. The little attentions,
the small, simple courtesies, go far to make up the sum of life's happiness,
and the neglect of these constitutes no small share of human wretchedness.
Seeing the abuse to which
strangers were exposed in Sodom, Lot made it one of his duties to guard them
at their entrance, by offering them entertainment at his own house. He was
sitting at the gate as the travelers approached, and upon observing them, he
rose from his place to meet them, and bowing courteously, said, "Behold now,
my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all
night." They seemed to decline his hospitality, saying, "Nay; but we will
abide in the street."
Their object in this answer
was twofold--to test the sincerity of Lot and also to appear ignorant of the
character of the men of Sodom, as if they supposed it safe to remain in the
street at night. Their answer made Lot the more determined not to leave them
to the mercy of the rabble. He pressed his invitation until they yielded, and
accompanied him to his house.