The Sin of Sodom
May 19th, 1985 @ 8:15 AM
THE SIN OF SODOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-19-85 8:15 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message, from the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel, entitled The Sin of Sodom. In our expounding the Word of the Lord, we are in the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel. And the whole chapter is an excoriating diatribe against the sins of God’s people in Jerusalem, in Judah. And we will begin reading at the second part of the forty-fifth verse of the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel:
Your mother was a Hittite, and your father an Amorite.
And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters.
Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways.
As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, abundance of idleness. . .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 when I saw it.
There are several kinds of sermons, types of sermons. Some sermons are topical. You’re going to preach about faith or about repentance. Some sermons are textual. You take a text in the Bible and preach a sermon on the text. Spurgeon, for example, always preached a textual sermon; always. Truett, my predecessor, always preached a topical sermon; always.
Another type of a sermon is expository. That’s the way your pastor preaches. He will take a section in the Bible, such as I read this morning, and he will expound it; sometimes a whole chapter, sometimes half of a book of the Bible, an expository sermon, an exposition. There can be character studies, preaching about Noah or about Abraham or about Isaiah or about Peter. There can be also exegetical sermons, exegesis, a sermon that is built on the words that God uses in the text, in the passage.
Once in a great while, I mean in a great while, I will prepare an exegetical sermon. And this morning is one. It is a study of the words in the text. And as Ezekiel describes the sin of Sodom, it brings to our minds the enormous, indelible and everlasting impression made upon all of the writers of the Bible of the awesome judgment of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain. The story is told in:
- Genesis 13:10-13.
- And their sin is described in Isaiah 3:9.
- Jeremiah 23:14.
- Here in the text that I have just read in Ezekiel [Ezekiel 16:45-50].
- In Luke 17:29.
- In 2 Peter 2:6.
- In [Jude 1:7].
And as though that were not enough, the judgment of God upon Sodom is referred to in:
- Deuteronomy 32:32.
- In Isaiah 1:9-10.
- In Isaiah 3:9.
- In Isaiah 13:19.
- In Jeremiah 23:14.
- In Jeremiah 49:18.
- In Lamentations 4:6.
- In Amos 4:11.
- In Zephaniah 2:9.
- In Matthew 10:15.
- In Matthew 11:23-24.
- In Mark 6:11.
- In Luke 10:12.
- In Luke 17:29.
- In Romans 9:29.
- In 2 Peter 2:6, in Jude 7.
- And in Revelation 11:8.
I’m just writing those out in order that you might see the everlasting, indelible impression that the judgment of God upon Sodom made upon all of the writers of the Bible.
Well, what is the sin of Sodom? He lists it here; “Was not this the iniquity of thy sister Sodom,” talking to Jerusalem. “You are worse than they, and their sin was pride, fullness of bread, idleness, did not strengthen or help the poor, haughty and committed abominations” [Ezekiel 16:49-50]. Now our exegetical study is to look at those words. What is it that God said the Sodomites did that brought down such tragic wrath upon those people?
All right, the first one, He says, is “pride,” ga’on [Ezekiel 16:49]. That is a word for arrogance and conceit. Now in an exegetical study, what we will do, we will see how that word is used in the Bible, so we get a good picture of what it is God said those people did and were. In the plea of Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 13:15-18, Jeremiah says:
Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud—
there’s our word ga’on—
be not proud: for the Lord hath spoken.
Give glory to the Lord your God, before He cause darkness . . .
But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places because of your pride—
there’s that word again—
Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves . . . for your crown of glory is coming down.
Pride, arrogance, self-conceit, self-sufficiency; it is refusal to bow and to humble yourselves before the Lord God. “Do you think that I, I would go down that aisle at church and bow down there before the Lord? Do you think I would do that?”
Let me quote one of the richest men in the city of Dallas. He says, quote, “I think religion is a crutch, and I am not a cripple, and I’m not about to call upon the name of the Lord. I don’t need Him. I am self-sufficient.” What do you think of that? That was the sin of Sodom: arrogance, self-conceit, pride [Ezekiel 16:49]. “I don’t need God, much less shall I bow down before Him.”
What is that man going to do in his age? And what is he going to do in the hour of his death? And what is he going to do at the great judgment day of Almighty God? [Revelation 20:11-15]. How much better to confess, “Lord, I”—and you remember what Abraham said in his prayer—“I, who am but dust and ashes” [Genesis 18:27]; how much better to bow, to confess, to yield, to surrender, “Lord I am not sufficient for this life, much less for death and the vast eternity and judgment that is to come.”
Proverbs 16:19, “Pride”—there’s that word, ga’on— “pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Everyone that is proud in heart—there’s that word again, ga’on—proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord. The sin of Sodom, the first one: arrogance, conceit, pride.
Now the second one He says: “fullness of bread” [Ezekiel 16:49]. That’s an unusual thing, siv’ah, fullness of bread. He uses the word, siv’ah, Ezekiel, to refer to an insatiable desire for ease and gain and affluent living. For example, Isaiah 56:11, in decrying the sins of his own people he says, “They are greedy dogs, which can never have enough”—enough, there’s that word siv’ah—“They all look to their own way, every one for his gain. Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we shall fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow shall be as today, only better, more abundant” [Isaiah 56:11-12]. “Man, we’ve got it made. We are on top of it.”
Ezekiel, in this same chapter, Ezekiel, in verse 28 of chapter 16, speaking of the insatiable carnal desire of his people, he says, “Thou hast played the whore with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable”—there’s that word siv’ah—“yea thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied” [Ezekiel 16:28]. Now what he’s referring to about the people of Israel is, they played the empires on both sides of them against each other in order that they might come out the winner. For centuries, for all the centuries, Assyria on the one side and Egypt on the other side were bitter enemies, in a death struggle always with each other. And what Jerusalem did, Ezekiel is saying, she just took the gods of both of them. And an instance of that is in the life of King Ahaz. King Ahaz took away the great altar in the temple of Jehovah in Jerusalem. He took away the great altar and placed there instead an altar to the gods of Assyria [2 Kings 16:10-16]. And they compromised with Egypt and worshipped her gods [2 Kings 17:13-19]. And she compromised with Assyria and worshipped her gods [Ezekiel 16:28]. And she sought for herself what Ezekiel calls siv’ah, fullness [Ezekiel 16:49], gain, advancement, no thought of a great dedication that would prohibit such compromise and such idolatry. It was to their advantage, they thought, to do this thing and bow down before the gods of Egypt on one side, and the gods of Assyria on the other side.
How easy it is to fall into that. Our goal, and our aim, and our vision, and our prayer, and our desire in life is to be at ease in Zion, to be full, to have all of the accouterments of affluence. As the church at Laodicea said, “We have need of nothing.” And the Lord said, “You have need of everything and you do not realize how poor and how sterile and how empty you are” [Revelation 3:17].
I cannot help but make an observation here about us and this dear church. There ought to be, in our worship before God, there ought to be ever and always an element of sacrifice in it. And without that element of sacrifice, there is never for us a rich, marvelous, precious, beautiful blessing of God. For us to come to church at ease, in fullness, siv’ah, and not seek in our hearts and lives and worship of God to find a cost or a sacrifice, a giving up in what we do, is to be condemned with the Laodiceans.
I would not find fault with any man; I think he ought to strive and to work and to seek the blessing of God upon the labor of his hand and the energy of his life, but to make that the great goal and end and purpose of his living is just unthinkable to me. And for us to be that way in the church; “what we want in the church is to be at ease. Pastor, don’t bother us with an appeal, don’t bother us with a campaign, don’t bother us with a burden of the lost or the reaching out for the city. Don’t! We love to just take it easy.” That was the sin of Sodom [Ezekiel 16:49], and that was the sin of Laodicea [Revelation 3:17].
The third one here, he says, is idleness, [Ezekiel 16:49]. Idleness was in her and in her people, idleness. Shaqat, careless ease; the prime root of it is to repose, to be undisturbed, to be inactive. Here in Ezekiel, it refers to presumptuous security. The word has an altogether different connotation than what you might think for. Now I want you to look at it. In Judges 18:7, the inspired author is telling the story of the Danites. And you remember how they left their inheritance where God allotted them [Judges 18:1-31]— they didn’t like it—so they went up north, and they found up there, in the north of Galilee, a city by the name of Laish [Judges 18:7]. Later it was called Dan, you have “Dan to Beersheba” [2 Samuel 13:10], from the north to the south, the city up there was Laish.
Now you listen to what the author says about it, “They came to Laish, and saw the people therein, how they dwelt careless, quiet and secure”; shaqat [Judges 18:7]. All right, look at that word again here in Ezekiel, in Ezekiel 38:11, he’s speaking of the prophecy of Gog in the land of Magog [Ezekiel 38:2], which when we get to it, we’re going to see refers to Russia and the end time. Now in describing the conquest of Russia, Gog, he says, “And thou shalt say”—Gog says—“thou shalt say: I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are shaqat, I will go to them that are at ease, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates” [Ezekiel 38:11].
What that means in terms of our life is the terror of unpreparedness in time of attack and war. When we come to the exposition of that thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of the Book of Ezekiel, we’ll speak of these things. But Ezekiel says that the unpreparedness of the people who are at ease, they’re a prey for a ravenous enemy.
Now I’m not a militarist; I’m not saying we ought to turn our nation into an armed camp. All I’m doing, I’m just exegeting the Word of God. The Word of God here says that these people at careless ease, translated idleness here in the King James Version [Ezekiel 16:49], these people at careless ease, loving luxury more than they were willing to defend their cities and their nation—and they were destroyed because of it [Ezekiel 38:11].
Now I don’t know what to say about the tremendous military budget of America. I don’t live in that world. But I do say, according to the Word of God, that if you don’t prepare to defend yourself, the day is coming when a ravenous enemy will destroy you; it’ll come. It will come. It will come. And we ought to remember that in seeking to support a program in our nation that makes a marvelous, defense wall around our beloved country, and around our cities, and around our homes.
May I say one other thing about the overtone of that word shaqat? May I say an overtone of its meaning? It also can refer to, in its word translated “idleness” here [Ezekiel 16:49], to life without meaning and without purpose. We have time for—and then name it. We have time for recreation. We have time for play. We have time for entertainment. But we don’t have time for God. And to my great hurt and sorrow, I see America going that way rapidly. Sunday is no longer in America a holy day, as you would see in the lives of the Pilgrims or of the Puritans or of our forefathers, even. But Sunday is a holiday. If you’re going to have a great game, you put it on Sunday. If you’re going to have a tremendous golf classic, you make it reach its climax on the Lord’s Day. And the whole attitude of our state, nation, is like that. We’re going to open all of our stores on the Lord’s Day, and we’re going to make Sunday just as it is on any other day. I don’t know what lies ahead for America. I just know God judged Sodom because of those sins [Genesis 19:13, 24-29]. And I see them in the development of our life and in the development of our people. I must hasten.
He says here, “They did not strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy” [Ezekiel 16:49]; chazaq, chazaq, to repair, to build, to help, to mend, to strengthen. That’s a good word for it. In Ezekiel 13:22 he uses that word in a bad way. “Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, when I have not made them sad; and you strengthened”—there that word is chazaq— “you have strengthened the hands of the wicked.”
In Jeremiah 23:14 that same word is used about bad people, “I have seen in the prophets of Jerusalem a horrible thing: they strengthen”—chazaq—“they strengthen the hands of evildoers.”
In a good way now, helping the poor and helping the needy: they do not do it, says Ezekiel: “The diseased have you not”—and there’s that chazaq again, “neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, and ye have not brought again that which was driven away and, you have not sought for that which was lost” [Ezekiel 34:4]. And on and on it goes like that.
Then there are appeals in the Bible using that word. Isaiah 35:3, he says, “Strengthen”—there’s a chazaq again—“strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.” He prays, “Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands” [Isaiah 25:2]. It will never be, ever be, that all are equally capable or all are equally successful. We’re just not made that way. Some of us are not as capable as others of us. And some of us are not going to be as blessed of God as others of us. It just doesn’t happen.
Now what God says is that we who are more affluent are to be mindful of those who are not, and these who are sick are to be remembered by those who are well. And these who are strong are to be a help to those who are weak. And for us to not do that incurs the judgment of Almighty God [James 2:12-13].
Now when I had my first pastorate in Oklahoma, it was in the days of the deepest Depression. And in my going in and out among the people, it isn’t because sometimes a man is bad or he’s lazy that he comes into financial or economic distress. Some of you were reared in poor families. I was. And yet my father and mother were the godliest people. My father, just was not capable, financially, he just wasn’t. He wasn’t gifted that way. Well, what we ought to do, God says, is to help them.
Now I’m going back to that first pastorate. As I walked in and out among those people in the days of the Depression, and it was a thousandfold worse in that part of the country, I said to my people, “We must minister to these. We must help them.” So I had my first Good Shepherd Chapel, we called it the Good Shepherd department in the church. And it was for that purpose; those families, those children. Well, when I came here to Dallas, immediately almost, I started the same ministry. I may be blessed and affluent, but there are uncounted others who are not thus blessed and not thus affluent. I am unlike my father, who had no ability to make money at all; just none at all. But I have that sense, just born with it. I ought to remember men like my father; I ought to do it. And that’s why, when I came here to be pastor of the church, immediately we began that ministry. And now, Lanny Elmore here presides over twenty-four of those chapels. Isn’t that right? There are twenty-four of them now. And we put about eight hundred thousand dollars a year into those ministries. And people say to me, “What do you do for the help of the people, the poor, the sick, the unwanted, the flotsam and jetsam of humanity, the sub marginal of the city; what do you do?” I tell them we have one of the greatest ministries in the world here, and one of the most effective.
We do it in the name of the Lord. And most of us are not conscious of it. But there’s no day that goes by that we aren’t helping those people with their medical problems, helping them with their clothing and food, helping them in every way, and above all, leading them to the Lord Jesus. It’s a glorious thing and it pleases God. And, I think, from the beginning, one of the reasons for the unusual blessing of God upon our church has been that. We have remembered the poor, and we ministered to them every day and ever night of this world.
He says here, “You were haughty” [Ezeliel 16:50], gabah, haughty, insolent, arrogant, imperious, scornful, disdainful. In Ezekiel 28, the same man says, “Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus; Because thine heart is gabah,” translated here “lifted up” [Ezekiel 28:2]. I’m going to preach on that, in Proverbs 18:12, “Before destruction the heart of man is gabah, haughty.” In [2 Chronicles 26:16], he’s describing King Uzziah who died of leprosy because he was gabah, haughty [2 Chronicles 26:21-23].
I’m going to take time to read what Isaiah says about women, the unusual what he says about women. And when you listen to it, you see if you ever saw a woman like this. Isaiah 3:16-24 is a blistering condemnation of a haughty woman. Quote:
Because the daughters of Zion are gabah, haughty, haughty, and walk with flirting eyes, tripping along with ornaments:
Therefore the Lord will make their scalps bald.
The Lord will take away their finery—
scarves, pendants, bracelets, headdresses, perfume boxes, rings, jewels,
festal apparel, purses, mirrors, fine linen and—can’t read my writing—
And it shall be, instead of a sweet smell there shall be a stench; instead of a sash of rope, there will be instead, instead of well set hair there shall be baldness; instead of a rich robe, there shall be a girding of sackcloth,
Her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit on the ground.
[Isaiah 3:16-24, 26]
A haughty women; that is unthinkable isn’t it? Going to dress up and going to put on all of those ornaments in order to shine. Oh, dear! How infinitely better for a woman to be humble and precious and use every gift she has in the service of the Lord.
Now the last one here:
- “And they committed abominations before Me” [Ezekiel 16:50]. Now when you think of Sodom, that’s what you think of. To’ebah, to’ebah, refers to unchastity, something corrupt, disgusting, morally abhorrent.
- Deuteronomy 14:3, “For thou shall not eat any abominable, to’ebah, thing.”
- Deuteronomy 12:31, “Every to’ebah thing, which God hateth had they done unto their gods; even their sons and their daughters they caused to be offered in the fire.” I
- In [Deuteronomy 27:15], “Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image; it is a to’ebah before the Lord.”
- Leviticus 18:22, “Thou shalt not lie with a man, as with a woman; it is to’ebah”; it is abomination.
- “Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself” [Leviticus 18:23].
- Verse 29, “For whosoever shalt commit any of these to’ebah, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off” [Leviticus 18:29].
- Now Leviticus 20:13, “If a man lie with a man, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed a to’ebah; they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
And of course the story is in Genesis, which is familiar to you. I just can’t imagine such a thing. These two angels, these two angels came to the house of Lot in Sodom. He sat at the gate; that is he was the mayor of Sodom [Genesis 19:1-3]. And when the evening came, men—and it says young and old, great and small, can you think of that—pounded on the door saying, “Bring out these two men. We want to know them sexually” [Genesis 19:4-5].
And Lot came out and said, “I have two daughters here who are virgins. They have never known man. You take them and you have all the sexual relationships you care for with my two daughters, but not these two men who are guests in my house.” And of course they infuriatingly said, “Who made you to be a ruler or judge over us?” [Genesis 19:5-9]. And it was only when the angels pulled Lot into the house and struck blindness on the men that they escaped [Genesis 19:10]. And, of course, the judgment of God fell upon the Sodomites [Genesis 19:11]. Well, out of all of the things that I could ever think of in all of my life, I could never enter into that. It is beyond me. I cannot understand it.
And yet, it is a growing way of life in America. You, just as I have seen on television and you’ve seen pictures in the paper, marching two hundred fifty thousand Sodomites in San Francisco alone; one city, two hundred fifty thousand of them marching through the streets of San Francisco. And the whole turn of American life becomes more and more promiscuous. Friday night, a week ago, I don’t look at television; rarely, rarely, rarely. Sometimes I’ll look at a special program and sometimes at the news. But I don’t look at television. I can read while I’m looking at that trash and that stuff. So I Have my study at the home, so I just read; I study. I love to study.
But, anyway, I just happened to be going by, and they had a program on. And the program was this, “Should you go to bed with your date when you have your first date, or when you have your second date, or when you have your third date or your fourth date? When should you go to bed with your date? When should you have sexual relationships with your date?” Now that was the program. It was a discussion on the part of many, many people. Now this is on one of the great channels in the city of Dallas and is a national program.
So they had an expert there, a doctor of psychology, a woman. And when they discussed things they’d refer to her. Her final word and summation was this: “Go to bed with your date anytime; the first time, the first date, the second date, anytime; just so you like him, that’s all. Just so you like him. Go to bed with him anytime.” At no time in the program, in this national televised program a week ago, no time was it ever suggested that it might be wrong to go to bed with your date until you’re married.
I don’t know. It lies in the purview of God. I just have the persuasion in reading the Bible that if there is not a change in the course of our beloved nation, there is coming somewhere, someday, sometime, an intervention from heaven, a judgment from the Almighty, unless there comes to our beloved country a great turning to God.
And that’s what I pray for. I pray for it in me. I pray for it in our dear church, “Lord, Lord that there might be an intervention from heaven, a poured-out blessing, a great spiritual Pentecostal awakening [Acts 2:1-47]. And Lord let it begin in me. Let it start here where I am. Let it start in this wonderful church and beyond our dear church. Lord, let it catch fire in all the churches, pulpits, communions of America. Grant it, Lord, that we might be saved.”
We’re going to stand and sing us a song. And while we sing our appeal, to give your heart to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-10], or to come into the fellowship of our wonderful church, to answer God’s appeal in your heart, on the first note of this first stanza come, and welcome. And the Lord bless you in the answer of your life. “Pastor, here I stand. I want to be numbered among the people of God. I’ll rear my family in the love and the nurture of the Lord. I want to belong to this wonderful association, God’s family, God’s people.” Come, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
SIN OF SODOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Five different types of sermons
B. Judgment of Sodom made indelible impression upon writers of the BibleII. Pride
A. Arrogance and self-sufficiency an abomination to the LordIII. Fullness of bread
A. The insatiable carnal desire of Israel
B. At ease in ZionIV. Abundance of idleness
A. Presumptuous securityV. “Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.”
A. The strong and affluent must help the weak and poorVI. Haughtiness VII. “They committed abomination.”