I was reading a Christian charity magazine. The writer was agonising over the state of the world. “It can’t go on much longer,” he concluded.
Maybe so, and we all pray all the time, don’t we, for God’s kingdom to come? But I remember my very first Bible Study at Bricket Wood back in 1963 where, as we used to do, we began with news of the work and the state of the world in the light of prophecy. We concluded back then that things couldn’t get much worse and Christ would have to intervene soon.
Now, this Christian writer, comparing the moral state of the world with the state of the cities of the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah, concluded that Christ’s return would be to punish the world. We’ll look at that in a moment, but first we need to consider why Christ and his two angels intervened in the two cities. Was it to punish them? Or to deliver just Lot? Or even to protect the future of Israel, so as not to have a hotbed of vice encamped at their border? Or another reason? Certainly the story focuses on what happened to Lot subsequently. After all, God had previously no doubt helped Abram (as was then called) to rescue Lot (Genesis 14); but now God was going to have to rescue Lot from himself. Living “in sin”, as he and his family were, was doing them no good whatsoever. So it seems that God stepped in to rescue him from himself (Genesis 19).
Sounds familiar? So often, looking back at our calling, we discover that we were rescued mainly from ourselves. As the Old King James puts it, we were held “in the thrall of sin”; utterly helpless to escape. Until God stepped in and freed us. Now, my ‘take’ on this story is not so fanciful as you might suppose because in Genesis 19:29 it actually tells us why God intervened: “And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham [as he had now became], and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow….”
Much as we may agree with our author, and wring our hands at the evil perpetrated by so many in this world, it would appear that often escape can be made available by God for others purely because of our connection with God. I have no doubt that Abraham prayed for Lot and his family, and God heard and answered that prayer. God’s action seems to have little to do with the “goodness” of the other party, or how tainted they were with the wickedness around them. Certainly the subsequent actions of his two daughters would lead us to conclude that they had been affected by their upbringing in the cities of sin.
In Ezekiel we are told that God sets a mark of separation on those who sigh and cry for the evils in this world. And there is much to intercede to our God about, not just those among ourselves who are ill or in difficulties of one sort or another. Whole continents suffer from poor leadership, greed and exploitation. It’s not just Hollywood producers who it is now coming to light have sexually exploited the vulnerable, but politicians even in our own country, people in places of trust (such as doctors and social workers). It seems that the vulnerable have routinely been taken advantage of for centuries, even in ‘civilised’ cultures.
Whereas our Christian writer despaired, although really he knows that God is still in charge and will ultimately end the evil, we too can reach much the same conclusion. Why does God allow such evil? How can he allow such suffering to continue? Because he knows that ultimately it will make those of us who do sigh and cry for the abominations in this earth, better Christians, better citizens and rulers in his kingdom. God speed that day!