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But before [the men who came to Sodom and entered Lot’s house] lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” 6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, 7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” 9 But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.
– Genesis 19:4-9
“Don’t strike out on the first pitch,” he said. For some reason that resonated with me. It spoke to a tendency I sometimes must fight. If things don’t seem to be working, I give up. Not on everything. Not even on the most difficult things. But if I’m not really sold on an idea, I won’t push. I’ve been down the road, also, of winning at all costs, but learning much later that the real cost was no win at all. It’s true: A person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. So I tend toward planting the seeds of truth, grace, and faith, and I hope for a harvest of righteousness.
Evil, however, doesn’t give up so easily. The devil is a roaring lion (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). Our hope against this is two-fold. Evil will ultimately collapse under its own weight. It cannot sustain itself indefinitely. An even greater hope is that Jesus has come and destroyed the works of the devil. And his means of destroying is quite different from the ways of the world – or even this ensuing encounter with the angels and the people of Sodom. In fact, their intervention is more or less a fast forward of the self-destructive nature of evil.
But evil does not go down easily. When the men of the city seize upon Lot’s house and demand the men he had hosted be brought out to them it was amazingly audacious. It was not only audacious, it was also only the first play in their effort to satisfy their evil desires. They were bold and relentless in their pursuit of their lustful desires. “Bring those visitors out to us!” When Lot refuses they threaten him and were going to break down the door to his house in search of their prey. And they were focused. Lot’s scandalous offering of his daughters to these debaucherous men does not satisfy their wanton greed.
Somehow it must be stopped. And sometimes God steps in. Dramatically. Decisively. Ending it all. Mafia wars can be an example of evil caving in on itself. STDs can be another. Sodom will stand as a prime example of God’s decisive move. Ananias and Sapphira’s deaths (Acts 5) are another. It’s dangerous to draw too many conclusions today. They can often be misunderstood.
But let no one misunderstand what Jesus did when he died on the cross. He stood the devil down. He did not give in – even when forsaken by his Father. He did not let their jeers, taunts, and torture dissuade him from his perfect love for God and lost sinners reaching its pinnacle. He died in faith, sacrificing himself for the sake of sinners. And he destroyed the power of the devil. We may wish for a more obvious and dramatic show of God’s judgment. But when it does not come we must remember why God seems slow. He is waiting for us to repent. And in that moment he shows his complete defeat of the evil one. For repentance robs Satan of his power. It overthrows his reign. It severs the cords of death. For God is relentless in his pursuit of sinners so that he can show his merciful lovingkindness and give us the riches of his grace.