Sodom’s Welcome Committee

Sodom's welcome committee

The Sodom Series, #4

Two angels are invited to Lot’s home for a feast and to spend the night. But there’s a knock at the front door…

4 But before [Lot and his visitors] 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, so that we may know them.”
GENESIS 19:4–5 NRSV

Before Lot, his family, and his honored guests lie down for sleep, “the men of the city” came.

Although the word men is used, in ancient cultures women, when present, were often not counted. For example, Matthew 14:21 mentions that, when Jesus fed the multitude with loaves and fishes, “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children” (NIV).

Men in Genesis 19:4 is enôsh, which means “a mortal,” not a male individual (Strong’s H582), “‘man’ in the sense of ‘mankind’” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 136a).

Both old (zaqan), referring to men and women (Strong’s H2205), and young (naar), referring to boys, girls, and servants (Strong’s, H5288) show up.

All the people” means “people (as a congregated unit), collective troops or attendants” (Strong’s, H5971); “from the common Semitic root amam, meaning… people in general” (TWOT, 1640a). See Genesis 14:21.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates the phrase as “the whole population.” The KJV adds, “all the people from every quarter.” Quarter (qâtseh) means “extremity, border, edge, outmost coast” (Strong’s, H7097).

The citizens who showed up at Lot’s house were not only men. EVERYONE was included—the young and old, both males and females. They came from every part of the city, even from its outermost borders and extremities. Whatever reason they came for, it was something that every citizen of the city participated in.

Women and young people, as well men, gathered from the farthest parts of the city surrounded the house. All the people called out to Lot through the door, asking, “Where are the individuals who came to you tonight?”

Why?

So that we may “know” them

The New International Version and other translations use the phrase “so that we can have sex with them.” This is NOT found in other translations, nor is it in the Hebrew.

The correct translation is “so that we may know them,” as is translated in the New Revised Standard Version. See also Num. 31:17,35; Judg. 11:39; 1 Kings 1:4; 1 Sam. 1:19.

The Hebrew word yada, “to know” (Strong’s H3045) is used of knowledge in the vast majority of instances where some form of the word appears in the Old Testament. It “expresses a multitude of shades of knowledge gained by the senses” (TWOT, 848).

It is rarely used to refer to the act of intercourse, and in many of these instances where it is used in this sense, it pertains to intimacy of which sexual relations are only a part.

Knowledge, not sex

The word yada occurs 944 times in the Old Testament. Only ten times—1% of the occurrences—could it be said to refer to intercourse, and only heterosexual intercourse. It means to be acquainted with, to understand. For example, “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isa. 1:3 NRSV).

In some Bible versions, yada is translated in Genesis 19:5 as “sex” because of the predetermined bias of biblical translation committees. Such bias can be determined by how yada is translated in its other uses, which more clearly refer to intimacy leading to sexual relations.

One such instance is Genesis 4:1: “Now Adam knew [yada] Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (NKJV). Most other English translations also use “knew” instead of “sex” in this verse.

Why is yada translated as “sex” in Genesis 19:5 where such a meaning is questionable, but translated as “knew” in its remaining its uses where sexual relations are obvious (Gen. 4:1)?

The Living Bible paraphrases this verse as, “Bring out those men to us so we can rape them.” This perhaps is closer to the intent of the citizens of Sodom, but it is a poor translation for yada.

Why wasn’t shakab used? Shakab means “to lie down for rest or sexual connection” (Strong’s, H7901). Whenever shakab is used in a sexual sense, it refers to illicit relations (TWOT, 2381). (See Gen. 19:32ff; 34:2,7; 35:22; Ex. 22:16; Deut. 22:22; 27:21; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; 1 Sam. 2:22; 2 Sam. 11:4.) But shakab was not used in connection to the citizens of Sodom; yada was used.

Certainly not gay sex

Considering that both male and female, young and old are among those making the request, translating yada in a sexual sense—and primarily as homosexual sex—is puzzling if not ludicrous. John Boswell admits, “[T]he sexual overtones to the story are minor, if present” (Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 93).

Interpreting the citizens’ request as a demand for homosexual relations is not found in any pre-Christian Judaistic writings for the previous 2000 years; the first recorded instance of homosexual sex being connected to the Hebrew word yada is in the Jewish philosopher Philo’s Quaest. Et Salut. in Genesis IV.31–37, and Philo wrote during Jesus’ lifetime.

Since about the twelfth century A.D., this biblical story has been used to condemn homosexuality. The word sodomy was coined after the name of this city and the behavior of its inhabitants.

Today, biblical traditionalists claim and defend that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexual activity. But we must continue to examine this passage carefully as well as look at ALL the verses about Sodom in the Bible, which I do in The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain.

How does Lot respond to the threatening mob at his door? We’ll find out next time.

More information:

To read the full story, get my book, The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain, for Kindle and in trade paperback.
The Sin of Sodom cover

Be Righteous, Do Justice, Show Hospitality

Abraham

The Sodom Series, #1

Abraham is the father of three faiths: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity (see Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:7-9). The root of Abraham’s faith is belief in one God—a God who speaks.

The expression of this faith is hearing, believing, and doing God’s word, personally revealed.

22 You see that [Abraham’s] faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
–James 2:22-24 NIV

To be God’s friend, we must believe what God speaks to us. And then follow this faith with actions that befit the revelation. This is righteousness.

The Bible provides an example of this in Abraham’s reception of the three divine messengers in Genesis 18.

Entertaining angels

The Lord arrives at Abraham’s tent with two angels in the heat of the day. Abraham runs to them, bows low, and prepares a feast in a lavish show of hospitality (18:1-8).

The elaborate and generous hospitality of the Near and Middle East is known the world over, according to the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler: “For the guest, nothing is too good and nothing too bothersome or difficult.” John Calvin wrote, this is “the hospitality of the holy man.”

Being hospitable to strangers is one way to demonstrate righteousness.

Hebrews 13:2 admonishes us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (NRSV). It specifically says strangers—not family or relatives or friends or other believers.

Promoting righteousness and justice ensures blessings

Abraham did in fact entertain divine messengers.

Because of Abraham’s righteous ministry of hospitality, one of the visitors promises Abraham that his barren wife Sarah—now far past menopause at age 90—will bear him a son, the start of a nation of descendants. This one, called the Lord, takes Abraham into His confidence as a friend.

17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,
18 seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
–Genesis 18:16-19 ESV

To ensure we may receive what God promises, we must promote righteousness and justice.

The blessings of God—prosperity, growth, and expansion—are for those who promote righteousness and justice for everyone else, especially strangers*.

* For further study about strangers, see 1 Chronicles 29:15; Job 29:16, 31:32; Matthew 25:35.

Hospitality, righteousness, justice defined

Let’s define these words.

Hospitality: Webster defines hospitality as “Reception and entertainment of strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality.” We see this in Abraham’s treatment of his divine visitors.

Righteousness: Being in right relationship to God by faith. (See Rom. 3:22; 4:5,9,11,13,22; 9:30; 10:6.) It means believing what God communicates to you and acting on it. Abraham believed what God told him and obeyed, and God counted this as righteousness: see Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:9; Gal. 3:6; Jas. 2:21–22.

Justice: Easton’s Bible Dictionary briefly defines justice as “rendering to every one that which is his due.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains it like this: “Justice has primarily to do with conduct in relation to others, especially with regard to the rights of others. In a larger sense justice is not only giving to others their rights, but involves the active duty of establishing their rights.”

If you want to be righteous, make it your duty to establish rights for those who don’t have them.

Righteousness and justice are closely related* and are summed up in what Jesus calls the two greatest commandments: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:37–39 NIV).

*For further study about righteousness and justice, see 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chronicles 9:8; Job 29:14; 37:23; Psalm 33:5; 72:2; 97:2; 106:3; Proverbs 2:9; 8:20; 21:3; Isaiah 1:27; 5:16; 9:7; 28:17; 32:1,16; 33:5; Jeremiah 9:24; 22:3,15; 23:5; 33:15; Hosea 2:19; Amos 5:24; Wisdom 5:18; 8:7.

Abraham’s lesson to us

What have we learned from Abraham in this encounter?

  • The importance of hospitality to strangers
  • The requirement of being righteous and doing justice to ensure the blessing of a family, nation, city, or any group of people

Who are the strangers in your midst? Look around; they could be the people you never really see.

Strangers could include your enemies. Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? … But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Luke 6:32a; Matt. 5:44-45 NIV).

Pick somebody you consider to be a stranger—outside your circle of friends and family—someone unlike you in social status, intelligence, faith, sexual orientation, political beliefs.

Then show them some love through a friendly smile, a word of encouragement, an expression of acceptance and understanding. For, in showing them righteous hospitality, you are being a friend to God.

Jesus said, “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'” (Matt. 25:40 NIV).

More information:

This post was adapted from a portion of my book, The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain, for Kindle and in trade paperback.
The Sin of Sodom cover

When You Don’t Fit in at Church

Outcast

Ever feel like you don’t fit in at church? I did.

I was raised in conservative evangelicalism. My father was a pastor, and I spent a lot of time at church.

As an adolescent, I struggled with my faith because I expected it to “deliver” me from same-sex attraction, something that some religions consider to be aberrant and sinful—especially conservative Christianity.

I strayed from God during my college years but returned with a vengeance, committing my life to the Lord and Christian morality and service. I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. I was determined to conquer same-sex attraction with God’s grace.

I married a woman and started a Christian ministry and a publishing company. I continued to do everything in my power to allow God to work in me to “cure” me of same-sex attraction. I tried for nearly twenty years.

Prayer didn’t work. Fasting didn’t work. Deliverance didn’t work. A stint in reparative therapy left me hopeless and suicidal. I was still gay.

With the help of my wife, I realized I could no longer deny who I was just because the spiritual community I was part of held narrowly prescribed notions of what was acceptable, moral, and holy.

God hadn’t cured me because I wasn’t sick. Instead, I needed to come out of the closet.

Man in closet

As a result, we disbanded the ministry, divorced amicably, sold our house, and started over again. It was hard but ultimately freeing for both of us. (We’re still good friends.)

After I came out, I thought I had failed God and that God had abandoned me. But I experienced a sovereign visitation of the Holy Spirit, unexpected and powerful, and I received a new calling to leave the ninety-nine and find the one.

This led to another crisis: I needed to come out of the closet about my newfound spirituality.

You see, even while I was in the evangelical/charismatic Christian community, some of my spiritual gifts did not fit with their ideas of orthodoxy. For example, I saw visions of each of my grandparents after they had died. In my religious circle at the time, this was considered to be “of the devil.”

I heard God speaking to me in my heart and wrote down the messages but kept quiet about it. (“You hear voices?! Hmmm…”) I saw visions.

I had prophetic gifts. But I was gay and out.

I concluded that conservative Christianity as I had experienced it would not draw those seeking unconditional acceptance, especially LGBT people. I didn’t feel safe in those churches anymore. I knew I didn’t belong.

So, where could I turn to find genuine fellowship and be released to use my gifts? I had no idea where I would fit in.

I tried a number of churches but felt I was always denying myself or my unique gifts to belong to a particular group.

Either I needed to hide that I was Pentecostal and prophetic to fit in a church that accepted me as gay, or I had to pretend I was straight so that I could enjoy Pentecostal worship and an environment where the gifts of the Spirit operated.

I also wanted to teach and speak inspirationally but didn’t feel called to go to seminary (although I have a masters in biblical studies). I longed to use my spiritual gifts to minister to others instead of simply sitting and listening to endless sermons or participating in scripted religious activities.

Who would understand that I experienced dreams and visions, and heard the voice of the Holy Spirit, whose words I faithfully transcribed? Naturally, I also wanted to be open about and be accepted as a gay man.

I haven’t found the perfect church for me—yet.

I feel the Lord has called me to reach out to the marginalized, those who’ve been rejected by the Church or who simply feel like they don’t belong in an orthodox spiritual community. Let me ask you:

  • The Creator loves you and has a unique purpose for your life. Have you found it?
  • Are you disenchanted with organized religion but still want to cultivate a connection with God through Jesus Christ?
  • Are you hungry for more of the Holy Spirit and desire to be trained in spiritual ministry to others?

If what I’m saying resonates with you, and you want to connect, feel free to comment here or contact me.

In the meantime, you can connect with others like you through social media. Search for people using the hashtags #exvangelical and #FaithfullyLGBT on Facebook or Twitter. There are also organizations such as The Reformation Project and the Q Christian Fellowship where you can connect with others of faith who are LGBT.

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherewith he hath made us freely accepted in his beloved” (Eph. 1:6 GNV).

Misfit toys

More information:
Check out my booklet, Response to a Concerned Heterosexual Christian, available on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.

Zelophehad’s Daughters Were Right

Zelophehads Daughters

Did God account for every gender situation in the Bible?

No.

Does God make new rules?

Yes. Let’s learn why from Zelophehad’s daughters.

Moses counts the Israelites

Through Moses, God delivered the Israelite people from slavery in Egypt—you know, the whole Charlton Heston Ten Commandments thing: stubborn Pharaoh, ten plagues, the Passover, crossing the Red Sea, and traveling around the mountain for forty years.

In Numbers chapter 26, God directs Moses to take a census of the Israelites so that land could be divided among the sons of those who escaped from slavery in Egypt.

Did you get that?

SONS. Males, men, guys.

Then a peculiar situation arose.

Zelophehad’s daughters

1 The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher…, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They came forward
2 and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said,
3 “Our father died in the wilderness. He… left no sons.
4 Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”
–Numbers 27:1–4 NIV

Zelophehad, who died in the desert, had sired only daughters.

These four women approached Moses at the Tent of Meeting, the place where Moses met with God. This was a few thousand years before the 1970s and the Women’s Lib movement; in an ancient Middle Eastern culture, it was a bold act.

The women presented their situation to Moses: “Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”

5 So Moses brought their case before the Lord,
6 and the Lord said to him,
7 “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.
8 “Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter.
9 If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers.
10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.
11 If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to have the force of law for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.’”
–Numbers 27:5-11 NIV

God makes new rules

Ponder these intriguing points:

  • When God told Moses that land was to be divided among the sons of the Israelites, didn’t God know that Zelophehad had only daughters?

    If not, then God is not omniscient—a biggie among divine attributes, along with omnipotence and omnipresence.

  • If the situation where a couple bore only daughters was inherently wrong in God’s plan, then why did God not design genetics to work so that a son was always born—so that all God’s rules of inheritance could be followed?

    This is silly, of course; we know it’s not inherently wrong that a couple bears only daughters—it’s merely one possible outcome because of how genetics do work.

  • If God knew there was a family in Israel that had only daughters and God had not misdesigned genetics to break the rules of property inheritance, then why did God not mention this special case in the first place when initially handing down the laws of property inheritance?

    Did God forget, make an oversight, was the fine print too small to chisel in stone?

Consider this:

When a class of people with a special circumstance brought their case before the Lord, God confirmed that they were right, and added a special exception to account for it (see vv. 8–11). God said this decision, previously unaccounted for, was to become a new legal requirement.

Based on God’s own fairness and unchanging nature, God still does this today. GOD MAKES NEW RULES!

Exceptional situations occur because of how genetics work. This includes 3.5% or more of the population being born gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This possibility happens through genetics, which the Creator designed.

Why? Because God doesn’t know about these situations, or doesn’t care about the people they affect?

Of course not.

Predicated on our understanding of God’s goodness, fairness, and character, we must make our own decisions concerning such situations that arise in the course of human development based on the love and acceptance of God.

Will you accept like God accepts?

Should LGBTQ+ people be denied an inheritance in God’s kingdom? Zelophehad’s daughters weren’t. God accepted them and gave them an inheritance among God’s people.

Acceptance is what LGBTQ+ people need today—not continued judgment and rejection by those who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ, the only One who never turned anybody away.

to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
–Ephesians 1:5 NKJV

More information:
This post is taken from Response to a Concerned Heterosexual Christian