The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a fairly familiar story in the Old Testament. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, had chosen to dwell in the city of Sodom and the Lord was planning on destroying it because of its wickedness. When the Lord sent angels to the city, Lot brought them into his house to protect them. During the night, the men of Sodom came to Lot’s house and demanded to ‘know them’ sexually. Lot offered up his own daughters instead (not a great moment for him) but the angels intervened by blinding the men and they escaped the city before God rained down judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah for their great evil.
The story of the Levite and his concubine is less known. During the time of the judges in Israel, a man and his woman were making their way home and chose to stay in the city of Gibeah, a town of Benjamin, one of the tribes of Israel. Yet, as happened in Sodom, the men of Gibeah came and demanded to ‘know’ the Levite. Instead, the Levite gave them his concubine, whom they abused all night and left for dead. The author of Judges tells the story in a way that it parallels the telling of the story of Lot in Genesis 19. Any Israelite would have made the connections. The wickedness that permeated the city of Sodom was now present in Gibeah, a city of Israel.
The darkness present in both of these passages is sobering. The sinfulness of men is apparent in both stories. And neither Israel, nor anyone else, could claim to be free from its clutches.
In light of such depravity, the Father sent His own Son as a man. He lived a perfect life by obeying the Father in every way. John 19 tells of His crucifixion on the cross, where He suffered in the place of sinners under the righteous wrath of God. The ugliest scene in the Bible is not in Sodom or Gibeah, it is just outside of Jerusalem on the hill of Golgotha. Jesus, the Innocent, dying for the rebellion of men.
The book of Revelation tells of the triumphal return of Christ for His Bride, the Church. John describes the scene of the marriage supper of the Lamb in chapter 19. The Bride of Christ, made up of all who turn from their sins and believe in Jesus, is described as being clothed with fine linen, bright and pure (v. 8). The Lamb nailed their filthy wrags to His tree and exchanged them for glorious splendor. They will rejoice in His presence and give Him all the glory throughout eternity.
These four chapters trace the story of God’s redemption of a people through the sending of His Son. They teach us that man’s sin is horrible and ugly. It leads to abuse and violence. And we see that we cannot take comfort in thinking that sin is just ‘out there’ running crazy in the lives of a few people. No, if we are honest, these chapters force us to confess our own rebellion. It might not evidence itself through rape and murder, but it is still lust and anger. We might not want to kill someone because they look different than us, but we still do not love our fellow man as we should. Likewise, these chapters make it plain that simple solutions will not do. Education will not save a man from his pride. Gun control laws will not defeat racism. Regulations for the video game industry will not end violence. These are only band-aids (perhaps helpful, but not effective). You cannot treat a broken heart with a band-aid. It requires a transplant.
But the good news, the amazing news, is that God takes unworthy sinners and adopts them into His family through the power of the cross. Dirty sinners dressed in splendor. A heart of flesh in place of my heart of stone. Those who have played the harlot as the Bride of Christ. Amazing. For the record, I know that the chapter divisons are not inspiried (I am not advocating for a revision of ‘The Bible Code’). Yet, I hope that these four 19s are just another way to remember God’s grace. After all, how in the world could a story that begins with Genesis 3 (including Genesis 19 and Judges 19) end with Revelation 19-22? Only the grace of God could do that. The grace we see on display in the 19th chapter of John.