The Shuvah Project #6 — Sin, Sacrifice, and the Cross

For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah, the plant He delighted in. He looked for justice, but found injustice, for righteousness, but heard the cry of the oppressed.

-Isaiah 5:7

Section One (Parsha Debrief):

This week’s parsha Text contained: three visitors, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the origins of the Moabites and Ammonites, Sarah and Abimelech, the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael, and the binding of Isaac.

There are so many good takeaways from all of these stories; but, we are going to focus on one that most people have some reference to: the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This section comes from the teachings of Rabbi David Fohrman.

Just like in Noah and the Flood, God reveals His plan. But, this time, unlike Noah, Abraham drew near and said,

Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people who are in it? You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:23-25)

Listen, according to Abraham, destruction isn’t who God is. So, Abraham intercedes. He holds God to His truer character — a God who is patient and just.

This is huge! And, not only is God good with Abraham drawing near and saying this; He actually invited it.

But, Abraham doesn’t stop at the agreed upon 50. He continues to whittle the number down lower and lower. Abraham is trying to save lives!

If Abraham is brazen enough to renegotiate with God 5 times, why not continue? Why did he stop at 10?

In Hebrew, the men (i.e. angels) ask Lot, “Do you have anyone here besides your son-in-law, sons, and daughters…?” (Genesis 19:12)

In Hebrew, the Text tells us Lot spoke to his sons-in-law which married his daughters (Genesis 19:14).

And, earlier in the story Lot mentions he has two daughters that haven’t known a man (Genesis 19:8).

Let’s do the math.

Abraham negotiated on behalf of Lot’s household! And, God agreed to give Lot and his family a chance.

But, Lot, although righteous himself and deserving of salvation, never influenced his neighbors to act hospitably (Genesis 19:9). Nor had Lot even convinced his own household (Genesis 19:14).

Lot learned how to be hospitable from Abraham. The Text screams for us to see how they responded to the visitors the same (Genesis 18:2-5 & Genesis 19:1-3). So, why didn’t Abraham just ask God to refrain on account of Lot alone?

Because, as Rabbi David Fohrman says, if there is one righteous person there should be ten! They shouldn’t sit alone — their role is to model relationship with God and influence others to do likewise.

Now, it’s important to recognize that God is willing to withhold destruction if there are people in Sodom who can positively influence others to embrace loving-kindness. Again, as Rabbi David Fohrman puts it, if Abraham-like people exist, it’s no longer an evil city — it’s a righteous city in progress!

Lastly, we need to better understand why God is looking to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah in the first place?

What is their sin? How did He find out about it?

It’s sexual immorality, right? Unfortunately, the story doesn’t actually tell us. Isn’t that odd? All that we are told is the town’s people, including children, want to have sexual relations with the visitors.

Thankfully, later, the Text does end up telling us their sin.

Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49).”

I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming — pride and greed. Their sin was pride and greed. God even says, that the cry of the oppressed has come up to Him (Genesis 18:21; footnote #1).

Yes, sex was involved. But it wasn’t the sex part God was concerned with — it was the rape. Rape has an oppressor and an oppressed. Rape is about power. Rape is about greed.

Their sin, the one God is very concerned about, is how they mistreated the poor and needy.

Section Two (Connection to NT + haftarah):

Goulder makes the observation that Jesus’ appearances in the Luke Text are connected to the visitors’ appearances in the parsha Text.

At first read, I didn’t see much more to connect. But then, I was drawn deeper.

The Luke Text is a conversation about perspective and the reality of the risen Jesus.

So, what happened on the Cross? Well, as noted last week, and appearing again this week, people’s hope for what the mission of God was, died on the Cross.

Yet, based on our conversations these last few weeks, we should be starting to realize the Cross was the epitomization of the true mission of God — to lay down one’s life and rights in pursuit of blessing all nations.

Though, for many, the power of the Cross is atonement for our sin. A father killed his son so that the rest of creation could be pardoned. And, part of this week’s Text can be read that way: He (Jesus) was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). Also, it’d be unfair of me not to remind you that John 3:16 says, For God so love the world that He gave His only Son.

But, is giving the same as taking? Giving sounds like permission. Permission sounds like unity. Unity sounds like our parsha Text. Specifically, Isaac’s decision to walk with his father up the mountain (Genesis 22:8).

There’s more!

In the Luke Text, two travelers leave and then return to Jerusalem. In our parsha Text, two travelers go to and return from Jerusalem (Genesis 22; footnote #2).

The Luke Text specifically mentions it’s the third day since these things happened (Luke 24:21). Our parsha Text specifically mentions, on the third day (Genesis 22:4).

In the Luke Text, as the two travelers, and Jesus, came near the village, they urged Jesus to stay with them (Luke 24:28-29). In our parsha Text, as Abraham saw three men coming near he said, please do not go past your servant… rest yourselves… continue on later (Genesis 18:2-5).

The Luke Text says, after worshiping Him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24:52). The transliterated Greek word for worship is proskuneo. It means, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence. The first three times proskuneo shows up in the Septuagint (the Hebrew Scripture translated into Greek) are within our parsha Text (Genesis 18:2; 19:1; and 22:5)!!

Lastly, although there’s so many more connections, the Greek word for visitor in Luke 24:18 only shows up one other time in the entire the New Testament — in Hebrews 11:9. Any guesses what that part of Hebrews is about? Abraham!

What do you make of this, what will you do with this — that the reality of the risen Jesus is connected to a story about Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin and the binding of Isaac?

Section Three (missing the mark):

If the reality of the Cross and the risen Jesus are deeply connected to the stories in our parsha, including a story about a father who God stops from killing his son… why are some church leaders so enamored by ideas like:

If we view our sin as a minor infringement we will view God’s forgiveness with equal mediocrity. We can’t appreciate the great cost of forgiveness if we think our sin barely needed it in the first place.

I think there is a better narrative.*

*The evidence supporting that narrative was published separately as The Shuvah Project #6*

Section Four (real-world applications):

My heart breaks for our youth. A youth that have been told they are broken, and seen as projects to be fixed.

The reality is, it’s adult followers of Jesus that need fixing. Rob Bell could not have said it more pointedly: Jesus wants to save Christians.

Who has the most influence on a son? Parents.

Who has the most influence on a daughter? Parents.

Where do we think a toddler, a child, or an adolescent learn to be ______. Parents.

What about the sinful society’s influence? To which, I refer you to our previous conversation (here) and our current parsha Text — it’s not ours to judge or legislate our non-God fearing neighbor. It is ours to intercede and influence a neighborhood through prayer and modeling checed!

Still, some think sins are inside of us, chalked up as the human condition. Then, shouldn’t we question God’s image? After all, we’re made in it.

Therefore, I find it hard to look at a child and see them as broken and evil. My son is almost 2. In two years of life, how much sin could one accumulate? Am I really to believe that God looks at my 2 year old son and thinks “He’s a sinner!

But that’s exactly what a Christian father told me on a plane. To him, his young son and daughter are sinners because they are selfish and disobedient.

As a father, if my son grows up to oppress others through his actions, his decisions, or his purchases… it’s on me. If there is a debt to be paid, I (the father) will gladly pay it on his behalf because I failed to model the truth that God isn’t holding out on us.

 


Next Week’s ReadingsGenesis 23:1-25:18; Luke 1:5-25

  1. If you are familiar with your Text, you may think I’m stretching truth. After all, Jude 1:7 clearly states the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah committed sexual immorality. Sexual immorality is the transliterated Greek word ekporneuo: to give one’s self over to fornication. This verse in Jude is the only time the word is used in the entire New Testament. However, it does show up 39 times in the Septuagint. Yet, not one of those times are within our parsha. In fact, of those 39 occurrences 9 of them are within Ezekiel Chapter 16, mentioned above. So Ezekiel is clearly familiar with the concept; yet, this prophet of God speaks a much different reflection of Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin. Not to mention, A New New Testament says regarding Jude, “this letter stands as hauntingly unexplored territory in the traditional New Testament. Its passionate and very specific address to a situation unknown and mostly unexamined for more than 1,500 years begs for attention and careful analysis. (p. 417)” Jude remains relatively uncharted waters from a scholarship perspective. So, I’m hesitant to say a surface reading suffices. Also, most scholars believe the author of 2 Peter took material from Jude, almost word-for-word (A New New Testament, p. 417). Interestingly, 2 Peter suggests greed is involved in the ongoings of the false teachers.
  2. Rashi on Genesis 22:2: Jerusalem, and so in (II) Chronicles (3:1):“to build the House of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.” And our Sages explained that [it is called Moriah] because from there [religious] instruction (הוֹרָאָה) goes forth to Israel. Onkelos rendered it [“the land of service”] as alluding to the service of the incense, which contained myrrh [“mor” is phonetically similar to Moriah], spikenard, and other spices.

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