Genesis 19-21 – Actions have consequences

Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. Genesis 19:27-28

There’s a story to the history taking place in front of Abraham. There was no rush to judgement in God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. There had been an outcry against the cities, in God’s own words, because of their wickedness. I suspect it was the cry of the suffering people in those cities that reached God’s ears and heart and prompted him to act. Even at that point Abraham tried, for his nephew Lot’s sake, to prevent the disaster by urging God to hold off if there were as few as ten good men left in the cities. The story in Genesis 19 says that all the men, from every part of Sodom, both young and old, stormed Lot’s house to rape angelic guests who had arrived there to inspect the situation. So much for finding a few good men.

There’s a story to the history going on in our world today. The conflicts in the Middle East that spill over into our cities are the fruit of bitter seeds that were sown over thousands of years. Genesis gives witness to the first planting of several of those seeds. Abraham fathers a boy, Ishmael, with his wife’s maid, then disinherits him and sends him with his mother to fend for themselves in the wilderness. Ishmael’s descendants are today’s Arabs. Lot runs off from Sodom’s destruction and hides with his two daughters in the mountains. They have no prospect of husbands and decide to get their father drunk and then have children by him (they grew up in Sodom, remember). Their sons become the father of nations, where Jordan now exists, that antagonized Israel for a thousand years. In years to come Abraham’s son Isaac will raise two boys who grow up to despise each other. One, Jacob, will become the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. The other, Esau, will become the father of the Edomites, who will one day participate in the destruction of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. Much later, Esau’s descendant Herod the Great will attempt to kill all the boys born near Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. Herod’s son Antipas will order the execution of John the Baptist.

I’m not trying to teach a history lesson. I want to highlight what Genesis says indirectly. Our actions have consequences. Mistakes matter. Those mistakes grow up and have children that bring consequences of their own.

But Genesis is also the story of new beginnings. Time and again God’s children mess up, and time and again God bears with them, shows them mercy, and keeps the story going so that one day his redemption can be born among them. December is a good time to remember that.

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