God is not one thing. He cannot be put in one box. He forgives and he punishes. He pardons and he holds accountable. God is both gracious and just.
His grace toward Abraham, in giving them a child in their old age, was so outlandish that it made both he and Sarah laugh with disbelief. But the justice he swore against Sodom and Gomorrah, is also so serious that it makes Abraham plead with God to change his mind.
This happens when the three men who came to visit Abraham head out to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Two of the men are angels and they go into the town, but the third man is identified as the LORD and he stays back with Abraham, overlooking the cities.
The LORD tells Abraham that he is about to completely destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their terrible evil. But Abraham can’t believe that the city is really 100% evil. So he comes to God and says that he would not be a just judge if he punished the good along with the bad. So God agreed that if there were just 10 righteous people in the cities, they both would be completely spared from judgement.
But, it turns out, the city cannot produce even ten good people. In fact, the people are so evil, they try to recreate the horrific practices that brought about the Nephilim in Genesis 6. The citizens try to sexually violate the angels visiting the city.
God already knew it would turn out this way. So he destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as he said he would. The only people who were spared were Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his family. Nevertheless, even Lot’s wife got swept up in the destruction for her disobedience.
Grace in the Midst of Justice
What can we make of this story? What we need to understand is that every city is Sodom and Gomorrah. The whole world is 100% evil. The Bible tells us that no one is righteous and all are wicked. The flood already proved this.
However, as with the flood and even with Sodom and Gomorrah, God always provides a way of escape.
The way he provides an escape from his justice is hinted at by Abraham’s request. Abraham asked God to save the whole city if he found 10 righteous people. For the sake of those righteous people, the city would have been saved. The undeserving would have been saved by the merit of the deserving. But the righteous ones were not found.
However, Lot and his children were saved because of Abraham’s righteousness. God was gracious to Lot because of Abraham. In this scenario, Lot was the city of Sodom and Abraham was the 10 righteous people.
Where is Jesus?
This story may be difficult. The only way we can properly understand it and see God as gracious and just is to see Jesus in this story.
Jesus is Gracious in the Midst of Justice
Jesus is the perfect righteous one. When we hide in him by faith, God saves us because of the righteousness of his son. Though the whole world is wicked, those who believe in him are saved on account of his goodness.
This truth is stated clearly by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus says that what happened at Sodom and Gomorrah would be preferable to what will happen to everyone who does not believe his message. He is just. He does hold the wicked accountable. But he is also incalculably gracious. For simply by believing in him, we are hidden in his goodness and escape the punishment we surely deserve.
We are Sodom and Gomorrah, he is the righteous one. We are the undeserving. Yet, because Jesus deserves blessing instead of punishment, we get swept up in his grace.
See For Yourself
I pray that the Holy Spirit will show you the God of justice and grace today, who always judges correctly, but also holds out the offer of grace to all who will believe in Jesus. I also pray that you would see Jesus as the one who took the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah to give us the blessing of Abraham.