“And Isaiah said the same thing in another place: “If the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of our children, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah.””
Romans 9:29 NLT
Paul included a Scripture reference to a verse spoken by Isaiah, who, in turn, referred to an act of God’s judgement on two towns named Sodom and Gomorrah. Even today there will be many who know what these towns were guilty of, with a sexual act even named after the inhabitants of Sodom.
Genesis 13:13 recorded the problem with Sodom and Gomorrah, “But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord”. In fact, in Genesis 18:20, God involved Himself personally. We read, “So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant””. And in Genesis 18 we read about how Abraham interceded for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, in case there were some good people in these towns, to prevent their destruction. Genesis records the experience of two angels who were sent to Sodom, and the subsequent destruction of all the wicked towns and villages in that area. However, Abraham’s intercessory prayers were heeded and his nephew Lot, along with his daughters, were saved. In those days, judgement and justice followed sinful acts. Aren’t we glad we live in this age of God’s grace?
But Paul quoted Isaiah 1:9 in our verse from Romans 9 today. The first chapter of Isaiah is a prophetic message to a rebellious and sinful people. The prophecy he recorded is just as relevant to Western societies today. Isaiah 1:2, 4, “Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth! This is what the Lord says: “The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me. … Oh, what a sinful nation they are— loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the Lord. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him”. Sound familiar? Isaiah continues, “Why do you continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever? …” (Isaiah 1:5a). And then we reach the verse quoted by Paul, “If the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of us, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:9).
Isaiah’s prophecy was a stern warning from God, and he had some specific observations about the problem. We read, “Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.” Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.” When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? … I want no more of your pious meetings. When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims” (Isaiah 1:10, 12-13b, 15). It’s all about the state of our hearts. Do we have “heart dis-ease”, not really connecting with God, but going through the motions anyway? We go to church but often wonder why. We kneel when we are supposed to. We outwardly put our body and hands into a prayer pose, but there is nothing within us that supports it. We say all the right things but don’t back them with our thoughts and spirits. Isaiah wrote in chapter 29:13, “And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote”. Aren’t we glad about God’s patience?
There is only one way into God’s presence, and that is with our hearts firmly aligned with His. We stay close to Him, trusting and following Him in the ways He has ordained for us. And, like Abraham, we intercede for the people in society around us, grateful for having the time to communicate the Good News of eternal life. There will be a day when the earth as we know it will be destroyed, but until then we keep plugging away, grateful for God’s grace and mercy.
Dear God. We have promised to serve You until the end. There is no other way to eternal life. Amen.