The Doomed City
Dear reader, we now come to the Doomed City and the family of Lot making their escape from the city of Sodom. The text is Gen. 19:17. “And it came to pass when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” The reader will notice that when the angel led Lot and his family out of Sodom that he said, “Escape for thy life,” and he said it because the city was doomed to destruction. In this case the city of Sodom stands for a life of sin. All sin is doomed and all sin will be destroyed, and it makes no difference whom God finds sin on, he is a doomed man and will be destroyed if he doesn’t make his escape from the doomed city. All sin is to the Lord today just what Sodom was that day.
I suppose one sin deliberately committed against God is as distasteful and as disgusting and as destructive in its make-up as ten thousand of the same kind would be committed against God. You may take any line of sin that you can think of, and the thing is as much doomed as Sodom was, and as surely as old Sodom went down under the flames of the wrath of a sin-avenging God, that line of sin is doomed to go the same way. You may think of what the world would call a nice line of sin, such as dancing and card playing and theater going, and circus running, and Sabbath desecration, and lodgeism, and tobaccoism, and the race course, and liquor in all of its hideous forms, and the world thinks that these things are a part of the necessities of life, and can see no sin in them at all. But nevertheless they are a brood of doomed sinners just waiting for the angel to come out with the sword of God in his hand and pronounce the awful curse of the Almighty on the whole herd. So it is run or burn, one or the other, for all Sodom is doomed and the angels are now on their way to this earth to destroy old Sodom again, and all the Lot family will have to escape or go down in the flames and be used as fuel to feed the flames.
So the angel got the man Lot by the hand and said, “Escape for thy life and look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain lest thou be consumed.” Remember Lot said, “Oh no, my Lord.” But the angel took nothing back. It was escape or perish, for the angels were there, and they were there for the one purpose, and that was to destroy Sodom.
If the reader will turn to the 13th Chapter of Matthew and read verses 41 and 42 he will have the destruction of Sodom told over again. Notice the reading of these two verses. “The Son of man shall send forth his angels and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them in a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” The reader will notice that the angels were used of the Lord to destroy Sodom, and now Christ tells that at the last day the angels will be used to gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend and them who do iniquity and cast them into a furnace of fire.
Again, the reader will remember that when God wanted to destroy all the first-born of Egypt that He sent out the destroying angel and a mighty wail went up from Egypt for there was one dead in every home. You will find it recorded in Exodus 12:29, 30.
You will also remember when the King of Assyria went up to make war against Israel that he went in the name of the gods that he had made with his own hands, and he defied the God of the Israelites and told them not to let Hezekiah deceive them, for he said that there was no God who could deliver Israel out of his hand. He wrote a letter to the King of Israel in which he defied the God of heaven, and when Hezekiah got the letter he went to the top of the wall of Jerusalem and spread the letter out before the Lord and told Him to read the letter that King Sennacherib had written. And the Lord read the letter and that night He sent out one of His mighty angels, and the next morning there were dead men almost without number. Just turn and read Isaiah 37:36: “Then the angel of the Lord went forth and smote in the camp of the Assyrians 185,000, and when they arose early in the morning behold they were all dead corpses.” Now reader, that looks like business to see one angel out in a single night leaving 185,000 dead men on the plains.
Just think of old Sodom now, and look and see, the angels are already in the city, and leading out Lot and his family. The city is doomed, but God loved one man and his name was Abraham, and he had prayed for Lot, and for Abraham’s sake God spared Lot, but He destroyed the city.
The next clause in this text that we will look at is this “Look not behind thee.” It is not well pleasing to the Lord for a man to start to the land of righteousness or to the hills of safety and then turn and look at the thing he had to give up. Sodom was doomed and God had said, “Escape for thy life,” and now if the city is doomed and the curse of God is hanging over it and He is now ready to rain fire from heaven on the city and burn it up, as He will all sin, it is not pleasing to Him to see a fellow start and then look back at the city or his old life of sin.
How many times have we seen the young man or the young lady start for heaven and for sometime make a splendid run, and then turn back to the old life and become harder and get further away from God than they were before they started. They have looked back at Sodom. You remember Lot’s wife. She turned and looked back and never took another step in the right direction. She was left standing there as a warning to all who should come after her that it was dangerous to leave and then turn and look back at the thing that we have to give up. It is like this. When Lot and his family left Sodom they had started to another city, and now when they lose enough interest in the city that they are going to, to stop and look back at the one they have left, right then and there they are backslidden, for their interest should not be in the city behind them but in the city before them. God had commanded them to flee from Sodom and He said look not behind thee. Don’t even stop to look back at old Sodom, for she is doomed and will be destroyed. And if you hang around Sodom and I destroy Sodom I will destroy you with the city. We are to escape or we are to perish, one or the other.
No doubt that the devil met Lot’s wife as he did Mother Eve and said to her, “Did the Lord command that you should not look back at the city?” “Yes,” said she to him, “that was the command.” “Well,” said the devil, “just look yonder. Don’t you see the house of your children on fire? Just listen to their cries. It is a shame for the Lord to treat them that way.” And Mrs. Lot turned herself and took the last look at the city, and she never looked again, and never will in this world, for the Old Book says that there she was turned to a pillar of salt.
The next step that we take in the text is this: “Stay not thou in the plain.” The idea that we get from this clause in the text is this: The Lord doesn’t want us to stay too close to the place where we started from. He said, “And stay not thou in all the plain.” There is danger of a fellow’s staying too close to his old crowd. If he doesn’t watch they will get him back into his old life. Old Sodom, or the old life, and the old crowd are all kin to the Old Man, or the carnal mind, and if we undertake to stay too close they will have us back in the old city before we know it. Our only hope is to get up and flee from the doomed city, and then not even stop and look back at the hateful thing, and then not stay too close to the city when we get out.
I have seen young ladies who had been well-nigh ruined by the ballroom, weep their way to the altar, and weep over their lives of waywardness and confess out to God and forsake the thing, and sweet peace would come into their lives and they would run well for awhile. But it would not be six months till the devil and his crowd would have them go to a nice play party, all the time telling them there was no harm in a nice play party. Then the old life would begin to grip them like a mighty monster from the forest, and in a few weeks you will hear of them at one of the nice balls up town. Well, she is now back in Sodom, and will probably stay here till Sodom is destroyed, and she will go down in the flames never to rise again. Don’t you see she did not heed God’s command? He said, “Escape for thy life.” He said, “Look not behind thee” And He also said, “And stay not thou in all the plain, lest thou be consumed.” Well, she looked back, and she wanted to go back, and she did not go on, and of course she turned back and is still back, and will probably stay back. Well, you say, “Back where?” Back in old Sodom, or the old life of sin, just where she was before she ever made a start, and she is harder to reach today than she was before she ever left Sodom the first time. The devil has a harder grip on her than he ever had in this world. How much it means to escape from the old life, and then not stop on the plains, or look back, or anything of the kind, but it is possible, or God would never have given such a command, and the reason He did it was for our good and our protection and safety.
The next clause in the text is this; now notice it: “Escape to the mountain lest thou be consumed.” The reader will notice that we now have already had one escape, and now we have another. That makes up the two escapes in this verse. First He said, “Escape from the doomed city.” That is, without a doubt, the sinner escaping from the life of sin, and then He said, “Look not behind thee,” and then He said, “Neither stay thou in all the plain,” and now He says, “Escape to the mountain lest thou be consumed.”
Fleeing from Sodom is nothing more or less than the sinner’s giving up his old life of sin and fleeing to the Savior for salvation. The plains that God told him not to stay on are, without a doubt, the plains of regeneration, or the justified life. The lesson, with many others, teaches that it is not God’s will for the believer to undertake to live the justified life alone very long, for God told him not only to get out of Sodom, but He told him not to stay on the plains, and then He added, “Escape to the mountain lest thou be consumed.” The tide of worldliness is so strong today that if a man tries to live in the average church and do as they do it will not be twelve months until they will have you back in the old life or back in Sodom. The Lord knew that He made provision for us to have an experience that would enable us to stand in the face of all kinds of opposition, and notice this statement, the Lord said if we did not escape from the plains, that we would be consumed. He was not talking to somebody in Sodom, he was talking to us who have fled from the old life of sin, or Sodom. So we see at a glance that it was not the Lord’s will for us to try to live the life of a complete Christian until we were wholly sanctified.
The old life in Sodom represents the life of a sinner, escaping from the doomed city and getting out on the plains is a type of a justified life, and the escaping to the mountain top is a type of the sanctified life. It is called the higher life, it is called the fullness of the blessing, it is called holiness, it is called sanctification, and it is called perfect love, it is called a clean heart, it is called the baptism with the Holy Ghost, it is called the crucifixion of the Old Man. Some call it the power for service. But whatever it may be called, He said, “Escape to the mountain.”
There is nothing more lovely than the mountain-top life. Think of it in this light: if there is any sunshine anywhere it is found on the mountain top; and again, if there is any pure air in the whole country it is found on the mountain top; if a man gets sick his doctor will advise him at once to go to the mountain and get the fine mountain air. He tells him to go up to the mountain top and get some ozone, and the poor fellow will ask the doctor to tell him what ozone is, and the doctor says that it is a double portion of oxygen. Then he is teaching the second blessing to his patients. Well, another way to look at it: if there are such things as mosquitoes anywhere in the country, they will be found down on the plains; and if there are any croaking frogs anywhere in the whole country, they will be found down on the plains; but if you will get up and flee to the mountain top you will get out of hearing of the humming mosquitoes and alligators. All of these things go in to make up the life of the unsanctified Christian. The average Christian is almost annoyed to death with the little things of life, when it is God’s will and purpose for him to live above such things. A drove of mosquitoes will come in the form of anger and pride and jealousy and impatience, and the little things that annoy and hinder the Christian who lives down on the plain until he has no rest day or night But the Lord said, “Escape to the mountain lest thou be consumed.” Brother, the frogs and bugs of different kinds will consume you if you don’t escape.
Again, from the mountain top we get such a fine view of all the surrounding country. Just think of it in this light: a man down on the plains can’t see anywhere, but a man on the mountain top can see for hundreds of miles away, and the views from the mountain top are just lovely. You see far out on the plains that lie in the valley below you if you are on the top of the great old mountain. I don’t wonder that the Lord wanted us to push on to the mountain top and bathe in the pure and warm sunshine and get a good view of all the world around about us.
I can see far down the mountain, Where I wandered many years; Often hindered in my journey By the ghosts of doubts and fears, Broken vows and disappointments, Thickly sprinkled all the way, But the Spirit led unerring, To the land I hold today.
Now again look at it in this light: if there are any clouds and fogs, any mist and darkness, they always hang over the plains. At times the people down in the plains will have the most awful storms and the most awful thunder and lightning you ever heard, and the people on the mountain top will have the finest sunshine and the most lovely weather you ever saw. While the Christians who live down on the plains of regeneration fight mosquitoes and listen to the croaking of the frogs and see the fog and mist, the mountain-top Christian is delivered from the whole thing.
It is very seldom that the mountain-top Christian ever has a cloudy day, and so he sings:
I am dwelling on the mountain, Where the golden sunlight gleams.
There is no comparison on earth between the Christian down in the plains struggling with his doubts and fears, and the Christian on the mountain top with his skies all bright and clear and the glory of God in his soul and his life hid with Christ in God and Jesus in all of His fullness and sweetness dwelling in his soul. The mountain-top Christian has bright sunshine, and he has pure air to breathe, and he has a good vision of the surrounding country, and he is away from the mosquitoes, and away from the frogs, and he is above the fog and mist, and he very seldom sees a cloud. If you will compare these things to the life of the average Christian you will find that the most of them have never left the plains and they have stayed down there so long that they don’t think they can get away. If we ask them to come up the mountain with us, they will tell you that they can’t get up the mountain, and if we offer to help them up they will make all kinds of excuses, and while they fight mosquitoes and bull-gnats and dog-flies and bumblebees and hornets, and grope in the darkness and mist and fog, they will tell you that they got it all at once.
Yet the Lord said, “Escape to the mountain lest thou be consumed.” The little things of this life are just about to provoke them to death. Well, just watch them; they are going to the mountain top, or they are going back to old Sodom, one or the other.