This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established – 2 Corinthians 13:1
A person cannot be condemned in a court of law unless multiple evidences at the mouth of credible witnesses are examined for or against such a person. A witness describes what he/she saw or experienced at the hands of a defendant. It is upon this principle that the court proceedings in all countries are based.
In Christianity however, we traditionally look at the topic of witnesses mostly in the context of preaching the gospel of salvation (Markk 16:15-18, Acts 22:15). This indeed forms the main focus of our ‘witnessing’. However, the Bible has a lot more to say about witnesses than this. Yes, we are all familiar with our role as witnesses of the gospel (John 3:11 and Acts 4:33), but we also read about the innumerable witnesses that are watching us from above (Hebrews 12:1), and the admonition not to be false witnesses (Matthew 19:18).
In all these examples, the witness ‘sees’ something that he talks about to others; primarily to other men. The witness I want to focus on today is the witness of men before God. Now, from where did I get this principle?
And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom:but Abraham stood yet before the Lord. – Gen 18:20 – 22
First God heard a cry from people who had been oppressed by the inhabitants of Sodom either when they passed through or lived there. Every time the poor and weak sob and cry to God for vindication, He hears. Even the Messiah told the rich man to sell all he had and give to the poor (Matthew 19:21) and warns us not to harm the little ones especially because their (guardian?) angel constantly stands before God (Matthew 18:10). In our Genesis 18 passage, God then sent His angels to confirm if what he heard was true. Finally, we know about the judgement that followed when the sins of the people was confirmed. But this begs the question, what was their sin? Why was God so angry that He decided to destroy the city?
All around the world, among the Christian community, a reference to Sodom and sodomy is automatically interpreted to mean homosexuality. But what does the Bible really say about Sodom?
Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good. – Ezekiel 16:49-50
From the list in the passage above, homosexuality falls only into the category of ‘committed abomination’. It was just the final crime in a list of escalating issues in the land. The trouble in Sodom (as it is everywhere since then) started with Pride. This always starts a chain reaction that leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:18 and Jeremiah 49:15). Pride is so central to sin that it forms one of the three legs upon which sin stands (1John 2:16). Other Issues with Sodom included their contentment in their wealth. The city was located in the rich plain and fertile lands, so they had abundance. Merchants and traders routinely passed through their streets bringing foreign goods and capital. It was the old world equivalent of our modern regional financial and economic hub. Just like in today’s rich cities, there were many who no longer worked, but rather became skilled at exploiting the poor and weak. They developed their own taxing and fee charging system for services rendered (or not). They became idle and made laws to protect the elite at the expense of the average Joe. To get ahead in life, you had to be in line to inherit the wealth of your parents or you became consigned to perpetual servitude; both you and your descendants. If there ever was a “Sodomite dream”, it died soon after you entered town and got trapped into one of the many financial scams that were rampant within the city. There was wealth in the city, but it was all in the hands of a few. Those few had no intention whatsoever of sharing it with the other residents; sounds familiar?
Maybe you are wondering how I know all this? Well, our Bible passage in Ezekiel above is telling enough. However I did take a look into an ancient Hebrew book titled ‘Ancient book of Jasher’. This book describes the lifestyle of the people of Sodom quite vividly. They legally practiced many fraudulent scams, second degree murder, theft, incest, swinging and had public street orgies several times a year. Psalm 10:2 says that the wicked in their pride persecute the poor. It is the anguish of the poor, their cries that rise to heaven; the throne of God.
In Isaiah chapter 1, the prophet under the inspiration of the Spirit took up a prophecy against Judah and Jerusalem. God lamented over the atrocities of the leaders and people and likened them to Sodom. In Isaiah 1:10, God calls them the rulers of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah. He then goes on to rebuke them about the vanity of their sacrifices and feasts. He had grown weary of their feasts; and when they pray to Him, he does not hear because their hands are full of blood (Isaiah 1:15). Then He makes a call to repentance:
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies. – Isaiah 1:16-24
The criteria that made Judah to be as Sodom was that they did not seek judgment, they did not relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless nor plead for the widow. Instead, they became companions with thieves and only sought for gain and wealth. As far as God was concerned, these people were like murders that were killing the poor and weak amongst them. How often in our modern age have we heard “it’s the survival of the fittest”? and “the strong will chew up the weak”? We pride ourselves in our ability to destroy others; but God calls us murderers and our prayers ascend to God as a foul smelling fragrance. Our worship is not in spirit or in truth (John 4:23-24) and it is unacceptable unto God.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. – James 1:27
If any one really wishes to be true and undefiled in their faith, let them visit the fatherless and widows in their moment of pain and need. If we do not, their cries of pain and desperation will reach God in heaven and make us His enemies. Their voices and their scars are a witness against the land and the people. It shall bring judgement on the cities. It is not just about being critical of homosexuality, but about being there for the poor, the needy and the most vulnerable among us. They are the witnesses to (or against) our faith. When we stand in front of the seated Judge; before the great White throne, what will the witness accounts say about us?
We often quote Isaiah 1:18-19 during our salvation messages even though this passage was a message to Judah; a people supposedly saved already. We must practice an undefiled religion so that we can be blessed of God. Therefore let us return to judgement and righteousness that we be not counted as adversaries of the Most High.