It's storytime, and here are some dark, disturbing stories from the Bible:
Once upon a time, there was a city called Sodom and another called Gemmorah, and there were other cities on that plain with them, and these cities were entirely corrupt. The Lord, one day, told his servant Abraham that he was going to destroy the cities on the plain. Abraham negotiated with him and God promised that if he could find ten righteous people on the plain, he would spare the cities. To make a long story short, the cities were destroyed. THE END.
Now, wait, there is an epilogue. The Greek word means "afterword." Some important detail comes after the story and needs to be told. The detail in our story is this: Lot and his Family, who lived in Sodom, were spared by the Lord. Abraham didn't ask God to spare them, he just did, and it seems that the reason he spared Lot and his family was his relationship with Abraham. He was Abraham's nephew. This relationship seems to be the reason for Lot's salvation.
Here is another story: Once upon a time there was a group of people called the Israelites, and they were being held as captive slaves in Egypt. God freed them from the slavery there, and brought them into the wilderness. The entire time in the wilderness, the Israelites complained bitterly. Even though the Lord fed them and gave them water and never allowed their clothes to wear out, they complained. When he brought them to the land he promised them, a land flowing with milk and honey, they refused to go in, because they were scared. So, the Lord told them they would die in the wilderness, and they did. THE END.
Epilogue: God's servant Moses pleaded with him to spare them, so the Lord said that the generation that had been born in the desert would be spared. It seems that he spared them solely on their relationship with Moses.
New story: Once upon a time there was a nation of Israel, a kingdom, and it had a great king named David, but after he died the leadership became lacking. The kings married and allowed their citizens to marry pagan wives, who brought their pagan idols, and the people of Israel began to worship those false Gods instead of the one true God. As a result, God allowed the pagan empires around Israel to invade and destroy the kingdom. The survivors were sent into exile and dispersed. THE END.
Epilogue: This is from Jeremiah 23:
7 Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, “As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt,”
8 but “As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them.” Then they shall live in their own land.
It appears that the Lord has spared the remnant that were exiled and that they were allowed to come back home. Why did he do this?
5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
It appears that the Lord saved the remnant for the sake of King David, because of Israel's relationship with David.
New Story: Once upon a time there were people called Christians, and they followed a man named Jesus. Now the name of Jesus caused great violence and strife. The Christians weren't violent, but non-Christian reactions to them were violent, simply because they hated Jesus. Jesus himself said this would happen:
12:49 "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
12:50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
12:51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!
12:52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;
12:53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
12:54 He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain'; and so it happens.
12:55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens.
12:56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
He even said in the last three verses above that things were only going to get worse, and that it would be as obvious as black clouds on the horizon. Christians sought refuge in the Church, to be with other Christians, but these words from Jeremiah 23 showed what that would be like:
16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you; they are deluding you. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.
17 They keep saying to those who despise the word of the Lord, “It shall be well with you”; and to all who stubbornly follow their own stubborn hearts, they say, “No calamity shall come upon you.”
Today we find many of our churches telling us either that there is no such thing as sin or that if you have faith nothing bad will happen to you. Both of these extremes are lies that have undermined the gospel and the church.
We don't know how this story ends, because we are in the middle of it, but we can predict that it will end in one of the previous three ways--or a combination of all three: fire from the sky or natural disaster, death in the wilderness, or war and exile. Think of the world today. All three of these things are happening already. THE END.
Epilogue: remember that Jesus guy, whose name was the cause of all the problems? It is because of our relationship with him that we, the remnant, will be spared, just like Lot, just like the Israelites, just like the remnant. We will be spared because of Jesus, because of this righteous Branch.
Now, is it REALLY because of the relationship that we are spared? Well, yes, but it is also because of WHO we have the relationship with, what he DID. Let's look at Abraham first. It wasn't just his relationship with Lot that spared Lot, it was what he did for Lot. He always gave Lot the best, gave him the first choice, and more importantly, in Genesis 14, he hunted down a bunch of kingdoms who had kidnapped Lot. Abraham and 180 soldiers risked their lives to rescue Lot. Abraham lay down his life for Lot. This happened long before the destruction of the cities on the plain and the Lord's sparing of Lot.
Moses, long before the destruction of the original generation of Israel in the wilderness, threw himself on the ground before the Lord and said TAKE ME INSTEAD. Moses lay down his life for Israel. The Lord later spared the next generation of Israelites.
David countless times went to war to fight for Israel's survival. In fact, it was the one time he didn't go to war when he should have that his kingdom began to collapse. Lord spared the remnant later in time for the sake of David laying down his life for his kingdom.
And now our story: we will be spared because of our relationship with Jesus, but it is because of what Jesus did in the past, his dying in our place, his laying down his life for us, his not throwing himself down on the ground like Moses but being raised up on the cross that saves us. We were kidnapped by the forces of darkness and he rode out into the wilderness to rescue us. He fought death, the devil, and hell for our souls, and he won.
This happened long ago, but the effects of his dying for us are still in effect. Jesus Christ IS RISEN. The effects of his victory over the death are still here. No matter what happens. No matter if fire comes from the sky and burns our bodies up, no matter if we starve to death miles from any food or water, no matter if our families are killed and we are dragged into foreign lands. We are spared because of Jesus' love for us and his laying down his life for us.