Toward the end of His earthly ministry Jesus issued a strong judgment against Capernaum but within it I find an overlooked and hopeful promise for us, our cities, and our nation.
“And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day."
"But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you" (Matthew 11:23-24).
Genesis 18 tells the story of the Lord and two angels visiting Abraham and Sarah with dual purposes. They came to affirm Gods promise to give them a child of their own and to visit Sodom and Gomorrah to investigate first hand the grave nature of the sin of its inhabitants. The Lord affirmed His promise to the couple then discussed with Abraham His plan concerning the land of Sodom..
"Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way."
"And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?"
"For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”
"And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,
"I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know” (Genesis 18:16-21).
God revealed his heart by involving Abraham as He condsidered what must be done in Sodom and Gomorrah. It is obvious He didn’t want to destroy it and so engaged Abraham in a conversation that could possibly change the outcome. Abraham appealed to God based on His goodness and righteousness:
"Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?
"Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:24-25)
Abraham appealed to the Lord’s righteous nature. “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” Surely He would not slay the righteous with the wicked. Would God do such a thing if fifty righteous people lived there?” God agreed to spare the city if but fifty righteous lived there. We know the rest of the story. Abraham continued to intercede reducing the number of righteous people until he stopped at just ten righteous ones living there. Each time the Lord adjusted His decision to destroy them.
"Then he said, 'Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?' And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.'”
Of note to me is Abraham’s persistent pursuit for mercy. Some in our generation are calling for God to judge and destroy people, cities, and nations when Abraham looked for reasons for God to extend mercy. God seemed to like that attitude too. Perhaps those who call for judgment do not believe that God can and will raise up those who walk in the kind of power that Jesus referred to in his denouncement of Capernaum. I believe the righteous response in our generation is for many to pursue the Lord for a fresh and extraordinary anointing for healing and miracles. We should ask the Lord, “How can we partner with You to see our cities restored?” Might that be the higher road?
The Father of Our Faith
"Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from which you were dug."
"Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him."
"For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody” Isaiah 51:1-3).
Abraham is called our father of faith and is an example for the kind of attitudes and actions we should demonstrate toward the wicked and rebellious. Such were some of us… actually all of us… so deserving of God’s judgment and destruction. Yet the Lord Himself delighted in Abraham’s appeal and wanted to involve him in the outcome.
Intercession Alone –Not Enough to Save Sodom
Some have concluded, and rightly so, that intercession like Abraham’s plays a significant role in saving cities. What would have happened if Abraham had not stopped at ten but appealed to the mercy of God if but one righteous person lived within that wicked place? We don’t know, but perhaps just one person, one righteous person living there could have made the difference. We see that Lot and his family did not qualify as one who was able to turn the tide, but should there have been enough righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah, people who moved in power, Jesus said it would have existed another 2000 years!
But, intercession alone would not have saved Sodom and Gomorrah. It would have taken someone who operated in ‘mighty works’ for Jesus said… “if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day” (Matthew 11:23b).
Think of it. Jesus said that Sodom and Gomorrah would have continued at least 2000 more years if someone could have done there the mighty works Jesus did when He lived in Capernaum. They would have repented in light of that kind of demonstration and the region would have averted its horrible fate.
What then constitutes a righteous man? Is it intercession alone? No, it is an intercessor who also moves in the power of signs and wonders. Both of those characteristics contain the ability to produce repentance and restoration. Is it absolute? No. It wasn’t enough for Capernaum, but Jesus said it would have been enough to have saved a place as evil as Sodom!
New Years Eve Revelation
One recent New Year’s Eve my wife and I stayed at home, the only time in decades when we didn’t attend a time of corporate worship ushering in the New Year. We both retired around 10:00 p.m. Beside our beds we each have lamps that I inherited from my parents who had them for years before we did and we have had them for over 15 years. At 10:38 my wife’s lamp suddenly turned on of its own accord. It had never done that before and has not done it since. Although she was sound asleep I wasn’t. I awoke her saying, “Donna, your light just turned on… by itself!” She sat up in bed a little confused by it all, turned it off and went right back to sleep.
I was greatly startled by the unexpected ‘enlightenment’. How does your bedside lamp turn itself on? I believed an angel did it. I know that can be debated but at least I knew God was speaking to me through it . When I reviewed the facts with her the next morning she told me that she thought it was just a fluke, because the lamp was old and had become increasing more difficult to turn on! I thought, “Well, that further confirms to me that the Lord is speaking through the occurrence, because if it is harder than normal to turn it on, someone invisible was ‘strong enough’ to do it without our help!”
When it happened I noticed the exact time: 10:38 p.m. and felt that time represented a Bible verse that immediately came to mine, Acts 10:38:
“… how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”
My New Years Message
I got my New Year’s message that night. God turned the light on Acts 10:38. It is time for an anointing from Jesus where everyone gets healed! In reading the Wuest Expanded Translation I am amazed at how many times Jesus healed everyone of every sickness and disease.
“And He was going around in the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and making a public proclamation of the good news regarding the kingdom, and healing all chronic and serious disease and all occasional illness among the people. And the report concerning Him went off into the whole of Syria. And they brought to Him all those who were in a miserable condition physically, suffering with various kinds of chronic and serious ailments and acute pains, and those who were demonized and epileptic and paralytic, and He healed them…” (Matthew 4:23-25, Wuest Expanded Translation).
“And Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues and making a public proclamation of the good news concerning the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness” (Matthew 9:35, Wuest Expanded Translation).
“Now, when Jesus came to know it, He withdrew from there, and many people followed with Him. And He healed them all” (Matthew 12:15, Wuest Expanded Translation).
“And there came to Him large crowds having with them those who were lame, maimed, blind, dumb, and many others having illnesses of a different nature, and they flung them to the ground at His feet. And He healed them, so that the crowd marvelled, seeing those who had been dumb speaking, and those who had been maimed whole, and those who had been lame walking about, and those who had been blind, seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel” (Matthew 15:30-31, Wuest Expanded Translation).
It was normal for Jesus to heal everyone of every thing. He healed those who had ‘chronic and serious disease and all occasional illness’, and ‘all those who were in a miserable condition physically, suffering with various kinds of chronic and serious ailments and acute pains… epileptic and paralytic’… and those who ‘were lame, maimed, blind, dumb, and many others having illnesses of a different nature’.
In the Gospel of Matthew alone the Bible records at least 6 times that Jesus healed everyone of everything! I only quoted Matthew’s gospel to show the frequency of Jesus healing all. Will He do the same today? Yes, for Jesus does today what He did yesterday and that He will do forever, just as the writer of the book of Hebrews affirms:
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
What would happen if Jesus anointed people at that level today? It would be amazing. Once again people from all levels and strata of society would flock to get healed. We must not settle for less than that. God is able to save whole families, whole cities, even whole nations with that level of mighty works. It may mean the difference in wholesale destruction or the restoration of our nation. If it could have saved Sodom and Gomorrah and preserved that city for an additional 2000 years what could it do for our beloved nation today?