CITY ON A HILL
By Kenneth D. Barney
The Flood and the destruction of Sodom in the Bible are warnings that
the mercy of a loving God has limits. The spiritual state of the culture
in those days shows what moved Him to wrath.
In Noah’s time wickedness was so flagrant the majority could not even think a pure thought. Violence was so rampant that the earth was filled with it (See Genesis 6:5-7).
The sordid memory of Sodom lives on in our word sodomy. People flaunted their perversion as brazenly as do their modern counterparts. When God sent two angels in human form to deliver Lot, the men of Sodom tried to gang-rape them. The Lord could tolerate such conditions no longer and destroyed the city with fire and brimstone (Genesis19:1-25).
Those civilisations represent what a society can become when God is banished, when there is no restraint on man’s sinful nature, and when the number of believers declines so drastically they become a weak minority.
God’s purpose in the days of Noah and Lot was not to reform those cultures. Evil had reached the stage that He had to destroy them after rescuing those who accepted His plan of deliverance. Tragically that number was miniscule.
God’s purpose in this present age is not to reform the culture. Ultimately He will destroy it while delivering all who believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour.
That coming day is described graphically in 2 Peter 3:10: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night;… and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
Today’s moral anarchy and rampaging violence will bring God’s wrath on our culture. The world has become one vast Sodom waiting for the fires of divine judgment. Man has decided he can build new structures of morality without reference to God’s will or even man’s laws. Many who consider themselves intellectual contend it is possible to create a new order without God. Their efforts have succeeded to the point that society no long has a spiritual centre.
For such rebels God has one message. He will destroy the culture they build without Him. Their only hope is to flee from it and come into the shelter provided in His Son. But another culture, another society, is destined for glory, not destruction. It is distinct and separate, called out by the Lord himself to be the special people He calls His church, His ekkleesia. (See Matthew 16:18; 1 Peter 2:9,10). In contrast to the background of our wicked age, the Church shines like a diamond displayed against black velvet.
One New Testament description of the Church is: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” (Matthew 5:14,15). In this passage, candlestick means a lamp. It illuminated a single house and represents the light from an individual believer’s life. The city – made up of many houses – is a picture of the Church as a whole.
In hilly Palestine, cities were often built on one of the hills. Their white limestone structures caught the light of the early morning sun – a picture noticed quickly by those on the lower ground. Lights shining through the windows of the city’s houses at night could be seen by travellers in the darkness. Such a city did not blend in with the rest of the landscape. It stood out from its surrounds. This is precisely the character Jesus intends for His church.
The present age tolerates the Church as long as it maintains a low profile, but that is contrary to its divinely ordained mission. A city set on a hill enjoys high visibility. Those in the valley cannot deny its presence no matter how they feel about its inhabitants.
This city that is Christ’s church is on elevated ground where the air is clean, pure, and unpolluted. Below lies the world of the ungodly, a reeking moral sewer. That culture is dominated by Satan. The city’s culture is dominated by the Spirit of God.
Cultures are distinguished by the values they hold and promote. The world is not embarrassed about flaunting its values, and the Church must be just as bold and uncompromising. The world’s value system is based solely on human desires and whims: “If it feels good, do it.” The world insists there are no absolutes, no fixed standards of morality. The Church draws its values from the unchanging Word of the living God.
By no means are the citizens of this city aloof and isolated. They labour constantly to rescue those trapped by Satan, but their home is not down there in the world’s garbage pits. God’s Spirit has called them to higher ground. They can pull others to safety only by maintaining that position.
The builder of this city did not design it to please the culture of this age. Its mission and destiny do not rest in the world’s hands. If they did, the Church would have become history in its first generation of existence.
Enemies have tried to destroy the city, but have failed. Despite the unrelenting hatred of men and demons, it stands unshaken. When the world’s Sodoms lie in smouldering ruins, the city set on a hill will still be there.
This city must never sink down to the low ground where evil holds sway. Its lights then could not be a beacon for lost travellers. Its citizens could no longer breathe the pure air which is such a contrast to the suffocating stench of the present age. There are no other lights to guide them through the night.
What do beautiful buildings, clever promotions, and high-powered programmes amount to if our lights have gone out? Of what value is our favourable standing in this world if we have abandoned our purity, integrity, and distinctiveness?
The Church must proclaim the truth with such intensity, authority, power, and anointing of the Holy Spirit that the lies spread by Satan will lose their attractiveness. The Church must focus the light of the unadulterated Word of God on the path of men and women, boys and girls. Only then can they find their way to Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, the Builder of the city set on a hill.
Winston Churchill said there comes a moment in everyone’s life, a moment for which the person was born. Surely that is true of the Church in these end times. We are involved in God’s rescue programme. The Church is charged with spreading the invitation everywhere: “Leave the culture that is going to be destroyed. Come out of Sodom.”
Reproduced, with permission from The Evangelist –
Evangelical Tract Distributors, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.