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When Your Life is Stuck on Pause: Meet the God of Rescue (Gen. 19)

Genesis 18 showed us how God is a friend to those in His covenant. The New Covenant is the same way (John 15:15). However, there is another kind of friendship the Bible talks about. James 4:4 says, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” We are called to be in the world and yet not of the world. It is one thing for the water to be on the boat and another thing for the water to get inside the boat. Our love for God will always expel love for the world, but love for the world will deaden our love for God.

When we are not cultivating a friendship with the Lord, we will see that something else will “add us a friend” and call us to follow it. We saw Abraham, called the friend of God and how he enjoyed the benefits of that. Now we will see Lot, a completely different picture of a man who befriended the world. When our lives are stuck on pause, often God uses that time to show us how we have shifted our allegiance and devotion to so many other things to be our friends than God. Nevertheless, there is a God who interrupts our lives to rescue us. Let’s start with this:

I. Friendship with the world is dangerous (vv.1-11)

Just as the Lord and Abraham finished having an intimate time in prayer as covenant friends, we find Lot inside Sodom, sitting by the gate, completely unaware of what is about to happen. Notice all the differences and similarities between Gen. 18 and 19. Abraham meets the three men at the brightest part of the day. Lot meets two of them at night; both are pictures of what is going on spiritually. In fact, the Hebrew term for “evening” means “black.” The physical darkness of the city, with the setting of the sun, matches the moral blackness of the events that follow.[1]

We are not exactly sure if Sodom is 18 or 40 miles from Hebron (Oaks of Mamre).[2] Regardless, it would have taken more than just a few hours to get there, so that tells us that God’s heart to get Lot out is more urgent than Lot’s desire to stay behind. God sends His representatives to Sodom, but He Himself shows up and walks with Abraham, again showing us that those in covenant with the Lord and walking with Him always gets the most of God. Unlike Abraham, Lot had no tent or altar; and the Lord could not fellowship with him.[3] This is really sad. Why is friendship with the world so dangerous?

a) It happens subtly

What is he doing at the gate? He’s a politician or a businessman. Apparently, “At the gate formal activities took place. Public decisions were made, cases heard, business transacted, and visitors processed or registered according to the conventions of the city.”[4] Lot, who left with his uncle Abraham, who was the seed of the woman, now fully invested with the Canaanites, the seed of the serpent. Note how this all started. Back in Gen. 12, Lot got a taste of the world when Abraham fled to Egypt and came back rich. A seed was planted in his heart.

Your eyes look toward where your heart is. Lot in Gen. 13:10, saw the land, away from the land of promise, was like the Garden of Eden.  He had a tent back then and pitched it near Sodom (Gen. 13:12). In Gen. 14, Abraham had to rescue Lot when he was taken away captive. You would think he would have learned his lesson and came back to the land of promise. Footholds always become strongholds. Now in Gen. 19:1, we see that he has upgraded his tent for a house. Abraham is still living in a tent, and several times the author highlights the fact that Lot has a house.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “Had Lot gone to Sodom because God directed him, his being there would have fulfilled divine purposes. After all, God put Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, and Esther in Persia; and their presence turned out to be a blessing. Worldliness is not a matter of physical geography but of heart attitude (1 John 2:15–17). Lot’s heart was in Sodom long before his body arrived there.”[5]

What does that tell you? This tells us what we have continually seen in Genesis. Sin always hides itself. You do not go out trying to destroy your life, but small choices eventually lead you to destruction. The most deadly sins do not leap upon us; they creep up on us.[6] Perhaps his desire was to provide for his family. A good desire made into a God-like desire and ultimate desire where God was out of the picture. Sin is very subtle. We always reap more than we sow. We think it’s a small thing. A small grudge. A small habit.  A little bitterness. A little stealing of glory. Some unforgiveness. Sin is like when a particle gets in your eye. You don’t let it sit there. You do what it takes to help you see again. Is there anything right now in our hearts that we are not confessing?

b) It disguises itself

The author compares both Abraham and Lot’s hospitality. Abraham recognizes something divine with the visitors and he acts quickly. Lot also acts quickly, but it does not seem like he knows that God has sent these men. Neither does he realize his garden is about to be destroyed. He does not hear the outcry that God has heard. He has no idea that Abraham is praying for him.

It is interesting that the men are not really interested in “hanging out” with Lot. They really do not want to be there. I saw the show “Hoarders” the other day. Some people live in incredible filth and get used to it. It’s only when visitors come by and start throwing up that you see it sometimes. There is something very nauseating about being here with Lot. It is hard to have fellowship. Why does Lot insist like this? It could be because of the hospitality in that culture, but it could also mean that he knows what the Sodomites will do to these men if they were outside. It makes you wonder: Does he have some hint of morality and righteousness in him still?

Notice both Lot and Abraham are serving, but with two very different hearts. One author says, “Like Abraham, Lot extends gracious hospitality to his visitors; however, in the narrator’s descriptions of the two events, Lot’s feast and acts of hospitality cannot measure up to Abraham’s lavish meal and generous service.”[7]Also, this is not the “best” as Abraham had with “unleavened bread,” which is usually made in haste. He is ignorant and oblivious to the things of God, though he can still serve and make you think he does know.

Abraham, why are you serving? The Lord made my day. I get to serve Him, my friend and covenant partner. Lot, why are you serving here? It’s my job. It is what we do in our culture. I have to. See the difference? I get to versus I have to? One of the things the Servant Team talked about last week at the retreat was to see serving not as a job but as an opportunity for God to serve you as the doctor serves a patient. We need to serve more than our people need serving. Serving the Lord is God’s way to heal you from you. But if we see it as a job and obligation, we will end up resentful and bitter. That is the world’s way to serve as a job and obligation, rather than an opportunity to know the Lord and yourself better.

c) It always multiplies itself

Have you ever tried to submerge a beach ball under water? What happens? It always comes back up. So is our friendship with the world. Notice what happens in Gen. 19:4-11. Lot seems very hospitable and protective of his guests. But then all of the men come around his house. Word got out. It only took a few hours to see what’s going on.

Notice that they want to “know” them. This word is talking about sexual intimacy. This is the same word used in Gen. 4:1 where Adam “knew” his wife. We are not sure if they wanted to get to know them sexually or if this was some sort of homosexual gang rape. Initially Lot responds as he knows good from bad. He calls it wickedness. At this point, Lot seems heroic, settled in his convictions and determined to not go the way of the culture.

The act of homosexual intercourse derives its name from Sodom (i.e., Sodomy). By the way, the Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin. Within the last ten years, you can see that the media has made it normal. I don’t want to spend too much time on this since this chapter nor the Bible elevates homosexuality above the other sins Sodom and Gomorrah were judged for like pride, excess food, prosperous ease, did not help poor and needy (Eze. 16:49), adultery, lying, and abetting the criminal (Jer. 23:14). Sin is sin. Interestingly, it was the outcry of the victims here that God initially moves toward in judgment (Gen. 18:20; 19:14). There is hope for those in homosexuality. We are called to love them as anyone else and welcome everyone to our church. The Bible says that in Corinth, there were former homosexuals who came to know the Lord (1 Cor. 6:9-11). I think those Christians probably struggled a lot with those desires even after salvation, but we all struggle with sin after we are saved too, don’t we? But are we moving closer to Christ?

Moving on, notice he calls them “brothers.” It might be to calm them down, but it also is revealing. Lot has made himself a fellow Sodomite. But look at Gen. 19:8. He does the unthinkable. He is willing to give his daughters to these men instead of two strangers. Pastor Kent Hughes says, “Conflicted, compromised Lot placed the sanctity of hospitality above the sanctity of his family.”[8] It is possible that Lot thought his daughters’ fiancées would come to their rescue or that the homosexual attackers would not be interested in his daughters. Regardless, what kind of father is this? You leave it all to provide for your family only in the end to sacrifice them to be used by men to satisfy their lusts? Is this not great wickedness Lot?

But before we judge Lot, I see that we can become the same way in our friendship with the world. We can oppose sex trafficking or homosexuality, but does it bother us when we see adultery on television? Pornography on the Internet? We too, driven by things we have made bigger than God run to the world, only to find that they end up destroying us. Notice the men ready to hurt Lot in Gen. 19:9. Lot thought he became respectable and people honored him, but in the end, they call him a “traveler.” Lot has no allies, except these strangers who came just in the nick of time. We don’t realize the Lord is all we need until He is all we have.

John Piper adds, “If you don’t see the greatness of God, then all the things that money can buy become very exciting. If you can’t see the sun, you will be impressed with a street light. If you’ve never felt thunder and lightning, you’ll be impressed with fire works. And if you turn your back on the greatness and majesty of God, you’ll fall in love with a world of shadows and short-lived pleasures.[9] If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.[10] The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night.[11]

All friendships with the world lead to disorder. It’s chaotic.  And as a result, it is hard to juggle it all and God reveals what your heart is like. Lot’s a mess here. He is so conflicted and pulled in so many directions. This is probably why Peter says that Lot struggled day after day with what he saw around him (2 Pet. 2:6-10). He’s numb to what’s right and wrong. Everything is out of order. I don’t know if the angels are wondering here, “Why did we agree to this assignment?” Lot appears like a blessing but looks like a buffoon here. He fails as a host, as a citizen, as a husband, as a father. He wants to protect his guests but needs to be protected by them.[12] Lot cannot take care of anything here. Everything is spinning out of control. Lot could have also been angry that these men caused all this trouble by visiting him, but little does he know that what seems as trouble for Lot is actually an intervention to save his life. Praise God for all of the irritations of life, for they reveal to us our sin and our only source of salvation.

And how did he get here again? All of this for a piece of land. Whatever we are chasing now, if God is not in it, it is like kids chasing bubbles. It seems beautiful and big and you have to have it, but in the end, all you get is handful of soap. Lot reminds me of the little boy Eustace in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He is a selfish, greedy, self-centered, arrogant, skeptical and critical little boy, who ends up finding all this treasure and in a moment of uncontrollable greed, he tries to gather it all for himself. He ends up falling asleep with a dead dragon and when he awoke, he sees his hideous reflection in a pool and shockingly realized that he himself had turned into a dragon! Lewis says, “Sleeping…with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart, he had become a dragon himself.”[13] He tries to peel of his dragon skin, but doesn’t get far until later, Aslan, the great Lion, comes and peels it off with his paw.

We are so helpless to get rid of our sin. Friendship with the world is dangerous! It ends up numbing us, creeping on us and then slowly destroying us. This is why the Lord interrupts our lives and shows us these things! Note secondly,

II. God’s love for us is greater than our love for the world    (vv.12-38)

The more I was studying this chapter, the more I started to see that it is not so much about how great God’s judgment is, but how great God’s grace and mercy is to save Lot and his family out of judgment. Soon as the violent men are blinded, the angels waste no time to disclose their mission and their identity in Gen. 19:12-14. By the way, notice how enslaved these Sodomites are in that even after they are blinded, they are still trying to get in!

God is so gracious. Lot doesn’t deserve to know what is going on. But they warn him to take his loved ones and leave. Before it was to get into the ark (Gen. 7:1), now it’s get out of the city! Lot believes it, for that second. Lot goes to his Sodomite sons-in-law, who technically weren’t married yet to his daughters, but were pretty much considered married once they became engaged.

I don’t think these men were outside with the other men and were blinded too. Regardless, Lot witnesses to them. And they laugh. More laughing in Genesis! This is a mocking laugh. Hughes notes, “Despite the fact that they along with Lot had been divinely delivered by God from the eastern kings through the agency of Abraham, despite the fact that they had been struck with blindness that very night, despite the fact that they had seen something of Lot’s righteousness, they rejected Lot’s warning.”[14] Wiersbe says, “Because of his worldliness, Lot had no spiritual influence either in the city or in his own home. His married daughters and their husbands laughed at him and refused to leave the city. Even his wife was so in love with Sodom that she had to take one last look, and that look killed her (Gen. 19:26; Luke 17:32).[15]

Why do they laugh at him? Notice the parallel between Abraham and Lot. God allows Abraham to partner with him to influence God’s decision on judgment and Lot is a bumbling mess unable to persuade anybody in this story. Hamilton posits, “Should an individual who offers to surrender his daughters to a group bent on assault be taken seriously by the (future) husbands of these women? Should a father-in-law who is himself saved only because he is pulled inside his own house now be viewed as a bearer of vital information? Lot wants them to leave the house now, but he is safe only because he is inside. What about that mob outside?”[16]

By the way, did you ever notice that the first thing Satan denies after He denies God’s Word is that there is judgment? “You shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). There is no judgment. Hell? God is a God of love, not an angry God. But they don’t realize that because God loves, He is angry. As Tim Keller says, “If you never get angry about anything, you don’t love anything. Anger is a love response to a threat to the object of your love. [17]  Anger is the result of love. It is energy for defense of something you love when it is threatened. If you don’t love something at all, you are not angry when it is threatened.”[18] This is why we get angry when someone wrongs us. We love us and how dare that person hurt something that is so important and precious? But God loves us so much, He is angered at what sin does to us.

So these guys laugh at the thing they should be mourning over. I don’t know if their laughter crushes Lot because he goes to bed. Notice Gen. 19:15. He is so slow to obey! It is morning now and if I were the angels, I would have had enough. But they wake him up and again, “Get up and go!” Notice Gen. 19:16: “But he lingered.” He tells his sons-in-law to leave, but he fails to leave himself. He’s inconsistent. He is better at giving directives than receiving them.[19] Why does he hesitate? It’s probably because he feels secure. Lot felt more secure inside an evil city than outside of it with God.[20] It is hard to take Lot out of Sodom when a lot of Sodom was already inside of Lot. He’s a lot like us. Delayed obedience is disobedience. The other day Abbie was coloring and I asked her to do something. She says, “In a moment.” In other words, what I am doing is far more important than what you want me to do. Remember Abraham eager to serve, standing by as though he’s asking, “Is there anything else I can do for you Lord?”

Like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, Sodom is his “precious.” Despite all the pain and destruction brought on by his choices and all the mercy of God to come to him in the first place, to save him from the mob outside just a few hours before, in the end, he loves his sin more than he loves God. But praise God that there is a God who loves us more than our love for sin!

Why go through all this trouble for this man? Notice Gen. 19:16. The angels force them out why? “The Lord being merciful to him.” Does this guy deserve this rescue? Absolutely not. He did nothing to earn it! This guy is a fool. He has no influence. He is inconsistent. He is not even grateful. He has no sense of morality. He has no real friends. His family mocks him. What does he have to lean on? The mercy of God. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. The justice of God is getting what we do deserve.

Each time Lot opens his mouth in this narrative, it gets worse and worse. We find out he’s a whining wimp. The angels, who seem to know what they’re doing and they are representing God and all, tells him what to do. What does he say? Look in Gen. 19:18: “Oh no, my lords.” You can take a man out of Sodom, but you cannot take Sodom out of a man. He doesn’t mention Yahweh sparing his life, but these men. Thank you clouds for the rain.

He is clueless. Catastrophe is about to hit Sodom and he is arguing about the escape route! And why? He doesn’t think he will get there fast enough. He had at first hesitated even to leave Sodom. Now he speculates whether he has adequate time to flee far enough.[21] Lot, did God carry you out here to kill you? I could have killed you inside Sodom (and should have!) A lot of us think like that. God goes through hell to save our sorry selves and we sit here wondering if He is going to take care of us.

Then he thinks he knows what is good for him. Look at Gen. 19:20-21. He wants a city! If he can’t get Sodom, he wants to next closest thing to Sodom. He wants Zoar, a mini-Sodom. Notice the repetition of “little one.” Waltke adds, “He argues that, since the walled village is small, its quantity of sin is less and/or it is not worth bothering with. His argument betrays a lack of faith, a jaded spiritual evaluation of justice, and an effete taste for depraved urbanity.”[22] One commentator says, “Not even brimstone will make a pilgrim of him: he must have his little Sodom again if life is to be supportable.”[23] At this point, if I were this angel, I would have had enough. I would have tied him up and said, “God, ready when you are! Send the first brimstone here!”

His love and passion for his security and materialism is so strong, stronger than any love for God. But God’s hand on Him is stronger. Do you see the patient mercy of God, shepherding even the straggler to safety?[24] And then being so willing to spare Zoar for Lot! What kind of God is this? How can He be so kind when we have been so mean to Him? The angels even wait for Lot and his daughters to get there before doing anything. What grace! Iain Duguid says, “God held back his entire timetable of destruction so that he could save poor, compromised Lot.”[25] Look over at Gen. 19:30. Later, he does go to the hills because now he’s afraid to live in Zoar. He doesn’t know what he wants. He is full of fear.

Finally there is judgment. God does as He said He would do. It is complete. It might have been some sort of earthquake and lightning combination. And we find that there is another Gollum after all in Gen. 19:26. Lot’s wife initially dragged out with her family, but in the running, starts to slow and down. This “looked back” here is not a quick glance, but a long gaze. If the destruction did not happen until Lot was in Zoar, this means she was way behind. The angels had taken her by the hand and dragged them out, but here we see, she let go pretty quickly and her heart started longing for her stuff. Luke 17:31-32 implies that apparently she lost her life because of her reluctance to let go of her household stuff.[26] She is a wife after Lot’s own heart. Are there things in our lives that we are gazing at that we should be running away from?

In Gen. 19:27-29, we see Abraham, probably not able to sleep, to see the outcome of his prayers. There is no evidence that Abraham knew that Lot and his daughters escaped. He knew there were not even ten righteous people to spare Sodom. Sometimes we do not know what God does with our prayers. God doesn’t show us or tell us everything.  He simply knew God better from this experience.

Sadly, Lot, in a quest to find the “garden of Eden” in Sodom, to save his family and live by sight and for money and greed, ends up in a cave, with no wife and two daughters who have sex with him. It is Sodom all over again  (Gen. 19:30-38). He apparently did not learn from Noah and his sons.

Conclusion

 We would be arrogant to think we are better than Lot. Are we less compromised than he was? Are we less attached to the things of the world? We are not. Lot can’t even escape right. He is full of fear. He loves his sin. He can’t obey basic instructions. He doesn’t know what he wants. He doesn’t know what’s good for him. He complains. He is ungrateful. His theology is off. And he’s a horrible father. He lingers in Sodom.  Yet God comes for him. Do you know that God redeems this tragic story? Out of Lot’s grandson (and son) Moab’s line comes a woman named Ruth. Ruth the Moabite’s husband Boaz, who is the son of a Canaanite, Rahab, have a great-grandson named David. Out of David’s line comes thee Savior of the world!

Do you know Peter says three times that Lot is “righteous.” If Peter hadn’t said that we would never have known. How can he call this guy that?! The same reason why God can call us the same thing. Grace. How can God be so gracious to this undeserving guy? Because centuries later, God’s judgment fell again. Because of love, He unleashed His wrath on Jesus Christ, who was the object of His love, to make us His enemies, the objects of His wrath with our Sodomite hearts, into objects of His love.

Lot was willing to give up his daughters to abuse to selfishly protect some strangers. But the angels protected him. God the Father willingly offered up His Son to abuse so we can be delivered from hell. All of hell rained down on Him. All the angels of Heaven were ready to be dispatched to save the Savior of the world, but the Father stopped them. He got no rescue so we can get rescued. There were no angels to hold His hand so God can hold ours. For reluctant, disobedient, compromising, world-loving, foolish, ungrateful, sin-clinging sinners, the Judge took our place, so we can be saved.  He is our High Priest, whose sacrifice and prayer is remembered every day, so we can be spared. And He doesn’t bring us to a small city, but to the city of God, the true Garden of Eden. We can say no to our small cities where we try to find life. It is not that we love the world too much. It is that we love the Lord too little. We need the Gospel to hit us again. Lord, may this truth melt our heart and melt our hands so we can release our grip on the world and grow in our love for you and be in your great work to rescue others who are perishing. May your eagerness to deliver us overcome our reluctance to be delivered.

 

 


[1]Waltke, B. K., & Fredricks, C. J. (2001). Genesis: A Commentary (275). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2]Hamilton, V. P. (1995). The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18–50. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (31). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3]Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Obedient (80). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

[4]Walton, J. H. (2009). Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament) Volume 1: Genesis,   Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (92). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5]Wiersbe, W. W. (79).

[6]Krell, K. “Sin and the City,” http://bible.org/seriespage/sin-and-city-genesis-191-38#P9_3485 accessed 15 March 2012.

[7]Waltke, B. K., & Fredricks, C. J. (275-76).

[8]Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and blessing. Preaching the Word (272). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

[9]Piper, J. “The Curse of Careless Worship,”  http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-curse-of-careless-worship accessed 17 March 2012.

[10]Piper, J. (1997). A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer (23). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

[11]Piper, J. (1997). (14).

[12]Waltke, B. K., & Fredricks, C. J. (274).

[13]Lewis, C.S. (1952). The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (97).  New York, NY: Harper Collins.

[14]Hughes, R. K. (273).

[15]Wiersbe, W. W. (80-81).

[16]Hamilton, V. P. (41).

[17]Keller, T. notes from a sermon, “The Healing of Anger,” http://allkindsoftime.blogspot.com/2004/11/about-anger.html accessed 17 Mar 2012.

[18]Keller, T. “Anger is the result of love,” http://kellerquotes.com/anger-is-the-result-of-love/  accessed 17 Mar 2012.

[19]Hamilton, V. P. (43).

[20]Waltke, B. K., & Fredricks, C. J. (278).

[21]Hamilton, V. P. (44).

[22]Waltke, B. K., & Fredricks, C. J. (278).

[23]Kidner, D. (1967). Vol. 1: Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (145–146). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[24]Kidner, D. (146).

[25]Duguid, Iain M. (1999). Living in the Reality Gap Between Promise and Reality: The Gospel  

       According to Abraham (102). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&P Publishing.

[26]Hughes, R. K. (275).

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