LOT: The Lure Of City Lights
The city lights lured Lot – and he is not the last person to have been ruined by the attractions of the big city.
One of the saddest characters in the Bible is Lot. By this I do not mean that Lot was a man of melancholy disposition. Rather, I mean that his life was something of a tragedy. Lot started out so well – but finished with nothing. The man we first meet in a position of great privilege is finally seen bereaved of his wife and dwelling with his daughters in a lonely mountain cave. What went wrong? Understanding the cause of Lot’s calamity may help us avoid the same pitfalls in our own lives.Have you ever watched in the evening a moth attracted by a bright light? Drawn ever closer, the moth is soon fluttering around the light bulb. An electric light may present a danger, but a candle is worse. A burning candle is pure fire, and if the moth comes too close to the flame it may be destroyed. The world in which we live is like the candle flame, and we are drawn to it like the moth to the light. The city lights lured Lot – and he is not the last person to have been ruined by the attractions of the big city.
A Privileged Position
To begin with, we need to understand something about Lot’s background. He lived more than 4,000 years ago and is first mentioned in the Bible at the end of Genesis 11. His father’s name was Haran, and his grandfather was Terah. Another of Terah’s sons was Abram (later Abraham), a well-known figure of Bible history. He was Lot’s uncle. Lot’s own father, Haran, died in his native land, but Lot was not left alone. His grandfather Terah and uncle Abraham had an interest in him and took him with them as they set off for Canaan. The Lord had already called Abraham to leave the land of his birth and commence a journey of faith to an unknown place. In obedience to that call Abraham had set off at age 75 accompanied by various family members including Lot, his nephew (Gen. 12:1-4).
As the extended family journeyed, we can imagine Lot questioning his uncle about the purpose of the expedition. He would have watched Abraham worship the Lord and call on His name at the altar he had built (Gen. 12:8). Lot was in a privileged position. He was in the company of a man of God.
Many people today enjoy similar privileges – perhaps without realizing it. To be brought up in a Christian home and to be surrounded by those who love the Lord is a great privilege. To have godly parents who pray for you and seek to introduce you to Christian things is a privilege, but on its own is not enough to get you to heaven. A personal faith is necessary, and at this point we may well ask what personal faith Lot had. Was he simply depending on the spiritual insight and faith of his uncle? Being born into a Christian home is not enough – neither is attending a church. It is vital to take the step of trusting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.
The Snare Of Prosperity
Lot’s troubles can be traced back to his prosperity. Abraham, blessed by God, was “very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold” (Gen. 13:2 KJV). Lot had great possessions too (Gen. 13:5). Sadly their possessions led to strife between them. They had so many animals that the land could not support both sides of the family. The herdsmen employed by Abraham and those employed by Lot began to argue – and the Canaanites and Perizzites who occupied the land witnessed it all (Gen. 13:6-7).
Prosperity can still be dangerous. Someone has said, “Money can buy you an education but not intelligence; a bed but not sleep; food but not an appetite; cosmetics but not beauty; a house but not a home, medicine but not health, entertainment but not happiness; acquaintances but not friends.” Our Lord warned of the danger of gaining the whole world but losing your soul (Mk. 8:36). Today, some church leaders teach that those who please the Lord will be blessed materially. Such teaching is wrong.
In Old Testament times God did bless His people in this way. But the New Testament makes it clear that the believer’s blessings today are heavenly and not earthly, spiritual and not material. Beware of prosperity! If you are an unbeliever, your wealth can keep you eternally from the Savior, as it did the rich young ruler (Mk. 10:17-22). If you are a believer, your prosperity can divert you from a life that is truly useful to the Lord.
The Big Choice
Abraham was both gracious and generous. As the older man the choice should have been his, but turning to his nephew he asked Lot to state his preference. “It’s not right for there to be a dispute,” he said. “There is plenty of space for both of us. If you go to the left, I will go to the right. If you decide on going to the right, I’ll go to the left” (Gen. 13:8-9). To use an analogy from tennis, the ball was in Lot’s court.
From his vantage point, Lot surveyed the land. The plain of Jordan looked so well-watered, it reminded him of Egypt – a place where he had been with his uncle during a famine (Gen. 12:10). Lot already had plenty of cattle, but as he viewed this fertile land that also reminded him of “the garden of the Lord” (Gen. 13:10) he realized that if he moved in that direction he could do even better. Prosperity now had a grip on his life. Journeying east, the Bible simply tells us that Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Gen. 13:12). A chilling note is added here: “The men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (Gen. 13:13). The city lights were beginning to lure Lot in their direction. Big cities still have a tantalizing attraction. Many young people have turned to the city hoping to find fulfillment and satisfaction, but disappointment has been encountered and their dreams have been dashed.
All of us today have choices to make. Do we look to the Lord to guide us, or are we attracted by the prospects that this world has to offer? The Bible tells us, “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Ps. 37:4). It also gives us a sober warning: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15).
A Gracious Warning
Genesis 14 tells of a war that developed. By now Lot was dwelling in Sodom. The king of Sodom and four other kings were attacked by four more powerful kings. Lot found himself embroiled in the conflict – and on the losing side. Before long he was taken captive and found himself in enemy hands. News of what had happened to Lot reached Abraham. Instead of blaming his young nephew (as he could have done) for his foolishness and for getting what he deserved, Abraham set out on a rescue mission. With 318 of his servants Abraham overtook and overcame the enemy forces, thus bringing deliverance to Lot and his family.
God had been merciful to Lot, and no doubt he was very grateful. But was there not a warning in the experience? God surely speaks through the circumstances of our lives. Through this experience Lot should have realized that Sodom was not the place for him to live. But, as we shall see, the warning appears to have gone unheeded. Sometimes we are very slow to learn what God is trying to teach us.
A Top Spot
For a little while Lot disappears from the scene. The next time we read of him, he is seated in a position of authority “in the gate of Sodom” (Gen. l9:l). People looked up to him as one of the leaders of their city. Imagine we could meet him and ask, “Lot, what are you doing here? Sodom is a very wicked city.” How might Lot have replied? He could well have said, “I know that – but you can’t complain and do nothing! By my position in Sodom, I might be able to make things better.”
Many Christians today make the same mistake. Although we are to let our light shine, we are not told to engage in politics or local government in order to improve society. Our responsibility is to proclaim the gospel message that can change men’s hearts! Did Lot achieve anything by being promoted to a place in the gate of Sodom? The remainder of Genesis 19 answers the question. When two angels arrived at the city with a message of judgment and told Lot of the urgency to flee from the city, he approached the members of his family “but he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law” (Gen. 19:14). They refused to take him seriously. The pathway to blessing is never one of compromise. There are some places on earth where a Christian ought never to go. Lot was in the wrong place. He should never have been in Sodom.
When morning dawned the angels urged Lot to leave Sodom at once lest he be consumed in the destruction that was about to engulf the city, but Lot lingered (Gen. 19:15-16)! He failed to grasp the urgency of the situation. Sodom was his home. All his possessions were there. He was being asked to leave everything behind! We can well be reminded of our Savior’s words: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth … but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Mt. 6:19-20). If, like Lot, we love the world, we will be sad to leave it. We must learn to set our affection on things above and not on the things of this world (Col. 3:2).
The Lord was merciful, and the angels took Lot’s hand and led him, his wife, and his two daughters out of the doomed city. Sadly his wife perished a short distance from Sodom as she disobeyed the instruction and looked back longingly at her home. The final glimpse we have of Lot is a very sad one indeed. The man who had sat in the gate of Sodom is now living in a mountain cave with his two daughters. All his possessions have gone – and all this happened because Lot made the wrong choice.
That Righteous Man
If we only had the Old Testament we might well wonder whether Lot was a believer. The New Testament, however, says more. Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us that Lot, indeed, was a righteous man. The things he saw and heard in Sodom perplexed him greatly. Unlike the unbridled Sodomites, Lot had a righteous soul (2 Pet. 2:7-8). Lot’s mistake had been in choosing to live among them.
What about ourselves? Are we different from the unconverted people around us or do we merge in with all the rest? Followers of the Lord Jesus should be like Him. Don’t be lured by the dazzling lights of this world. All that the world offers is temporary – passing. Remember “the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).
By Martin Girard
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org