LOT: A Wasted Life
Lot was a young man when Jehovah called his Uncle Abram in Ur of Chaldea: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). Along with the call Jehovah made wonderful promises to Abram.
Abram went, “even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb. 11:8) – which would be foolhardy were not God Himself the travel guide. Fatherless Lot (his father died in Ur) went with childless Abram (Gen. 12:4), now his surrogate father. When they got to Canaan, the Lord told Abram this was the place. Abram built an altar to the Lord. He went on to Bethel, built another altar, then moved on again to the Negev (12:6-9).
When famine came to Canaan, Abram moved to Egypt. We cannot judge him, but can observe that he went beyond where God had called him; and no altar is mentioned, suggesting that worship was less a priority now. A famine in the place where God puts us is better than survival by my own effort. Adversities don’t catch God off guard nor impair His control or supply. Even Abram, one of God’s best examples of faith, had lapses of faith. This was the first. The second soon followed when he exposed his wife to disgrace by denying her relationship to him to save his own skin!
The pardoning Lord brought Abram out of his self-inflicted bind, but not without consequences. Abram returned to where he ought to have stayed, and to his altar, and Lot still tagged along (13:1-5), observing everything that happened and filing away mental notes for future reference. The great wealth they accumulated in Egypt as a result of Abram’s denial of Sarai (12:15-16) soon brought conflict that forced them to separate, leaving Lot on his own and unprepared.
Lot learned from Abram’s mistakes, but not his restoration. Abram answered God’s call and Lot went with him; Abram worshiped God, and Lot perhaps even participated – but at Abram’s altar, not his own. Lot followed Abram to Egypt, got rich with him, followed him back to Bethel and saw his restoration to intimacy with God. But, tragically, there seems to be no restoration in Lot’s life, nor any mention of an altar.
When they had to separate, kind-hearted Uncle Abram let Lot choose first, taking what was left for himself (13:5-9). Lot chose based on the criteria learned in the place where he followed Abram, out of God’s will. He “looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered … like the land of Egypt,” and he “chose for himself the whole plain” – a choice that brought him “near Sodom” where the people were “wicked and sinning greatly” (13:10-13). Soon Lot was in Sodom.
Meanwhile, God awarded Abram all the land in sight to the four points of the compass, for himself and his descendants in perpetuity (13:14-17). God always gives the best to those who walk with Him.
Before long Lot was in trouble. Four kings attacked Sodom and its allies, and took everyone hostage, including Lot. Abram armed his 318 servants, and, with God’s strength, overwhelmed the marauding kings and recovered all the hostages (Gen.14). Did Lot learn? No, he returned to Sodom.
God continues the narrative of his plans and activities, which very much involve Abraham, while Lot, who had stepped out of the flow of God’s will and plans, disappeared for awhile from the story, only to reappear when Abraham again plays a crucial role in his life.
One day Abraham welcomed three visitors (Gen. 8). Two were angels, who went on to Sodom. The third was the Lord, who shared with Abraham His plans to destroy that corrupt place. A complaint against Sodom’s moral perversion had become an “outcry” so disturbing that it reached to heaven, and the Lord came down for a closer look. What an amazing demonstration of God’s reluctance to execute deserved judgment until there was no other option! Deeply worried for Lot, Abraham intercedes to spare the city if even a minimum of decent people can be found there. God was quite willing to cancel judgment, at the urging of His “friend” (Jas. 2:23), for even ten “righteous” people, but the minimum was not there.
It’s interesting that the three visitors, including the Lord, approached Abraham – an obedient worshiper living in fellowship with his God – on Abraham’s own level, as “men” (18:2), comfortable with him.
But the two arrived in Sodom as “angels” (19:1) – aloof and apart from the moral rottenness that was its climate – to find Lot sitting in the city gate, the place where government and court convened, which put him in a position of responsibility for what went on in his town.
In stark contrast to their visit to Abraham, these angels from heaven were not eager to accept compromised Lot’s hospitality, not comfortable fellowshipping with him, and preferred to spend the night in the public square rather than as guests in his home. Lord, may you always feel welcome and comfortable in my home!
Lot insisted (19:1-3); we can see from what follows that decent men would not be safe in the street, and Lot knew it. The angels accepted. The totality of the perversion in Sodom is hard to believe: “All the men from every part of the city … both young and old” demanded that Lot bring his guests out so they could homosexually rape them (19:4-5).
Shockingly, Lot called them “friends” and, cautious not to judge them – just as today it is not politically correct to do so – he urged them not to “do this wicked thing.” More shockingly, he offered them instead his virgin daughters to “do what you like with them” (19:7-8). Surrounded by a totally corrupt Sodom, Lot completely lost his moral, God-fearing mind.
The fact that Sodom’s men had no interest in two tender young female virgins shows the extent of their depravity. Enraged, they then turned on him as an outsider who had come to set himself up as judge.
Who knows where it might have ended had the angels not rescued Lot to prepare him for a quick escape from looming judgment. Two of Sodom’s young men (Were they among those outside Lot’s door?) were engaged to marry the two daughters Lot had nearly sacrificed to the mob of perverts. He warned them but they “thought he was joking” (19:10-14). Was he known for irreverent humor? He certainly had no credibility with young men who must have known him well. So they were lost with the rest.
Out Of Sodom
Dislodging Lot from Sodom proved quite a chore for these angels eager to fulfill their mission and get out of town. In spite of God’s great mercy (Why couldn’t Lot just trust Him?) and the angels’ urging to “flee to the mountains or you will be swept away” (19:17), Lot thought he had a better idea and still wanted to choose for himself: “No, my lords, please! … Look, here is a town … Let me flee to it … Then my life will be spared” (19:16-20). Request granted. Just hurry; the angels couldn’t fulfill their mission until Lot and his family were safe (19:21-22).
Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur and destroyed the whole region, which remains a barren waste today. Lot’s wife, a life-long Sodom resident, despite the angels’ warning of “Don’t look back!”, wistfully did so and became a “pillar of salt” – a permanent reminder of the severity of God’s judgment and the danger of trifling with Him (19:17,26; Lk. 17:32).
All the good that came into Lot’s life was due to his Uncle Abraham’s solid friendship with God: “So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, He remembered Abraham, and He brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived” (19:29).
But Lot only went on to final moral failure. Feeling unsafe in Zoar, he took his daughters to live in a cave. They felt like the world had ended and they were the only survivors. They felt an urgency to re-populate the earth, and thought their father was the only man available.
The scene is one of the most disgusting in the Bible. They made their father drunk and both girls had sons by him, sons whose descendants became persistent enemies of Israel and sources of idolatry among them (Gen. 19:30-38; Ps. 83:1-8; 2 Chr. 20; Neh. 13:23; 2 Ki. 23:13).
Genesis seems to give no hint of piety in Lot, but thank God “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim. 2:19), and Peter is clear, referring to Lot as “a righteous man.” But how does a righteous man live in the world Lot chose? He “was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)” (2 Pet. 2:7-8).
Some say that the most unhappy person on earth is not the unbeliever but the believer who lives out of the will and conscious fellowship of God. In that case, Lot is exhibit number one. But not the only one. Today’s world has similarly intimidated, defeated and silenced thousands of Christians.
What We Learn
What do we learn from Lot? I believe it’s that we cannot succeed as Christians – God’s people in a corrupt world – except as wholehearted followers of Jesus Christ in our everyday lives. Abraham followed God. He slipped and fell, but he came back to his altar. Lot did not truly follow God; he followed a follower of God. Lot had no altar of his own. So, though Abraham slipped and fell, he recovered. When Lot slipped and fell with him, he did not recover. Abraham returned to his altar. Lot had no altar to return to. Lot’s path continued downhill from bad to worse. Abraham not only recovered his own spiritual equilibrium, he was even able to rescue Lot more than once.
We know that our Savior left us in a corrupt world, a 21st century Sodom. How will we impact it? Abraham walked with God apart from the world, and had positive influence. Lot chose to live in Sodom, did not walk with God, and consequently was worn down to nothing as a witness. His Sodom-bred daughters were thoroughly infected with its corrupt mores. Sodom was not helped by his involvement as a civic leader. He had no credibility as an agent of God, even with his sons-in-law-to-be. And the moral climate in Sodom only deteriorated during his residence, to the point where God had enough. “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold” (Rom. 12:2 Phillips). “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Pet. 2:12).
By Bill Van Ryn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org