Thursday, June 4, 2015

WE CAN LEARN A LOT - FROM LOT

 It may be most instructive for us to begin near the end of Lot’s experience in the city of Sodom, the place where he had chosen to live.

On one evening that was not unlike any other evening in Sodom, two men arrived at the gate, obviously intending to spend the night in the city. The gate of the cities in that day served as more than simple entrances into the walls. They were also places where the ruling men would sit to make the decisions that would affect the citizens.

Sodom’s leading men were most likely sitting at the gate when the two men arrived. Lot was also at the gate with the other men. His presence indicated that he had probably been accepted as one of the administrators of the city. This type of position would ordinarily be regarded as an indication of some admirable aspects in a person, but one must wonder about it in this case.

By Marc Chagall, 1958-60.
The two men who approached the city of Sodom on that evening had come with a purpose. They had spoken of this purpose with Lot’s uncle Abraham just a short time before this. Abraham was living some distance away and was visited by these men before they went to Sodom. Actually, the two men had been accompanied by a third when they visited Abraham. The third man is identified by the title, LORD, which is Jehovah, the self-existent and eternal God.

The LORD had told Abraham, “The outcry of Sodom
and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know" (Genesis 18:20-21NAS) 
The indication was clear; if the LORD found the city to be as wicked as had been reported, he would destroy it.

When Abraham learned this, he instantly thought of his nephew Lot and tried to intervene for the city of Sodom. Abraham did manage to elicit a promise from the LORD that he would not destroy Sodom if he could find even ten righteous people within its walls.

It was for this reason that the two men approached the gates of Sodom. They were to make an assessment of the wickedness of the city. Among a population of thousands, if they could find even ten righteous people, they would spare the city. If not, it would be destroyed.

As the men approached the gate, Lot saw them and instantly knew that they were not ordinary men. Indeed, the text refers to them as angels. Lot rose to meet them, bowing low, prostrating himself before them with face to the ground.

“My lords,” Lot said to them, “please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.”

It seemed that Lot was not eager for these angels to see the condition of the city of Sodom. Perhaps he also feared for the angel’s safety. Actually, I am sure that was part of the reason that he bid them to come to his house and tried to put into their minds the idea of rising early the next day to depart from the city. Lot knew the spiritual condition of his chosen home city.

The angels first declined Lot’s offer, saying that they instead would stay in the square. This was a common thing for strangers to do when traveling, and it usually was considered a rather safe practice. But Lot knew that it would not be safe in the wicked city of Sodom, and he strongly urged the angels to come to his house. Finally, they relented and went home with him.

But this did not avoid the confrontation that Lot had feared. After night had fallen, men from every part of the city, both young and old, came to Lot’s door. “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them,” the men said to Lot.

The implication here was that the men of the city wanted to have sexual relations with the men that had come to Lot’s house. The men of the city did not recognize the visitors as angels, as did Lot. These men of the city only saw the angels as unusual in some way. Having sex with these visitors, the men thought, would be a new sexual experience for them.  What they had in mind was a wild night of orgy.

Lot, of course, was horrified at this turn of events. He had done all that he could do to protect these visitors, yet here he was, searching his mind for a solution as to how he could avoid this ghastly event from happening. But the solution that he arrived at was at least just as ghastly.

“I beg you, my brothers, Lot said to them, “do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” (Genesis 19:7-8 ESV).

We are rightly horrified at this response of Lot’s. For a father to say such a thing is unthinkable. How is it, we ask, that Lot could have come to such a state of mind? First of all, he appealed to these wicked men of his city as “brothers.”
          Then, infinitely more appalling, he offered his own two virgin daughters to the wickedness of these men to do what ever they wanted to the girls; to have any kind of depraved sexual amusements with them as they wanted. The result of Lot’s solution would have no doubted ended in extreme and repeated raping of his own daughters and ended in their eventual death.

In tradition, the city of Sodom has long been associated with homosexuality. But we see here that the sexual desires of the men of the city were for any and every kind of depravity and corruption of a pure sexual relation that is meant only for a husband and a wife. Their desire was not for the fulfillment of a relationship, but only for entertainment in sex.

The men’s response to Lot’s request was uncompromising. “Stand back!” They told Lot. Then they said of Lot, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them” (Genesis 19:9 ESV).

The sex-driven men pushed against Lot and nearly broke down the door. They would no doubt have succeeded, if the two angels had not intervened.

We will come to that intervention of the angels in a moment, but first we need try and see how the man Lot could have come to such a point in his life where he so closely associated himself with such wicked men and would sacrifice even his daughters to try and appease them. How could he, having been brought up in the household of Abraham, have allowed his life to come to such a state?

Of course, we cannot enter into the mind of Lot to see all of his thinking, but there are a couple of events in his life that may show us some of the things that caused Lot to find himself in such an unfortunate state of affairs.
          Lot was Abraham’s nephew, being the son of Haran, the brother of Abraham. Haran had died back in the family’s home area of Mesopotamia, and Abraham and Sarah took Lot into their household to care for him (Genesis 11:27-28). When God spoke to Abraham about leaving Mesopotamia and journeying to a distant land that God was to show him, Lot also went with the family.
          We do not know if Abraham and family were wealthy when they left their home area, but if not, they soon did acquire great wealth in livestock, silver and gold (Genesis 13:2). However, even though he was rich, having possessions never seemed to be a priority to Abraham. Abraham’s greatest wealth had always been in his walk with God.
          With Lot, however, worldly wealth seemed to play a larger role in his personality. He also had large herds of animals, along with the herdsmen to take care of them. In fact, Lot’s herds and Abraham’s herds were both so large that there began to be opposition between the herds of the two men for grazing lands. Strife arose between the herdsmen of the two.
          Abraham saw this situation as being entirely unnecessary, since there was no shortage of land if they would just separate from one another a little. He gave Lot the opportunity to choose first where he wanted to go. Speaking strictly from the perspective of a livestock person, the best land to be found was in the Jordan Valley. It was well watered and green everywhere, “Like the garden of the Lord,” it was said.
          However, also in that valley lie the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. This was before they were destroyed. But even at that time they were known for the wicked lifestyles of their inhabitants.
          This seemed to be not so troubling to Lot, however. The potential to increase his flocks apparently was more important. In fact, we are told that he pitched his tents even as far as Sodom, perhaps sensing a good market for his livestock produce.
          Now, when the two angels arrive at Sodom, we see Lot living right in town and even sitting at the gate along with the rulers of the city. Somehow, Lot must have rationalized his presence in the midst of such wickedness.
          To his credit, I believe that part of his rationalization was that he might have a positive effect on the life of the city dwellers. The apostle Peter has an interesting commentary concerning Lot. Peter was making the point that God will rescue the godly people from extreme trials. In this context, Peter speaks of Lot. It is interesting that Peter goes out of his way to declare the righteousness of Lot, calling him righteous three separate times in a single sentence:

He [God] rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. (2 Peter 2 7-10 ESV)

 However, it would be a mistake to say that Lot was unaffected in his own life by what went on around him. His act of offering his virgin daughters in order to appease the demands of the men of the city is a clear indication of that. "Appeasement" is the correct word to describe Lot’s attitude toward the men.

“I beg you, my brothers,” Lot had said to them. His attitude was clearly one of conciliation.
          Lot’s attitude may have been one of conciliation, but that desire was certainly not reciprocated by the Sodomites. “Stand back!” They said to him. “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.”
Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin


          If indeed Lot was in a position of leadership in the city, in his better moments, he perhaps thought that he was beginning to have a positive influence on the citizens. He may have even thought that he was introducing the concept of righteousness. It is clear that in calling them his brothers, he identified with them and hoped to persuade them to act in a more righteous manner.
But Lot was only deluding himself. Even his own future sons-in-law, the fiancés of his two daughters, thought that he was jesting when he later warned them to flee the city before it was destroyed. In the city of Sodom, conciliation with wickedness did not work.
The apostle Peter, in the same passage where he called Lot, “righteous,” also had something to say about the Sodomites. It is quite an indictment. He calls them...

Those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones…These, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. (2 Peter 2:10-12 ESV)

          Despite what Lot may have done to convinced himself otherwise, the men of Sodom were not gradually coming around to his way of thinking. With their decline of moral absolutes, they had also gradually lost all sense of spiritual life.
          In most cases in the Bible, when men are confronted by an angelic being, they either prostrate themselves completely to the ground in a sign of humility before such power (as did Lot), or else faint on the spot, falling to the ground like dead men (Matthew 28:3-4).
          But the men of the city had instead become like “irrational animals and creatures of instinct.” They did not even recognize the great power that they were confronting in the angels. Like fools, they did not even tremble as they blasphemed the glorious ones.

They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you [As they had done with Lot]. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! (2 Peter 2:13-14 (ESV)                                  

          We underestimate the power of the sexual drive. When a society gives in to any kind of sexual perversion, it will begin to mark a decline in its spiritual life. The quest for pleasure becomes the focus of desire, not the quest for God. Much sooner than we may believe it could happen, all sense of the spiritual is lost in the thoughts of depraved sex. This includes any type of perversion from what should be the true intimacy between a man and a woman in marriage, such as God has intended from the beginning of time.
          In a way that we do not fully comprehend, this relationship of a husband and wife illustrates and typifies the relationship Christ is building with his church, that is, with his people.
       Since this is the case, it is no wonder that this marriage relationship, one that is to be pure between a husband and a wife, should be attacked at every level by Satan and the workers of iniquity. If we think that appeasement in any way to this attitude will bring lasting harmony, like Lot, we are only deluding ourselves.
       In the end, the angels at Lot’s doorway struck the men with blindness. So driven by their sexual instincts were these men of the city, even this would not have stopped them, except for the fact that they could not find the door.
       The physical blindness with which the Sodomites were struck was only emblematic of the spiritual blindness that had already come to them. That blindness very soon led to their complete destruction.


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