Gen. 19:1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.
Genesis chapter 19 is the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, as I was reading this week, I was surprised that it not so much about Sodom, its about Lot and to a lesser extant his wife and two daughters. As I’ve said before, while Abraham is presented in Scripture as the porto-typical man of faith, the friend of God who walks before him, even though he fails from time to time, Lot is presented as and has been understood in the history of interpretation as a wayward believer, a believer who has strayed from the path of walking with God to dwell among the lost. In that sense Lot is a complex character. The apostle Peter, in the New Testament confirms that Lot was a righteous man, who was “greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked … tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard”, and indeed that seems to be the reason he is warned to flee Sodom as God visited His judgement upon it.
However, while being described as “righteous” Lot is also depicted as wayward. Ever since his departure from Abraham in chapter 13, the city of Sodom and its inhabitants have latched on to his soul and drawn him ever tighter in its snare. Remember, Lot was first attracted to the Jordan Valley because it was well-watered and prosperous - he was seeking after the things of the world. However, he quickly travelled through the valley and moved his tents as far as Sodom, approaching the place where the text already tells us, “the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD”. In chapter 13, we find that Lot was dwelling in Sodom, associating with the people there, and he was driven away with the inhabitants of the city by the invading armies. The disheartening thing is that even after Abraham pursues those armies and delivers Lot, Lot does not change his ways at all, but resettled in Sodom, so that by the time we get to chapter 19, at least 15 years later, Lot now has built a permanent residence there (no longer in tents but in a house within the city), and is respected enough among the inhabitants of the city that he conducts his business at the city gate. He’s been completely assimilated into the lifestyle of Sodom.
And so here is a man who, though he is called righteous, has routinely and insistently refused fellowship with the righteous for association with the wicked. And therefore this is a much stronger warning to us as a church in this chapter. It is very easy to read this chapter as an indictment on the men of Sodom around us, it is much more uncomfortable and challenging to see in Lot a warning to ourselves and to our brothers and sisters in those times when we walk waywardly in the valley of sin.
When We Live in the Valley We Know Sin is Deadly But Live Near It Anyway
Now Lot doesn’t know these men are angels, at least initially, but notice how urgently Lot presses these visitors to stay with him and then leave immediately. He doesn’t just invite them to stay with him, he presses them “twisting their arm” (3), and don’t miss his words, “Then you may rise up early and go on your way” (2). Lot knows that Sodom is a dangerous place to be, yet he lives their anyway!
This is the mark of the Christian life lived in the valley of sin. You begin to see your life as a cautionary tale. it’s too late for me, but you can learn from my mistakes. “Don’t ever smoke kid,” he said as he lit up. Don’t make the same mistakes I did, even while making the same mistakes. Listen, if you would counsel someone else against going somewhere, or doing something, DON’T GO YOURSELF!
When We Live in the Valley Our Moral Compromises are Actually Moral Sacrifices
Lot makes what he considers a moral compromise by setting his daughters before the men of the town. Listen, this is a horrific thing that Lot does. No one disputes that, no commentator commends it. Some try to understand what could have been going through Lot’s mind, by suggesting that in taking in the visitors, Lot has a moral obligation to protect them, which is why he offers his daughters as a compromise. Yeah, you know who else Lot had a moral obligation to protect? His daughters!!!
This compromise is the supreme evidence that Lot has sacrificed his moral integrity and has long ago given in to the values of Sodom. W. H. Griffith Thomas observes, “A ship in the water is perfectly right, but water in the ship would be perfectly wrong. The Christian in the world is right and necessary, but the world in the Christian is wrong and disastrous”. Yet we make those small moral compromises to blend in and to appease the world around us, and before we know it is happened those compromises have become sacrifices.
“I’m sure none of us would do what Lot did, but we often do other things to protect our status at the expense of our families. We work long hours to try to succeed financially, even though it means neglecting the family. Why do we do that? We want the status that comes from success. What do you think of when you hear that someone is successful? That he raised his family to fear the Lord or that he made it financially? Success with your family just doesn’t carry the same weight in our culture as financial success. When we buy into that view of status, we’re being conformed to the world.”
On his podcast, the Briefing, this week, Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary addressed some recent controversies that have marked evangelicalism as the “#metoo movement” has not passed by our own institutions. In his highly reflective and somber post, Mohler fears that American Evangelicals have been so obsessed in winning the culture wars but that we have not been as passionate to pursue purity and integrity within our structures, specifically in regards to the abuse and mistreatment of women and children within our faith communities. If in fact Mohler’s fears are justified, should we not be convicted that we have done precisely what we condemn Job for? I’m not saying that we should not have stood for truth, but our outward stand must be accompanied by an inward integrity setting our own house in order, lest we sell out our daughters to prevent the men of Sodom from prevailing?
When We Live in the Valley We are Reviled by the World for Our Hypocrisy
Even though Lot has taken up residence among them, and sacrificed his values to them, and lived as a man of Sodom for some time, they still see him as a stranger who has come to hypocritically judge them, and therefore rage against him all the more when he doesn’t let them have their way. This is why there is no such thing as a moral compromise - only moral sacrifice. Because one we leave the high moral ground of God’s law, we descend into the valley of situational ethics, of relative morality, in which we make arbitrary distinctions of what sins are better or worse than others, and we cannot be surprised when the world calls us out for judging them with sliding scales.
See in Lot’s eroded morality, homosexual rape was horrific, but non-consensual sex with his virgin daughters was allowed. Can you see why this infuriated the crowd? He’s judging them on a sliding scale. Either stand up for purity and righteousness and justice or stand back! Enough of this wishy washy situational morality that vindicates our own man-made sense of purity. It is repulsive to God and man. this is what the world calls us out for as a church. Set our house in order, before criticizing the world.
Matt. 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but udo not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
When We Live in the Valley Our Spiritual Warnings are Not Taken Seriously
“So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
Lot’s sons-in-law (the men engaged to be married to his daughters) do not take his warnings seriously. And why would they? Why would they suddenly listen to Lot’s moral instruction or warning of God’s judgment when he himself has never before seemed to care enough about the moral laxity around him to speak up? Look, the world is looking for consistency in our message and our actions, and when they see a disconnect it only gives them more reason to not take our message seriously.
When We Live in the Valley We Chose the Easiest Path to Minimize Consequences
Even fleeing from the city, Lot demonstrates that he is more interested in expediency than obedience. He lingers in the morning, he has become so attached to his life in Sodom. the angels literally have to grab him “seize him by the hand, being merciful to him.” That is our hope for those lingering in the valley - that God’s irresistible mercy will effectually save those who linger in the valley. That God’s grace will grab us when we wander, that He will seize us when we linger, and lead us home to safety.
Yet Lot continues in his reluctance to leave the valley. When told to escape to the hills, Lot still lingers in the valley. He asks the angel to spare Zoar - whose name means “the little one”. Many commentators see here that Lot is seeking not full obedience, in seeking to move to a city just with just a little wickedness, he doesn’t want to leave the valley entirely. but About this minimizing of sin, Thomas Brooks writes:
Ah! says Satan, it is but a little pride, a little worldliness, a little uncleanness, a little drunkenness, etc. As Lot said of Zoar, "It is but a little one, and my soul shall live" (Gen. 19:20). Alas! says Satan, it is but a very little sin that you stick so at. You may commit it without any danger to your soul. It is but a little one; you may commit it, and yet your soul shall live.
And although the angel grants Lot’s request, we see later in the chapter that Lot ultimately flees from Zoar as well, for he comes to realize that there is danger in the smallest of sin. When the Lord’ delivers us, he doesn’t not deliver us to pursue a state of a little less sinful than we were before - he saves us that we might pursue Him, that we might pursue purity! When Paul addresses the question in Romans 6:1 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” his answer is “By no means! …
21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When We Live in the Valley We Are a Step Away from Eternal Destruction
Jesus warns us to remember the fate of Lot’s wife, who stands as a memorial to all who seek to preserve their life will lose it and in the process lose everything. As long as the Dead Sea is salty, we are reminded that to forsake the Lord is to reap destruction. Lot’s wife was nearly saved, but nearly saved is condemned nonetheless. There is a warning here to those dwelling in the valley of sin, that they are but a step away from judgement, no matter their family connections.
You Don't Have to Live in the Valley
The chapter closes with this shocking story of incest at the planning of Lot’s daughters. Most commentaries are sympathetic to these girls, whom you remember Lot had already tried to exploit for his own purposes earlier in the chapter. The sympathetic commentators reason that the girls believed that the entire world was consumed by fire, as Jewish tradition notes that all the cities of valley, even Zoar after Lot fled it, were consumed. The girls may have believed that all life had been destroyed and that they were literally preserving the human race through their father (they literally say, “there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth.”) this is a plan born out of desperation.
However, the Holy Spirit through Moses, the author of Scripture, only a few varses before, that they are not alone. Were they to lift their eyes up to the mountains, they would know that they still had a family in Abraham, who was scanning the horizon, through the smoke and desolation, praying that Lot and his family found safety.
There is a way out of the valley, there is always a way out of the valley.
- The way out is through the offspring of Abraham, Jesus Christ
- The way back will be humbling, but the family will be glad you’re back.