Now, because we do not truly believe in our hearts that the day of adversity is as much from God’s hand as the day of prosperity, we believe that there has to be some way to game the system, and if we somehow play the game of life in just the right way, God will reward us with prosperity and long life. Or we bargain with God - God save me and I’ll be a good person. Or we berate God - God, I’ve been a good person, why are you doing this to me? Spirituality becomes a transaction. If I pray right and live right and present myself in the correct way, God will honour that and bless me with life and success.
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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.