This is one of these chapters that God is not present. Of course, He is present in that he is an omnipotent God, and we are dealing with his covenant people. However, he is not directly referenced. There is no mention of him, no prayer, no intervention. And it is no coincidence that this chapter contains one of the ugliest and depraved incidents in the Bible. This chapter was written to the children of Israel who were facing hostility from their neighbours in Canaan, yet attracted to their ways of life, yet it also causes us to consider our response to the evil in the world around us, particularly as if comes to harm our own household. And its here in this interaction that we see two basic responses to evil, that to this day we go to when we are confronted with evil. One is silent passivity (moral compromise); the other is immediate vengeful retribution. Think about our day and how we a a church and how we as a society confront evil in our day, be it evil such as what has been revealed in the Catholic Church hierarchy over the past few weeks, or evil such as the #metoo movement is calling out, or evil as in the tragedy of abortion - that more lives have been ended through abortion in the past 40 years in the US and Canada than the population of Canada itself, or any of the other sins or manifestations of evil that we face daily in our lives and in our news. Either we ignore evil, or the outrage mobs take out their vengeance without due process.
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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.