Lot is first mentioned at the end of the 11th chapter of Genesis. It mentions that his grandfather Terah had taken him and his uncle Abram and aunt Sarai from the advanced civilization of Ur of the Caldees to a less prestigious village of Haran which was several hundred miles inland and upriver. Second only to the civilization of Egypt, Ur was the place to be in the Ancient Near East. The bible gives no direct reason for the migration, but this was the beginning of a life of wandering for both Abram and Lot.
Lot’s father had already died, so Lot became heir of his father’s portion of his grandfather’s estate upon Terah, his grandfather’s death. It would have been a lesser inheritance than Abram’s as Abram was the oldest son who would receive a double portion. But at this point, Abram and Sarai were old and childless. Lot would have been heir of Abram’s estate as well as next of kin. So when Terah died, Lot would have inherited his father’s portion and stood to inherit the rest someday. We don’t know how much this might have been, but it seems likely that it was a fair sum.
Abram would then become the legal father of Lot. In Middle Eastern terms, this would mean he was in authority over Lot, even though he was an adult. He would have to be in subjection to Abram until Abram’s death, upon which decease, Lot would have control over all the estate. But for now, he was little more than a servant.
When the Lord broke in on Abram’s life and told him to move to an undisclosed location, Sarai and Lot who were in subjection to Abram had no choice but to follow. I have heard much speculation, especially among women, what Sarai thought of this arrangement. Lot would have been in the same predicament. All we know is that Abram heard the voice of the Lord and obeyed in belief and came to settle in the land of Canaan. As a shepherd, the only land available to them would have been the narrow strip of marginal land which was too dry to farm and still had enough moisture for the sparse grass. Finding water for the flocks and pasture was challenging even in the best of times. It hardly looked like a land of promise.
When drought soon came, the sparse pasture and supply of water was a crisis for the family. Abram took his family to Egypt to find sustenance. This was the first of many trips that Abram and his descendants would take from the land of promise to seek the help of man. The latter half of Chapter 12 gives an account of what would have been a disaster had the Lord not intervened. But intervene the Lord did, and Abram and his family returned to Canaan richer than ever, the first spoiling of the Egyptians and went back to their life as herdsmen at the edge of the desert in Canaan.
Chapter 13 begins by accounting that both Abram and Lot were both blessed greatly upon their return. In fact, in some ways their blessing became a curse. The large flocks were overgrazing the land and drinking up all the water. This precipitated a crisis, the account of which begins at verse 5. Lot’s servants who managed the goods he had inherited started to fight Abram’s servants over the available resources. The only hope for any of them to avoid catastrophe was for the two to separate.
Beginning with verse 8, Abram proposes that he and Lot separate. As being the senior in the deal, he offers Lot the choice. If he stayed, Abram would move off. Otherwise, Lot would move. If we understand the protocol of Near Eastern culture, Lot as inferior, although he was given the choice, was supposed to defer to Abram and choose the lesser choice. We see an example of this protocol whn Abram came to the sons of Heth to buy a buying field for Sarah. The greater in this transaction, the sons of Heth said to go and take it gratis. However protocol demanded that the lesser, Abraham, refuse this offer and ask for a fair price. Abraham was faithful to the protocol. Lot was not. From Lot’s eyes, we see that he immediately fastened upon the well watered plain near Sodom and Gomorrah. The richness of the plain reminded him of the good life in Egypt. Lot was probably accustomed to living the good life. This struggle of trying to make a living at the edge of the desert had no appeal. He broke the custom and chose what he thought was the better part, the far better part. His uncle could stay in this desert. He was going to Sodom. Surely God had blessed this place, and he wanted to be were the blessings were. Verse 13 clues us in on the poor decision Lot had made of his own free will. The text tells us that Sodom was an exceedingly wicked city. Lot thought he had chosen the better lot. But his lot in life was not to be the blessing he thought. The city of man he thought blessed was about to come under the utter curse of God for its wickedness.
We don’t know fully how Abram reacted to Lot’s action, but perhaps we are clued in in chapter 15 that Abram who had no child said that Eliezer of Damascus, a servant born in his house was his heir, not Lot. This seems to imply that Abram had disinherited Lot. Even though Abram had by human terms been stuck with a much poorer lot, it would turn out otherwise in time. God would bless Abram, and Lot would end up destitute. Abram would be declared righteous by his faith and blessed with the name Abraham. In time, he would have a promised son who would be his heir.
This passage shows both how the predestination of God and man’s choices coincide. Lot of his own free will chose to go to Sodom. When I say free will, this is not God’s free will which is based upon his complete knowledge of everything and sovereignty over the universe. He fully knows and controls all that was, is, and will be according to His plan. Human free will is based upon incomplete knowledge, or even wrong knowledge. Human choice is also enslaved to sin. It is free to choose, but apart from God can only make bad choices. Yet, each of us is responsible for the choices we make. This was so with Lot.
The Bible gives a mixed report of Lot. Peter in his second epistle calls Lot a righteous man whose soul was vexed every day for the evil which surrounded him. He would be taken captive in war. Abraham delivered him and the cities of the plain by God’s help. But Lot was not restored to sonship and to be the heir of Abram. His stand for the strangers who would come to the gate of Sodom would most certainly have cost him his life if these strangers were not actually angels sent to deliver Lot and all who would believe the Lord’s message to flee the coming destruction. I wonder if Paul had Lot in mind when he wrote the Corinthians to take heed what sort of building they were erecting with their lives. Lot seems to have founded his life upon hay and stubble. The result was that in the end, he was saved, yet lost all save his soul. He lost all of his wealth, his wife, and his new home was a cave where his daughters got him drunk so that he would lay with them and conceive children. What a pathetic story. Choices have consequences.
Abram’s life, though far from perfect, ended quite differently. He was treated disrespectfully by his nephew, but somehow Abram knew that the Lord would make good for it. He believed that this unpromising promise of God would bear fruit someday, and it did. The difference between Abram and Lot was that Lot looked for an earthly city built upon the plan of Babel, The Scripture records that Abram looked for the city God had built for him and his seed who are justified by the same faith Abram had.
From this passage we must learn that doing God’s will is the greatest blessing, even though it does not seem so at first. This does not mean that we should always choose what appears to be the poorer opportunity. But it does tell us that the most immediately promising choice is often the poorer choice. Much prayer must be given to all that we do to seek the Lord’s will first. When we get lifted up and then see what seems to be the golden opportunity, a great fall often follows. God may very well rescue us from our bad choices, but we may have to bear the consequences of our actions. None of us should strive to come into heaven with the smell of brimstone upon us.
We are reminded in Romans that we shall be glorified with Him. But there is that little pesky word, “if”. If we suffer with Him, we shall be glorified with Him. The promises of God to the unbeliever seem most unpromising. But to the Christian, the promises of God are everything, even if we have to suffer while waiting for our redemption. As Abraham persevered in earthly struggles to attain a far greater city than Sodom, let us persevere.
The Bible talks about two ways throughout its pages, in both the Old and the New Testament. The ultimate of these two ways is heaven and eternal life or hell and eternal brimstone. What decision should we make when confronted like Lot was? To this I say, consider Abraham’s lot. Now consider Lot’s lot. Choose wisely.