The Life of Abraham, Part 11: Sodom and Gomorrah
In the last lesson the desire of the LORD to find reason to spare the wicked was revealed to Abraham. Abraham’s concern to the LORD’s message that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah was that the righteousness not be swept away with the wicked. This has been a problem throughout all of human history. Indeed, the good have suffered along with the evil. It seems to rain good on the evil and bad on the good. If anything, it looks as though the righteous have suffered evil far more than the sufferings of the evil they have brought upon themselves. To say this has been a problem is actually a dramatic understatement. One of the Psalms laments that he observed that the wicked prospered while the good suffered.
Ultimately, this problem has no earthly solution. It is sufficient to say on God’s part that because there is not a single righteous person that judgment on all people is justified. There is a promise that justice not meted out in this life will be meted out at the judgment seat of God. Truly on the basis of our righteousness, none of us would be spared. If we are to be spared, it is entirely by God’s grace. Abraham’s intercession, as much as it reflects his good character is futile in that no righteous person can be found in any city, no less Sodom and Gomorrah.
We now know that a perfect person who could stand for us in the city of man who came from the City of God makes it possible that the wicked could be spared because a righteous man had indeed been found. Jesus Christ opens the way of faith that through the gift of faith made possible by God’s grace might be given that we might be spared from the judgment. The Day of the LORD of Psalm 118 in which the rejected stone dies in our place and rose again to be put at the apex of the new kingdom, a day in which the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus Christ that we could be spared from the condemnation at the great white throne judgment. Because we have already died with Christ on His cross, our Day of the LORD has already passed. But it remains in the future for those who do not believe.
Exposition of the Text
In some ways, chapter 19 is a detour from the life of Abraham. In fact, he is not mentioned until verse 27 in which he saw the smoke rising from the destroyed cities. He had gone to the same spot he had seen the LORD the day before. He did not know of Lot, his nephew’s fate, but we do. We know Lot and his daughters had been spared from destruction.
The chapter begins with the arrival of the two “men” that had accompanied the LORD and gone on before Him. Lot was sitting at the gate which means he had gained some influence in the city of man. To sit in the gate was not only to be admitted as a citizen of the city, but also that he had influence there. Perhaps he had gained it because of Abraham’s deliverance of the city from the confederacy of the five kings, but nevertheless, he was one of the politicians of the city.
Anyone who is a Christian and enters politics in the secular realm has to feel the terrible struggle between his heavenly citizenship and the demands of the city of man. The New Testament tells of the struggle of the righteous Lot in Sodom and how he was torn in two by the wickedness of the place. The politician feels this in a special way, but we should also be reminded that all Christians feel this awful pull and how to remain true to God as witnesses in the wicked city of man without compromise. And in a democracy in which constitutional power is invested in the choices of the people, this makes us all politicians as well.
When Lot sees them come, he remembers from his youth the law of hospitality. He greets the men with the same offer of hospitality that Abraham had offered. He asked them to come into his house, his fixed abode, in the same way Abraham invited the men to the shade of his tent door. But unlike Abraham who wanted to protect the strangers from the potentially deadly noonday heat, Lot felt the need to protect them from the hateful wrath of the inhabitants of the city. He is alarmed that the men wanted to spend the night in the town square. He knew the men of Sodom and what would happen to them.
Lot urges them to accept the hospitality of his house. Perhaps no one had seen them and he could hide them and not have to deal with the men of Sodom. The men finally allow themselves to be taken into Lot’s house where like Abraham, Lot prepares a feast for them. And like with Abraham, the men ate what was eaten. There is one small difference. There was not time for the bread to rise, so they had to eat it unleavened. What seems here like an inconsequential detail would ring in the Exodus generation’s ear. On the night they left Egypt, they had no time for the bread to rise. On the night they would be liberated from Egypt on the night of the Passover, they did as Lot had done on the night of his deliverance by the grace of the LORD.
The text goes on in verse four that before they could rest in sleep that trouble came knocking at the door. The inhabitants had discovered that Lot had strangers in his house to whom they had not opportunity to “greet”. They had a terribly perverted idea od hospitality which involved what was essentially rape of strangers. They demanded that Lot send them out to receive their “hospitality”. Lot knew the inhabitants well and what this would mean.
Lot knew the trouble he was in probably from the time he received the strangers, but he knew the God given rules of hospitality to protect strangers. So at first, he begs them not to treat strangers that way. He tells them of his understanding of hospitality and his obligation to protect strangers in his house. He even makes an outlandish offer of his two engaged but virgin daughters to substitute for the two men. To us, these seems dreadful, He was offering a substitute, but not himself. What horrors his daughters would have suffered under the hands of an angry and lustful mob is beyond imagination.
This rebuke of course as well as the offer of his daughters drew the ire of the inhabitants of the city who reminded Lot that he had come as a foreigner also. Perhaps for reason of influence or Abraham and Lot’s riches, he and his family had been subjected to the usual reception of strangers. But the crowd shouted back that they were going to make up for their oversight and treat Lot even worse than they had intended to do with the strangers. Lot would be the substitute, not his daughters.
When the strangers started to beat down the door to Lot’s house, he was in mortal danger. He was facing being savaged by the mob as well as all those who were in the house, a savaging which would probably entail their death under the most horrific circumstances. Lot tried his best to protect his guests, but his efforts were going to be fruitless. It turned out to be a great blessing that the two men did not need Lot’s protection. It is even a greater blessing that they could also deliver Lot.
The men dragged Lot into the safety of the house and struck the men with blindness from the youngest to the oldest. Is says they still wore themselves out trying to find the door. They were undeterred in their passion even when they had been struck blind. Rather than repenting of their sin and what they intended to do to Lot and those inside the house, they blindly and vainly pressed on into sin.
Meanwhile, the men who were obviously more than men inquired of Lot’s family. Did he have any in-laws or other family in the city? The idea here is that anyone who believed in God’s promise to utterly destroy the place and would come under the shelter of Lot’s house would be saved. This lesson would have been useful to the wilderness generation when in came to the conquest of Jericho, a city proscribed by God to utter destruction. There would be found a single believer in Jericho, the harlot Rahab. As part of her act in protecting the spies in faith in God’s promise concerning Jericho, she had asked for the grace of deliverance from destruction. A single woman of questionable occupation was to be saved by her faith. She was told to put a red ribbon in the window of her house and to gather all her family there. Anyone who was in the house was to be saved. A woman who was made like Abraham was made righteous by her faith became the means of deliverance to her family and anyone who sought shelter in her house.
So we can see that the lesson of Lot would have especial meaning to the generation getting ready to enter the Promised Land. The threat of total annihilation of the inhabitants had a side of grace. Anyone who would believe the promise God made to Israel and would repent would find shelter. The Gibeonites were also going to be saved by their faith, even though they were as deceitful as Jacob They believed in God’s promise and rightly acted on it. In like manner, anyone who believed was to be spared from the judgment of Sodom. But they had to come under Lot’s roof.
Lot believed what the LORD had said through the angels and urged his in-laws to seek shelter. But they refused to believe. Their fate was sealed. Others may have heard Lot’s plea as well, but they failed to believe the promise of judgment and utter destruction of the city. They thought Lot was mocking them. How blind are the effects of sin and rebellion that people who are in desperate need of the grace of God refuse to hear and think God is mocking them.
Lot had been at home in the city for too long. He had become accustomed to city life. He did not want to go back to the life of wandering he had known with Abraham. It is hard to go back to a tent after living in houses. The children of Israel despite all the troubles of living in Egypt lived in houses. When things got difficult in the wilderness, they thought about the “good old days” in Egypt. The fate of Lot would serve as a warning that the only way to real life is that of a stranger and pilgrim. The security of house living is a false security. The truth of this would be demonstrated in the morning.
The angels had to drag Lot, his wife, and daughters out of the city in spite of the fact they knew the coming fate of the city. It was a rescue of grace which was totally undeserved on Lot’s part. And even as they were forcibly escorted from the city, Lot was still dreading the life of wandering and begged to live in at least a small town. The LORD in his mercy allowed this and hastened to remove Lot and his family. He warned them not to look back. But Lot’s wife did so and turned into a pillar of salt. Just because we are saved by grace and faith, we are sill to walk in the way of obedience. This is called in the New Testament, “the obedience of faith”. Lot’s wife becomes a reminder of Jesus not to look back to the former way of life. A pilgrim’s life is towards the promised City of God.
Things ended badly in this life for Lot. He was unwilling after what had happened to even enter the little town of Zoar which was God’s chosen city of refuge to Lot. Instead he took refuge in a cave with his daughters, too afraid to go out into the world. He had sons by drunken incest with his own daughters.. He had been delivered as Paul would later say, as through fire. He could have had it some better had he moved to Zoar. I am not saying that Lot was not eternally saved. This may very well be. But if so, it was by grace alone and without reward.
Even though Abraham is scarcely mentioned in this passage, this passage of Scripture provides us with an important lesson. We must believe of God’s intention to judge the earth which will be like that of Sodom and Gomorrah in depth but worldwide in breadth. We need to be begging others to find refuge in the place the lord has set aside, the church. They must believe the promise of judgment and the offer of grace in Jesus Christ. They must repent of their blindness that they might see the true light.
We need to act on this promise and go into the highways and byways and compel people with the message of the gospel and urge men and women to escape the wrath which is to come. This is true even when they think we are mocking and they in turn mock us. We must be in all seriousness and not just feasting in the house. Trouble is knocking at the door of the church. There are people who want in. They might want in for the worst of intentions in which we will need God’s protection. But they do need to come into the house of God through the door of Jesus Christ, on His terms and not theirs.
We must realize that we are strangers and pilgrims here. We should not worry about the safety of our houses in the storms of life but instead seek our security in the coming city of God. Let us not look back but forward.