Lot had chosen the plush valley of Sodom for his herds and also for his family. In Genesis 13:10, Lot looked at the land as a means of financial gain. Just two verses later the Bible tells us that he pitched his tent near Sodom; the next chapter has him living in Sodom (Genesis 14:12). In time he became a respectable leader sitting in the gateway of the city. Lot had climbed the ladder of success; unfortunately, as Lot becomes increasingly identified with the city of Sodom, we discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.
The Guests Arrive
The two who had left Abraham to check out the outcry against the cities arrived at the home of Lot. He had no idea that they were angels any more than Abraham did at first. As his uncle had done, he offered them hospitality. When they refused his invitation, Lot insisted. He knew well the danger posed to visitors and offered them protection.
The depth of wickedness within the city is illustrated by the fact that men from every part of the city, young and old alike, surrounded the house. Both Sodom and Gomorrah are prime examples of how God turns the wicked over to their own sin. In Ezekiel, Sodom is described as a city that was arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned about the poor and needy (Ezekiel 16:49). As their desire to honor and glorify God lessened, their desire for self-gratification increased. Their lust for wickedness became so intense that the very names of their cities have become synonymous with vice and godlessness. Yet, this was the very place that Lot had chosen to live.
Although Lot is said to be a righteous man (2 Peter 2:7–8), he did not hesitate to prostitute his own daughters for the sake of guests—an illustration of the degree to which he had adopted the thinking of his neighbors. His offer, however, was unacceptable to the crowd, as they attempt to break down the door and threaten violence against Lot. In the past the people of the city may have tolerated Lot’s protests against evil. They may have appointed him as a judge (after all, he was the nephew of Abram who had saved the city earlier), but they would not accept it any longer.
Instead of Lot saving his guests from harm, they save him by striking the men of Sodom with blindness. Evidently this was not a typical blindness. Such blindness should have terrified and dispersed the mob, but they were so filled with iron obstinacy that they were all the more determined to find the door. John Calvin wrote that this happens daily with the reprobate as they furiously wage war against God. Satan fascinates them with such madness that even when stricken by God they proceed to advance against Him. Even so, the crowd eventually dispersed.
The Guests Give the Warning
The sin of Sodom was complete. The men of Sodom had abased one another; now they had sought to abuse the messengers of God. Behind the closed doors of Lot’s home the angels tell Lot the two-fold purpose of their visit: to destroy the cities because of their wickedness and to save the righteous (Lot and his family). Given the opportunity to warn his family, Lot rushed to his sons-in-law to tell them of the impending doom. His desperate last-minute appeal to them was in vain. They would not believe him. Lot had lived with the people of the city for too long. He had lost all his credibility because he had compromised his spiritual values.
In spite of the urgent warnings given by the angels to leave the city quickly, Lot hesitated. He who had once looked covetously upon the plush valley now looked upon all his possessions and comforts to which he had attached himself. Unlike Abraham, Lot lacked a determination to live in obedience to the Lord. Without that determination he began to tolerate the lifestyle he saw around him. Such toleration led to compromising his beliefs within the home to the point where he permitted his daughters to wed the wicked sons of Sodom. Without a true determination to obey the God of his uncle, Lot’s beliefs were compromised and fell in the face of temptation.
Literally picking them up by the collar and leading Lot, his wife, and two daughters out of the city, the angels continued to stress the urgency of their departure. It was a matter of life and death! They were to flee to the mountains to avoid being destroyed along with the cities in the plains.
Even with all the warnings received, Lot pled with the angels that, rather than flee to the mountains, his family be permitted to run to Zoar instead. Lot’s logic is fascinating! God had sent His angels to save his family from the destruction of Sodom, and he was worried that he might encounter some disaster in the mountains to which God was sending him. Instead of being deeply grateful for the deliverance he graciously received from God, he offered an alternate plan. Whereas Abraham pled on behalf of the righteous in the city, Lot pled for himself, as if to say, “God, you were gracious enough to spare my life, now be gracious enough to let me keep sinning.” He was so concerned about some possible disaster in the mountains that he ignored the certain disaster in the valley.
The angels respond by granting the request, adding, “But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it” (Genesis 19:22). Indeed the Judge of all the earth was doing what was right, even as Abram had said (Genesis 18:25). God withheld His divine judgment for the sake of Lot.
The Cities Destroyed
God in mercy granted the request of Lot to flee to Zoar. As the sulfur and fire fell from the sky, the family fled the city. Lot’s wife, however, did not enter Zoar with her husband and two daughters. Failing to heed the warning of the angels not to look back, she turned around and looked upon the blazing city of Sodom. Using the example of Lot’s wife, Jesus warned believers not to become so attached to earthly possessions that we neglect the coming judgment (Luke 17:30–35).
God’s character has not changed through the years. Neither have His standards. He is still grieved by our sin. When such sin is flaunted in His face He is determined to punish it. The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were no more sinful than any other people, for we are all totally depraved and inclined to hate God and our neighbors. Unless sinful people turn from their wickedness to follow Jesus Christ, the judgment poured out on these two cities will be poured out upon them, as well (Luke 13:5). The sons-in-law of Lot rejected the offer of deliverance; Lot’s wife did not embrace it whole-heartedly. Only Lot and his two daughters made it safely to Zoar before the destruction came. Their rescue is an example of God saving the righteous while destroying the wicked.
It should be easy to understand why the three survivors of a destroyed city would feel uncomfortable in their new surroundings. First of all, the people of Zoar had to know that the sulfur-smelling newcomers were from the destroyed cities. How did they escape when so many others perished? One cannot imagine they would have received much of a welcome. In addition, Lot must have felt a lot like Noah when Noah departed from the ark. How could he be certain that God’s judgment would not strike Zoar? Eyes suddenly made keen of the sin around him, he had to notice that this city in the plain was no better than the one he had left. Unlike with Noah, there was no rainbow for Lot. Filled with fear, he fled to the mountains with his daughters to live as hermits, isolated from the rest of the human race.
What follows is a story of shame in which Lot and his two daughters fall deeper into their own tragedy. There is no sign of repentance, no gratitude for their deliverance, and no turning to God. In all that we read concerning the life of Lot, he never once built an altar to the Lord. Instead, Lot and his daughters had become conformed to the standards of the people around them. They had no shame concerning their own conduct. Afraid no male would want to marry a survivor of the destroyed cities, Lot’s daughters brought their father into a drunken state where they could engage in incest for the purpose of preserving the family line. They go so far as to immortalize their sin by naming their sons Moab (from the father) and Ammon (son of my people).
Lot did not lose his dignity and faith by making big (but wrong) earthshaking decisions; he lost it by making many small choices without God. Having failed to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, he lost everything. Scripture may refer to Lot as a righteous man “saved as by fire,” but in his sin and weakness his family and descendants became enemies of Israel and were lost to God’s church and God’s covenant promises.
Rev. Wybren H. Oord is the co-pastor of the Trinity United Reformed Church in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, and the editor of The Outlook.
Points to Ponder and Discuss
1. Trace the progression (or digression) of Lot and his family. How does this tie in with Psalm 1?
2. Can you give examples of how a post-Christian society follows a pattern similar to that of Sodom?
How does this relate to Romans 1:18–32?
3. Are Christians often influenced by the society in which they live? If so, how?
4. Do we slowly tolerate more and more wickedness and/or worldliness within the church?
5. Why was Lot unable to influence the citizens of the city—not even his own sons-in-law?
6. How was blindness an appropriate punishment (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 1 John 2:11)?
What was the real cause of their blindness?
7. God withheld judgment until Lot was safely out of the city. How does this bring comfort to
the believer in relation to the final judgment?
8. Does Lot have any part in the glorious future promised to Abraham?
9. How can we avoid becoming like Lot in this world?