By Wayne S. Walker
The word of God contains many excellent examples of faith and righteousness – consider, for example, the lives of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul, as well as the perfect life of Jesus Christ. The Bible also pictures several negative examples – illustrations of what God does not want us to be or do – like Cain, King Saul, Bar-Jesus, etc. However, many of the people who are described in the Bible are like most of us – a mixture of good and bad. One such individual was Lot. We are introduced to Lot in Genesis 11:27. “This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot.” Haran died, and when Abraham departed for Canaan as God commanded him, he took his nephew Lot with him.
I. Lot’s bad example can be seen in Genesis 13. Because of strife between the herd men of Abraham and Lot, Abraham suggested a separation. Since the plain of Jordan was well watered, Lot chose it, leaving Abraham with the less productive hill country. Here we see Lot’s greed and selfishness. His choice was seemingly based only on monetary considerations, rather than on any feeling of respect for his uncle or concern for how his decision might affect himself and his family. Too many men today are making moves with the company to places where there are no faithful congregations solely on the basis of getting a promotion or receiving more money instead of the spiritual needs of their wives and children.
We are told that Lot “pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD” (Gen. 13:12-13). In fact, the city’s wickedness was so manifest that God determined to destroy it. And evidently ten righteous people could not be found there to spare it (Gen. 18:16-23). The overthrow of Sodom is used throughout the Bible as an illustration of God’s punishment of sin (Deut. 12:23; Jude 7). Even Jesus used it as an example of wickedness (Matt. 10:15; 11: 23-24). Today, the term “sodomite” is still a synonym for homosexual (Deut. 23:17). And the Bible specifically teaches that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).
The result of this choice upon Lot and his family is clearly seen in Genesis 19 by the evil influence that it had upon them. His own sense of values had become warped enough that he apparently thought offering his two virgin daughters for fornication was preferable to allowing his guests to be seized for homosexuality (v. 8). And even though he knew that the city was to be destroyed, “he lingered” so that the angels had to take hold of his hand and lead him out of the city (v. 16). His sons-in-law, and apparently his married daughters, thought he was a fool for trying to convince them to flee (v. 14). His wife was so attached to her life in Sodom that while fleeing she took one last, longing look in direction violation to God’s command and was turned into a pillar of salt (vv. 17, 26; cf. Lk. 17:32). And Lot’s unmarried daughters were so corrupt that they got their father drunk and enticed him to commit incest so that they could have children (vv. 30-38). What a sad story.
II. Yet, as we turn to the New Testament, we find that Lot had some redeeming qualities. He is, in 2 Peter 2:7-8, referred to as “righteous Lot, who was oppressed with the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds).” If we did not have this statement in the New Testament, we would probably not be left with this impression of Lot based upon the picture we are given in Genesis. Still, even in Genesis 19, we can see glimmers of the righteous character of this man in spite of his weaknesses and mistakes.
He knew enough about the condition of the city to recognize a clear danger for his visitors if they stayed in the street (vv. 23). Though living in Sodom, he did not participate in nor even condone the conduct of the Sodomites, pleading with them, “Do not do so wickedly” (v. 7). It seems that he had even been warning the men of Sodom concerning their evil – “he keeps acting as a judge” (v. 9, NKJV). Once he saw that he had been wrong, he tried to save others, though he was unsuccessful with his sons-in-law (vv. 12-14). And in the end, whatever else may be said of him, Lot heeded the instructions of the angels to flee, and thus saved himself from the destruction of Sodom (vv. 15-22).
III. Let us look at some applications for us today that we can make from the account of Lot. We must exercise our senses so that we are able to recognize the danger of sin and to learn right from wrong (Heb. 5:14) Like Lot, we live in a sinful environment and must also torment our souls that we do not allow our consciences to become seared (1 Tim. 4:2). This can occur by becoming so familiar with evil that we grow calloused to it. The great English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744) wrote in his Essay on Man,
Vice is a monster of so frightful men,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
May we, who are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world and be God’s peculiar people, never allow this to happen to us.
We should never enter into any evil relationships, especially those that would make it appear that we are condoning that which is wicked, and most certainly those that would pull us into participating in sinful activities. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. . . . Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:14-17). Yes, we must live and work with the people of this world, else we could never have an influence for good upon them. But let us be careful as to who is influencing whom. “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33). We need to watch the kind of friends and associates we have. You cannot throw one good apple into a barrel of rotten ones and expect the good one to make the others better. Remember that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (Jas. 4:4).
It is most important that we not allow our family to be influenced for evil. Parents have a spiritual as well as a material responsibility for their children. “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Lot put his family in a situation that contributed to their downfall. You would not allow your child to play in the middle of a busy street because of the evident danger to his physical well-being. Yet, many parents will let their children choose friends, go places, and do things that are clearly detrimental to their spiritual health without much effort to warn or guide them. Lot did save himself, but lost his family.
We have an obligation to warn and try to save others however bad the situation may appear. Lot was not able to convince his sons-in-law to escape, but at least he made the attempt. In our day, it is true, there do not seem to be too many people who are willing to hear and respond to the gospel. But how many people are we contacting in an effort to save their souls? In Ezekiel 3:17-21 the watchman was told that when the enemy attacked and he gave no warning to the people, their blood would be on his head. However, when he gave the warning, even if the people refused to act and were destroyed, he would have delivered his own soul. Will there be any blood on our heads in the day of judgment? Remember, Lot tried.
Finally, whatever else may happen, it is necessary for us to heed and obey God’s word. Lot made some bad decisions along the way, but when the angels told him to get out of the city, he got out. He saved himself. In Acts 2:40 Peter told the Jews on Pentecost to save themselves from that perverse generation. How could they do this? By obeying the instructions given back in v. 38. Then in Philippians 2:12, Paul wrote to the Philippian saints and said, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This was possible because they had “always obeyed,” not only in Paul’s presence but also in his absence. The only way that we can have eternal salvation is by obeying him who himself obeyed God’s plan to bring about that salvation (Heb. 5:8-9).
Surely we can all see that Lot made some serious mistakes in his life and suffered the consequences. In these areas, his example serves to warn us not to make the same mistakes in our lives as well. Yet, Lot also exhibited some characteristics by which he was able to make the best of a bad situation and eventually overcome his mistakes, at least in saving himself. In these, we need to emulate his example and develop these same characteristics so that we might live as God would have us to live in this present evil world and ultimately overcome. Lot lived as we do, facing many of the same choices and decisions that we must make. May we consider the account of his life and learn from his example.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 7, pp. 198-199
April 7, 1988