Lessons from Lot
The Bible gives us history although it is not a history book. There are national histories but also individual histories. One of the saddest recorded is that of Lot. From beginning to end his is a downward pathway. There is nothing in Genesis to indicate that he was one of God’s children, or that faith had a place in his soul. It is only in the NT that the veil is lifted, (his name means concealed), and we learn that he was after all a righteous man (see 2 Pet. 2: 7). While his history is not attractive and makes depressing reading, it must not be ignored for there are vital lessons in it for every child of God.
After we are briefly told Lot’s place in Abraham’s family tree in Genesis 11: 31, we read “And Abram departed as Jehovah had said to him. And Lot went with him” (Gen. 12: 4). These words “And Lot went with him” give us the start of his pathway. Abraham had moved in response to God’s word, but family relationships moved Lot. Here is our first lesson. This movement of Lot’s was not wrong, indeed it had spiritual possibilities, but it was insufficient in itself. Faith is ever individual. Your parents or relatives cannot have it for you. You must have that vital link with God for yourself. Natural relationships may be a means of blessing but if you slide into Christianity through them without faith, you will slide out again when difficulties arise. There is no such thing as second–hand Christianity. You must have it for yourself.
A test soon comes: there is a famine in the land. The land was the place where faith had set Abraham. In many companies of God’s people today there is a spiritual dearth. Lack of spiritual food becomes a test and there is a danger of giving up the position that faith has occupied in answer to God’s word. Even generally, the shadow of apostasy is descending on all that claims to be under the authority of the Lord. Things are rapidly being given up. That which was once held tenaciously is being set aside as of no consequence. The line of giving up ultimately has its terminus in apostasy. If the ‘downward trend’ was a concern to some a century ago, what would be thought of matters today? Faith brought Abraham into the land, but it wasn’t faith that took him down to Egypt. “Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was grievous in the land” (Gen. 12: 10). Egypt is the world of riches, pleasure and ease (see Heb. 11: 26). The way to Egypt is always described as a downward one for it is one of moral declension. We only read again of Lot when Abraham goes up out of Egypt. He clearly went down there with Abraham, but he is not mentioned in that movement. Why? Because the fault was with Abraham, not Lot. Abraham only went to sojourn there—he had no intention of dwelling there. It was a lapse on the pathway of faith but it had disastrous consequences for Lot. When an influential saint descends to the world, he may take others with him, as Abraham took Lot—for the influence that he had when he walked aright will be the same when he goes astray. Another lesson to ponder carefully!
In Genesis, there are two things that men build: altars and cities (Jacob is an instructive exception—see Gen. 33: 17). Faith builds the altars; unbelief the cities. Abraham built no altar in Egypt. We then read “Abram went up out of Egypt … and Lot with him … as far as the place where his tent had been at the beginning … to the place of the altar that he had made there at the first” (Gen. 13: 1–4). Another lesson: In the ways of God, the place of departure is ever the place of recovery. Lot again is recorded as going with his uncle without any personal exercise. But Egypt was to have devastating consequences for Lot. We read “And Lot also who went with Abram had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land could not support them, that they might dwell together, for their property was great; and they could not dwell together” (Gen. 13: 5, 6). Egypt had been a means of material gain to both Abraham and Lot but Egypt’s wealth was to be the means of their separation. Material wealth and spiritual prosperity rarely go hand in hand. We see Abraham’s magnanimity in giving Lot first choice of land—for the man of faith knew that God had said that the whole land would be his. Faith can thus ignore the present and wait for the future. What determines Lot’s choice is his possessions. They become his test, determine his course and lead to his downfall. He sees the plain of the Jordan that contained Sodom and Gomorrah “like the land of Egypt” (v10)—a similitude he could only make because he had been there! Ponder these downward steps: “the plain of the Jordan… the cities of the plain … as far as Sodom” (Gen. 13: 11, 12). Lot has left Abraham’s fellowship for the company of the people of Sodom and the Spirit of God comments that “the people of Sodom were wicked, and great sinners before Jehovah” (v13). “Great sinners”—an expression found nowhere else in the Bible.
We must leave Genesis for the moment and hear the Lord’s own comments on the days of Lot: “And as it took place in the days of Noe, thus also shall it be in the days of the Son of man: they ate, they drank, they married, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all [of them]; and in like manner as took place in the days of Lot: they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and sulphur from heaven, and destroyed all [of them] … Remember the wife of Lot” (Luke 17: 26–29; 32). Both in the days of Noah and the days of Lot men ate and drank, but there the identity ends. In Noah’s days they married and were given in marriage as well but there is no mention of marriage in the days of Lot. Why? It did not mark the day. It was a day of sexual perversions. Similarly, marriage is being given up in the West today and with it there has been an increasing public acceptance of sexual perversion. These are features that also will mark the days of the Son of Man when He comes in judgment—Son of Man being the Lord’s title in judgment (see John 5: 27). In the days of Lot they planted but the only harvest that they reaped was one of divine judgment!
Let’s return now to the events of Genesis 14 as they affect Lot. Genesis is the book of beginnings and here we have the first rebellion, the first battle and the first war on earth—harbingers of the last in Rev. 20: 8. But heaven itself is not without war and conflict (see Rev. 12: 7). We learn from Dan. 10: 17–21 that behind the scenes and energising the conflicts on earth are spiritual battles waged by angelic beings. Lot is captured by “the rulers of this world” (1 Cor. 2: 6) but behind those physical rulers were spiritual ones so that Paul says “our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the universal lords of this darkness, against spiritual [power] of wickedness in the heavenlies” (Eph. 6: 12). These inward “fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2: 11), as Paul found, were “warring in opposition to the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which exists in my members” (Rom. 7: 23). Paul had no spiritual liberty, was a captive to sin and needed deliverance. Thus Abraham was not affected by the battle of the kings but Lot was swamped by it. “And they took Lot and his property, Abram’s brother’s son, and departed. For he dwelt in Sodom” (Gen. 14: 12). Note the reason well: “For he dwelt in Sodom”. If you live in the world (as depicted by Sodom) you may become a slave to it and lose your spiritual liberty. Another lesson from Lot: the Lord Jesus died, not just to take you to heaven, but “so that he should deliver us out of the present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1: 4). Lot is recovered but only by Abraham.
What Abraham did was right for his day, but physical violence is not the path of the Christian “for walking in flesh, we do not war according to flesh” (2 Cor. 10: 3). What answers to Abraham’s physical intervention is Eph. 6: 12 and spiritual combat in prayer for brethren in captivity. Of those at Colosse Paul says “For I would have you know what combat I have for you, and those in Laodicea, and as many have not seen my face in flesh” (Col. 2: 1). This is not just the responsibility of the gifted and prominent, for a local brother also fought alongside of Paul: “Epaphras, who is [one] of you, [the] bondman of Christ Jesus, salutes you, always combating earnestly for you in prayers, to the end that ye may stand perfect and complete in all [the] will of God (Col. 4: 12). Abraham “brought again his brother Lot” (Gen. 14: 16) and James tells us “if any one among you err from the truth, and one bring him back, let him know that he that brings back a sinner from [the] error of his way shall save a soul from death and shall cover a multitude of sins” (James 5: 19, 20). Lot is recovered but learns nothing from his experience. Here is another solemn lesson: If we do not learn from God’s ways with us in discipline when the discipline is mild, then we can be fairly certain that God’s next action in discipline will be more severe. This was so in the case of Lot. The rest of Genesis 14, though of deep interest, is not in itself a part of our subject and I leave it and go on to the closing scenes of Lot’s history in chapter 19.
Lot is back in Sodom and clearly several years have run their course. God has waited in patience but now the judgment of that city is imminent. Lot is not just dwelling in Sodom but he sits in its gate. These words “And Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom” (v1) are far from incidental. The city gate was the place where the judges sat and judgment was determined (see Deut. 21: 18–21; 25: 7; Ruth 4: 1–12). Lot’s rise to political prominence is indicated by the men of Sodom when they say “This one came to sojourn, and he must be a judge?” (Gen. 19: 9)—‘is ever acting as a judge’ is the sense in the Hebrew. Lot was “distressed with the abandoned conversation of the godless … tormented [his] righteous soul day after day with [their] lawless works” (2 Pet. 2: 7, 8). How many believers seek to exercise a restraining hand through politics on the excesses of this world?—a world like Sodom that is under judgement, for it has crucified Christ. For such, the full force of the cross has never entered their souls (compare Phil. 3: 18–20). Neither the Lord nor the apostles sought to put the world right. Another lesson to learn from Lot.
Initially, Lot has no knowledge of the reason for the visit of these heavenly strangers when he offers his hospitality—“and ye shall rise up early, and go on your way” (Gen. 19: 2). He is oblivious to the judgment about to be executed on Sodom and which has become his world. Like many in the present day he is part and parcel of this world. When the men of Sodom demand sexual access to his visitors, he seeks to secure their protection by the offer of his daughters in their place! (see vs. 5–9). The one who had allowed men of Sodom to marry his daughters (see v14), is willing, under pressure, to sacrifice two of them in order to preserve the eastern custom of hospitality (inviting strangers under your roof makes you responsible for their welfare and safety). Such is the flesh even in a child of God! We must learn that the flesh before conversion is exactly the same after conversion—it never changes (see John 3: 6).
The two angels inquire after Lot’s household (see Gen. 19: 12) for in connection with matters on earth, God identifies a man’s house with its head (see, for the first example of this, Gen 7: 1). Abraham had previously pleaded with Jehovah on behalf of any righteous in Sodom, beginning with 50 and ending with ten (see Gen. 18: 23–33). No doubt Lot was primarily in view in the patriarch’s pleadings. Although there is some uncertainty from the text as to the number of persons in Lot’s house, it is possible that there were ten. If that was so and if Lot had gained his own house, Sodom would have been spared! But as events show, Lot alone was righteous in his house. When Lot warned his sons–in–law of the judgment about to fall on the city “he was as if He jested, in the sight of his sons–in–law” (19: 14). He had sought to exercise authority as judge over the world of Sodom but had no authority in his own house! How many households of saints of God have been lost to the world? Men who have preached to the world and have ministered to the saints, but who have failed to secure their own households for Christ! Parents need to consider well this most solemn lesson from Lot. That is why one of the prerequisites for an Assembly elder was that he was ruling his own house well (see 1 Tim. 3: 4, 5).
How the heart is rent with anguish as you read over this history. Lot appears to have learnt nothing from his experiences. Even in the eleventh hour he lingers (see Gen.19: 16). But God is merciful and he, his wife and his two daughters that were present, are taken by the hand and led out of Sodom. Surely, it is not too excessive to say that he was dragged out? Before the judgments detailed in the book of Revelation fall on this world, of which Sodom’s judgment is but the shadow, the Lord Jesus will come and take his saints to be with Him for ever (see 1 Thess. 4: 13–18). Will there be those that are so tied up with this world, as Lot was with Sodom, that they have to be virtually dragged out? People speak of going to heaven when they die or when the Lord comes. Scripture doesn’t. The Bible presents the Person rather than the place. Yes, the believer will go to heaven but it is “with Christ”, and “with [the] Lord” (Phil. 1: 23; 1 Thess. 4: 17) that is the dominant thought. As I have said already, we need to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins in order that “he should deliver us out of the present evil world” (Gal. 1: 4). What a lesson Lot’s history teaches us here! Even outside of Sodom, Lot still lingers for a city, even a small one (see Gen. 19: 20). And God allows it! How utterly amazing is the mercy that God shows to this erring man! Thus they came to the city of Zoar and Lot’s wife looked back, ignoring the divine warning (see v17), and became a pillar of salt (see v26). Take heed to the Lord’s word “Remember the wife of Lot” (Luke 17: 32). Love for the world meant more to her than obedience to God’s Word.
We enter now on the final chapter of Lot’s life. He has lost his possessions and his wife, and only two daughters of his family are left. Spiritual exercise does not cause him to move to the mountain but fear: “for he feared to dwell in Zoar” (Gen. 19: 30) and thus he dwells in a cave. To “preserve seed alive of our father” (v32) his daughters move, not in faith, but in raw physical expediency. The final awful view of Lot that Scripture records is that of a man so intoxicated by wine that he does not know that he has committed incest with his own daughters! How Lot reacted to the birth of Moab and Ben–ammi we are not told, but it is the daughters that name the offspring, not the father. Moab and Ammon became enemies of the people of God—such was the outcome of Lot’s pathway here! What an ending for one who had such a privileged beginning in the company of a man of faith! Of Abraham and all those others who walked in faith, we are told the years of their life, their age at death and where they are buried. Of Lot we know nothing for, in keeping with his name, a veil is laid over it all and the Bible is silent. Let writer and readers learn well from Lot and heed the apostle’s injunction “for as many things as have been written before have been written for our instruction” (Rom. 15: 4).