In our previous lessons we examined two main things:
- The core idea of the Christian religion for which Abraham was a "type": that we are saved by faith in God.
- That faith in God is expressed in a lifelong relationship that includes trust, obedience and hope.
Within this second idea we saw that because of His grace, God allows for our failures within that lifelong relationship. It is not that He overlooks failures or does not care about them, it is that He understands about human weakness and has provided for it through the cross of Jesus Christ.
In Abraham's case we see not only failure but we also see trust, progress and obedience because there are also features that are part of a lifelong relationship with God.
- Trust in that he relied on God to help him defeat the northern kings.
- Progress in that he refused the money and gifts from them and gave honor to God instead (which he had not done in Egypt).
- Obedience in that when God told him to circumcise himself and his household, he obeyed God exactly according to His Word.
We also looked at the significance of circumcision for Abraham and the Jews in later years:
- Sign of the transfer of the seed of promise.
- Enclosure (to cut around) of God's will.
- Sign of parental, conjugal, personal faith.
- Sign of sanctification or holiness.
Finally we compared circumcision to baptism and studied how it was a "type" for baptism.
- Baptism is our response of faith.
- Baptism is a sign to identify believers.
- Baptism is necessary to be part of the promise.
In the next two chapters we will get away from ideas and types and the story will describe not only Abraham's continuing journey but also the results of Lot's choices in his life as well (comparison of one who did not progress in his faith).
The Visit to Abraham – Chapter 18
In chapter 18 Abraham is visited by what seemed to him to be three men. The Bible says that one of them was the Lord and this can mean that the Lord appeared as a man to Abraham.
- God appeared to Moses as a burning bush.
- God appeared to Elijah as a wind.
- Why can God not appear as a man?
The difference between this and His appearance as Jesus is that in this case He simply appears in the form of a man (like angels do) but in the case of Jesus He is actually born from a woman and naturally grows up as a man. The Bible spends little time on this, it merely states it. What is important is the reason for the visit. The purpose of their visit is to announce to Abraham that Sarah would herself conceive the child that had been promised by God to Abraham.
Upon hearing this it says that Sarah "laughed" within herself:
12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?"
Her laugh was cynical, not joyful because she doubted that in her advanced age and condition she could even enjoy sex, let alone have children.
The Lord helps her faith in an admonishing way by showing her that He knows her heart and by reassuring her that what seems impossible for her is not too difficult for Him.
13 And the Lord said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?' 14 Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son." 15 Sarah denied it however, saying, "I did not laugh"; for she was afraid. And He said, "No, but you did laugh."
Upon their departure Abraham learns of the second reason for their visit: the judgment of Sodom. Sodom was to be judged for its wickedness, not only in conduct but in refusing the witness it had received. Abraham had saved them from the northern kings, Melchizedek had lived righteously before them, Lot had dwelled as a righteous man among them and yet they were still wicked.
Abraham learns of this intention and intercedes once again for these people and especially his nephew Lot.
23 Abraham came near and said, "Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?" 26 So the Lord said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account." 27 And Abraham replied, "Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?" And He said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there." 29 He spoke to Him yet again and said, "Suppose forty are found there?" And He said, "I will not do it on account of the forty." 30 Then he said, "Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?" And He said, "I will not do it if I find thirty there." 31 And he said, "Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it on account of the twenty." 32 Then he said, "Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it on account of the ten." 33 As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the Lord departed, and Abraham returned to his place.
Abraham's intercession on behalf of the cities of the plain (including Sodom) had interesting aspects:
- It was the first model of intercessory prayer in the Bible.
- It acknowledges that God is both merciful and just and counts on this (God is going to do the right thing).
- Abraham asked God to spare the cities if ten righteous people were found – the exact number in Lot's family (Lot, his wife, two sons, two married daughters, two sons-in-law, two unmarried daughters). In the end only four were willing to leave and the city destroyed.
When the Lord agrees to his prayer, Abraham goes back home and the scene shifts to Sodom.
Lot at the Gates of Sodom – Chapter 19
1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground.
Verse 1 sees Lot "at the gate of the city". This does not mean he was a vagrant with nothing to do but watch people go by. The "gate" was where the city council held their meetings, where the marketplace was; it was the center of trade and culture for the city and to "sit" there means you were involved in the life of that city.
The Bible says that Lot was a righteous man and that his soul was vexed because of the wickedness of the city (II Peter 2:8). He was a godly man living in an ungodly place (of his own choosing). He had witnessed the same call as Abraham but wanted to belong to this world more than the next.
2 And he said, "Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant's house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way." They said however, "No, but we shall spend the night in the square." 3 Yet he urged them strongly, so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he prepared a feast for them, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
For various reasons (he knew the town was evil; it was the custom of the times; he recognized them as angels) Lot invites them to his home.
As was the custom, they refuse his invitation at first but then accept at his insistence. Lot prepares the meal himself, which may suggest that his wife was less hospitable than he. This is also the first mention of "leaven" in the Bible and is usually related to corrupting influences in the Bible (except when Jesus uses it to refer to the Kingdom).
4 Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; 5 and they called to Lot and said to him, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them." 6 But Lot went out to them at the doorway, and shut the door behind him, 7 and said, "Please, my brothers, do not act wickedly. 8 Now behold, I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof." 9 But they said, "Stand aside." Furthermore, they said, "This one came in as an alien, and already he is acting like a judge; now we will treat you worse than them." So they pressed hard against Lot and came near to break the door. 10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11 They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway.
The following passage describes how a mob formed outside his house in the evening demanding that Lot turn over the men so they could "know" them. They become infuriated when he refuses. They even turn on him by accusing him of being a foreigner and never really being one of them.
This word "know" is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe sexual relations so the mob wanted to rape them. Homosexual scholars say that this passage means that the people just wanted to get to know in a social way these people but the following passages and the way the word "know" is used elsewhere disproves this.
Other scholars tell us that male rape and sodomy was also one way to show dominance and victory over an enemy so the mob may have wanted to have sex not just for pleasure but to humiliate and dominate these foreigners and intimidate others who would go there.
Lot offers his virgin daughters to be raped instead of his guests. He may have recognized their true nature and wanted to save the town and the angels from disgrace. His sacrifice of his daughters showed that even though he brought it upon himself, he was sensitive to spiritual things and willing to make a sacrifice for righteousness sake. This action probably saved him.
The angels blind the mob and save Lot and his daughters from them.
12 Then the two men said to Lot, "Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; 13 for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it." 14 Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, "Up, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy the city." But he appeared to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
Here is one of the saddest scenes of the Old Testament, Lot a righteous man, who has compromised in the world, not able to save his own family because his compromise has rendered him morally useless in witnessing to his own children.
They saw him as part of the world, not making a stand, compromising, so when he does make a stand they do not take him seriously.
Sometimes this is the reason why we feel powerless to guide our own children.
15 When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city." 16 But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. 17 When they had brought them outside, one said, "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away." 18 But Lot said to them, "Oh no, my lords! 19 Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your lovingkindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, for the disaster will overtake me and I will die; 20 now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved." 21 He said to him, "Behold, I grant you this request also, not to overthrow the town of which you have spoken. 22 Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there." Therefore the name of the town was called Zoar. 23 The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar.
The angels are ready to destroy the cities and telling Lot, his wife and two daughters to leave but Lot appeals to them to save one of the cities called Zoar because it is small, not too wicked or too far. He did not want to travel and live in the mountains like Abraham because he did not think he would survive (he was righteous but his faith was weak).
Even at this point he is compromising but God has mercy on him and permits it.
24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, 25 and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
27 Now Abraham arose early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood before the Lord; 28 and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the valley, and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land ascended like the smoke of a furnace.
29 Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived.
After their departure the cities were destroyed by fire and brimstone that rained down upon them.
There are several things these could have been:
- A totally supernaturally generated fire sent from heaven to destroy the city.
- A divinely timed volcanic eruption that destroyed them – there is evidence of volcanic activity in the region.
- A divinely timed earthquake that distributed hydrocarbons and sulphur into the atmosphere that may have been ignited by a lightning storm creating a devastating fire from the sky. There is also evidence of a fault line in the region.
In any case God was able to produce any of these and the Bible records that the city was destroyed. In addition to this, Lot's wife perished as she disobeyed the angel's instructions and looked back. The term used suggests she looked back longingly to the world she was leaving behind. Perhaps she immediately turned to salt while glancing back. Perhaps she hesitated and lingered and was overtaken by the fire, smoke and ash, and eventually her remains became a pillar of salt like there exists in the region today.
Either way, her worldliness finally got the best of her because she just could not give up the sinfulness of Sodom and her slow departure from it finally destroyed her. (Being too slow to let go can destroy us as well today!!)
Today was the day of salvation and she waited and lingered too long.
Verses 30-38: This is the final narrative describing Lot's situation. After his escape from Sodom he sees that going to the mountains is the safest idea and so goes there with his two remaining unmarried daughters. His wife is dead as well as most of his family, his possessions are gone as well as his home and he is living in a cave.
God spared his life because of Abraham and also in his heart he was righteous but he suffers loss because he compromised with the world.
His two daughters are afraid of being alone without help or descendants so they get him drunk (note that the use of alcohol is almost always used in a negative term) and conceive by having relations with him while he is drunk.
- This was not the sin that it was later in Moses' time but still they realized that Lot would not have agreed to it.
- It showed not so much that they were sexually immoral but rather that they had little faith in God to provide.
The chapter ends describing the results of this union.
- Moab (from the father) became a great nation living in the mountainous regions often at war with the Israelites (the Moabites).
- Ruth however was a Moabite.
- Benammi (son of my people) was also born and he became the father of the Ammonites.
Lot had great opportunities, great blessings and the Bible says he was righteous but his weakness and compromise with the world led to the loss of his home and destruction of most of his family.
1. Be ready
The Lord visited both Abraham and Lot and each was in a different state of readiness.
- Abraham was waiting, anticipating the coming and God blessed him and Sarah and heard his prayer.
- Lot was enjoying the world, trying to fit in to it and his compromising nearly cost him his life.
It is not just the end of the world. The Lord can visit you with a blessing or a test at any time and you must be ready, aware that this may happen to you.
2. Nothing is too difficult for God
Sarah was passed childbearing age. Lot had lost everything. The daughters of Lot saw no future for themselves. They forgot or doubted that nothing is too hard for the Lord. We need to take the impossible things or those things that look impossible and give them up in prayer to the God for whom nothing is too difficult.
3. Mercy and justice
We need to always keep in mind that God is a God of mercy and justice. Not just patience and understanding and forgiveness, but judgment and punishment and reckoning. It is okay to depend on God's mercy but not to presume on it. God's justice will judge the hypocrites, the unfaithful and the unbelievers.
4. Do not look back
Lot's wife is the perfect example of what happens to those who love the world and hate leaving it. She believed, she understood, her feet were heading towards the safety of the mountains but her heart was in Sodom. God judges us not for where our feet are, He judges us for where our hearts are. Where your heart is, that is where your treasure is and that is where your judgment will be as well.