GOD REMEMBERED ABRAHAM AND SAVED LOT
Genesis 19:1-38 Key Verse: 19:29
“So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.”
In chapter 18, we saw Abraham’s spiritual growth. Abraham was called a friend of God. (James 2:23; Isaiah 41:8) The Lord and two angels visited Abraham. From his visit, we could learn what it means to be a friend of God. God came with good news, giving him a son by Sarah and the promise of blessings not only for himself but also his descendants. Yet, the blessings would be fulfilled when Abraham directed his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. God also shared with Abraham his plan to investigate Sodom and Gomorrah, to see whether they should be destroyed or not. Abraham prayed for Sodom to be saved by getting a discount from 50 to 10 righteous people in it. In chapter 19, the two angels visit Lot in Sodom. There is a contrast between Abraham and Lot in these chapters; how they lived and the results of their lives, which warns us what kind of life we should live. We also see that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. May God help each one of us to receive the word of God through today’s passage. Amen!
Look at verses 1-2, “The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 ‘My lords,’ he said, ‘please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.’ ‘No,’ they answered, ‘we will spend the night in the square.’” The Lord sent two angels to Sodom and Gomorrah, but he himself did not go with them. The Lord did not have any relationship neither with Lot nor anyone in the town. The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, probably disguised as regular Joes. Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. It was a custom of the time for an elder to sit down and greet people at the city gate. Even though Lot was not respected by the townspeople, he was sitting there. Maybe he wanted to be an elder of the town. When Lot saw the two men, he bowed down with his face to the ground. Then he called them ‘My lords’ and invited them to his house. It seems that he was humble. He showed his respect. Interestingly, however, they rejected his invitation. Maybe it was to test whether Lot was really sincere or not.
What was Lot’s response? Look at verse 3, “But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.” Even though they refused, Lot insisted, and they finally accepted. Sometimes, we need to invite strangers again and again. The bread Lot served was just hard bread without anything else. He had basic hospitality. Though we do not know where his family members were, we know he did not involve his family at all. Maybe it was his best and all he had. Compared to Lot’s serving, in chapter 18, Abraham served his guests with delicious food, beef steak, milk and curds, and lot of bread, involving his wife and his servants.
What was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah? Look at verses 4-5, “Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’” The whole town was full of homosexual people, young and old, all insane with lust. Can we justify their actions by saying that they were born that way? They wanted to rape two strangers who just came into town. How depraved people they had become! Animals live according to how they are created, but the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had degenerated from the image of God to lower than the level of an animal. They were full of violence without restraint. It is a picture of the end result of people who reject God in their lives and live according to their sinful nature.
In history such people have lived not only in Sodom and Gomorrah but also in many different places and times of the world. Then people cry out, saying, “Where is God?” when they see unspeakable violence and totally depraved people living in their society, doing crazy and unimaginable things. The history shows this kind of thing can happen to anyone or any culture when they leave God out of their lives and live according to their natural desires.
How did Lot deal with such people? Look at verses 6-8, “Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” We see the good and bad side of Lot. Lot was good in that he tried to protect his guests though they were strangers, risking his own life. He did not let them do these wicked things to his guests and/or change his mind to join their evil action. He knew that they were doing wicked things, but he made a crucial mistake. In order to appease these wicked people, he offered his two precious daughters to them. I do not understand why. How had he become? He knew that they were doing wicked things, but he could not stand on the truth. He tried to compromise with the wicked. Maybe he feared the crazy people would attack him and his guests. Maybe he was thinking that they would take his daughters and go away happy.
What was the response of the people of Sodom? Look at verses 9, “‘Get out of our way,’ they replied. ‘This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.’” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.” They did not go away as Lot expected. Their crazy behavior did not subside but inflamed even more. They saw Lot’s hypocrisy. They attacked Lot’s weak point and treated him as a foreigner even though he might have tried to mingle with them. They attacked Lot and his guests. What kind of life had Lot lived in Sodom? 2 Peter 2:7-8 says, “and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard.” Lot knew what is right, but he decided to live in Sodom instead of living in the Promised Land together with Abraham. The problem was that he was miserable, so much so that his soul was tormented by wickedness of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah. Then why did he live there, even though he was miserable? It was the result of many wrong choices he had made. In chapter 13, he chose the land nearby Sodom because it was like the garden of the Lord, well-watered. He did not care for his relationship with his uncle as much as his material benefit. Even though his uncle risked his life in order to rescue him and his family, he left again to live in Sodom. As a righteous man, he should have had a holy desire to live right before God, but he had no strength to change the way of his thought and life. His sinful lifestyle was so strong, overpowering his holy desire. Even though he lived a tormented life, he continued to live in Sodom. Small decisions make a big difference. Maybe he convinced himself that he could live a life of faith all by himself in Sodom without Abraham’s help. Now he was in big trouble, and his compromised life would end soon.
How did the angels help? Look at verses 10-11, “But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.” The men revealed their angelic power, pulling Lot inside, and they protected him by making the sinful men blind. And they urged him to take everyone who belonged to him out of the city, because the Lord had decided to destroy the people, for the outcry against their sins came up to him. In the middle of night Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters, about the news of God’s judgment on the people. But they did not take Lot seriously; they thought he was joking. Maybe Lot used to joke with them a lot. It seems that he did not talk to them about God before, so suddenly bringing such a message could not make sense to them. One thing is for sure—that he did not have any spiritual influence on them at all.
With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot to leave the city before the city was punished. Surprisingly, however, Lot hesitated. He did not really take the angels’ message seriously. He did not have an absolute attitude toward God’s message, which was the fundamental problem of his life. This reminds me of the foolish builder in Luke 6:46-49, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? … But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Probably, he had too many things in Sodom to leave. He had too many sinful ways of life to give up and did not know how to live anywhere else.
What did the angels do to Lot and his family? Look at verse 18, “When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.” If I were the angels, I would say, “Are you kidding me?” and just let them do whatever. But the angels forced them to leave the town. It was because God was merciful to them. This tells us that when God forces us to move, it is God’s mercy. By the grace of God, God removed us from our sinful way of life. Maybe someone is praying for us very much. So give thanks to God if God did that for you. Amen!
However, the angels saved them from the immediate destruction but did not bring them to the mountains. One of the angels also gave them a direction to follow on their own. Look at verse 17. “As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, ‘Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!’” There are three things they needed to do. 1) Flee for your lives. They should flee from Sodom; otherwise, they will be swept away. They should flee from their sinful way of life. They should have not lived there anyways. In the same way, God warns us, “Flee from idolatry!” (1 Co 10:14), “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) in the Old and New Testament. At the final judgment, Jesus warned all believers in Matthew 24:16, “…then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Here the mountains represent the place where God dwells. At the end of the world, people will tell us to come here and there to meet the Messiah. But finally there will be no place to go in this world; we must flee to God.
2) Do not look back. They should not look back on their sinful way of life in Sodom. When they did, they would be swept away by the power of sin. In the book of Exodus, this is what the people of Israel did. Even though they saw God’s great work, saving them from the hand of Pharaoh and crossing the Red Sea as on dry land, they constantly complained to Moses whenever they had any small problem, saying, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted…” God had to constantly remind them of what he had done in Egypt and how he had brought them out on eagle’s wings, especially before he gave the Ten Commandments. Jesus also warned his disciples not to look back, referring to their old way of life without God. When we truly want to live a new life, we cannot look back, especially on the life of sin and even self-condemnation. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) If anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come. In this way, we are being saved and continue to grow in Christ.
3) Don’t stop! Lot must not stop running away from Sodom; otherwise, he will be swept away. This applies to living a life of faith. After we are saved by the grace of God in Jesus, we cannot stop growing in Christ. What if a seed sprouted and then stopped growing? That means it is in danger for some reason. Jesus gave us three reasons why we become unfruitful: when our hearts are still hardened toward God’s word, when we are like rocky soil, depending on emotional feelings of faith, or when we are choked by thorns of worries and a pleasure-seeking life. When we want to change, we must run to the goal. If we stop in the middle, we will be swept away! It means we must continue to work out our salvation, struggling with the word of God.
But Lot still did not comprehend and made excuses, saying, “No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.” Though Lot made such a request in the middle of God’s punishment, the angel granted it to him and asked him to flee quickly. Lot’s reaction depicts a sinful human being who does not want to change fully but as little as possible to move forward. Our God, who is full of grace, waits until we make a small progress.
Look at verses 24-26, “By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Lot’s wife also did not have an absolute attitude toward God’s word, “Don’t look back.” She looked back and became a pillar of salt. Figuratively speaking, God wanted Lot and his wife to be salt of the earth, giving spiritual influence and being a preservative in the sinful cities, Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus also told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” May God help us to be salty Christians in this perverse and corrupt generation! How can we be salty Christians? When we have an absolute attitude toward God’s word, we can be salty, sharing the love of God with others and preserving godly values in this corrupt generation.
It is interesting to note that the author made a remark about what Abraham did in relation to Lot’s salvation. Look at verses 27-29. “Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. 29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.” In chapter 18, Abraham prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah, depending on God’s righteousness. Abraham worried about Sodom and Gomorrah all night and came to see what happened. How discouraging for Abraham to see that God had to destroy the land because there were not even 10 righteous people, wondering what happened to his nephew, Lot. But God knew why Abraham prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah. It was mainly for his nephew, Lot. Lot was not a good nephew, taking the better land and leaving the Promised Land. Even though Abraham gave his life to save him, Lot did not show his gratitude in any way or come back to live in the Promised Land again but went right back to Sodom. What a broken heart Abraham had! But his heart for Lot did not diminish; he prayed for him to the end. God did not ignore Abraham and remembered his prayer and saved Lot from the destruction.
Here we learn that God remembers our prayers. This reminds of James 4:15-16, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” We are not considered righteous because we did anything right, but because we just believe in Jesus. God saved each one of us, not for our own righteousness but for people to be saved from the eternal destruction through us. May God remember all our prayers and answer in his time, especially saving many lives.
Thank God for answering my prayer for my family members. When I was called to be a missionary, my sister persecuted me the most, saying that I was neglecting my aged parents. When I prayed for my family, my heart was troubled, but God gave me Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Amazingly, God answered my broken-hearted prayer for them, saving them one by one, beginning from my sister first, then my father and mother, my nieces and even sister-in-law. After 25 years of prayer, finally God opened the heart of my brother-in-law who agreed to go to church last Sunday and pray for me!
Even though Lot was saved, while living in Zoar, he was gripped with fear, maybe nightmares. Then he went to the mountains and started living in a cave. I still wonder why he did not go back to his uncle, Abraham, who would be very happy to have him. Maybe he became too old and stubborn, proud and fixed, to admit his wrong life. In his secluded life in a cave, he might have thought that he would be safe from any problem of the world. But he had children by his daughters who still followed the value system of Sodom and Gomorrah. His descendants became enemies of God’s people and finally were destroyed in due time.
The results of Lot’s life contrast with that of Abraham, showing us that there are two kinds of Christians, Abraham’s kind and Lot’s kind. As we know, Abraham and his descendants were blessed by God just as God promised. Abraham became a source of blessing to all peoples of all nations. His life of faith has been an example for all believers. Those who have the faith of Abraham will be blessed just as God blessed him. It does not mean that he was perfect. But even though he had many ups and downs, he held on to the promise of God. Whenever God spoke to him, he simply accepted, repented, trusted and followed God’s word. Compared to Abraham, Lot did not have the promise of God. So he lived his life not according to God’s promise but according to his feelings or situations. So he was going to places here and there: Sodom, Zoar, and finally a cave in the mountains—everywhere except the Promised Land. May God bless each one of us to live not according to feelings for situations but according to the promise of God.
Through today’s passage, we learned how God saved Lot through Abraham’s prayer. In the light of this passage, we learned how important it is to hold on to the word of God. As we have a key verse for 2016, may God help each one of us to live according to it. As we pray, may God answer our prayer, especially for people to be saved from the eternal destruction. Amen!