Dec 11, 2016
Genesis 19:1-38

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Let’s get a running head start into our study this morning by beginning with verse 1…

Genesis 19:1-16, “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. And he said, ‘Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.’ And they said, ‘No, but we will spend the night in the open square.’ But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 

Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. 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 know them carnally.’

So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, ‘Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.’ 

And they said, ‘Stand back!’ Then they said, ‘This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.

Then the men said to Lot, ‘Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city - take them out of this place! For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.’

So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, ‘Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!’ But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking. When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, ‘Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.’ And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”

In addition to Lot, his wife, and two virgin daughters living in his home it appears he had at least one other married daughter, a son-in-law, in addition to an unspecified number of sons. 

How tragic that not only do these children refuse to heed Lot’s warning, but they rejected what he was trying to tell them on the basis they believed he was just joking around. “Get up! Get out of this place…” Lot had such an impoverished witness his kids didn’t believe him.

What a sad indictment that the angels end up having to “take hold of their hands” and forcibly “bring them outside the city.” Even knowing judgment was nigh, Lot “lingered!” 

While on one side of the coin this conveys such a sad state of affairs, on the flip side what an incredible demonstration of grace that even when Lot “lingered” the Lord still chose to be “merciful to him.” If justice is getting what you deserve and grace is getting what you don’t deserve, it is mercy when God chooses not to give you what you do deserve. 

Though most of us would have seen the warning of judgment as more than sufficient, even when Lot and his family drag their feet the Lord loved them enough to have these angels take hold of them and bring them out of the city so that they’d escape judgment.

Genesis 19:17-20, “So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, ‘Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.’ Then Lot said to them, ‘Please, no, my lords! Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die. See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.’’’ 

Judgment was coming and everything and everyone Lot knew was about to die or be destroyed; and yet, what do we see him concerned with? What life would look like after he escaped. Think about the audacity of this man telling these angels… “I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die.” What did he think God was going to save him from the destruction of Sodom only to allow him to get eaten by mountain lions?  

Genesis 19:21-22, “And he said to him, ‘See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.’ Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.”

Did you notice this interesting phrase, “I have favored you…” The KJV translates this as “I have accepted thee.” Why was Lot being saved? His goodness or God’s graciousness? His deservingness or the fact God loved him? Keep in mind, and this is important for the greater context of what’s to follow, Lot was being saved as a work of God’s grace alone.

While God’s mercy would be evident in the fact He didn’t allow Lot to perish in the destruction of Sodom though he “lingered,” the Lord, through a work of his grace, had a life planned for Lot. It isn’t enough to be spared judgment. The fact God has every intention to provide a life better than the one you left behind is where His grace really comes into play.

So many people relegate Jesus’ work on the cross as a golden ticket to eternal life - a work that spares you the judgment of God, when the truth is that Jesus has done so much more for you! In John 10:10 Jesus said, “He came that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly.” God’s mercy addresses your death while His grace is all about you living.

Genesis 19:23-25, “The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.”

A few quick observations about what’s happening here… Archeological discoveries have proven that “Sodom and Gomorrah” were ancients cities that experienced a quick and dramatic destruction via a natural disaster that engulfed the region. In fact, even the ancient ruins of “Zoar” have been unearthed located on the eastern side of the Dead Sea.

And yet, while there may have been a natural cause, the supernatural involvement in the destruction of these cities is unavoidable. We’re told “the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom” and that these things came “from the Lord out of the heavens.” Through this event God specifically “overthrew these cities.” The word “overthrew” described a violent overturning with the source being this “fire and brimstone” coming from the “heavens.”

Aside from Jesus affirming the divine element of this event in Luke 17, in 2 Peter 2:6 we’re also told God “turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes” in order to “make them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly.” Jesus’ half-brother Jude would later add (Jude 1:7) that these cities “suffered the vengeance of eternal fire.” 

While entirely possible God used a natural event to contribute to their destruction, whatever happened was magnified through God’s direct supernatural intervention. It’s not an accident that in Revelation 20 we have hell described as being a “lake of fire and brimstone.” What occurred to these cities was akin to God raining down hell upon them - literally hell. 

Though I’ve always equated “brimstone” as being a molten-lava like substance associated with volcanic activities, the truth is that no one knows for sure what the word means. Some speculate that the Hebrew word “brimstone” or “gophriyth” is derived from “gopher” which was a type of ancient wood (i.e. this was the wood used to build the Ark - Genesis 6:14). 

The logical development of this idea claims “brimstone” may have actually been an amber-colored, flammable pitch or sap that came from gopherwood. In a sense “brimstone” would have been a common fuel or kindling used for starting fires in the ancient world.

Aside from this, what I find even more fascinating about this Hebrew word “brimstone” is that it’s only used seven times in the Old Testament, and in every instance you’ll find it associated with the divine judgment of God. Because of this the Jews commonly referred to “brimstone” as simply being “Jehovah’s breath” or literally God’s breath.

And note what the breath of God (“brimstone”) fueled… “Fire” or as Jude wrote, “Eternal fire.” God’s breath coming down from heaven yielded a fire that incinerated these cities! The Jews believed this fire was being fueled through the breath of God Himself - the “brimstone.”

Understand, in the Bible there are two types of “fire” that come down from heaven. There is the fire of judgment (as exemplified by this story) and the fire of acceptance (dedication of the Temple, Elijah’s sacrifice). In both instances “fire” is symbolic of purification.

In this situation God’s breath and the fire that it fueled cleansed and purified the earth of the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah, but this is not always the result of a fire that emanates from God’s breath. As mentioned, aside from judgment, fire from heaven can indicate God’s acceptance of a sacrifice, His pleasure, or what we call in the New Testament - His grace.

With this in mind please turn to Acts 2:1-4… We read that “when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind (“pnoē” in the Greek or literally “breath”), and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

In the Greek this phrase “Holy Spirit” can be translated as “Hagios Pneuma” or the “Most Holy Breath of God.” That day this group of 120 followers of Jesus were filled with the Breath of God which resulted in the “appearance of divided tongues, as of fire!” 

Instead of the breath of God fueling the fire of judgment (“brimstone”), in this instance we see God’s breath (His Pneuma, the “Holy Spirit”) fueling the fire of God’s acceptance. In this moment God was not judging man with fire, His breath was igniting a fire within man.

Quickly turn back to Genesis 19, because I want you to see what resulted from this first recorded “fire” fueled through the breath (“brimstone”) of God… Genesis 19:26, “But Lot’s wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”

For context, please keep in mind, the angels clearly said to Lot and his family, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.” Sadly, since Lot’s wife failed to obey the Word of God, the results proved tragic. She “looked back and became a pillar of salt.” Note: The idea isn’t that she just “looked back,” but that in doing so she revealed a longing for the life she had in Sodom.

What makes this woman so interesting is that Jesus brings her up again in Luke 17:32-33 telling His disciples to “remember Lot's wife” adding “whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” Here we have a woman that we seemingly know absolutely nothing about (we aren’t given her name, ethnicity, when she married Lot, how they met, her backstory, how old she was, her role in Sodom - we know nothing); and yet, Jesus singles her out and commands each of us to “remember her.”

So what should we remember? While God’s grace had been demonstrated to her in spite of her, God’s grace was only as powerful as she allowed it to be. Sadly, she “looked back” longing for a life God’s grace was seeking to liberate her from. She “looked back” to the home she had as opposed to looking forward to the home God’s grace would give her.

The context Jesus provides (“whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it”) indicates an important truth we should always remember… How we respond to God’s grace is of eternal significance. David Guzik wrote, “We need to look forward to our deliverance, not back at a world passing away and ripe for judgment.”

Friend, remember Lot’s wife because she illustrates a person who, while knowing of God’s grace and even enjoying a small sample of that grace, still perished because she failed to go where God’s grace wanted to lead her. Never forget… God’s amazing grace can only lead you as far as you’re willing to go!

Charles Spurgeon observed, “She almost made it. Doom befell her at the gates of Zoar. Oh, if I must be damned, let it be with the mass of the ungodly, having always been one of them; but to get up to the very gates of heaven, and to perish there, will be a most awful thing!” 

Aside from all of this… How interesting that this “brimstone and fire” (the fire of judgment emanating from the breath of God) resulted in Lot’s wife being turned into a “pillar of salt” or more specifically that she “became a pillar of salt.” Because she rejected God’s grace and the life He’d saved her for turning back to Sodom, she’s transformed into a “pillar of salt.” 

This is what blows my mind about this story… It would appear the fire of judgment and the fire of acceptance are fueled by the breath of God for the exact same purpose. 

Lot’s wife was turned into “pillar of salt” in order to communicate to the world a warning that we must walk with God according to God’s Word for His grace to yield its full effects. And yet, what results when the breath of God’s Spirit ignites a fire in our lives? We turn into “people of salt” for the exact same reason - to let the world know God’s grace provides a better way! 

In Matthew 5:13 Jesus said to His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” Interestingly, the only way this can be accomplished is when a fire is fueled by the Spirit works in our hearts.

Genesis 19:27-30, “And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace. And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt. Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave.” 

Lot’s entire life has been completely thrown into disarray, total and complete devastation… His home along with an untold number of his children have been destroyed. To make matters worse, his wife was also caught up in the judgment and he had to watch it happen!

We’re told, though Lot made it to Zoar, “fearing” it might not be safe to stay in any city and that he probably should have listened to the Lord and gone out into the wilderness in the first place, he now decides to take his two daughters and flee into the mountains. The text tells us they end up dwelling “in a cave” which is where the story gets weird.

Genesis 19:31-38, “Now the firstborn said to the younger, ‘Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.’ So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

It happened on the next day that the firstborn said to the younger, ‘Indeed I lay with my father last night; let us make him drink wine tonight also, and you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.’ Then they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day.”

There’s no way around it (and not even the creators of Game of Thrones would dare go this far), but this story takes an incestious turn for the worse. Fearing they were now the only people left on earth, Lot’s daughters concoct a plan to preserve the human race or at least Lot’s family lineage. To do this they both get their father hammered, date-rape him, so that each could have a son. Note: Moab and Ammon will become enemies of the Israelites. 

What’s so sad is this is the final detail we’re given concerning Lot’s life. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say it’s safe to assume Lot dies a defeated, dejected, depressed man. 

Originally, it had been materialism that had driven a wedge between he and his uncle Abraham - so deep in fact that even when Ab saved he and his family when they had been taken captive by Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14) he still chose to return to Sodom. Note: We’re given zero indication in the Scriptures Lot and Abraham ever reconciled their relationship.

Beyond this… Lot also lost his family - although it seems evidence he’s lost them long before the judgment of Sodom. The truth is Lot’s standing before some of his children was so poor that they laughed at his warning that God’s judgment was nigh. The life he lived was of the such that when he needed his kids to listen to him they thought he was joking around. 

Then to make that loss worse, instead of running hand in hand with his wife from Sodom, he allowed her to fall “behind him.” The pain when he realized her love for the world was greater than her love for God. Lot watched his wife get swallowed up by the judgment of God. 

I can also imagine that, in addition to his children perishing, Lot blamed himself for her death. If only he’d been obedient to the Lord’s original command to flee into the wilderness instead desiring to go to Zoar - maybe she wouldn’t have had a chance to “look back?”

In the end, the two daughters who do survive, demonstrate zero respect for their father. Sure, while they were all admittedly afraid, does Lot do anything to calm their fears? Does he comfort them with the knowledge that by God’s grace He would sustain them? No. Though I don’t believe Lot would have ever slept with his daughters in his right mind, he was at least culpable in so far as he allowed them to get him drunk with wine - twice!

With the few moments we have remaining please consider what transpired in the life of a man who began with such potential, but seemed to squander all of it. You see what makes the story of Lot’s life such a tragedy is that it didn’t have to turn out this way.

Don’t forget, to his credit, Lot followed Abraham from Ur and then continued with him from Haran into the land of promise. How in the world did things end so tragically?

To understand how this happened, understand Scripture presents an interesting progression in Lot’s life… Back in Genesis 13 when he and Abram decide to part ways we’re told, “Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt… Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and journeyed east… dwelling in the cities of the plain pitching his tent even as far as Sodom.” Then in Genesis 14 we’re read that “Lot dwelt in Sodom.” Only for the very next mention, Genesis 19:1, to set the scene with “Lot sitting in the gate of Sodom.” 

Towards Sodom, then in Sodom, before ultimately sitting in the gate of Sodom - which indicated Lot had come to possess a position of power, influence, and notoriety. And while this progression indicates Lot’s life unraveled because of compromise (there is no doubt he flirted with the world and in the process lost his moral standing in the lives of his wife and children to the influences of wicked Sodom), understand Lot was a man who lived in constant spiritual conflict as a result of his moral compromises.

In 2 Peter 2 we’re told, while Lot lived in Sodom thinking he could make a difference, he was instead “oppressed (literally “tired down with toil”) by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented (actually tortured) his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds).”

You see because Lot knew the truth, had experienced the grace of God, and was aware that the Lord had given him a higher calling, his compromise with the world only led to a constant conflict within himself. Christian, know that while compromise with the world promises to minimize your conflict with the world, Lot’s life teaches us that compromise only leads to a deeper unrest within one’s own soul. While living in Sodom, Lot wasn’t happy. He was miserable because he knew it wasn’t where God wanted he and his family.

And yet, with all of these terrible things being true, Lot is still described by Peter as being “righteous!” Amazingly, though his life ended in disaster - he lost his entire family (his wife and children) in the process - and his only lasting legacy would be that the two nations who descended from him would oppose the people of God, God still viewed Lot as righteous!

If there is any overarching lesson we should learn from the tragedy of Lot’s life it’s this… It’s entirely possible to waste a righteous life when we compromise with the world! 

Lot believed in Jesus and had been declared righteous as a result; and yet, because of his actions he was ultimately robbed of joy, forfeited all moral influence, and in the end died without leaving behind any type of spiritual legacy. God’s grace still proved sufficient to save him because it hadn’t based in his performance, but Lot’s life of constant moral compromise limited the life God’s grace would have been sufficient to provide.