The best time of the day is bedtime. And bedtime is the best time of the day because the best place to be is in bed with your blanket and your pillow. The only complaint I have about bedtime is that morning comes way too fast. But one of the best things about bedtime are the dreams. The last two weeks, nearly every night, I have dreamt about preaching and it has been great, the preaching has been great, except one time. It was Saturday night, September 30. The text for the sermon was Genesis 18. Before preaching the chapter, I read each and every word aloud. Each and every word was a Bible name and not just any Bible name, but the most difficult Bible names to pronounce. The worst part of the entire dream was that about thirty minutes had gone by and I was only half way through reading!
After Genesis 18 comes Genesis 19 and Genesis 19 is difficult. And like the dream, this chapter is difficult because of the names. Well, actually just one name and it is probably the easiest name in the Bible to pronounce. It is mentioned here fifteen times. This is after not being mentioned at all since Genesis 14. Fifteen times seems to be an indication that this name might be important. After Genesis 19, this name is never mentioned again in the Old Testament except for just three verses (Deuteronomy 2:9; 19; Psalm 83:3). And it is not mentioned again in the Bible until Jesus mentions it in Luke 17. Genesis 19 is difficult and it is difficult because of one man named…Lot. He is the big idea.
It all begins with Genesis 19:1. “The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.” How does Lot make Genesis 19 so difficult? Lot was sitting in Sodom.
Abraham Drew Near to God
Genesis 18 and Genesis 19 are to be considered together. Both chapters essentially take place on the same day. Genesis 18 begins at high noon (18:1) and Genesis 19 begins in the evening (19:1). Genesis 18 begins with three men visiting Abraham (18:1, 2) and Genesis 19 begins with two of those three men, now identified as angels, visiting Lot (19:1). And Genesis 18 and Genesis 19 both concern the city of Sodom. It is because “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave.” In Genesis 18:21 God reveals to Abraham what he is about to do regarding Sodom. “I will go down to see.” And Abraham knows what God will see. Abraham knows that God will see that the outcry is great and the sin there is very grave. This is so precious because it causes Abraham to draw near to God (18:23).
As Abraham drew near to God he asked, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” Highlight the word righteous. Why is Abraham asking this particular question? He then asks God to spare the city on behalf of the righteous. “Will you not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? What if just forty-five righteous are in it? What if forty righteous are in it? What if thirty righteous are in it? What if twenty righteous are in it? What if you find just ten righteous people in the whole city of Sodom?”
And God Remembered Abraham
Keep Abraham and what he had asked regarding the righteous in mind and listen carefully to Genesis 19:29. “So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley.” Pause there. Remember, Abraham asked God, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” Now listen to the rest of the verse. “God remembered Abraham.” What exactly did God remember? He remembered that Abraham drew near to him asked, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” God remembered Abraham’s heart-felt petition “and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow.” Who sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow? God did. In Genesis 18, Abraham never mentioned Lot by name. Again, who sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow? God did. Why did he do it?
But Lot Was Sitting in Sodom
But Lot was sitting in Sodom. When Lot first laid on eyes on Sodom, he just wanted to move right next door. He knew that Sodom was a place of wicked men who were great sinners. But, there was opportunity there, opportunity for success. And being just next door would still get him some of that success (Genesis 13:10-13). Before too long Lot was living in Sodom (14:12). And now in Genesis 19:1 he was sitting in Sodom. Why is that so important?
When Lot was sitting, he was sitting in the gate of Sodom. And as he was sitting in the gate of Sodom, there came these two angels. These two angels have come to Sodom for just one big reason: to destroy it (19:13). Lot does not know this just yet. When he sees these two angels “he rose to meet them.” He then urges them to come to his house to stay the night. They at first decline, but Lot “pressed them strongly” which virtually means he was really persistent that they stay…the night…in his house.
At his house later in the evening, these two angels revealed to Lot what God was about to do (19:13; cf. 18:17). And when morning came the angels implored Lot, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city” (19:15). Now notice verse sixteen. “But he lingered.” Why would he linger?
Listen to the rest of verse sixteen. “So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.” Notice that the angels had to seize [to squeeze] Lot and his wife and his two daughters by the hand to remove them from the city. Once out of the city one angel said, “Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away” (19:17). In verse twenty-six, Lot’s wife looked back and is forever remembered for looking back. This looking back was not a glance, but a really long look almost as if she wanted to go back (cf. Luke 17:33). She has been described as a wife after Lot’s own heart. Lot did not look back, but he did look. He looked at another city and told the angels, “I cannot escape to the hills… Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there – is it not a little one?” (19:20).
When Lot discovered that God would destroy the city and it came time to flee, why did he linger? After he was seized by the hand out of the city and told to run, why did he look upon a neighboring city? Listen to 2 Peter 2:8 “For as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.”
It does not make any sense, does it? Living in Sodom was tormenting Lot’s righteous soul day after day after day and all because of the lawless deeds that he saw and heard day after day after day. So, why did he never leave? It is the same reason he lingered. It is the same reason he looked on another city, a little city. It has everything to do with Genesis 19:1. He was sitting in Sodom. This sitting in Sodom was a position of prominence. If you sat there, people knew your name (cf. 2 Samuel 19:8; Jeremiah 26:10; 39:3). Even though his righteous soul was tormented day after day after day after day by all these lawless deeds, he lingered and he looked for another city that was just little. Little compared to what? Sodom. Even though his righteous soul was tormented each day, Lot liked Sodom. He liked the prosperity. He liked the comforts. He liked the prominence. It makes you wonder about the torment he endured each day. Why was he, this righteous soul, so tormented over their lawless deeds? Were their lawless deeds intertwined with his prosperity? His comforts? His prominence?
The Town Knew His Name
The town knew his name. At the beginning of the chapter Lot persisted and persisted some more that the two angels stay in his house for the night. As the house was settling in for the night, there was a shout coming from outside. Listen to verse four. “The men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house.” And now comes verse five. “And they called to Lot.” The town knew his name for they called to Lot. The word called is too tame. It is more that they shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” What is there to know about this word know? Listen to Lot in verse seven. “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.” This word know is the Hebrew word yada which means to really, really know. How does Lot take this word know? “Do not act so wickedly.”
What do the men of Sodom think of this word know? It is verse nine. “Do not judge us! Who are you to judge us? You are just a foreigner and not one of us.” Then they say, “we will deal worse with you than with them.” The word know is an intimate word. It is used of man knowing his wife or of God knowing Abraham as his friend (Genesis 4:1; 18:19). This was a crowd of men wanting to know other men. It was the act of homosexuality and it is wrong and it was an act of rape and it is wrong (Leviticus 18:22, 24; Romans 1:26-28). And as wrong was the worst thing Lot, a father, could ever do. He offered his two daughters to the crowd of men instead (19:8).
But God Rescued Righteous Lot
The conclusion of this passage is that God rescued Lot and his two daughters (19:29). But listen to 2 Peter 2:7. “And if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked…” There is the difficulty; Lot is called righteous. He just offered to the crowd of men to do to his daughters as they please (19:8). And the Bible calls him righteous. How can he be called righteous?! The wickedness of Sodom does not make Genesis 19 difficult. Lot makes Genesis 19 difficult. Lot being called righteous makes Genesis 19 difficult or so it seems.
I argued against Lot all week. I was pointing the finger at him all week saying, “No, not him!” Do you know what makes Genesis 19 really difficult? I do. I make Genesis 19 really difficult. I am not comfortable with Lot being called righteous. This is what I thought, at first. Instead, I am not comfortable with a question that I must ask me. What would be the argument against me? If you only knew the worst thing I have ever done… Or, how might my comforts/enjoyments be intertwined with the lawless deeds of my culture?
The Bible says that “none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks after God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-11). But Lot is called righteous! How can it be?! Remember Genesis 15:6. Abraham believed God and God “counted it to him as righteousness.” If Lot is called righteous it must be the same as how Abraham is called righteous. Lot believed God. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God and it is a righteousness “through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” And why do I so desperately need this righteousness? “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23). Even Lot and even me.
The difficulty with the text is not Lot. It is me. I think I am better than him. When I look at Lot I am faced with looking at some things about me. A ship in the water is perfectly right, but water in the ship would be perfectly wrong. The Christian in the world is right and necessary. The world in the Christian is wrong and disastrous.
Am I comfortable, too comfortable? Lot sat in Sodom and lingered. Lot sat in Sodom and then looked for another Sodom on a much smaller scale. Do I think that I can live with and around a sin without it ever being my sin and everything is ok?