It has been almost a month since I have been able to share the Word of the LORD with you. However, this was not exactly the passage with which I anticipated stepping back into the pulpit. As we will soon hear, Genesis 19 feels more like Game of Thrones than like Frozen. There is violence, sex, attempted rape, incest, homosexuality, burning sulfur and more in these thirty-eight verses. Almost everything humans do in this passage is an example of what Paul says in Romans 1, “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity.” As I memorized this passage, I underestimated what it would be like to take all of that in and hold it in my heart. It was hard, but it is true and a word that we need to hear. It’s Genesis 19. But before we hear God’s word, please take a moment to pray with me.
Father, may your Word be our rule, Your Holy Spirit our teacher, and the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen.
If you are able, I invite you to stand to hear God’s Word.
Listen closely and listen well, for these are the very words of God:
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. “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.”
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. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom, both young and old, surrounded the house. 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.”
Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends, don’t do this wicked thing. 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.”
“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.
But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back inside the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, both young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.
The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here – sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us here to destroy it.”
So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the LORD is about to destroy the city.” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”
When he hesitated, the men grasped his hands 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. 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.”
But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please. Your servant has found favor in your eyes and you have shown me great kindness in sparing my life. But I cannot flee to the mountains: this disaster will overtake me and I’ll die. Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee there, and it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”
He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too. I will not overthrow the town you spoke of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar).
By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities – and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt.
Early the next morning, Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.
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.
Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, because he was afraid to live in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day, the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children, as is the custom all over the earth. Let us get our father to drink wine and sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.” That night they got their father to drink wine and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
The next day, the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let us get him to drink wine again tonight and then you go in and sleep with him so that we can preserve our family line through our father.” So they got their father to drink wine that night also and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again, he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter gave birth to a son and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.
This is the Word of the LORD. Thanks be to God.
Every part of the Bible is like a beautiful diamond. From different angles, light shines through in unique and beautiful ways. In our brief time together, I want to retell the story of Lot and Sodom from three different angles which will hopefully shed forth the light of God in beautiful ways.
THE FAILURE AND SIN OF LOT
First, Genesis 19 is the failure and sin of Lot. It begins very similarly to Genesis 18, where the angels visit Abraham at the oaks of Mamre. There is a similar sequence: angels arrive, upon seeing them Lot gets up from where he is sitting and bows down with his face to the ground. He invites them in and prepares a meal for them which includes bread. But here is where everything goes wrong.
The men of Sodom have heard that these men have come to town. All of them surround the house and demand that Lot deliver these men into their hands so that they can have sex with them. Lot bravely steps out of the house to address this frenzied mob. He rebukes them for wanting to do this, but his solution is just as horrifying. Lot offers his virgins daughters so that this mass of men can do what you like with them. It is a grace that the men reject the offer, but they won’t be held off for long. They push forward to break down the door, but the angels save Lot by pulling him inside and blinding the attackers.
Lot stumbles again as he is warned to flee the city. He tells the men engaged to his daughters to leave the city, but he cannot even convince them this is anything but a joke. Warned again by the angels, Lot lingers in the city and must be dragged by the hand to safety. Once outside the city, he refuses to flee all the way to the mountains, but begs to find a closer place. The angels relent and Lot, despite himself, is saved. His wife ignores the warning of the angel and looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt.
Lot struggles and stumbles in Sodom because he fails to be distinct from the world around him. He desperately wants to be like Abraham, but without the intimate relationship with God. Lot rightly rejects the homosexuality of Sodom as wrong, but other than that, you wouldn’t know the difference between Lot and the rest of Sodom. He doesn’t question their expectations that their sexual needs be met. He doesn’t question that they believe they have a right to take from others, to use others for their own pleasure. This Lot does not question. Instead, he offers his daughters to be raped by a violent mob. He may have the homosexuality question right, but in almost every other way he is indistinguishable from the world around him.
This failure of Lot continues to plague the church today. Many evangelical churches pride themselves on getting the sexuality question right, but in every other way are no different than the world around them. Just as we would not congratulate Lot because he refused to hand over the men only to hand over his daughters, we should find little congratulations if we hold fast to scripture’s teaching on marriage but hand over so much else that should be precious to us.
Lot’s initial failure is that he lives so deeply in the world without his life, faith, and speech being in any way different from the world. But he also lingers when he is called out from the world. When the angels urge Lot to separate himself from Sodom so that he will not fall under the same judgment, he lingers. There is much he will evidently miss about that life. He must by dragged by the hand out of the city.
However, once separated from Sodom, Lot makes the opposite mistake. We are told that he does not settle in the small town of Zoar, but becomes afraid to live in the city. He is afraid of contact with the world, so he takes his family and tries to flee from its influence. Lot seems to believe that it is the city that is the problem. If he hides in a cave with his family, he will be free from all its corrupting influence. Yet, he cannot flee from the human heart. The story ends with him easily duped into drunkenness and incest by his own daughters.
On the one hand, Lot fails to separate from the city of Sodom and lives in a way that no one could tell the difference. But on the other hand, he fails because he flees away from the world, hoping to keep himself and his family safe from sin and wickedness. We, in the church, are tempted by both of Lot’s failures. At times, we look no different from the world around us, refusing to challenge the ways of Sodom. At other times, we try to hide, hoping to remain unstained by lack of contact. However, we are called to avoid these twin sins of Lot – to be distinct from the world in our pattern of life, but also deeply engaged with it as well.
Genesis 19 is the story of the failures and sins of Lot, but it is also a flood story. If I told you there was a Bible story where the sins of the people had risen before God and wickedness had filled the land, but that God would rain down judgment that would destroy the land and remove the wickedness from it. Yet, one family would be saved from the destruction. However, after the destruction had passed, there would be a story involving wine, drunkenness, and sinful nakedness. What story am I talking about?
Genesis 19 follows a very similar pattern to Genesis 6-9 where God sends a flood on the earth. Both are stories of judgment, both are stories of God saving a remnant and both end with a troubling story that tells us that this destruction did not change the hearts of those who lived through it.
As a flood story, the destruction of Sodom is the judgment of God that cleanses the land from wickedness. Just as before God came in water, now he comes in fire. God, the consuming fire, who appeared in a bush that burned without being consumed, has come near and his nearness is a judgment upon all that would defile and destroy his creation and his people. God’s presence is both judgment and grace. Because while Genesis 19 is a flood story of judgment, it is also, lastly, a Passover story.
Again, if I told you there was a story in the Bible where the LORD sent angels of judgment to bring a plague upon a wicked people, while a family huddled behind the door of their homes eating unleavened bread, what story would it be? If I told you there was a story where God told a family leave that wicked land and head toward a mountain, but that eventually God would have to lead them out by the hand to rescue and save them, what story would I be telling?
Genesis 19 also follows the same pattern as the Passover, down to them eating unleavened bread during the night. In this way, while Sodom is a story of judgment and of the great sin of Lot and the Sodomites, it is, at its heart, a story of deliverance.
Lot did not deserve to be rescued from Sodom – he failed, he dragged his feet, he whined. Israel did not deserve to be rescued from Egypt – they failed, they dragged their feet, they grumbled. Yet, the LORD saved them, not because of their virtues, but in spite of their sin. The LORD rescued Lot because of his great mercy and because he remembered Abraham.
Centuries later, the LORD would again rescue a people who did not deserve it. He would rescue them in spite of their sins, for they would fail, drag their feet, and whine. The LORD would save them, not because of their virtues, but in spite of their sin. He would rescue them because of his great mercy and because he remembered Jesus Christ, his one and only Son.
Lot’s story of deliverance echoes the greatest story of deliverance through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That story, too, is one of failure. At times we compromise too much with the world and at times we flee too far from it. At times we get one answer right, but so many others wrong. That story, too, is one of judgment. In the cross, the LORD has executed judgment, but he took it upon himself. At the right hand of the Father, Jesus Christ sits as King and judge over all the earth, proclaiming all other kings as either servants or imposters. At the last day, Jesus Christ will return in judgment – one final judgment.
That story, too, is one of deliverance. The cross is the great passover, the great deliverance, where in his great mercy, the LORD will lead his people out of bondage into fellowship with him.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.