Saved by Grace
This post is, in reality, a much-anticipated continuation of our journey through Genesis. In order to get even more out of this post, you should read my post Speaking of Judgment which helps set the scene for what we will be discussing in this post.
One of my favorite titles for sermon series is "Adventures in Missing The Point" and I almost used that title for this post. Many read Genesis 19 and focus on the destruction when the text spends a lot more time (dedicates many more words) describing salvation from judgment. The judgment does take place, but I hope that by the end of this post you too will see that the emphasis of the writer of Genesis 19 is the salvation of Lot and not the destruction of the wicked.
Lot vs. Abraham
There are many similarities between Genesis 19:1-3 and Genesis 18:1-8. I believe these are not by accident but the storyteller is intentionally comparing and contrasting Abraham and Lot. For a deeper study of Abraham in Genesis 18 check out this post.
- Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. This seems to make Lot a respected city official (more on the meaning of city gate on this post).
- Abraham was sitting at the tent door. (Gen 18:1)
- Lot rose to meet his visitors and bowed himself.
- Abraham ran to meet his visitors and bowed himself.
- Lot invites the strangers to his house to rest.
- Abraham invites the strangers to stay and rest.
- Lot makes them a feast and bakes unleavened bread. (Genesis 19:3)
- Abraham prepares cake, kills a calf, and gets butter and milk (Genesis 18:4-8)
We can see that Lot behaves similarly to Abraham. He is hospitable and goes out of his way to offer his home for the visitors. Abraham goes even further than Lot in making his guests feel welcome since the narrator spends more time (words) describing Abraham's actions towards his guests. But Lot is not far off. Lot is still willing to help, and the detail on Genesis 19:3 where lot "insisted strongly" that the two angels do not spend the night in the open square foreshadows to the danger or the wickedness of the city.
Lot then makes a feast and bakes unleavened bread and they eat (Genesis 19:3). This is a very brief description compared to Genesis 18:5-8, where the elaborate meal Abraham prepares for his guests, is described.
Enter the men of the city...
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.
Genesis 19:4 NKJV
Notice how repetitive and redundant the sentence above is. The men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter... Why would a writer who up to now seems to be judiciously conserving words dedicate so many words to describing the men that surrounded Lot's house?
This change in pace in storytelling works as a natural highlight. This repetitive description causes the story to slow down and the reader/listener to spend more time on this detail. This means that this detail is important, especially in light of what was discussed in the previous chapter (Genesis 18 blog post here). The destruction of Sodom is closely linked to the number of righteous people found within the city. According to God's conversation with Abraham in Genesis 18:23-32, God would spare everyone for the sake of 10 righteous. This repetitive and redundant description found in Genesis 19:4 is very intentional, describing to the reader that the totality of the men of the city was present. The writer goes out of his way to make sure that his reader will understand that ALL the men from the city were there surrounding Lot's house.
The Angry Mob
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.”
Genesis 19: NKJV (list of different translations available here)
The entire male population of the city is involved in this request. They are inhospitable, they want to sexually assault (rape) Lot's guests. Was the greater sin the homosexual nature of their desire, or their forcefulness (intent to rape), or their lack of hospitality or compassion? I believe debating this would be splitting hairs and ultimately unnecessary. The text is clear that these men are wicked, they are sinful in many different ways including and highlighting sexual immorality. I find it difficult to argue that God was destroying them because of their homosexuality, I also find it difficult to argue that their homosexuality had nothing to do with their destruction. The male population of this city, according to Genesis 19, was wicked and sexually immoral.
Lot to the rescue!
Lot goes out and tries to reason with the angry mob. Lot tries to intercede for his guests by going out, shutting the door behind him and begging the angry mob to not behave so wickedly. In trying to protect his guests Lot even offers his virgin daughters to the angry mob.
I believe it is worth clarifying that the text here is merely describing Lot's action, and not condoning it nor suggesting it was the proper way to handle this situation. If anything I take this as a sign of how precarious Lot's situation was. He found himself in a situation where he felt he had to choose between the welfare of his virgin daughters or protecting his guests. This was a very tough choice to make, but Lot felt he needed to protect his guests at all costs, which makes sense in his cultural context.
The men become angrier at Lot, who is a resident alien and now is behaving like a judge over them. The anger of the mob turns against Lot and they are about to crush him against the door to his own house and break down the door to gain access to the strangers who came to visit Lot. Now it is the turn of the men who are staying with Lot to act, and they reach out their hands and pull Lot into the house and shut the door.
Lot's guests now use their power, revealing they are not mere men and strike the men who were at the doorway to the house with blindness. The angry mob, now blind, instead of repenting or dispersing continue to search for the door until they are tired.
A Message of Judgment
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!
Genesis 19:12 NKJV
Now Lot is made aware of the mission of the two "men" who came to spend the night.
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.”
The reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities in their vicinity is because the outcry against them had grown great before the face of the LORD. This story places God as judge over all the earth. This is how the Bible describes God. He is not the God of the Jews only, not the God of Abraham only, but the only true God of the whole world. God had once previously destroyed the whole world with water, except for Noah and his family (post here). God hears the cries of the people who suffered because of the wickedness of those cities and He does something about it. Those people were likely not praying to YHWH, but that does not mean that God was unaware of their cry.
Once Abraham and his descendants come into the picture as God's special people, God does not stop being the God of the whole world. God is the creator, the savior, and also the judge. There is only one true God.
Lot is encouraged by the angels to gather his family and anyone else he wants to save and leave the city! The interesting thing is that Lot now has to once again go outside and face the mob but this time he is looking for his sons-in-law. These are the men who were engaged to marry his daughters who were still virgins.
Lot goes outside, and I assume among the mob, he spots his sons-in-law and delivers to them the message of judgment along with the offer of salvation.
But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.
(check out Exodus 9:21; Jeremiah 43:1-2; Luke 17:28; 24:11; Revelation 18:4 and see what similarities you find)
Saving Lot & Co.
Genesis 19 begins in the evening with the arrival of two angels. The angry mob shows up before Lot lays down to sleep. Now, verse 15, morning is dawning! The whole night has passed.
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.”
Genesis 19:15 NKJV
The angels have to hurry Lot to save himself and his family. I wonder if Lot also began to doubt God's word and His promise/prophecy of judgment. Perhaps Lot had been living in Sodom for so long that the sin of the city didn't seem that bad. Sure those men had special powers, able to blind the men outside the house, but did Lot really believe their message of judgment?
The message of salvation, the good news is usually only fully appreciated in the face of or in the context of judgment. The presence of those men was good news because they were providing Lot and those who should join him with a way out, with salvation. This was the equivalent of Noah's ark for that local community. But much like in the days of Noah, no one listened to the warning, even if the men were blind they remained unwilling to change. They were not searching for salvation and even rejected it, in the case of Lot's sons-in-law, when it was offered to them.
I would expect Lot to hurry and get out of there as soon as possible! But to my surprise Lot continues to linger...
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.
Genesis 19:16 NKJV
Notice what happened. The angels literally had to grab Lot, his wife, and his two daughters by the hand and save them. Because of God's mercy, because of God's grace, Lot and his family were taken by the hand and placed outside the city. God had to have angels take Lot and his family by the hand in order to save them. The angels told Lot what to do, reminded him, urged him to hurry, and ultimately took him by the hand and brought him and his family outside the city! Lot did not save himself. Lot was saved by God's grace and mercy.
The angels tell Lot and his family to escape for their lives! The angels also add that they should not look back. Lot and his family were taken outside of the city by the angels and told to continue to escape to the mountains and not look behind. These are simple directions. The angels brought them outside the city and just told them to continue their journey to the mountains without looking back.
Lot now expresses his gratefulness to the heavenly beings who just saved him and his family by saying,
“Please, no, my lords!
How difficult can it be to save one man and his family. Lot and his family were given simple directions "Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed." But Lot doesn't want to. He argues with the angels that the mountains might be too dangerous and he might die there.
Do we ever argue with God and his plan of salvation for us?
Do we ever tell God that following His will might kill us?
Is that not an odd conversation to have with someOne Who is doing everything to save us?
Jesus dies on the cross for us and offers us salvation. He also gives us a mission and we complain. Like spoiled children, we say to God the equivalent of "Do I have to?"
So Lot suggests that he flees to a small city instead of fleeing to the mountains as he was told.
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.”
Genesis 19:20 NKJV
To my utter astonishment, God decides to not overthrow that small city for the sake of Lot. The angel tells Lot to hurry up because he cannot do anything until Lot and his family are safe. By the time Lot makes it to the small city the sun had risen.
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.
Genesis 19:24-25 NKJV
The judgment of the LORD may have delayed waiting for Job to safely escape, but it came nonetheless.
The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
2 Peter 3:9 New Living Translation
Speaking of the judgment, when it did come, it came from God and was thorough. Notice carefully the language of Genesis 19:24-25 - "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." I put in bold the words that clearly point to God as the source of the fire and the thoroughness of the destruction, including inhabitants and plants.
It seems like regardless of how much God may want to save some, they just do not wish to be saved. Lot's wife had received salvation, she was taken outside the city by the hand by angels and told to escape and not look back. God even waited until Lot had reached the Zoar before destroying the cities of the plain. But, Lot's wife disobeyed. She was safe, she had been saved, but she longed for her old life. She missed all the things God was destroying. She had left but her heart remained in Sodom. Lot's wife refused to let go of her old ways.
We cannot receive salvation from God while looking back and longing for our previous life of sin. God wants to save, He does everything to save, but He will not force His salvation on anyone. God allowed Lot's wife a way out. If she really didn't want to leave Sodom, she could look back and that way be destroyed rather than to be forced to live without the things she had come to love. She could start a new life in the small town or cease to exist along with everything sinful that God was destroying.
What else could God have done? God did everything but He refused to take away her freedom of choice. Salvation was hers, but she was allowed to reject it by turning around and embracing the same end as the cities of the plain.
At the end of the story, the focus shifts back to Abraham. And suddenly things make more sense. God was so merciful and gracious towards Lot because of Abraham. Abraham had prayed for God to spare the righteous. We could argue how righteous is righteous enough, but judging by how far God had to go in order to save Lot and his family we can see that God did not make it difficult for him to be saved. In this I find encouragement. This means that when we pray to God on behalf of others, God hears and answers. This is a powerful argument in favor of intercessory prayers. Do not stop praying for others, your prayers have a greater impact than you realize.
Genesis 19:30-38 records what happened to Lot. His daughters got him drunk and laid with him in order "to preserve the lineage of [their] father."
Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father.
Genesis 19:36 NKJV
And to think that God went through all that trouble to save this man and his family. Not only that the Moabites and Ammonites came from this incestuous relation. Lot and his nuclear family were saved from Sodom, but the values and principles of Sodom had deeply influenced Lot's family. Generations later the Moabites and Ammonites consistently opposed Israel. But ultimately, Ruth, a Moabitess, became one of the predecessors of King David and ultimately Jesus, our Savior. (Matthew 1)
Lot did not have to save himself. God sent angels to grab him and his family by the hand and remove them from the city that was about to be destroyed. God then spares a small city for the sake of Lot. God was willing to save anyone else who believed in His word concerning the coming judgment. Sadly no one else believed. God saves Lot, though Lot and his daughters continue to disappoint. So much pain and suffering came from their offspring. Yet God saved Lot, even if his descendants would eventually oppose Israel. But ultimately a descendant of Lot is found in the genealogy of Jesus. God is willing and able to bring blessings even out of our great blunders in life.
God wants to save us more than we want to save ourselves.
Never forget that, and share that with others. No one is too far gone to be saved by God, and God is wiling to take you by the hand and save you.