Lessons from Lot

“As it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. Remember Lot’s wife.” —Luke 17:28-30,32

WHO WAS LOT, and what lessons can we learn from his experiences?

Lot was the son of Abraham’s brother, Haran. In the opening verses of Genesis, chapter 12, we read concerning the time that God spoke to Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, and told him to leave his country and go to an unknown land to which God would lead him. Abram, his wife, Sarai, and his nephew, Lot, and their entourage did leave and eventually entered the land of Canaan. There God promised to give Abram and his posterity all the land, to the east and west, north and south, as his and their inheritance. Notice that God did not speak directly to Lot, Abram’s nephew, nor did he make any promises to him.

Abram and Lot became so prosperous that the land they were sharing was unable to sustain the flocks and herds of both families. So Abram told Lot it was time for them to separate. Abram discussed the matter at length with Lot, recommending that they should not have any quarreling between them, nor between their herdsmen, and reminding him that they were kinsmen. He said, “Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord. “So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan.”—Gen. 13:8-11, NIV

As the senior member of the family, Abram could have selected the best pastures for himself and sent Lot elsewhere. But he relinquished his privilege and allowed his nephew to exercise first preference. It is no surprise that Lot would desire to have the prime land. But it eventuated that this act of selfishness brought with it a costly price: he must live in dose proximity to the wicked city of Sodom. Surely Lot was aware of the city’s reputation before he decided to take up residence there, with his family, as well as his flocks and herds. Yet move there he did, and he paid a enormous toll for this decision.

Lot may have thought that he could rise above the evil influences of that city and its wicked people, and continue to worship God as he always had. At first, perhaps, he was able to accomplish this, but it became increasingly difficult to endure. In Genesis 13:12 we read that Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom,” in other words, he dwelt there. But, before long, marauding kings attacked, carrying off Lot and all his possessions. (Gen. 14:12) After a spectacular rescue by Abram and his army of servants, Lot returned again to the city and there served as a judge “in the gate of Sodom.”—Gen. 19:1

Do we think that Lot made the wisest choice by returning to that place? No, we do not think so. In fact, perhaps God was giving him the opportunity and incentive to choose a new location, by allowing him to be captured and carried off. But he did not read the leading of the Lord in this matter, and returned instead to Sodom despite the fact that by this time, he was well aware of the terrible situation. (Gen. 13:13) “Lot … was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard).” (II Pet. 2:7,8, NIV) He may have been distressed by the lives of those wicked people, but still he chose to remain in their midst.

Abram, on the other hand, was content to live on the plains of Mamre, which ran up into the hills; although it was not as fertile nor as easy to utilize as the more fruitful area of Sodom, it was quite adequate for Abram’s needs. He lived apart from the wickedness of the others and he was blessed, and prospered abundantly.

The Destruction of Sodom

After some time, angels, who appeared to Abraham as two men, told him they were going to destroy Sodom because of the grievously sinful state existing there. (Gen. 18:20) Abraham became concerned that Lot would be swept away in the destruction along with everyone else, and tried desperately to negotiate a stay of execution from Jehovah. He began by asking God, What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? (vs. 24, NIV) God assured him that the city would not be destroyed if there were fifty righteous dwelling therein. Abraham continued: Will you destroy Sodom if there are forty-five? he asked. God replied, No, it will not be destroyed. Forty? Thirty? Twenty? Finally Abraham reduced the count to just ten, and was still told that the city would not be destroyed if ten righteous were found!

Abraham may have thought that Lot’s example could possibly have converted a few souls to the path of righteousness. He knew, of course, that the immediate members in Lot’s family numbered four, which was a good start toward the required ten! But in fact, those were the only ones who eventually did escape from the city before it was demolished by fire and brimstone!

After assuring Abraham that the city would not be destroyed if ten righteous could be found there, the angels left Abraham and went to Sodom. Lot, who was sitting at the gate, saw them coming toward the city, and immediately invited them into his home in order that they would have safe shelter. But the unrestrained wickedness of the men of Sodom was revealed when, violating all the rules of Eastern hospitality and even ordinary civilized behavior, they attempted to enter Lot’s home by force, and snatch the visitors from their refuge there. Behind this lawless conduct was the inconceivably barbaric purpose of doing them great bodily harm, and, in fact, of ravishing them.

Of course they did not realize that they were dealing with spirit beings, who were well able to fend off their attacks. Immediately, the men were struck blind by the angels, who then warned Lot to flee at once because the city was going to be totally destroyed at any moment.

Lot was not able to convince his prospective sons-in-law of the seriousness of what was about to occur, and so Lot, his wife, and his two daughters were the only refugees who obeyed the angel’s forewarning to escape from Sodom. The angels told them to escape to the mountains, but Lot asked to go to the little city of Zoar, which at last the angels agreed would be acceptable. And then the dreadful destruction began. But, ignoring the command not to look back, Lot’s wife did look back, mesmerized by the horrifying scene, and she became “a pillar of salt.”—Gen. 19:23-26, NIV

“By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land.” The Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah out of the heavens and In this way he overthrew those cities, including all those who lived in them. And they have never been uncovered to this day.

Would we call this a case of unexpected destruction? Not as far as Abraham was concerned. He had been forewarned that it was going to take place through the ministration of the angels; Lot also knew in enough time to escape. But the people of the city did not know. Their minds and hearts were not touched with gratitude for God’s provision of all their material needs, or to worship him for his goodness; they did not even care how wicked their lives had become, but lived as though there would never be a day of reckoning. If anything, their destruction was long overdue, not only for the sake of others, but for themselves as well.

The Church and the Great Multitude

Paul, in his first letter to the church at Corinth, recounted several of Israel’s experiences, showing how they should serve as particularly pointed lessons to the Christian. “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.” (I Cor. 10:11, NIV) The experiences of Abraham and Lot are indeed examples from which we may gather important lessons.

It is not difficult to determine who Abraham pictures. He represents the church class, those who maintain their faithfulness to God throughout many difficulties and trials. “So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” (Gal. 3:9) Those who comprise the church class do not exercise their own wills, but rather endeavor always to do the will of God. And since their goals are heavenly ones, they do not seek earthly advantage over neighbors, friends, relatives, or business associates.

Are we always successful in suppressing our own desires and goals in favor of others’ aims and ambitions? Abraham, in this illustration, did successfully put Lot’s desires before his own and he was greatly blessed because of it. He was a marvelous example for us to follow.

We are convinced from our understanding of prophecies now being fulfilled before our very eyes regarding the destruction of the present evil world, that the long-awaited event of the establishment of Christ’s kingdom in its stead, will soon be accomplished. We have no question about this fact. However the “day and the hour” are in question. Because of this, the members of the church class have ever greater impetus to strive to make their election sure, that they may be found faithful before the opportunity to accept this high calling comes to a close.

Lot, on the other hand, did not evidence very much concern about his relationship to God. He was blessed by God in general, but only because of his kinship to Abraham did he seem to enjoy specific blessings or protection. His decisions were based upon his need for earthly prosperity and position for himself and his family, rather than looking for the blessing of God through association with other godly men. He was a good man by ordinary standards. The Apostle Peter did call him ‘righteous’, since he had no desire to hurt anyone, and even risked his life to protect the angels. (II Pet. 2:8) But compromise with the world always exacts its price and in the end he lost all that he valued—home, wife, position—everything except his life, and that of his two daughters. Who does Lot represent?

Revelation chapter 7 describes the church as consisting of 144,000 spiritual Israelites. Following this statement, John reports, “After this I beheld and lo a great multitude, which no man could number. … [They] stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands.” (Rev. 7:9) This Great Multitude is in heaven: (“they are before the throne of God and serve him”—vs. 15), but they are not on the throne with their Lord. (Rev. 3:21) Lot seems to be an excellent picture of this group.

Some have said that 144,000 is a very small number to win the highest heavenly reward. But when we realize that these must be tested to be certain that they are worthy of divine life, we marvel that any are found faithful enough to receive such an elevated distinction. During the past two thousand years there have been individuals here and there who have maintained their faithfulness to God in spite of the loss of their possessions and even their lives, in God’s service. But the great majority have selected an easier course and have compromised with the world. They are, by the world’s standards, fine citizens, but their careers, their positions in the community, and their opportunities for earthly prosperity, affect all their decisions, coming first in their lives, and eventually lead them away from a life of complete dedication to God. It is only by divine intervention and mercy that they eventually find heavenly salvation.

The Apostle Paul says, “I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.” (I Cor. 3:10, NIV) The foundation, he explains, is Jesus Christ, and upon this foundation two kinds of structures can be erected by individuals: 1) gold, silver, costly stones; or 2) wood, hay or straw. The testing of each one’s work will be by “fire.” “If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (vss. 14,15) The Great Multitude is like Lot: its members build mainly with ‘wood, hay, and straw’, and in the end lose everything they sought so diligently after, except their lives. Only the small amount of building done with the gold, silver, and precious stones remains after the fiery trials purge them.

Sodom and Gomorrah represent this ‘present evil world’ which the Lord will bring to an end. “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (II Pet. 3:7, NIV) All of this world’s selfishness, evil, and corruption will be swept away. Then the present but invisible Lord will be revealed and his kingdom will be set up. This will be the answer to the Christian’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth.” But before this can take place, the last of the 144,000 members of the church class must complete their covenant of sacrifice, and be changed from human to divine life.

Abraham was called righteous, and he was faithful to God and his principles. He had few earthly ambitions, being content to live in tents as a pilgrim and a stranger. His hope was centered in “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Heb. 11:10) Abraham was blessed with a faithful wife, who is even mentioned among the heroes of faith, in Hebrews 11:11.

Lot was a righteous man, too, in his heart, but his actions were rather self-centered. Nothing is said in the Bible about his having been accounted faithful to God. Lot began his stay in Canaan living in tents, but soon he had moved on to a more prominent place in a very wicked city. He was not looking for any other city, for a righteous city, and he seemed to be resigned to his place among the wicked heathen. Lot also had a wife, one that stands to this day as an example of unfaithfulness. As they fled from Sodom, she turned to cast a fond look back at all the ‘good things’ she was leaving. As she stood there behind the others, she became incrusted with salt like a pillar. We are advised to “remember Lot’s wife.”

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the [symbolic] heavens by fire, and the elements will [symbolically] melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”—II Pet. 3:11-13, NIV

Let us strive always to live our lives after the fashion of righteous and faithful Abraham. Let us avoid the self-seeking actions of Lot’s example. May we prove faithful so that after the coming destruction of this present evil world, we will receive our reward, and have a part in the blessing of all the families of the earth.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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