It’s a story we are all too familiar with: Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact, I would be willing to say that your familiarity is so strong that you could easily rehearse the facts without much mental effort. Shoot, you might even be able quote Ezekiel’s prophetic explanation of the ancient twin cities ominous destruction. Kudos to you. But have you pondered the sovereign grace of Lot’s rescue? Have you ever caught the irresistible, persevering, conquering, glorious grace that is oozing like honey for the soul from this all too familiar story?
Well, if I have a moment of your time, and your attention now—let’s gaze through the window towards Sodom and Gomorrah and marvel at God’s glory shining like sun rays through the sovereign mercy given to Lot embedded in the righteous judgement on those ancient twin cities.
Let’s meet Lot.
Now, if we wish to feel, what I believe Moses wants us to feel, when we read the first sentence of our text tonight, ‘But Lot lingered’—if you’re going to feel the shock of that statement, then we must see it being unfolded in the story’s larger context. And so, to that end—let’s meet this person named, Lot.
It is imperative, I believe, for us to recognize that Lot did not grow up in Sodom. In fact, for most of his life he was not even a resident of that wicked city. So, how did Lot come to be in this awful place? Let’s jump back to the first time we meet Lot in the Bible, and trace the his story from there. In Genesis 11:31 we read that,
Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot (Haran’s son), and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they set out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.Genesis 11:31, CSB
A holy migration had begun. Terah, for reasons not revealed, was in the process of moving his family away from the Chaldeans and to the land of Canaan. However, they get stuck in Haran, and there Terah dies. But no worries, Abram, through a divine call resumes this task—and this time the holy migration is clearly driven by a divine purpose. At this point we read another line about the man, Lot.
So Abram went, as the Lord has told him, and Lot went with him.Genesis 12:4a, CSB.
All through the land of Canaan they went, and all along the way Lot was watching the faithful obedience of his righteous uncle. To be fair, he also saw some terrible decisions made by his uncle—like the one scandal that occurred in Egypt because of Abram’s cowardice. You can read about that in Genesis 12:10-20, but for our purposes we are moving on. Because the next time we meet Lot is post-Egypt scandal, when they were heading back to the Negev—the desert area in southern Israel.
Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev—he, his wife, and all he had, and Lot with him.Genesis 13:1, CSB.
Now, at this point, Lot’s character really begins to emerge. He may have been an obedient young nephew when they set out from Haran, but he apparently has become a not-so-nice teenager who has also come into his own. Moses informs us that Lot has also amassed some wealth during these travels,
Now Lot, who was traveling with Abram, also had flocks, herds, and tents. But the land was unable to support them as long as they stayed together, for they had so many possessions that they could not stay together.Genesis 13:5-6, CSB.
When you have a problem like that it is only a matter of time before trouble begins brewing in paradise. And, oh boy is there a storm brewing on the horizon—for Lot. You see, because of too many possessions and too little space, some disputes begin to arise between the herdsmen of Lot and Abram’s livestocks (13:7). To resolve this issue, Abraham, being the more generous of the two instructs his nephew to take an area of the vast land among them for his own use. Im paraphrasing here of course, but perhaps this helps to paint the image in your mind, “Lot, look at all this land. And, here we are fighting with one another over the same little pasture! Look towards the left, if you want those pastures then take them. Look right, and if you think those are the greener pastures, then take them! Let’s just not bicker any longer, we are family for heaven’s sake!”
Lot, licking his chops as he looked toward the entire plain of the Jordan, was I think astounded that his uncle would allow him to just take this land that was watered like the garden of the Lord (13:10). His uncle had really lost his mind now, and well why should Lot suffer for Abram’s nonchalant behavior? So, Moses tells us, that Lot chose the entire plain of the Jordan for himself. Abram went to live in Canaan, and Lot went to live in the cities down on the plain–and then an ominous hint is dropped…
but Lot lived in the cities on the plain and set up his tent near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were evil, sinning immensely against the LORD.Genesis 13:12b-13, CSB.
Here is the first mention of Lot’s apparent affinity for Sodom. And, as his story progresses we quickly learn that he has moved from near Sodom to being an acutal resident of Sodom. Well, it wasnt long before trouble was once again brewing in praradise for a skirmish arose between two coaltions of kings. The way Moses lines them up is four kings against five, but despite being down one tally mark the four kings prevail. They ransack the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and in the process kidnap Lot and all of his possessions, for he was living in Sodom (14:12).
Abraham may have been a coward years ago in Egypt, when he pretended like Sarai was his sister instead of his beloved bride, but he has developed a backbone over the years. In a surprising act of valor Abram rallies up 318 men of his household and pursues the four kings–and they catch them! The victory is such a landslide that Moses essentially describes it as they came, they saw, they conquered (14:15). And, in relation to our study, Abram rescued Lot in the process and brought him back with all of his people and his wealth. Now, one would think that after this that Lot would see the danger of raising a family in a wicked place like Sodom. But don’t be quick to assume, Lot has an uncanny affinity for this city of Sodom.
The next time we meet Lot is at the opening of chapter 19, and shockingly he is at the city gates of Sodom. Once again, trouble is brewing in paradise, but this time the danger is not the brutality of foreign kings, but the righteous judgement of a Holy God.
Lot is lingering in Sodom. Let that sink in.
Now, I need to say one short word about the scene the immediately precedes the story of chapter 19. It’s an intriguing conversation that occurs between Abraham and the angel of The Lord in Genesis 18:16-33. Basically, The Lord, reveals to Abraham that he is about to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. But, before doing so The Lord sends the two angels to investigate. Well, old Abraham knows exactly what they will find. A whole lot of wickedness, sexual immorality, and his nephew Lot–who is a righteous man. Abraham is disturbed by this and voices his concern to The Lord,
Abraham stepped forward and said, ‘Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked?…Won’t the Judge of the whole earth do what is just?’Genesis 18:23, 25c, CSB.
You probably are familiar with the next events. Abraham begins interceding by bargaining with the Lord. ‘What about fifty righteous people. If you find fifty will still destroy the city?” The Lord assures Abraham that if He finds 50 righteous people, He will spare the entire city for their sake. Well, Abraham knew there was not fifty righteous people in Sodom. So, he begins to work his way down: 45…40…30…20…10? The Lord assures him each time, “I will not destroy it on account of ten.” And then The Lord was finished speaking with Abraham (18:33).
Have you ever pondered how Abraham got to the number ten? Well, some scholars think Abraham was counting on Lot, his wife, his two daughters, and perhaps two additional daughters and their soon to be husbands. If that is the case then surely the angels would find two more righteous people. Surely, Sodom could produce that. The truth is that there appears to only be one righteous person in Sodom, Lot. That is a far cry from ten righteous residents of Sodom! However, The Lord will not sweep away even one righteous person with the unrighteous.
The Lord will bring judgement down on these unrighteous twin cities. Their wickedness will be dealt with by a holy vengeance requiring recompense for those who had suffered at the hands of the wicked men of Sodom. Don’t misunderstand me–the unrighteous men of Sodom go away to punishment. But The Lord, by His sovereign grace, will rescue righteous Lot. There is judgement, and yet salvation through judgement.
So, back to Genesis 19, which is after Abraham’s intercession. The two angels enter Sodom and receive a warm, and generous welcome from Lot. Like Uncle, like Nephew in this case I guess. The point will be obvious though, Lot, who mirrors righteous Abraham’s actions (18:1-8), is vividly contrasted with the wicked men of Sodom. Lot invites the men to stay at his house, and thus puts them under the protection of his household, yet in a dramatic scene the wicked men of Sodom try to beat down the door. Their intention is clear and there is no reason to beat around the bush about it, the wanted to have sexual relations with the two angels. Lot, knowing this, tries to detour them, and is unsuccessful. And so, just when the wicked men of Sodom were about to break in–“but the angels reached out, brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. They struck the men who were at the entrance of the house, both young and old, with blindness so that they were unable to find the entrance.” (19:10-11, CSB) Rescue #2 from the wickedness of Sodom complete. I say # 2 because I am counting Abraham’s rescue of Lot as rescue #1 in the narrative.
Well, the investigation is over. The angels inform Lot that they are about to destroy the city of Sodom–he best get out, and go get any of his family or friends who will listen. Don’t miss it, God has graciously given Lot a word of salvation here. God didn’t have to warn Lot, but He chose to. Why? Because God doesn’t sweep away the righteous with the unrighteous. God never loses one of His own. But, how can I say that Lot is righteous? Well, if I had nothing other to base it on, then I would say that Lot’s action in verse 14 display his righteousness. On what basis you ask? On the basis of his faith! Lot obviously believes the word of the Lord delivered through the two angels, and in a manner that again parallels Abraham’s quick obedience (12:4) Lot immediately begins to try and persuade his sons-in-law. However, they think he has lost his mind. They have no intention of leaving Sodom. Here I can just see the discouraged Lot dragging his feet back home. Oh how true it is that many often start out with a flame of conviction, but through the jesting of the world that flame grows cold. Sometimes all that is needed is a good, hearty exhortation. “Pick it up Lot! Hustle, hustle, hustle!” The angels give him this type of exhortation as the sun was breaking over the horizon,
At daybreak the angels urged Lot on: “Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.”Genesis 19:15, CSB.
Now, I want you to feel the thrust here of Moses’s next statement… think of everything we have just said. Surely, Lot’s disillusioned slowness has been cured by the angels exhortation, right? Look at verse 16…
But he lingered.Genesis 19:16a, ESV.
I think lingered is the good word choice here. The CSB uses the word, hesitated in place of lingered, and I think that is too light of a word. It’s more than just hesitation here. Lot’s not just second-guessing leaving Sodom. He is lingering. He is reluctant. His affinity to Sodom is too great, he can’t just leave all of his possessions behind. His entire life is in Sodom! Oh, dear friend, I know that you probably won’t like this image of Lot, but you need to see it for what it is. Lot’s not just dragging his feet, but he has dug his heels in. Like a toddler that yanks back from the pulling of their parent, so Lot lingers in Sodom.
In the Hebrew text there is actually a pause sign immediately after ‘But he lingered’ in the form of a vertical line. It has no bearing on the meaning of the text, but is apparently used for reading effect. I understand. This is dramatic. This is shocking. Righteous Lot is lingering in Sodom. You ought’ to stop and reflect on that. IT is worth pausing and contemplating. Despite all of the gracious word of warning, despite an initial obedient zeal, despite the angelic exhortation; Lot lingered. Let that sink in.
Now, this is the window I have sought to bring you to. This dramatic moment of lingering Lot, I want you to press your face hard against the glass and marvel. Marvel, not at lingering Lot, but at the Sovereign Savior. Because what God does in response to Lot’s lingering is absolutely breath-taking.
Lot may be lingering, but The Lord will not lose him.
Look at the second half of Genesis 19:16,
But he lingered. 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.Genesis 19:16, ESV.
Charles Spurgeon once commented on this verse, “I have always felt pleased to think that there were just enough hands to lead out these four people…God will miss none of His own.” To which I give a hearty, Amen! The Sovereign grace of God will not miss, will not abandon, will never lose a single one of His elect. And, Lot is a vivid, and I mean really vivid, portrayal of this truth. Lot, lingering because he didn’t really want to leave. Lot, who had grown reluctant to the word of warning. Lot, with his heels dug into the ground is dragged out of Sodom against his sin-loving, hell-bent will. How’s that fit into your small-God, man-centered theology?
I don’t want to be aloof here. There was a struggle of wills that ensued here. Lot wanted to stay, but The Lord wanted to save. That’s why the Hebrew word being used, which we translate as seized, could actually be translated as conquered or prevailed. I don’t know how to say it any other way. Lot didn’t want to leave, but The Lord didn’t care about what Lot wanted in that moment. The Lord’s grace will always prevail. And, don’t make the mistake here by thinking that this was just the angels feeling compassionate for Lot. They would not have dared to presume and pull Lot from the city without the command from The Lord. It wasnt’t the angels. It was The Lord who rescued. Look at what the text says, look at what it puts as the driving force:
So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughtrs by the hand, The Lord being merciful to him, and they brough him out and set him outside the city.Genesis 19:16b, ESV. Emphasis mine.
So, what does this teach me about God? That’s the real question here. We get so caught up in debating how Lot could be dragged out, reluctantly, from Sodom that we miss the glory of God’s sovereign grace here. So what is God up to here? I propose the following conclusions:
- God will not lose one of His own. He will never sweep away the righteous with the unrighteous.
- If God must drag you out of Sodom against your sin-loving, hell-bent will; He will do it. God is sovereign and His grace is absolutley effective.
- Lot was not angry with God for His mercy. He tells the angels in verse 19, ‘Your servant has indeed found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness by saving my life.‘ And, now that I think of it, why would he have been? What a ridiculous notion to presume that a sinner saved against his or her will would presume to angrily question the sovereingty of God. Are you kidding me? Saved people don’t scoff at God’s sovereign grace. Saved people sing joyfully to Him for the grace they did not deserve. Dear friend, if you are one of those who scoffs against the sovereignty of God, please be careful. The grace of God is meant for debate, but for the humble praise of His glorious Name!
- God does punish the unrighteous. Don’t be goofy and presume that God will get over his anger against unrighteoues rebels. God will vindicate His justice. God will right every wrong. God will punish evil with a righteous and heavy hand. The Lord wasn’t joking about the word of warning given to Lot, for Moses plainly tells us: Then out of the sky The LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah burning sulfur from The LORD. He demolished these cities, the entir eplain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and whatever grew on the ground. (19:24-25)
Will the Judge of all the earth sweep away the righteous with the unrighteous? NO. Lot’s story is a perpetual resounding answer to that quesiton. The Lord does sweep away the unrighteousness, but He will not sweep away the rightoues with the unrighteous. So much so that even when Lot was lingering in Sodom, the Lord still didn’t lose him.
Do you look a lot like…Lot? God will not lose you.
And, now I want to say THAT truth to any true child of God hearing, or reading, this sermon right now. The Lord will not lose you. The Lord will not give up on you. His grace is willing, even when you are not. His will prevails, even when you are lingering.
And, let me just say this: I think there are quite a few lingering children sitting under the sound of my voice tonight. And, I’m going to say this too: your lingering in Sodom occurred much quicker than you thought possible. Like do you not remember where you were in your relationship with The Lord back in February on our retreat? That was just before COVID. That was earlier this year. It may seem like a lifetime ago, but that was just 7 months ago. And then COVID hit, and it just really put a damper on your flame for Christ. Let me make a radical statement: you can’t blame COVID for the lukewarm—‘ness’ you sense between you and The Lord. Viruses don’t cause you to move away from The Lord Jesus. Now, that’s not to say that COVID hasn’t been used by the devil to dampen your affections for Jesus, because it has been–which is clearly evident in the fact that some act as if they are scared of COVID only as long as it pertains to church services. But when it comes to going to the local football game, COVID apparently is suddenly of no concern. So stop blaming some virus for your lukewarm relationship with The Lord. COVID didn’t make you lukwarm, but it has exposed your temperature.
But, here we are now. Week after week I am urging you to abandon your lukewarmness, to abandon your idols, to abandon your stagnancy. But here’s the issue: COVID church life has become comfortable for you. Brother and sister, you’re lingering where you don’t belong!
You’re lingering a whole lot like…Lot. But, God still won’t lose you. I am confident of that. He will do some mighty things to bring you out of Sodom. If he has to break your legs to drag you from the path of destruction, He will do it. If He has to shake your world to open you eyes, oh He can do it. You see here’s one of the fundamental problems with the American Christianity culture–it wrongly assumes that God is okay with your shallowness. Living in Sodom isn’t such a big deal, so they say. God’s will is not for you to stay in Sodom, His will is to save you from it. You may be lingering now, but not for long. God will not lose one of His own. You may look a whole lot like Lot right now, but God refuses to lose you. His grace is mighty. His grace is majestic. His grace will move you. And, His grace will rescue you, even if you resist at first.
Happy studying. Blessings.