The Family of Man (Genesis 19:17-38)

Moses has been preparing his readers for Judgement Day for quite a while. As far back as Chapter 13, he introduced the city of Sodom and offered us a contrast between that corrupted city on a plain that looked like the Garden of Eden, and Abraham’s temporary tent city set up in the mountains under the shelter of a grove of ancient trees, which was the true Garden of Eden in that age. Then, over the next few chapters, Moses began to reveal the parallels between Noah’s life and Abraham’s life, so that readers would realize that Abraham is the new Noah.

This became especially clear in Chapter 17, when the Lord appeared to Abraham and commanded him to build a new kind of ark, a new kind of holy place where God can gather his people in and save them from judgement: he commanded Abraham to take his whole household and enter into the covenant of circumcision, just like he had commanded Noah and his family to enter into the ark. And at the end of that chapter Moses told us that on that very day Abraham did everything just as God told him.

And that is when we realized that Judgement Day must be just around the corner: because, back in the story of Noah, Moses had used those exact same words and phrases on the day the flood began.

Well, sure enough, as we turned to Chapter 18, we saw the Lord descend to earth to conduct an investigation and a trial, as he always does before he passes judgement.

And over the last two chapters Moses has greatly slowed the narrative pace so we can pick up every detail and learn from them. He also covered Noah’s flood in only two chapters, but those chapters covered more than a year of events; these last two chapters have covered less than 18 hours of historical time.

And when we back up a little bit and take a good look at these two chapters — Chapter 18 and Chapter 19 — we begin to realize that Moses is actually continuing his comparison between the city of Abraham in the mountains and the city of Sodom on the plain. Specifically, he is offering us a very tightly focused contrast between Abraham in Chapter 18 and Lot in Chapter 19.

For instance, at the beginning of Chapter 18 we find Abraham sitting in the door of his tent. At the beginning of Chapter 19 we find Lot sitting in the gateway of the city.

Abraham sees the the men, runs, bows down, and invites “my Lord” — singular — to join him. Lot sees the men, runs, bows down, and invites “my lords” — plural — to join him.

The men accept Abraham’s invitation. They reject Lot’s, and have to be dragged to his home.

Abraham and his wife work together to prepare a feast for the men. Lot prepares a feast for his visitors all by himself: a “feast” of chapati; his wife is not mentioned at all.

Abraham has been a positive influence on his neighbors: he is living in peaceful covenant with the surrounding people, so he hosts his visitors safely outside his tent. Lot has not managed to make a positive impact: he cannot even persuade his own sons-in-law to join his household, and he actually exposes his guests to danger while they are inside his house.

So the picture Moses is painting for us is a portrait of two men: one man recognizes God when he visits, and responds appropriately; the other man fails to recognize God when he visits, and even after it becomes obvious that these men are God’s angels, God’s messiahs, sent to save him…he chokes. He hesitates. And he has to be forcefully dragged by the hands out of the city.

So as we catch up to Lot here, the two angels have forcefully saved him, his wife, and two of his daughters. They are in the fields outside the city walls, under the first grey light of dawn. And [17] 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!”

And we have to notice that “swept away” is flood language, the same words Moses used to describe the judgement that fell during Noah’s time.

We should also remember that “mountains” were also a major feature of the flood story, because there the waters rose until all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. That judgement was a total judgement on Cain’s entire civilization. This judgement is not: this flood will not cover the mountains. If Lot can make it to the mountains, he will be saved.

But this connection between “mountains” and “salvation” is not simply because the mountains are high ground. The salvation that the angels are talking about is not just a physical salvation, it is a spiritual salvation as well. Because: remember how significant mountains are in scripture? And: remember who is living in the mountains just a little over 30 kilometers away?

The Lord is not just telling Lot to run to higher ground, he is telling Lot to go home to Abraham, or he will be swept away.

[18] But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! [19] Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. [20] Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”

And there is so much wrong with Lot’s response! The only good thing he does here is acknowledge that they have shown great kindness to him: he recognizes that he is being saved by their grace, and not because he deserves it. The rest of what he says is bad.

First, he calls them, “my lords” again! He still does not realize that one — or more — of these men is God himself.

Then, despite his realization that he is being saved by grace, he betrays his unbelief by saying, “This disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die!” Apparently, he thinks these men lack the power to hold back judgement until he has completely escaped.

But then, in the very next moment, he reverses himself and talks to them as if they have the power to choose exactly where judgement falls: he begs them to spare one small nearby town so that he can be saved.

And in this last point we find that, again, Moses is contrasting Abraham and Lot. In Chapter 18, Abraham pleaded with God to spare the city of Sodom; here, in Chapter 19, Lot pleads with God to spare this nearby small town. Except that their motivation is completely different. Abraham was trying to save the lives of others; Lot is really just trying to save himself. Abraham’s plea for mercy was based upon his faith in God’s perfect justice; Lot’s plea for mercy is based on his own convenience.

Last week we saw how God sent his messiah to Lot with an offer: repentance, or death. Lot hesitated, paralyzed by his 20 plus years of connection to the wealth of the city. He basically chose death by his hesitation. But the angels grabbed him and his household by the hands and dragged them out.

Now, this week, the Lord is giving Lot yet another chance to make the right choice and so be saved: run to the mountains, or die.

And again, Lot hesitates, paralyzed by his connections to these rich cities, these rich plains. He is still trying to salvage something from the wreckage. He does not want to run too far away, just in case!

And you know, the Lord is so very gracious: [21] He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. [22] But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.)

— which is a Hebrew word that means “Small”.

[23] By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land.

So this small town must have been only 2 or 3 kilometers away.

[24] Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. [25] Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.

[26] But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

And this bit about Lot’s wife has struck some people as unfair. I mean — granted — the angels did say, “Don’t look back, and don’t stop!” but this just seems…a little bit strict, don’t you think? Turned into a pillar of salt just because she glanced over her shoulder?

Except that the word “looked” here does not mean just a quick glance over the shoulder. This actually indicates that Lot’s wife stopped, and stared intently for a long time.

And, in fact, Jesus himself — in the New Testament — tells us that Lot’s wife actually did more than just stop and stare. He says she actually turned around and went back to the city! We find this during his sermon about Judgement Day, in Luke Chapter 17. He says, “when you see me returning to bring justice upon the earth, run! Do not stop to pick up your iPhone. Do not turn back because you forgot to off the aircon!” And then he says, “Remember Lot’s wife! Do not do what she did!”

The point is this: just like her husband, Lot’s wife also hesitated, paralyzed by her connections to Sodom. Most likely she was a native of Sodom. And so, when the moment of decision came — leave everything and live, or keep everything and die — she simply could not let go of the things that held her.

And so she became a pillar of salt.

And people wonder if Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt is supposed to be symbolic somehow…but Moses appears to be telling us what literally happened to her. Which would be weird if it was only Lot’s wife who became a pillar of salt. But the evidence suggests that this is actually what happened to everyone and everything in the city of Sodom: the entire region was covered in salt.

And if you visit this part of the world, even today, that is what you will find. As far as archaeologists can tell, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns were situated at the southern end of the Dead Sea, which is in the country of Jordan today. Now, the Dead Sea is called the Dead Sea because…it is dead: it has a very high salt content, so salty that nothing can live in it. Ironically, all that salt is probably what helped give these cities so much life, because salt was a very precious commodity back then. In addition to this, that whole plain really was one of the most well-watered parts of the land at that time: like the garden of the Lord.

But, at some point, about 4000 years ago, that whole area was turned into a salt-impregnated desert. And until last year no one had a real scientific explanation for this.

But just last November a team of archaeologists published a very interesting paper. For more than 13 years, they have been excavating what they believe to be the ancient city of Sodom. They say that this city was already 2500 years old at the time of Abraham, protected by walls 30 metres thick, 15 metres high, and almost 3 kilometers in circumference: a massive and immensely powerful capital city.

But, they say, the evidence suggests that this huge city was destroyed in a single moment by what appears to be a meteor that exploded in the air over the northern end of the Dead Sea.

They estimate that this explosion was about the equivalent of a 10 megaton nuclear weapon. That is almost 7000 times more powerful than the bomb that fell on Hiroshima.

The immediate result was a flash of heat two times hotter than the surface of the sun. Now, this flash only lasted for less than half a second. But that was long enough to melt stones and turn clay pottery into glass…and kill everyone instantly. Which is really quite a merciful way to go, don’t you think?

That heat flash was followed a few seconds later by a shockwave, a wall of compressed air travelling at 1000 km/h, almost the speed of sound.

And then a deadly rain began: hundreds of millions of tons of Dead Sea water, vaporized by the heat flash, had been thrown many kilometers up into the lower atmosphere. Taking on that classic mushroom-cloud formation, and carried by the prevailing winds, it covered the entire southern plain with a deadly fall-out of salt mixed with super-heated sulfur. The air itself burned. Wildfires raged across that plain for months — possibly even years — consuming everything, smothering the entire area in a thick layer of ash.

And that is exactly what Abraham saw the next morning when he got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. [28] He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

So when Moses tells us that the Lord rained down burning sulfur on these cities: yeah. He did. And this deadly burning rain of sulphur and salt destroyed all vegetation, poisoned all of that rich soil, and rendered those plains uninhabitable. And these archaeologists tell us that more than 700 years passed before the ecology of those plains was recovered enough for people to return.

[29] 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.

So God kept his word: he saved the little city of Zoar for Lot’s sake, and he saved Lot for Abraham’s sake. Not because Lot was a good guy, but because Abraham loved him.

And I understand that some people are going to be skeptical and say, “Oh, c’mon! If this catastrophe was so bad, then how can the bible claim that one city survived?”

But really, this is not so unbelievable. If you look at photographs of modern disasters — nuclear explosions, tsunamis, earthquakes — it is always surprising to see what random things survive. In this case, it was the small city of Zoar, which the Lord spared because he said he would.

But, of course, even though the city of Zoar survived the initial disaster, this does not mean that it is going to survive long-term: the fields outside the city walls have all been poisoned by salt and sulphur. Crops can no longer grow, the land can no longer sustain life.

So [30] Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave.

So at last Lot obeys God’s command: he flees to the mountains.

But he doesn’t really obey, does he. Sure, he keeps the letter of the law: he is in the mountains; but he does not keep the spirit of the law: he refuses to repent and return to the mountain of God, to Abraham’s household. Apparently Lot would rather live in a cave than humble himself and go home and ask his adoptive father for help.

So Lot has avoided being swept away in the judgement upon the Sodom, just like God promised. But this does not mean that he has returned to living under the protection of God’s blessing. And that becomes evident by what happens next:

[31] 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. [32] Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

[33] 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.

[34] The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.”

[35] 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.

[36] So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. [37] The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. [38] The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.

And this is…this. It is so weird, so perverse, that it is hard to understand why Moses even wrote it down. What point is he trying to make?

Well, Moses is making a number of layered points here, and they begin to become clear if we zoom out a bit and remember the larger context.

His first point is to highlight the parallels between Lot and the city of Sodom, how deeply he has been corrupted by his years there. If you recall, last week he offered his daughters up to be sexually abused without their consent. Now, he is sexually abused by his daughters without his consent. There is a poetic justice to this whole situation. And a lot of clever wordplay, actually. For instance, last week, the men of Sodom demanded to “know” Lot’s guests, and they were struck blind. Here, Lot’s daughters “know” their father, but their father does not “know” when they lay down or when they get up: he is as blind as the men of Sodom.

Moses’ second point is to highlight the parallels between Lot and Noah. Remember, this is the conclusion of a second judgement cycle. And what happened at the end of the first judgment cycle? God rescued Noah — and then Noah got drunk, and a family member tried to take advantage of him. Lot is Noah 2.0, at least in terms of his sins. So history is repeating itself once again: just as Ham was corrupt survivor of the flood judgement on Cain’s civilization, so now Lot’s daughters prove to be corrupt survivors of the fire judgement on Sodom’s civilization.

Moses’ third point is to highlight, for the last time, the parallels between Lot and Abraham. And this one is better than the other two, sort of. Because what we get to see here is that Lot also becomes the father of nations, just like Abraham. And Moses’ point is this: being related to Abraham is good! — even if you are a total screw-up. God is incredibly merciful: he has promised to bless all nations through Abraham, and he starts by blessing Abraham’s sons — even if those sons are not the chosen son, Isaac. God has promised Ishmael that he will be the father of a great nation, even though he is only Abraham’s son through a slave girl. And now we see that God makes Lot the father of two great nations, even though he is only Abraham’s son by adoption.

Of course, if you are familiar with the story of the Old Testament, you already know that the Moabites and the Ammonites end up following after their mothers, who were descended from the men of Sodom on their mother’s side; they end up creating religions centered around two of the most horrifying gods of the ancient world: Chemosh the Destroyer, the man-eating god of the Moabites, and Molech the Bull, the child-devouring god of the Ammonites. And these two nations turn out to be the enemies of Israel: they resist Israel’s march back to their promised land, and then they take turns conquering Israel during their early years in the land.

And Moses was there! He was involved in those first battles, he knew that there would be more trouble in the future with these hostile nations. He had every reason to hate the Moabites and the Ammonites! — and some skeptical scholars have suggested that this is the real reason Moses included this story about Lot’s daughters: he wants the Israelites to remember that their enemies are bastards born of incest.

But that is not actually Moses’ point. He is being honest about the incest, but if he really wanted that to be the main idea behind the story then surely he would have brought it up again later, when the Moabites and Ammonites actually attacked Israel. But he does not. In fact, he actually does the opposite: he tells the Israelites not to go to war against the Moabites or the Ammonites, he tells them not to take their lands, because they are the descendants of Lot — they are related to Israel — and so God has also given them lands of their very own.

So what we are finding here, at the very end of this judgement cycle, is just a very faint flicker of the gospel, the Good News, God’s promise of redemption. By telling his readers that Lot produced these two nations, Moses is taking us back to the very beginning of Abraham’s story, where God promised that all nations will be blessed through Abraham. All nations includes the Moabites and the Ammonites. Even though they are actually descended from Sodom, even though they are the products of incest, even though they worshiped such terrible gods, even though they fought against Israel — even though their father, Lot, rejected Abraham’s household three times! — there is a hope here that even these nations can be redeemed and brought back under the blessing of Abraham’s household, Abraham’s people.

And sure enough, this hope begins to come true a few generations after Moses: a certain Moabite woman marries a certain Israelite man, and they have a son who has a son who produces the greatest king of ancient Israel: King David. That Moabite woman was named Ruth, and she has a whole book of the bible dedicated to her story. And even later the prophet Jeremiah speaks out against the Ammonites and the Moabites, cursing them for their continued attacks against Israel. He reads out God’s judgement against them — but then he finishes with this gentle refrain: “Yet I will restore the fortunes of the Moab in days to comeYet afterward, I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites.”

So, now we come to the question we like to ask every week: what is Moses’ application for God’s people, the ancient people of Israel? And what is his application for us?

Well, as we have seen, at the end of Chapter 17 Moses began getting his readers ready for Judgement Day. But all the way through Chapter 18, even as he showed us the storm clouds gathering, Moses was careful to point us to the gospel, the Good News: God will provide an Angel, a Messiah, a Saviour, who will gather his people together and save them from judgement.

And here, at the end of Chapter 19, as he shows us the miserable survivors crawling out of the smoke and the wreckage, Moses returns to his theme: one day God is going to provide a Messiah who will somehow pour out the blessing of God upon all nations: even upon nations descended from Sodom, even upon nations whose ancestors rejected Abraham’s household. Moses is offering his people, the ancient people of Israel, this hope: that one day even their worst enemies will hear the call of God’s Messiah, and come, and join Abraham’s household in worship upon the holy mountain of God.

So Moses’ instruction, his practical application for his people, is the same as it was at the beginning of this judgement cycle: when God’s promised Messiah shows up and tells you to flee from the city, and flee to the Mountain of God, listen to him! Follow him! Do not be like Lot’s wife, who turned back to the city. Do not be like Lot, who ended up in the mountains thinking he was safe, thinking he had obeyed God’s command — when in reality he was was on the wrong mountain, just as far away from God’s blessing and protection as ever.

Oh, and — by the way! Moses is saying — be ready for this: when the Messiah comes you will not be the only nation climbing the Mountain of God. So don’t be shocked when, one day, you find yourself in worship beside a Moabite, an Ammonite, an Ishmaelite, an Egyptian, a Babylonian, a Chinese, an Indian, a Malay… In fact, one of the signs that the true Messiah has finally arrived will be this phenomenon: suddenly people from all kinds of foreign nations will come and will want to join your nation!

And it turns out that Moses’ application turned out to be a very, very practical one. God did send his promised Messiah: the man Jesus Christ, who was also the Son of God. And this Messiah had three uncomfortable things to say to his people, the Jewish nation, the descendants of Abraham’s household:

First, he told them, their sacred city of Jerusalem, built upon the sacred mountain called Zion, was corrupted, and the clouds of Judgement Day were already gathering overhead.

Second, he told them, not to worry: their earthly Jerusalem was only intended to be a seed of the true Jerusalem to come, and he had been sent to lead them to the true City of God, the true Mountain of God. So, he said, when you see judgement begin to fall upon Jerusalem, flee from the city! Remember Lot’s wife: do not go back for your iPhone or anything else!

Third, he told them, very soon he would be expanding this offer of salvation to include all nations, even the Greeks and the Romans, who were the conquerers of the Jewish people, the enemies of God.

Now, many of the Jewish people at that time recognized that Jesus Christ was the Messiah they had been waiting for. They accepted the idea that soon they would be worshiping alongside foreigners and even former enemies.

But the leadership of Jerusalem rejected him. They were not going to admit that their Jerusalem was only one step in God’s plan to redeem the nations. So they actually arranged their Messiah’s abuse and execution; they drove him out of the city and crucified him on a neighboring mountain; and so, ironically, they actually killed the only person who was standing between them and judgement.

And so, about 40 years later, all of Moses’ applications and warnings were fulfilled: as the Roman legions gathered around the earthly city of God, the Christian Jews in Jerusalem remembered Moses’ words, they remembered Jesus’ words, they remembered Lot’s wife, and they fled from the city.

But the Jews who had rejected Moses’ warnings, and rejected Jesus, they stayed back. Like Lot’s wife, they could not leave the city they loved. Like Lot, they thought they were safe, they thought they were being obedient by defending Jerusalem, they thought they were being obedient by restricting God’s salvation to the Jewish nation…but they were on the wrong mountain. They were no longer under God’s blessing and protection. And as a result, they were destroyed along with their city.

In fact, the damage the Roman legions did at that time was so terrible that they actually turned the entire area into a desert. Historians tell us that the lands around Jerusalem used to be quite fertile — like the garden of the Lord — but the damage done by that war, and the wars that followed, was so complete that even now, almost 2000 years later, the ecology of those mountains is only just now beginning to recover.

So…what does this have to do with us? What is the application for our lives?

Well, we Christians are the spiritual descendants of those Jewish Christians who fled from Jerusalem and fled to the mountains all those centuries ago. We are the spiritual descendants of Abraham. Even though we are from many different nations, Jesus Christ has adopted us into Abraham’s nation and brought us to Abraham’s mountain. And this is one reason we are so sure that Jesus Christ is the true Messiah: because his nation, his Church, is made up of people from every nation. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s ancient promise to bless all nations through Abraham.

Which means that Moses’ application for his ancient people is the same for us modern people: listen to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. When he tells us to flee from the City of Man, when he tells us to flee to the Mountain of God, the City of God: listen to him! Flee to Abraham’s household, which is the Church, the family of God, and you will be saved. Do not be like Lot’s wife, who turned back. Do not be like Lot who ended up on the wrong mountain.

But what does that look like today? We are not like the ancient citizens of Jerusalem, watching the Roman armies lay seige to our city —

Or are we?

For the last two chapters, Moses has been telling us how we are supposed to live our daily lives under the looming shadow of Judgement Day.

First, he told us to pay attention, to watch for the return of our Messiah, confident that nothing is too hard for the Lord to accomplish.

Second, he told us to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. We are called to love our enemies and pray for God’s mercy upon those who persecute us. We are called to be salt and light.

Third, he told us we need to be salt and light in communities of a certain size or larger. We will not do any good at all among the nations of our world if we try to worship alone — our faith will not even survive.

And now, today, we are discovering that it is possible to be saved from the City of Man — to be grabbed by the hands and dragged out of the fire! — and yet still end up on the wrong mountain. And this is meant to be a warning for all of us who live under the shadow of the Judgement Day that is still to come.

Moses is closing out these two chapters with one final contrast between Abraham and Lot. This whole episode started with Abraham in a grove of sacred trees, high on a mountain, living in peace with God and with his household. The episode ends here with Lot in a cave, on another mountain, deceived and molested by what remains of his household. And as readers we are supposed to be asking, “How did he end up there? And what should we do to make sure this does not happen to us?”

Well, in part, Lot ended up here because he did not continue in righteous community, he did not continue to keep the way of the Lord, he did not recognize his Messiah when he arrived. So if we, as a church, continue to focus on Moses’ first three points — if we watch for Christ’s return, if we continue to live as salt and light among the nations, if we continue to live and worship in community with one another — then we are in much less danger of ending up on the wrong mountain.

But still, it can happen. And this is why Jesus himself adds to Moses’ warning for our sake, as we have already noticed: during his sermon to his disciples about Judgement Day, in Luke Chapter 17, he tells us that it will be a day just like any other day. Most of the world will be engaged in ordinary activities — eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building — just like they were in the city of Sodom. And then, in an instant — ! And Jesus says, “On that day, run! Do not go back for anything! Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.”

And this raises a question for us, of course: if Judgement Day is going to arrive suddenly and completely, then where are we supposed to run to?

Nowhere. At least: nowhere physically. Jesus is using this physical imagery from the judgement on Sodom in order to illustrate how he wants his disciples to live in the face of the final Judgement to come: “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” Jesus is telling us to live our lives as if we are ready to let everything go in a moment.

So, we invest, yes! We invest in our bodies, in our families, in our communities, in our nations, in this earth, but we invest cautiously, always remembering that ultimately our City of God is under seige here by the armies of the Evil One, and that our ultimate deliverance is in the hands of our Father.

So Moses is warning us, and Jesus is telling us, not to fall in love with this world, or we could end up living in a cave, willing to do anything to survive.

But what if this does happen? What if we do fall in love with this world? Does this mean we are lost?

Was Lot lost?

Well, this is a hard question to answer. Because, on one hand, we have seen what a mess Lot made of his life, and where he ended up. It is hard to see any redemption in that. But on the other hand, in the New Testament, Lot is called a righteous man who, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men, and tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard

So was Lot righteous, or not? Was he saved, or not?

Apparently Lot was righteous enough to be distressed by sin — but not righteous enough to do anything about it. He should have left Sodom. He should have rejoined Abraham. But he did not. And yet, in the end, he was still related to Abraham, no matter how distantly. So Lot appears to be an example of a man who is saved…but barely, as one escaping through the flames. He is saved, simply because he was related to Abraham; but his salvation produced almost no fruit in his life: he continued to put his practical everyday hope in his worldly wealth, in his worldly status.

We all begin our lives in love with this world, and with ourselves. We all begin our lives among the cities of the plain. Christ tells us to flee to his Mountain, his City. And only as we listen and obey and begin to follow him do we discover our old loves passing away. The higher we climb, the more we discard. Like refugees, we start our spiritual flight with a loaded truck…only to discover little by little what is actually worth carrying, and what we no longer need.

Lot is an example of a person who gave up the pilgrimage. He heard the command to flee to the mountains, and he obeyed — eventually. But he only went as far as he could carry his stuff. He tried to keep his life, he tried to keep control of his life, and as a result he finished out his life in humiliation and misery.

Friends, we all love the things of this world to one degree or another, and our love for the things of this world make us miserable to one degree or another. That is sin. But the Good News is this: God gives us more grace. He continues to forgive us for our false loves even as he calls us to go further up and further in. He wants us to taste joy in this life as well as the next.

So let us not lose heart on this pilgrimage! Let us continue to throw off everything that hinders, let us continue to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together but encouraging one another — and all the more as we see the Day approaching.

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