The Disgrace of Lot
Two weeks ago as we looked at Genesis 18, we saw the Lord reveal to Abraham His plan to bring judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities of the plain, because of the wickedness, because of the outcries that had come up to the Lord through the wickedness of those places. And we watched Abraham intercede faithfully for those who were lost, pleading with the Lord as a covenant mediator for Him to spare for the sake of even ten righteous men those cities. And then we saw as we looked at Genesis 19, verses 1 through 29 last week, God's visitation of judgment on the wickedness of Sodom. Not ten righteous souls could be found, and God brought down His judgment on those places. We saw the wickedness of Sodom displayed in graphic terms and portrayal. It's very clear from that passage, as well as other passages in the early chapters of Genesis, that when God brings judgment, He does it not arbitrarily, but justly. And the very description of the sin of Sodom is given there to remind us that our God's judgments are indeed just. We spoke of the sin of Sodom, in particular the sin of homosexuality. And we attempted to speak pastorally to that very, very sensitive issue in our own culture as we looked at the sin of Sodom, and we were reminded of the absolute prohibition of the scripture against that type of behavior.
And we were also reminded as we looked at that passage that Jesus in a striking saying said that gospel rejecters were liable to greater punishment than to Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment. And that thought ought to be burned into our memory as we think of the judgment of God against Sodom. The Scripture's view of Sodom and her sin is grim. We could look at Isaiah, we could look at Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Zephaniah. We could look at Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 32, Jeremiah again in Lamentations 4. Paul takes up reference to Sodom in Romans 9 and again Jude in Jude 7. John and the book of Revelation. Over and over Sodom and Gomorrah are pictured in the Bible as archetypes of what the fallen human nature can descend to when God's common grace is withdrawn. When God wants to rebuke His children of Israel for the wickedness in Isaiah 1:10, he’ll go right to the picture of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. So we see here a picture of depravity at its worst. Tonight we turn to Genesis 19, verses 30 through 38. And I'm sad to say things haven't gotten any better. This is the sad and depraved aftermath of God's judgment on Sodom and the plight of Lot. You remember that we commended that Derek Kidner points out that God's judgments are not just cataclysmic. They don't just fall in dramatic fashion. Sometimes God's judgments unfold gradually. And unfortunately we're going to see His judgment unfold gradually in this passage tonight.
Our Father, we come before You again and we bow before Your word of scripture. This is Your truth, spoken to Your people, and as hard as it is, we know that You have intended it for our edification. So build us up by Your word, reminding us of our own tendencies to sin, convicting us of them and turning us again by the grace of the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ. Build us up we pray, by the truth of Your word and we’ll give You all the praise and glory. For we ask it in Jesus' name, Amen.
Now again we have come to a very difficult passage from which to preach. The matters contained herein are as sensitive as they are heartbreaking. But I remind you again of Paul's words in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all scripture is given by the inspiration of God. And it is profitable for us. It is for our edification, for our rebuke, for our reproving, for our up building in grace. And so we know this word is a word that is important for us to learn and study. God has put it in His holy Scriptures. By the way, that's one reason that we preach consecutively through books of scripture. No minister in his right mind would simply pick Genesis 19, verse 30 through 38 to preach in a one-off presentation. I assure you, I have thought many times in the last few weeks that I would not be choosing this passage were it not for the fact that we were working through Genesis. And that's one very good reason to work consecutively through books. It forces on us topics that we would never choose otherwise. Let me also say that it forces the minister to learn God's truth even as he studies it. If a minister only preaches topically, he can only preach to you what he already knows, for he goes to the text with his topic in mind. But when the minister preaches through the Book consecutively, he is forced to bow the knee to God's truth and grow himself even as he prepares the messages of the scripture.
So let's look together tonight at this sad passage. I'd like to break it into three parts. The first part you’ll see in verse 30 which gives us basically a description of where Lot is now. The second part you’ll see in verses 31 through 35 that describes the sad family sin of Lot and his daughters. And then verses 36 through 38, the third part, which tells us the issue of Lot's daughters.
I. Lot's situation.
First, in verse 30 we see a picture of Lot's location and again doubt and fear rather than faith are driving Lot in his decision. We are told that Lot went up from Zoar and stayed in the mountains and his two daughters with him for he was afraid to stay in Zoar, and he stayed in a cave. He and his two daughters. Now let me just say in passing, and we’ll come back to this when we look at the application of this verse, but already here we see that fear and isolation portend spiritual ruin. Fear and isolation portend spiritual ruin. Hold that thought and we’ll look at the passage. The passage opens with a comment about Lot's relocation. You remember when they were leaving Sodom, he had asked don't send me all the way to the mountains. Let me stay at this little place in the plains. And so the angel gave him the permission to stay in this little town. But this word about Lot's relocation is suggestive of more than his itinerary. Lot is clearly controlled here by fear and not by faith. He had initially refused God's call and command to leave Sodom and flee to the mountains. He had begged the Lord. If you look back in verses 17 through 22 of Genesis 19, he had begged the Lord to stay in this little town. But once again we are told that he was afraid to stay in Zoar. And so now he goes to the mountains as the Lord had originally commanded him. So fear was the driving motivation on both occasions. He fears to go to the mountains first. He wants to stay in Zoar. Now he fears to stay in Zoar and he wants to go to the mountains. Even though God has assured him, and you’ll see that assurance in verse 21 that he will be safe in the city, he still fears. Furthermore, this relocation of Lot reveals a trend that invites comparisons with Abraham. Remember way back in Genesis 13 when we saw these two relatives divide? And we saw Abraham take what was apparently the less fertile, the less blessed area of land. And we saw Lot in a grand home in a city dwelling by the time he had made his way to Sodom. Well, the relocation invites the comparison with Abraham. Once, Lot lived in a house, apparently grander and more stable and more secure than Abraham's tent. Now we see Lot huddled in a cave. Whose accommodations look more favorable now? Abraham trusted in the Lord to care for him. Lot chose his own path. Now Lot is in a cave and Abraham is still safe and secure in his tent. The very context that is given here is full of foreboding. Lot is dominated by fear and now in this cave he is isolated from other influence. Sin in that circumstance is certain to arise and that is precisely what's happened. That lesson should not be lost on us. When we are dominated by doubt and fear rather than faith, we have already opened ourselves up to the tempter. Then when we isolate ourselves from those who either through their good influences would influence us to do that which is right or at least by their gaze would keep us from doing that which is wrong, we have set ourselves in a place which is indeed the devil's workshop. We also see, do we not, the downward spiral of the consequences of sin here as Lot moves from Sodom, as he loses his wife, as he relocates to Zoar and then finally ends up huddled with his daughters in a cave committing unspeakable crimes. As Calvin says, “This narration proves that those things which men contrive for themselves by rash counsel drawn from carnal reasons never prosper. The Lord at length curses whatever is not undertaken with His approval.” And so Lot's choice of Sodom has now come home to roost.
II. Lot and his daughters.
Then we look at verses 31 through 35. Here we see the heinous deeds by Lot and his daughters, these children of Sodom, and we learn again that some sins serve as gateways to other sins. There is such a thing as gateway sin. Sins that open us up to other kinds of sin. And I'm going to stop right here and just address again the issue of this passage and its content. Why in the world should we speak about these things in public or preach on such a passage. Again, because it is a part of God's inspired word. And it is very practical. It is very interesting.
As I was reading through Calvin's commentaries, the old set of Calvin's commentaries translated by the old Calvin Translation Society last century, when they get to Genesis 19, verse 31 they stop translating. They say now this passage just shouldn't be in Calvin's commentaries, just shouldn't be read. They don't even give you the Latin text. They leave it out and they move on to Genesis 20. H.C. Leupold in his commentary on Genesis says, “This is a text that should never be preached.” And he moves on to Genesis 20 after making his comments on it. But let me suggest to you that as awkward as some of the conversations with your children may be in the aftermath of a message like this one or like last week, you are the first and primary people that I would want talking with your children about these things. They are going to be talking with someone about these things. Who better than the parents that God has given them and the people of God to be the arena of that discussion. And if our treating of these things in the public worship of the church has served as a catalyst for that, has served as something to spur that on, so much the better. For you are the one to be addressing these things with them. Let me in passing suggest to you a book which has just been published by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics out of Dallas. It's a book designed to be a supplemental textbook and it's called Sex and Character, and it addresses broadly issues, as you might guess, of morality and sexual behavior. And it is well done, it is discreetly done and it's designed to help parents talk with their children through these matters.
Now the daughters of Lot are apparently themselves motivated here by a fear of their isolation. They speak as if there is no man on earth who they could possibly marry and who could give them children to extend the line of their father. And again they are concerned about the extinction of their family, but by the means that they chose we see the imprint of worldliness on their character. The action of Lot's daughters after the destruction of Sodom finds no justification in customs or in ancient culture. And J.J. Davis says in his commentary on Genesis, “Lot was able to take his daughters out of Sodom, but he was not able take the philosophy of Sodom out of his daughters.” You see, we see in the very means which his daughters choose to perpetuate the family the imprint of the worldliness of Sodom in their hearts.
We also see a connection between drunkenness and sexual immorality. A connection that is made here and elsewhere in the Bible. We see again the downhill course of sin. What greater debasement could have been experienced in this context? Who's more to blame? Lot or his daughters? Commentators discuss that. Well, Lot was drunk; he didn't know what was going on. And yet Lot bears responsibility for what he had taught those daughters about themselves. Even in his attempt to appease that out of control multitude did he not teach his daughters that they were not valuable and now they act themselves out of the estimation that their father has made of them. Is that not a warning to all of us who are fathers of daughters that we will teach them how another man ought to treat them. In this passage we see a sobering reminder that the company we keep and our approbation of it has an impact upon our children. We ought never to underestimate the impact of worldliness upon them. Where we live, the people, the crowd with which we run, whether we approve the things that they approve, how we respond to wickedness that our children report to us, our own spiritual commitments – all of these things are vital in the spiritual formation of our children. Though the text does not comment on it and though it is not the main point of the text before us, yet does not this text remind us that those issues are vital in the rearing of our children. Davis again says this: “The story of Lot and his family should provide a sobering reminder that all our decisions are significant, even that of where we live. Our moral environment significantly influences our lives. For this and many other reasons the New Testament constantly implores the believer to fellowship with those of like precious faith.” So this passage reminds us again of the result of the worldliness in which Lot's daughters had been reared. The solution that they chose is no doubt derived from that context in which they had been reared, and which they had appropriated in their own thinking.
This passage also gives us classic illustrations of gateway sins. Lot's drunkenness, his abuse of the wine opened him up for other sins. Lot's fear opened him up for other sins. Lot's isolation from believers opened him up for other sin. Some sins serve as gateway and so we must be on guard against them. Particularly the fear that Lot displayed set the stage for this whole sordid incident. He did not trust in God's promises. He at first rejected God's command precisely because of his fear. And whatever is not of faith is of fear. And so it set him up for further heinous sin.
III. God's grace despite Lot's sin.
One last thing. As we look at verses 36 through 38 we see the origins of a great vexation to Israel. The issue of Lot's daughters turns out to be one of Israel's greatest problems. The people of Moab and Ammon. And again we see in the history of Lot's line both the consequence of sin and the grace of God. Moab and Ammon were to be a standing trouble to Israel. The territory east of the Jordan was a constant battleground and furthermore, Moab and Ammon would both occasion very serious temptations to Israel. If you’ll turn with me to Numbers 25 you’ll be reminded of one of them. In Numbers 25, Israel, we are told, was tempted to go after the gods of Moab. Numbers 25, verse 1: “While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the Lord was angry against Israel.” Then again we are reminded of the occasion that is mentioned in the book of Leviticus. If you would turn with me there to Leviticus, chapter 18 where Moses specifically gives instruction against Molech. From the Ammonites proceeded this Molech worship and temptation of Israel. Leviticus 18, verse 21: “Neither shall you give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.” Molech worship entailed child sacrifice and this was a gift from the Ammonites to the children of Israel to which they were tempted. This passage is not simply meant as an ethnic slur. This is not Moses standing back from the experiences with the Moabites and the Ammonites and saying you see where they came from? They’re up to no good. This passage is a reminder of the insidiousness of sin in a family unit and in a culture. These cultures began with a rebellion against the norms that God had established and that initial rebellion had consequences in the culture as it developed. It's also a standing warning, isn't it, against all those who transgress the covenant, whether they be Moabites or Ammonites or Israelites, God's covenant commands that we respond to Him acknowledging His Lordship. When we reject that Lordship in practice we may expect the judgment of God and the consequences of sin.
But let me also say that this passage brings to mind God's grace in spite of our sin as well. For God would appoint a Moabite woman to serve as the grandmother of David and she would find a place in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus. Bearing that in mind, two great themes come throughout this passage, both certainty of God's judgment against sin and the overruling grace of God in our lives. As we think about the certainty of judgment, think of these words written by Matthew Henry who says this about Lot. “From the silence of scripture concerning Lot henceforward, we may learn that drunkenness, as it makes men forgetful, so it makes men forgotten; and many a name, which otherwise might have been remembered with respect, is buried by it in contempt and oblivion.” James Boice in his commentary on this passage wonders aloud if Abraham ever was reunited again with Lot. We don't know because Lot falls from the pages of Genesis at this point. That's a sad thought. Even though he could be compared as a righteous man in his generation, yet his sin took him in a different path, a different direction, from his relative, Abraham. So we see the judgment of God against sin. But we also see the grace of God and the hope of His grace even in the midst of sin. In the Moabitess, Ruth, God delights to turn our sin into righteousness and the judgment that we deserve into an occasion of His grace, and He does that in the life of Ruth. And that is a message of hope to each of us as we study his word. Let us pray.
Our Lord and our God, we bow before You in this solemn passage and we ask that You would speak to our own hearts. Perhaps, oh Lord, we ourselves have been cultivating sins which are driving us away from you and away from our loved ones. We pray, oh Lord, that You would bring us to our senses, that You would bring us to our Savior. Oh Lord, perhaps we are discouraged by sin. Sin which is laying hold of us and which we cannot shake. By Your grace, oh Lord, bring us, oh Lord, to Christ and break the power of reigning sin. For You have not ordained that sin should reign over us. We pray, oh Lord, that even our sin would be the occasion and the opportunity of a day of Your grace. We pray Heavenly Father that You would teach us the truth of Your word, even in these hard passages, for the sake of Christ and our well being. We ask these things in Jesus' name, Amen.