Genesis 19:12-22 “The two men said to Lot, ‘Do you have anyone else here – sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.’ So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, ‘Hurry and get out of this place, because the LORD is about to destroy the city!’ But his sons-in-law thought he was joking. With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.’ When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. 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!’ But Lot said to them, ‘No, my lords, please! Your servant has found favour 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. 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.’ He said to him, ‘Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.).”
Two messengers from heaven had been sent by God to Sodom for the last evaluation of the city. The men from every part of the community, young and old, gathered that night around the house of Lot where the two men were staying. They screamed for Lot to send out the two young men that they might all sodomize them. It is a hellish scene. The two men responded by smiting them with blindness and total confusion. That was the beginning of the judgment on Sodom. Then they turned to Lot and addressed him with great urgency; “Do you have anyone else here – sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it” (vv. 12&13).
- GOD WARNS US OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF A LIFE OF SIN.
We live in a nation full of warnings, official and private, important and trivial. You can’t go to a newsagent or grocer shop without seeing the rows of packets of cigarettes and the stark government health warnings in large letters on every packet. We are warned about the dangers of obesity, of sunbathing, or lack of exercise, or carrying a pen-knife. There are road signs on every single stretch of the highway obscuring the view warning drivers of the dangers ahead, and when you are not driving there are warnings of clamping (in Wales they come in two languages). Here is an insidious drip-feed of potentially fatal consequences attached to simply everything men do. That is accepted and yet men resent a God who warns them of far greater dangers ahead. People don’t want a preacher to warn them. They’ve invented their own religion; they might call it ‘Christianity’ but it is an utter distortion of what the Lord Jesus and his apostles taught. It contains no warnings at all. It simply says that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and that you also should love. Yet warnings are everywhere in the Bible. The Lord Jesus warned the Pharisees of their false religion. He warned us all in the Sermon on the Mount to watch out for false prophets. He warned his disciples that he would be crucified and buried. He warned Peter that Satan desired to sift him as wheat and that soon he would deny him. The Lord warns us because he loves us, just as any earthly parent warns his children of thin ice, and warns them of traffic on the road, and of strangers who invite them into their cars, and of taking drugs. Would anyone say to such a mother, “You don’t love your children because you are warning them”? Of course not; it is the very opposite. The warnings come out of their love and because of the reality of the danger facing their children. We don’t warn them of hobgoblins and ghosts and the dangers of walking under ladders because there is no danger in silly superstitions and old wives’ tales, but meeting God unprepared, unrepentant and unbelieving is to lose our souls for ever. Then so it was here. There were real dangers ahead for this family.
Righteous Lot and his family were loved by God, and that’s the reason his messengers told Lot, “Get your family out of here.” God was saying, “I don’t want you to get hurt.” Doesn’t God love the family? Didn’t God design and make possible the family? Didn’t God say, “It is not good for man to be alone”? God was dealing with Lot on the level of the household; Lot was the federal head of his little family. In the same way God had dealt with Noah and his family – his wife and his three sons and their wives. Under the new covenant two thousand years later the gospel preached by Paul addressed a Roman jailer and said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved and thy house.” Plead this promise to God, that there may be no empty places either at the Lord’s Supper of believers in this life or at the marriage feast of the Lamb.
So judgment hung over Sodom and, of course, the scene deliberately in
vokes memories of the judgment of the flood, but here not on a cosmic level but on a personal and localized level. God has given everyone in Sodom a conscience, just like everyone in Aberystwyth. On everyone’s heart he has written the things of the law. A righteous man has lived as salt and light in that town over the past years. Messengers from God have come to it, and so, no one can plead ignorance of why God judges. No one in Lot’s family and no one in the city can protest, “But Lord we didn’t know that you were angry with us. We didn’t know there was danger ahead.” God would respond, “But I sent you my word with its warnings and entreaties.” The messengers spelled it out, “we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it” (vv. 12&13). Is this not so with us today? Isn’t this a moral universe? Don’t we all live by passing judgments, great on small, on ourselves, and on others? We are made in God’s image. Hasn’t God given us the ten commandments? Doesn’t God hold us responsible for our actions? Doesn’t he tell us to flee from the wrath to come? Has not God said, “It is appointed unto men once to die and after death the judgment”? Was it not the Lord Jesus who spoke of the worm that did not die and the fires that are not quenched? Are you sure that you can dismiss them as old wives’ tales and archaic superstitions? They were spoken by the preacher of the Sermon on the Mount, remember.
The messengers from God to Sodom were not crying “Wolf!” The people were really staring at a most terrible imminent judgment. Just so had the generation who heard the preaching of Noah, and just so do we. The wickedness of Sodom was crying out for punishment. There had been extraordinary restraint by God for decades, but he would stay his hand no longer. The sin of the Sodomites had now reached its full measure. The messengers of God would confirm to God, as they presented him with a report of their visit to Sodom, what was their experience of its foulness. The town was as evil as the report that had reached heaven. One single night there had given God’s messengers all the data God would need, and when they told Lot to get his family out of that godforsaken place there was sufficient authority in their tone of voice that Lot initially didn’t hesitate. “So Lot went” (v.14) we read. How important is that? It is all important. Without obeying the messengers whom God sends into our lives how will any one of us escape? Off Lot went that same night, the crowd having dispersed in its blindness and confusion, no threat to him at all. Lot set out to warn his sons-in-law . . . actually it was his prospective sons-in-law because we’ve been told that neither of his daughters had slept with a man (v.8). So these two girls of his were betrothed to men of Sodom. Lot had given his permission for the marriages; he had discussed the dowry price of his daughters with fathers of men who were Sodom born and bred. Lot had been happy with such ungodly and unrighteous alliances, light fellowshipping with darkness, good with evil.
So how did these two men respond when they heard these words, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city”? (v.14). Just like some of you respond to my warnings. You smirk. All the sons of darkness since the fall of Adam have always responded to the threat of God’s judgment in this same way, they mock. We have all seen newspaper cartoons in which religious men are caricatured. A man is holding a sign which says something like, “We are all doomed,” and such men always look like the wild man of the mountains. His hair is unkempt and his clothes are in tatters and he looks like an idiot, because anyone who believe in the coming judgment in the eyes of cartoonists, their editors and the people who read them is an idiot or a fanatic, because the faith of most journalists is that death is followed by nothingness. We are wiped out, and annihilated. We simply no longer exist! Aren’t you afraid of that? That that is the best you can hope for? What if your faith in this is misguided and that the Lord Jesus Christ is right? “Who knows?” you ask. “Who can tell?” The one who rose from the dead. The one who was resurrected on the third day knows. Death did not annihilate him. “Because I live you shall live also,” he said.
If you mock then you are in company with Lot’s future sons-in-law. For them judgment falling on this place was simply unthinkable. “Come on old man! Yes, last night was pretty rough. Things got out of hand. Sorry that our fiancées got a bit upset. We spread the word that the lads shouldn’t do that again with anyone staying with Lot, but don’t over react, old boy. Things have gone on in Sodom for a pretty long time and there’s never been a judgment. From the beginning of the world things carry on just the same . . .” So they thought and so they spoke, laughing at him, and forgetting Noah’s flood and the distant voice of their own consciences. They covered over their wickedness with the garment of scornful laughter, just as old Abraham had laughed at God’s promise of a son, and Sarah also. God speaking to men words of warning and entreaty was all so far fetched. They mocked; “A judgment to come? What place have such beliefs in our modern world? No one has believed that since . . . the time of Noah.” Yes, the time of Noah, and what happened then? Yet the Lord had had pity on the doubts of Abraham and Sarah, but is there pity here? Does God pity a spirit of rigid hostility to his kind words of warning? That is all that the two messengers of God saw and heard in the two prospective sons-in-law of Lot and in all their libertarian companions; there was no trembling at all. They had hardened their hearts against God and their consciences, and if we should mock God’s word there is nothing before us but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation that shall devour us.
- GOD GIVES A SECOND WARNING OF THE JUDGMENT TO COME.
Aren’t you glad that God brings his truth to us more than once? Of course, once you have heard the gospel you are under obligation to believe the gospel, and once you have heard the warnings of the judgment that await you then you are under obligation to prepare to avoid them, in the appointed ways. But many of you have heard the gospel and its promises and warnings more than once. You have heard them twice . . . three times . . . many times, three hundred times, and still you are not prepared for the tremendous day.
The dawn is breaking in Sodom and no one is heeding the warning; “With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.’” (v.15). What do we call such a time? Five minutes to midnight? The last hour? The Scripture announces here that judgment day has dawned and Lot was still not out of the city, not climbing up out of the valley to the place of safety where his half-brother Abraham was staying. What will happen to him when the divine signal is given? What will happen to us at the last trumpet? What will happen when the sun of righteousness arises with all his glory? How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? Think of Lot, the city magistrate, the establishment man, dispensing justice in the city. Isn’t it hard for someone who passes sentence on the guilty to plead before God that in his sight he himself is guilty? How long has it been since a judge, a Queen&rsqu
o;s Counsel was converted from unbelief to trusting in the Son of God, Jesus Christ? How many such men were converted last year, or even in the last decade? I pray that there have been some. Do you remember what Jesus said, that it is hard for certain men to enter the kingdom of heaven?
Lot had met these two men at the gate, and he had thought that it was his duty to protect them, and he would have sent them off to safety early this very morning. Now it is these messengers who are hurrying him along this morning to save him from the great terror, the wrath of God. The spokesman says to him, “Hurry!” Will you listen with some urgency? Will you think of your family? You have a wife and children? Will you take them to safety with you or will you all be swept away in the great deluge that lies before us? We are nearer judgment than when this service started. Think of yourself and prepare. You may have time to take those who are most precious to you along with you. Perhaps they already see your concern. They may feel the pew trembling on which you are sitting. They may see the tears of shame on your cheeks. They may see you looking down and almost beating your breast. They may hear real prayer on your lips. The day of the Lord is coming and you need the protection of the blood of Christ. It cleanses from all sin. You need robes of righteousness to cover all your filthy garments. The day of the Lord is coming as a thief in the night, so secretly. Hurry or you will be swept away when the city is punished.
God’s messengers gave Lot a second warning, but he lingered! He had seen the power of the angels smiting the Sodomites with blindness and confusion of faith. He had heard their voices speaking with authority, telling him exactly what was going to happen, and yet he was still unpersuaded. Maybe . . . maybe not. Lot lingered . . . but he lingered not knowing whether to flee or tough it out in Sodom with the rest of the people he knew there. “Am I to believe these messengers that come from God or do I believe my family and my friends and everyone with any wealth and power in this place? Am I going to risk all my credibility and seem so foolish in running away from this place? I shall be a laughing stock. I have been scared by a couple of very religious men. They got under my skin and I acted completely out of character. I’m beginning to feel ashamed of myself.” Lot had initially made his decision and set off, but then he hesitated and dragged his feet. He had eaten the food of haste the night before, unleavened bread, but now he was not prepared to get cracking. He delayed. His loins were not girded up; his staff was not in his hand. He dawdled; he cannot bear to take so radical a step. So Lot was just like some of you.
Was it a hard thing for Lot to acknowledge that he had been such a fool to leave the land of promise and part company with Abraham and move to Sodom? Was it so hard for him to move away from a place pleasant to the eyes, watered like the garden of God? Was it tough for Lot to leave a place where he was greatly admired because of what his half brother and hero Abraham had done in rescuing them when the king Chedorlaomer had captured all the inhabitants of Sodom? Was it hard to leave town when two weddings were coming up and the boys were from long established citizens of the city – maybe they were considered such good matches for his daughters – men out of the top drawer? It was so hard for Lot to risk it all on becoming religious, believing two men’s words of warning when two thousand people rejected them. It was tough for Lot to stand alone, but it was not as hard a choice as Jesus made when he set his face steadfastly towards Jerusalem. It was not as hard as his drinking the cup of wrath that his Father gave him to drink. It was not as hard as having nails driven through his hands and feet and lifted up by them to die in agony. Not as hard as suffering all that our sins deserve on Golgotha and tasting death for us. It was not that hard for Lot to be laughed at, or for you to be teased for going to church on a Sunday, but the contempt became too much for Lot.
A few hours earlier the men had been much rougher. Lot was standing outside his house pleading with a mob to respect the people in his home, but his words were disdained, and the crowd was threatening. The door behind Lot suddenly opened, an arm came out and grabbed him and yanked him back into the house and the door slammed on the mob. That was the night before, but this time the two messengers of God were very tender. One took hold of Lot’s hand, and with the other hand he held the hand of Mrs. Lot. The other angel took a hand of each of the daughters and the angels steadily led the four of them through the streets of Sodom and through the city gate and out into the countryside and along the lanes through the fields, on and on not letting go of them, taking them to safety. Can’t you see the mercy of God, how immense it is, to a stubborn lingerer like Lot? (v.16) He had had two warnings from heaven and they were not enough to motivate him, and then God told his angels, “Hold their hands and lead them to safety.” Aren’t you glad when God tells his messengers to do that? He says, “Yes. Please send the children to camp; drive them the whole way there, and also give them pocket money for the week.” Or God says, “Go and play golf with your friend though you are not very good and pay for his round.” Or he says, “Give him a really good Bible.” Or God says, “Write him a letter every Sunday afternoon.” These are the gestures of men who serve the Lord who don’t want to see you perish. Behind them you must see the mercy of the Lord.
- GOD GIVES A THIRD WARNING OF THE JUDGMENT TO COME.
You would think that that would be it, two warnings and that’s your lot, the fires can fall. God has drawn them out of the city and they are safe, but in fact they are not safe. There are the lights and sounds and smells of Sodom just ten minutes’ walk away. The bakers are calling out in the streets selling freshly baked bread. The water carriers are announcing their presence. The cocks are crowing and the city is coming to life again after the hours of darkness. That place has been the only home the girls have known. How alluring it looks in the soft light of early morning, and the angels know its attractiveness even to Lot. Don’t we all know the seductive power of familiar people and places? We are not home very long from the conference or the camp or the special Sunday service where we believe we have heard a messenger from God. We are not back very long with the gang in school when soon the earnest messages of God seem to be losing their power over us and we are drawn again to love all the things of the world that our buddies and family hold dear.
It is then that even sinners like ourselves receive, morning by morning, new mercies from the God who sent those messengers into our lives, because God hasn’t given up on us. He speaks again to us through one of his messengers; “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!” (v.17). You see the relevance of all this? We can take you to camp and conference and can pray for you and speak to you, but there comes a time when you must nail your colours up. You must dare to be a Daniel. You must dare to stand alone. Now the faith of your parents, and the faith of your preacher, and the faith of the camp officers is of no avail. Now you must say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” You must take that step of faith; you must exercise it. The Lord won’t do that for you, you must do it yourself. Of course he is alwa
ys there, but you must appropriate him. You must set out for yourself. You must never ever look back in longing to the Sodom from which the Lord has saved you – whatever it is. You must keep going; you must keep on and keep on. Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere on the way or you will be swept away.
How often have you been told that there’s a hell to avoid and a heaven to win, and that only the blood of Jesus Christ can buy our pardon, and only the power of the indwelling Spirit can energize us for the journey? Maybe you are now at university and so away from home; or you are now in the army; certainly wherever you may be you are on your own as a Christian. You are in a place of vulnerability and danger. Don’t look back and don’t stop! Follow the Lord Jesus wherever he’s going. Keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Never give up. Never give up. Look forward to all you have in Christ, the purpose to live, the knowledge that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever, a conscience that doesn’t condemn you, the hope of heaven’s glory, fulness of joy at God’s right hand for evermore. Don’t look back. Don’t let your heart envy sinners. Look forward to the life ahead that God is preparing for you. Don’t look back at Sodom. Don’t betray your new heart. Don’t, with a glance, say that the treasures of Sodom mean more to you than the One who is the pearl of great price, Jesus Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Turn from Sodom or burn! Escape for your life. The life of this world without Christ is no longer an option; it is no longer viable. Either the life God offers is the life for you or there is brief day’s journey into night.
Still Lot lingers! Listen to him; “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” (v.19). These words of a lingerer address the grace of Christian friendship – and the speakers have been the beneficiary of much Christian kindness. Men thank us out of politeness – when in fact they want us to stop speaking to them of their need to be saved from disaster. “You have shown great kindness to me, and I’d be a boor to ignore you, but . . .” And that ‘but’ will come in a hundred ways. What is the excuse you make for not being a Christian? Lot said, “I can’t flee to the mountains.” They were too far, too high, too steep, too cold! He might not make it to the mountains or in the mountain, so why not die in Sodom? Don’t people say that very often? “Well, I’m going to hell, and that’s it,” and the first five seconds they will be in that terrible place they will scream for deliverance. No deliverance from hell once you are there. You have grasped the sovereignty of God in judgment? That he is right in condemning you? Yes? Then I say to you, “Grasp his sovereignty in the mercy he is now offering you.”
But Lot has another suggestion to make. How amazing the grace of God that hears men making their excuses and suggestions to God as they linger at the mouth of the pit. “Look,” Lot says to God, “Could I tell you what I want? Would you mind? There is a little town near enough to run to – not those distant mountains, don’t make me go there. Let me escape to that nice town. My wife and I always liked it and spoke of retiring there one day – it is very small isn’t it? Then my life will be spared’ (v.20). So we bargain with God. We lay down conditions under which we are prepared to become Christians. Not to meet with the Baptists. Not with the Calvinists. Not the narrow fellowship. We know what we want; deliverance from unbelief, from materialism, from cynicism and despair – yes, we want deliverance from that, but not to flee to the mountains of holiness and separation and self-denial and cross bearing and loving God with all our hearts. We want watered down religion! That is what we want. Diluted, undemanding Christianity. The Saviour carried a cross and hung and died for us. Why? That we might have it easy in this world and live safely in heaven when we die – is that what we want? Lot says, “O.K. I can’t have Sodom, but can’t I have a little place, a cottage with roses round the door, at least, a little piece of this world?”
Men and women, what does God say? It is an incredible reply; “Very well, I will grant this request too” (v.21). God gives that little town to him. Can you believe it? What extraordinary long-suffering! What mercy! He gives him a little place called ‘Zoar’ to live in. You can see the name on the wooden gate that leads up to the house. But what was the price Lot had to pay? A totally anonymous life for the rest of his days. He disappears from the pages of history and he is never mentioned in the Old Testament again. Good-bye Lot. You asked for something, and this bad thing God gave you, a useless life. Aren’t you afraid that you will persist in asking for something, and God will give it to you, and for the rest of your days it will be just the second best? Others are in the midst of the battle, the Lord’s mighty men are doing exploits. See the gates of hell tremble as these men and women approach. They are steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord while you are a forgotten man, pottering about in your garden pruning the roses in your small town, sitting on a few committees, smiling at the young people enjoying themselves. Is that what you want for your futures?
God saved Lot from that. He did. May he save you from that too. O yes, he let Lot get to Zoar (v.23), and he avoided the conflagration of Sodom, but there was too much grace in Lot’s life to stay in that wretched second best existence. Lot was afraid to waste the rest of his life doing nothing. May it be so for some of you too! We are told, “Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar” (v.30). He couldn’t stay there in that nice little cozy place for long. What had changed him? Was it the judgment that had fallen on his wife?
So God hurries Lot out of the danger zone of Sodom. He says some amazing words to Lot; “Flee to Zoar quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it” (v.22). Is God saying that his hands are tied? Is that what we see here? That God can’t do anything until man does something first? No. God is referring to the authority he has given to Abraham the intercessor: Abraham the mediator: Abraham the prefigurement of Jesus Christ our great high priest. Abraham had prayed for Lot and God had heard and determined not to destroy righteous Lot along with Sodom. Lot has to leave Sodom first. “I cannot do any work of judgment on this vile place until you have reached the place of safety, because you have been covered by the prayers of Abraham.” I am making this extraordinary claim that God does not begin his judgment on Aberystwyth today because in this town there are Christians who pray for it. God’s wrath does not descend on you while we pray for you. Christ has shed his blood; Christ has poured out his Spirit; Christ is sending forth his servants with the gospel and with their praying, and so God will not judge the world yet. Not one of God’s elect is going to perish, and so Lot must be safe, and God delivers him from the wrath to come. Thus it will be in that tremendous day. Weaklings like Lot and his daughters who have yet rested their ultimate hopes on the mercy of God in Christ, will hear the great words, “Come ye blessed of my Father to the Kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.”
of God, Jesus Christ, came on a fact-finding visit to our world. It lasted over thirty years and he examined how men and women behave. The place was so bad that he wept over it. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! . . .” This world hated him so much it killed him. Yet in his death he bared his soul to the wrath of a sin-hating God. It fell on him, not on our Sodom. He got what we deserved, and we who are joined by faith to him, receive what he deserved. So God for Christ’s sake is sincerely offering to you pardon for your sins now. He will show you mercy in Jesus’ name, but do not delay! Flee to Jesus for your lives. Do not hesitate! Do not linger! Do not make another excuse. Do not say, ‘Tomorrow’ because that day never comes. When tomorrow comes then you know that it has become today, and then you will say again, ‘Tomorrow . . .’ and then on that morrow it is again today and ‘tomorrow’ is always a day away. Beware of the tyranny of serving tomorrows that never come. Beware of an addiction to tomorrow. Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. As the poet once said;
‘Tomorrow,’ he promised his conscience, ‘tomorrow I mean to believe.
Tomorrow I’ll think as I ought to; tomorrow the Saviour receive.
Tomorrow I’ll conquer the habits that hold me from heaven away’
But ever his conscience repeated one word, and one only, ‘Today.’
Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Thus, day after day it went on.
Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Tomorrow! Till youth like a dream had all gone.
Till age and his passions had written the message of ‘No’ on his brow,
And then from the shadows came Death with the pitiless syllable, ‘Now!’
16th August 2009 GEOFF THOMAS