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Lot: You Can Get There From Here (e)

James R. Davis

A Star Trek movie portrayed an alien spaceship that went through a time warp to an earlier time in earth's history. Its mission was to alter history by preventing the earth's first spaceship from being launched. This was to alter history so that earth's spaceship in the future would not be a threat to the alien in the present. How many times have we dreamed of going back in time to alter something in our past to change the present?

I might want to alter the present by altering the past, but since that is impossible, God makes it possible for me to come to him from here or from my present circumstances. You see, God doesn't ask us to do the impossible. Although the circumstances I am dealing with may very well be the result of a decision made in the past. I may regret the decision but I can't go back. We may repent of the decision but even the repentance will not change the consequences of how I must live today as a result of that decision.

It is really wonderful to know that God will save me where I am in spite of the consequences I may be suffering as a result of a bad decision in the past. Peter makes a remarkable statement to those who have blown it in life and are afraid of losing their salvation.

2 Pet 2:4-9
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)-- if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.

Peter is talking about the judgement of God. He speaks of God's destruction of the world in Noah's day. He speaks of the destruction of Sodom in Abraham's day. But I find something else in this passage; it's a stark contrast. God saved righteous Noah who made all the right decisions that resulted in saving his family. In sharp contrast I see God saving righteous Lot who seemed to have made all the wrong decisions and ultimately lost his family. Peter says that the " . . . Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials . . . "

This lesson is certainly not to encourage anyone to live a double-minded life as Lot certainly did. This lesson is not to encourage you to make the decisions Lot made. Hopefully we will gain wisdom and avoid the mistakes Lot made. Hopefully it will be an encouragement to those who have already blown it in certain facets of their lives; it is for those who are living with the stark realities of foolish decisions. Decisions that have altered lives for the worst. It is for those who will suffer presently for those foolish mistakes made in the past.

Really, I have a feeling, all of us in some way can identify with Lot in certain facets of our lives. In fact I think many of the great men in the Bible could identify with Lot in certain facets of their lives. The consequences of Noah's drunkenness resulted in consequences upon his son Ham because he looked upon his father when he was drunk and naked. David's consequences of adultery with Bethsheba and the resulting havoc brought upon his family. Samson's consequences of loving Delilah and the resulting consequences of imprisonment and having his eyes poked out. (By the way, Samson stands in stark contrast to all those faithful souls mentioned in Hebrews 11 when God mentions him among the faithful in Hebrews 11:32.)

This lesson is directed to those of us who have been struggling with a facet of our lives that has been altered for life by a foolish decision made earlier in life. Maybe you are one of us who would like to go back and take advantage of a lost opportunity you passed up twenty years ago? Maybe you would like to go back and save that marriage that failed? Maybe you would like to go back and relive those rebellious teenage  years or relive that moment when you gave in to a weakness for which you and others have been paying for dearly all you life? Or maybe you would like to go back in time and take back some harsh words? Maybe go back in time an never take that first drink that eventually destroyed your family? Or maybe you would like to go back and resist that sexual fantasy that brought your downfall? Maybe you would like to go back so you could avoid the harsh realities of those decisions in the present? Maybe there is a fellow out there on death row that can't change his circumstances? There is no time warp in real life. We may have to bear crosses daily that we have made for ourselves. There may even be crosses on which we have nailed ourselves. But the beautiful thing is that there is a God whose grace can save us even as we hang on our self-made crosses. And His grace for the present gives us strength to go on; and it says that there is yet a future. "

A Crucial Decision Made

Lot was one person in the Bible who no doubt would have loved to go back in time and relive his past in order that he might make some different decisions. I say that because the Bible says he was a righteous man, and righteous people see their mistakes and mourn over them. We learn from Lot that even righteous people can make bad decisions. As we study Lot's life maybe we can learn some things about decision making that will help us live in the time frame of the present. If we learn the lessons hopefully, we can avoid fantasizing about what might have been. If we are already where Lot was in life, that is suffering the consequences of our mistakes, hopefully we can find grace to go on.

In the book of Genesis, Lot is introduced to us as the nephew of Abraham. (Genesis 12:15; 13:1.) He left Ur with Abram when God called Abram into a strange country. As a result of Abram and Lot following God's call, they both became very wealthy. But that combined wealth of both men caused a separation. The herds and flocks became so large that strife arose between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. Water was getting scarce and pasture short. They had to travel long distances to feed and water the flocks. It became a stressful time and they were forced by circumstances to separate.

Gen 13:5-9
Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.
But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram's herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. So Abram said to Lot, "Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left."

Apparently Abraham and Lot were standing on a high place overlooking the entire territory.

Genesis 13:10-11
Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company . . .

As you read this story it reminds you of your inner nature that tells you to look out for number one. Have you ever observed two people struggling in a relationship? Each trying to squeeze the other for all there is. One fellow that had five children said that his children could work for the Bureau of Standards. When he pours them coke in five different glasses, they know at a glance which glass has the most coke no matter how small the difference.

One lady told me when her two boys had only one candy bar, she made them half it. But she had a unique way of making them half the candy bar. One could cut the candy bar  into two pieces and the other could pick which half of the candy bar he wanted first. Ingenious idea isn't it? This gives us an insight into the human nature and also how Lot was thinking.

Have you ever made one of those decisions where you just knew you couldn't lose? It was the mother of all decisions. Well that's exactly what Lot did. He was looking out for number one when he made this decision. Abraham should have had the first choice. He was older. He was more like a father than an uncle to Lot. It should have been Abram's choice. Lot could have come back and said, "Look Abraham you take one side of the Jordan River Valley and I'll take the other. We will both have fertile valleys and plenty of water for our herds and we will have the Jordan River separating us to prevent the strife." But no, Lot took it all.

Abraham made the better decision; he put their relationship ahead of everything. He simply said, "Lot nothing is worth destroying our relationship." I don't think Lot was listening. He made a decision that apparently benefited him. Lot was a master at looking out for number one. So he pitched his tent toward Sodom. He probably had great visions where this decision would lead him. The best land, water, and cities to trade with would enhance his economic fortunes. It seemed as though this decision gave Lot the edge. Lot never dreamed where this one decision in life would lead.

It is strange that many of those decisions we thought would give us a future, instead brought ruin in certain areas of our lives.
 

Maybe you have stood where Abram is standing in this story. Abram gave up his rights. He decided not to make a decision from a material point of view. He decided that their relationship was too important.

The amazing thing often overlooked in this story is that immediately after Lot's departure, God speaks to Abram. This was a moment of great testing for Abram. His nephew, that was no doubt like a son was departing. Lot had taken the best of the land. Abram had wavered his rights and seemingly lost. Now he was left alone. The land was full of Canaanites and Perizites who posed a physical threat with Lot's departure. Abram's clan would be smaller in number and more vulnerable. It is in times like these that we need assurance from God that we are still a part of God's plan.

Gen 13:14-18
The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you." So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.

It is encouraging to know when we give up our rights God is with us in a very, very, very special way. God reassured Abram that the land was his and that He would take care of him.
 
 

A RIGHTEOUS PERSON CAN MAKE A BAD DECISION

In this story we see two righteous men making decisions that would affect the rest of their lives. One makes his decision based on the temporal. The other makes a decision based on the eternal. Abraham made a decision that he would spend his life looking for a city whose builder and maker was God. Lot looked toward the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that were soon to be reduced to ashes.

Some decisions may not seem very significant, but they set a particular course for our lives. A decision may not seem very important, but its final outcome can be terrifying and tragic. And often the appearance is that the choice is one that is certain to be to our advantage.

God's estimate of Lot is much higher than our estimate of him. God says, " . . . for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard . . . "(2 Peter 2:8). It is of great encouragement to know when you make a decision that is not right, God doesn't give up on you. He doesn't judge your entire life by that one decision. Although that decision can be far reaching enough to alter your entire course in life for the worst.

Far more than the loss of his possessions and his prosperity, Lot paid a terrible price for his short-lived pleasure. According to Peter, Lot's righteous soul was continually vexed by what he saw in that city. Even when the saint is surrounded by sensual pleasure, he cannot enjoy sin for long. And more tragic than anything, Lot paid for his decision in his family. His wife was turned to salt because of her attachment to Sodom (19:26).

WHAT DID LOT'S DECISION COST HIM?

How time and divine judgement can change our perspective of prosperity! When Lot made his decision to settle in the Jordan valley, it was a virtual paradise. Moses, however, included a parenthetical remark which put this beauty in a very different light: "This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah" (Genesis 13:10).

Lot didn't know that he was laying it all on the line with that one decision. In Genesis 14 kings of warring factions capture Lot. Abraham takes his men and rescues Lot and his family. He sells his tent, so to speak, and bought a condo in Sodom and suffered the oppression and torment of the people of Sodom. The angels came to rescue Lot in Genesis 19. The city was so bad that the men of the city came to Lot's home desiring to have sex with the angels that were staying there. Lot was such a righteous man that he offered his virgin daughters to the men to provide safety for the angels. But the men of the city pressed him to the point where the angels reached out and pulled Lot into his house. Then the angels struck the men blind.

Gen 19:15-26
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 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. 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.) By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah-- from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities-- and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Sometimes even righteous people have difficulty listening to God. It is as though we have more faith in our own decisions. Lot was reluctant to leave, even when God was ever so anxious to lead him to higher ground. The angels struggled with Lot to get him out of the city. They ask him to go to the mountains but he refused. He was afraid for his life. He wanted to go to Zoar which was a small town. It is amazing how God worked with this man. The angels allowed him to go to Zoar. The city of Zoar was spared because of Lot's decision. But his decision led him to a place of greater danger.

Gen 19:29-30
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. 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.

Lot is much like a child squalling because she doesn't want to go someplace. The child can go squalling all the way or the child can cooperate and go happy, but no matter how the child behaves the child is going to end up where you want it to go. Well Lot went squalling but he ended up where God wanted him . . . on higher ground . . .. on the mountain in a cave. After seeing all that fire and brimstone, he probably figured that cave was the safest place to be.
 

WHY IS IT SO HARD TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES?

Someone has pointed out that life seems to be arranged backwards. We are called upon to make our most important choices at a time when we have the least amount of experience to guide us. Because of this, we so frequently hear expressions of regret like, "If only I had known", "If I had it to do over again", etc. But it is this very quality of life which reveals the inability of man to handle life by himself. It is a wise person, indeed, who learns this lesson early and gives heed to the Biblical admonition, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." (Prov. 3:5-6)

We understand that man cannot lean upon his own understanding. "I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps" (Jer 10:23). We do not know what the future holds so there is no way that we can make intelligent decisions without God's guidance.

Lot had a hard time accepting the will of God even when angels were leading the way. It is hard to get rid of that old sinful nature that wants to lead us around by the nose.
 

Abram's Response

In stark contrast, note Abram's response to this difficult time.

Gen 13:14-18
The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you." So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.

Abram's response revealed a growing faith in God. He moved his tents toward Hebron, settling near the oaks of Mamre. It was a plot of ground that belonged to another, not Abram (cf. 14:13), but it was where God wanted him to be. There Abram built an altar and worshipped his God.

How different were the paths of these two men after they separated. The one was almost imperceptibly edging closer and closer to the city Sodom, to live among godless and wicked men, and all for the sake of financial gain. The other was living the life of the sojourner, dwelling on those barren hills, with his hope in the promises of God. One lives in his tent and builds an altar of worship; the other trades his tent in for an apartment in the city of wicked men. Here was a decision by each man which bore heavily on the destiny of both, but, far more, on the destiny of their offspring.
 
 

Conclusion:

The decisions reached by Abraham and Lot are the same as those that confront every Christian. We must decide whether to trust in the sovereignty of God or in our own schemes and devices. We must determine whether to trust in the "uncertainty of riches" or in the God Who "richly supplies us"' (1 Timothy 6:17). We must decide whether to invest in the "passing pleasures of sin" or the future "reward" which is promised by God.

These decisions are clearly contrasted in the separation of Lot and Abram. Lot chose to act on the basis of the practical, Abraham on the basis of brotherly love. For the sake of unity, Abram was willing to be taken advantage of.

Abram acted on the ground of faith in God who had promised to provide. Lot chose to direct his life on the uncertain foundation of financial security. Abram was greatly blessed, and Lot lost it all.

Lot chose to dwell in a city, which seemed like paradise (13:10), but was filled with sinners. Abram decided to live in a deserted place, but where he could freely worship his God.

Abram beautifully illustrates the truth of two New Testament facts. First, he provides a commentary on these words, spoken by our Lord:Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (Matthew 5:5,9).

Abram was a man of meekness. He did not have to forcefully snatch blessing, but faithfully waited for it from God's hand. He was one who was given to peace, rather than to sacrifice it for prosperity.

Abram was successful because he was a servant. He did not get ahead in life because he climbed the hill of success over that got in his way. God exalted him because he placed the interests of others ahead of his own.

The world's way of making decisions is to look out for number one. That was Lot's way, as well. God's way to blessing is looking up to Number One and looking out for others.

Matthew 22:36-40
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Such a life can only be lived by faith. Such a life can only cause our faith in God to grow.

The beginning point for every man, woman, and child is to look to God for salvation. We cannot, we dare not, trust in our own shrewdness to get us entrance into God's kingdom. Often what we perceive to be 'paradise' is soon to be destroyed by divine wrath. Faith recognizes our sinfulness and trusts in the work of Christ on the cross of Calvary for eternal security and blessing.

Our own best efforts are doomed to destruction. Only what God promises and provides will endure.

May God enable each of us to trust in Him, and not in ourselves? May God enable us to deal with the difficulties we have caused for ourselves through the strength that only He provides? May we take hope in spite of our circumstances because God will not let us down?

Lot teaches us that God will save to the uttermost, but who wants to suffer the uttermost?

Heb 7:25
Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

If we do suffer, we may draw our strength from God.

2 Cor 1:3-7
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

 

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