Some heroes live in the shadow of a more famous contemporary, mere whispers in unfamiliar pages of history, often overlooked. One such unknown hero is Lot. Lot was the nephew of Abraham, the renowned father of faith, Great Patriarch of the Jewish people (1). Lot was destined for obscurity, until he joined his famous uncle to venture forth to the distant land of Canaan.
In my opinion, Christians give Lot a bad rap. I remember Sunday School lessons on flanograph showing Abraham offering Lot the arid highlands of Canaan or the fertile valley of the Jordan upon which to feed his flocks, as well as the condemnation of Lot’s decision to take the best for himself (2). “Such a selfish man,” I was told. To this day, when given a choice, I am always careful never choose the better part! Later in college, I was told Lot was foolish because he moved his tents closer and closer to Sodom (3), eventually living in that wretched town (4). I learned never to hesitate like Lot, whose hesitation surely reflected a worldly heart (5). So many issues with Lot. Certainly we should never strive to be like him.
Yet Peter, the greatest of Christ’s disciples, praises Lot for his righteousness (6).
It is a tragic irony that the best men of faith have the most questionable pasts. Out of fear and insecurity, Abraham made his wife Sarah lie and say she was his sister. David had a dear friend killed and committed adultery with his wife. Peter thrice denied he ever knew Jesus. I think the takeaway here is that a righteous man is not necessarily perfect. In fact, he is more likely deeply flawed. Lot is no exception. In one of the darker pages of scripture, Lot fathered children by both of his daughters. But even so, Peter calls him a righteous man.
If Peter calls Lot righteous, maybe we should give him a second chance. He’s been maligned, ridiculed; the poster child for selfish carnality. But perhaps we have been unfair.
Yes, he invited problems into his life by moving into the heart of Sodom, the rancid nest of debauchery and lewdness. But the fact that he was “at the gate” when the angels of doom arrived (4) tells us he kept his nose clean, earned respect of the locals, and became a leader in the city. He immediately recognized the angels as messengers from God and gave them proper honor, prostrating himself and looking out for their safety (7).
Even more remarkable is his moral uprightness in the face of constant resistance. While he strove to live morally, he received nothing but derision, not just occasionally, but every single day (6). He could not escape it. His contemporaries mocked him for not joining in their revelry and hedonism. His own household opposed him. His sons-in-law took him for a fanatical goofball, laughing at him to their fiery end (8). His wife was so immersed in the comforts of the world, she ignored an angelic warning and stole a longing glance at her beloved home…and as a result, will forever be known as the woman who turned into a pillar of salt (9). His daughters were so godless and immoral they resorted to shameless incest to avoid childlessness (10).
Unless you have personally experienced public ridicule for your beliefs, unless you have had peers ignore or mock your lifestyle, unless you have felt the loneliness and despair that accompanies constant rejection…unless you have experienced suffering like this, you will have no appreciation for what Lot endured. Imagine living in a house with people who don’t share your values. Imagine sharing a kitchen table every day with people who treat you with contempt. Imagine working hard at your job while enduring constant derision from coworkers, bombarded by crude jokes, cheating and pilfering, filthy language, and disgusting behavior. This was the burden of Lot. Peter says Lot routinely saw and heard lawless deeds of unprincipled men every day. Lot not only saw affliction, he felt it in his soul. His soul was tormented day after day.
Yet in spite of this constant resistance, Lot held fast.
When prophesying of the coming Messiah, Isaiah said the Christ would make decisions not on what he saw and heard, but on righteousness stemming from a fear of God (11). This is what Lot was like–very righteous, very Christlike. In spite of all the opposition, he feared God. He knew God sees our deeds, rewards faithfulness, and punishes sin. He stayed with his family. He kept his behavior excellent. He judged wisely. To those around him, Lot was ridiculously prudish, overly strict, mentally deranged. To God, he was righteous.
Who can blame him for hesitating when the angels told him to flee? He had about five seconds to make the most fateful decision of his life. His sons in law had already took him for a moron and refused to listen to him. He must have noticed his wife’s horrified glare as he contemplated leaving their beautiful home. He must have seen the incredulous disbelief in his daughters’ eyes as he prepared to take them away from their future husbands. If I were Lot, I would’ve hesitated too. I’m not a good decision maker. It takes me a long time to process all the possible outcomes and make a decision. So I cannot blame Lot for hesitating. The terrifying thought of living with his decision for the rest of his life must have stopped his heart cold.
Sometimes it’s nice when your boss makes the decision for you. It takes the burden off your back, places the responsibility on someone else’s shoulders. That is exactly what happened for Lot. In perhaps the most gracious expression of mercy in all of history, his angelic guests grabbed Lot, his wife, and his daughters and forcibly escorted them with all haste to the gates of the city before sending them off (5). Shortly afterwards, fire rained from heaven destroying every inhabitant of Sodom and Gomorrah.
When Peter recounted the story of Lot, he did so to show us that God knows how to save His godly ones. When you are trying to live on the up-and-up and everyone and their dog seems to be working against you, cry out to God, and stay the course. God is a well-experienced and effective rescuer of souls. Every character in Lot’s life–the wicked men of Sodom, his idiot sons-in-law, his worldly wife–all of them were actors in a drama personally directed by God for our benefit. Lot is a living demonstration of how effective God is at separating the good from the bad. He rewards faithfulness and punishes evil, and He can do that without collateral damage, no friendly fire. The Egyptians witnessed this firsthand when they suffered God’s plagues while the Hebrews were somehow spared (12). You can live badly, behave lewdly and disreputably. But it will find you out. God does not wink at such spiteful living but will certainly deal with it. At the same time God sees and rewards faithful living, especially when it’s difficult, when it makes you a target. He sees, He sustains, He rewards.
Lot’s endurance is a living definition of righteousness for us to follow. Stand firm. Stay the course. Let God’s principles govern your life. Love in spite of opposition. Deny ungodliness because you know judgment always follows sin, without exception. While doing so, give your soul respite in the shelter of the One who knows how to save His godly ones.
- Genesis 11:27, 31
- Genesis 13:10-11
- Genesis 13:12
- Genesis 19:1
- Genesis 19:16
- II Peter 2:7-8
- Genesis 19:2-4
- Genesis 19:14
- Genesis 19:26, Luke 17:31-33
- Genesis 19:30-38
- Isaiah 11:1-4
- Exodus 11:7