Monday, 24 December 2012 10:40

Lot [2]

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Dear listeners, part of the state of Oklahoma is called by the locals tornado alley, because every year there are multiple tornadoes that sweep through that narrow corridor between the hills. Almost every year some town in tornado alley is devastated. But somehow most of the residents simply choose to rebuild in tornado alley rather than move even a mere 100 miles out of the way. When asked why they choose to stay, the response often is, ‘This is our home’.

In our text this morning, we find Lot living in spiritual tornado alley. The Lord will warn him of the great dangers of his choices, and call him to repent. In this we see the faithful kindness of God sparkle. May the Lord use His kind warnings also to call you and I, to whatever degree we live in tornado alley in our culture, to move away to higher, to safer ground.

Theme: The Lord warns Lot about his choice

I. Through a devastating loss

II. Through an unexpected deliverance

III. Through a powerful example

In Genesis 13 Lot made his choice to move towards Sodom, that wicked city in the Jordan River valley. He has chosen what looks like the richest green grass. But actually, he is drifting closer to Sodom. As the events of chapter 14 unfold, we find him [vs.12] living in Sodom. He is no longer living in his tents. He has become a city man.

Why? Simply put, he was not walking by faith in God, but by sight. He chooses as his greatest priority his wealth. His family may have had something to do with this too. In chapter 19 we read about his wife and two engaged daughters, and their hearts are in Sodom. What are some possible attractions? Well, there are other young people there. There are marketplaces where you can buy the newest and latest fashions. There are the luxuries of a house in town versus a tent out in the fields. As long as they are enjoyed in a God-centered way, and measured by God's standards, they need not be all bad. But at what price do they come spiritually? What effect do they have on the hearts of the family of Lot?

Lot in choosing to live in Sodom establishes the direction, the drift of his life. You also are either growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, or you are slipping and sliding downwards. You can compare it to a rowboat in a river, without an anchor or rope to tie off somewhere. That boat is either heading upstream, or it is drifting downstream. This is how spiritual life works too. You are either making progress and growing, or you are slipping backwards.

Do you realize what you are doing when you make choices? When you choose your friends, your music, and how you entertain yourself? You might think it is no big deal. But your choices establish the drift in your life. I was once traveling with a group of young people to go on a hike at a camp. One young woman was talking in the back seat to her friends. It became very clear from her words that she loved to read the fashion magazines. These magazines don't just have articles about hair and makeup, but also about the lifestyles of the famous. At one point she said this to her friends “they don't have to work and they get to party.” They get to … – do you see how the grass of the life of Sodom seemed so much greener to her than a holy pure life devoted to God?

This applies just as much to men. You can be so caught up with the biggest and best, with a trophy wife – I didn't make that unfortunate expression up. You can be so caught up in a lifestyle of sports, hunting, fishing, whatever the case is, that your heart, soul, mind, and strength are focused there. You can be so focused on making a buck, or on what you can do with the buck you made, that you think more of your bank account than of your soul. You start to think young people just naturally have to sow a few wild oats. One young person told me that her uncle said to her, ‘You should just sow some wild oats while you are young. We all did. It is part of being young.’ So the advice is given, drink too much, go out with several people, not to think about marriage, but just to make out with someone. This is Lot's choice, to drift towards Sodom. Why spend so much time here again? Because the battle for the heart, seen in the small steps, is where the war of worldly compromise is won or lost in the long run.

Lot, this righteous man who believes in the God of Abraham, becomes inconsistent. On the one hand he grieves his righteous soul daily at the lifestyles around him. And on the other hand he moves closer to it. He buys a home in Sodom. But the Lord will not leave him to drift towards ruin unwarned. The Lord will make it crystal clear that Lot has chosen to live in tornado alley.

This warning came in the form of a battle in Genesis 14. There are five cities in the valley, including Sodom. Each of these cities has its own king. We should not think big and grand here. The kings of these cities were more like town mayors today. Each city had its own small army, for a smaller town consisting only of a few dozen armed men. Some larger cities tried to become empires and force other cities to pay taxes to them. For some years, the cities of the Jordan valley had been paying taxes to a king named Chedorlaomer. Then they rebelled. King Chedorlaomer decides to punish them. No one can defeat him.

The battle goes against the cities of the valley. Some of the kings fall into what the KJV calls slimepits, which were really tar pits. A few soldiers manage to escape by heading for the hills. The victorious kings entered the cities of the valley, and took everything valuable, including the people. They keep the women for their pleasure, and turn the men into slaves. Lot was also captured and taken off to be a slave.

What a devastating ruin of all his hopes and dreams! His flocks and herds, his money, his family, and his freedom are gone. Who would have thought it would end like this? Not Lot. He thought he made the smart choice, but now he loses it all. For all he knows at the moment, he has lost it all forever. And who will rescue him? No one in the whole area has been able to stand up to this Chedorlaomer. What a miserable few days this must have been for Lot.

Why is this happening? Someone will say, using worldly logic, it is just bad luck. Stuff happens. It's life. Tornados are an unfortunate fact of life. You just make the best of it and hope it does not happen to you. This is the world's reasoning. Lot has to have known better. God's Word makes sure you and I know better. Nothing happens by chance. Fruitful and barren years, riches and poverty, do not come by chance, but by God's design and direction.

God is solemnly warning Lot about the great dangers of his lifestyle. God is using severe discipline to call this man back from spiritual ruin. The prophets would later use wars, rumours of wars, famines, earthquakes, every bit of bad news to say things like this: “Seek the Lord! Turn from your wicked ways!” All these things are evidence of the wrath of God which rests on the sons of disobedience. God's voice is like the sirens that warn of approaching tornadoes. Danger, run while you can, take shelter before it is too late!

Today the Lord has the same warnings. When you see the news stories of the latest 'star' in our culture and notice the headlines about their broken marriages, their ugly family life, you are hearing the voice of God. When you read about wars and famines, you hear the voice of God in general. But God also has more personal and specific ways of warning people. As a young person you can get into a car accident that scares you. You can have sudden health concerns. Losses and crosses of various kinds can wake you out of your spiritual drowsiness to ask yourself, ‘What is God saying to me?’ He is saying, ‘The way you are living leads to death, to the total eternal loss of all the things you think are so precious now.’ It is the siren reminding you that you live in tornado alley because of your choices! Move before it is too late!

Such warnings to the compromiser and backslider are of course not the only reason such things happen. Such trials can also be used by God to keep you from drifting into the world more in the first place, to keep you living devoted to His glory in every choice and lifestyle decision you make.

God can also get your attention through the preaching or reading of His Word. He can in His providence pierce your soul with a powerful message from His Word that shakes you and makes you think soberly about your life. God grant that these sermons may be of such service to you!

What a blessing such warnings are! What evidence of God's goodness to warn us before the loss and ruin become permanent and eternal! Yes, even the severity of the Lord is gospel news. Remember Hebrews 13? My son, despise not the chastening, the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him, for whom the Lord loves, He chastens and scourges every son whom He receives! To make it clear to Lot that there is great goodness in such devastating warnings, the Lord surprises Lot again, but this time

II. Through an unexpected deliverance

One of the men who escaped from the capture of Sodom apparently knew the connection between Abram and Lot. Abram was living in the hill country, where he remained unnoticed by the invading armies who followed the line of the Jordan River.

What will Abram do now? The wisdom of this world would say, leave well enough alone. You are no warrior. Not even trained armies and warriors have been able to stand up to this Chedorlaomer. What chance do some shepherds have then? Don't make this mighty king your enemy. What is more, Lot is in this mess because of his own choices. That's what you get for choosing to live in Sodom.

As Lot's thoughts race through his mind, what did he expect from Abram? Probably not much. We are not told what Lot thought or said. We are simply told what happened. In spite of all that has happened, Abram still thinks of Lot. Not just as his nephew, but as his brother (vs. 16). In those days, if your family member ended up in slavery, you could redeem him either by money or by power. Abram decides to redeem Lot with the sword. So Abram gathered his men, along with the Amorites who were his allies, and they went after the raiders. They caught up with them during the night in a place called Dan, which was 175 kilometers over rough and hilly terrain.

One evening Lot is resting, grieving over his great losses, uncertain of the future. Suddenly the feasting of the victors is interrupted by an attack. Confusion results and the conquering armies suddenly run for their lives. Every person captured is rescued. Every item, whether cattle or money, is recovered too.

At some point that night or the next day, Lot came face to face with Abram. What went through his heart when he saw this uncle whom he had so selfishly taken advantage of, who in spite of it all had risked his own life to rescue his hard hearted nephew? Abram does not treat Lot as his sins deserve, but is full of the kindness and faithfulness of God towards him. Lot surely must have been humbled, and touched by the selfless love of Abram.

Children, let's say you have been selfish. You say something mean to someone in the neighbourhood while you are riding past on your bike. You say, ‘I got these two popsicles, and you don't get anything.’ And instead of calling you a name back, or hitting you, the other person is kind to you. Then your bike tips over, and you fall and are stuck under the bike. Instead of laughing at you and walking away, the person you hurt helps you up and makes sure you are okay. He runs inside to get a bandage and a drink for you, even though you were not willing to give him a popsicle. How would you feel? Isn't the first thing you would want to say not even thank you, but sorry?

What is God saying to Lot in this? God is saying that He is good. To quote 2 Timothy 2:13if we believe not [better translated, if we are unfaithful], yet he abideth [remains] faithful, he cannot deny himself.” God is faithful and good to Lot, even when Lot least deserves it. God aims to melt Lot's heart to repentance. God not only shows Lot that he is living in tornado alley by choosing Sodom, but also shows Lot that everything Lot needs the Lord will provide. ‘Lot, trust me. Seek first my kingdom and righteousness. Lay up for yourself treasures in heaven as a stranger and pilgrim on the earth, rather than treasures of earth which thieves take, rust breaks, and moths devours.’

God often shows amazing deliverance, an amazing second chance to those who are compromising backsliders, or even open rebels. To come back to the car accident again, perhaps the police officer who came to the scene says to you, ‘I don't know how you could walk away basically unharmed after something like this.’ Or perhaps somehow you missed getting hit by inches. Or the Lord in some other way gives you unexpected good news in the middle of your troubles. Or the Lord simply blesses you in spite of your compromising spirit. When you think of it, you realize just how beautiful Psalm 103 is: “He hath not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.”

Each of you, if honest, can find many ways in which the Lord has been good to you this week, and throughout your life. Do you hear what God is saying to you? Let His goodness lead you to repentance, and to live for His glory with your whole heart!

In order to press the point even more powerfully, God makes sure that Lot sees not just a stern warning, not just an amazing unexpected rescue, but God calls Lot also

III. Through a powerful example

The whole rescued procession is traveling back to the valley of the Jordan. News of the daring rescue has spread. Abram passes what will later be known as Jerusalem. The king of that place, Melchizedek, comes out to see Abram. This Melchizedek is a priest and king, serving the one true God. In the middle of the darkness of Canaan, and the ugliness of Sodom, there is one more man who serves the one true living God faithfully. Melchizedek comes to meet Abram with bread and wine. Bread was seen back then as the strength of life, and wine as the joy of life.

Melchizedek also blesses Abram in the name of God. But Melchizedek uses a unique name for God. He calls God the possessor of heaven and earth! The one who owns everything! This one God now refreshes Abram's strength and gives Abram new joy.

Melchizedek also blesses God. That is, he praises God and gives God the glory for what has happened. What a beautiful exchange. Abram gets strength and joy from the possessor of heaven and earth. And in so doing, Abram is led by this priest to make sure all the glory is God's. Seen by the nations around him, Abram is a hero. But seen in light of God's hand in it all, Abram owes God the glory of it all. That is why Abram tithes to this priest of God, and in so doing, to God himself.

Who is this Melchizedek? He is a picture of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. He is a picture of the very Messiah which God will bring from the children of Abram! This is His work as highpriest too, to make sure that the blessings and treasures of the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, flow to His people. And to make sure that the glory of every good thing seen in and done by His people flows back to God. Melchizedek is only the picture, but Jesus Christ is the reality represented in the picture. Jesus Christ also hands out bread and wine for the strengthening and refreshing of His people. Bread and wine that represent his shed blood and broken body on the cross.

Lot needed to see this blessedness of the people of God. Lot expected great things from Sodom, and he could have lost everything. But Lot needs to learn to expect his great things from God most high, the possessor of heaven and earth.

This is what the worldly minded compromiser needs – to see God as the one from whom all blessings flow, real blessings that are greater than anything this world can offer you. I ask you, ‘Compromiser, have you never seen the glory of God most high, the possessor of heaven and earth, in how He provides for His people? How He makes his people a blessing to others?’ It is not the worldly compromiser who makes the nations see the glory of God. It is the grace and truth of God in Jesus Christ flowing over in the lives of His saints that leads to great things in this world!

The second part of the example Lot sees in Abram's victory itself. Abram has been walking around Canaan with the promise of God that the whole land is his. Who really saw this? The people of the land saw only a shepherd in tents, using their fields to graze his herds. Lot himself lost sight of this.

But God shows a glimpse of the future – Abram will inherit this land, and he acts as king in this land now, by faith, with royal power and generous love and faithfulness. In the life of Jesus on earth in his humiliation, God pulled back the curtain for a moment and showed the glory of the Savior on the mount of transfiguration. So God pulls back the curtain for a moment and shows Abram and the world the glory of the inheritance to come – Christ in you, the hope of glory, the New Testament would later call it. God loves to give glimpses of reality, especially in moments when His children walk by faith!

The third part of the example Lot sees is Abram's utter rejection of the king of Sodom. The king of Sodom comes up to Abram with what seems like a generous offer, but is really just a political game. According to the customs of those times, Abram was now the conquering king. Abram could now ask for taxes from Sodom, and to some degree influence and rule over Sodom. What a chance! Abram can possess the land right away! That is what the king of Sodom fears. So he thinks to buy off Abram now by telling him, ‘You keep all the money and treasures you brought back.’ How tempting! Abram, now you don't have to wait, you don't have to walk by faith!

Isn't this the very temptation Lot faced and failed? Lot decided to move towards Sodom, because of its wealth. Lot ended up living in Sodom. Now the very riches Lot wanted is offered freely to Abram for nothing!

But Abram wants nothing to do with this. He answers by swearing in the name of God. Notice vs. 22, “I have lifted up mine hand [what you did then in taking an oath] unto the LORD, the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth that I will not take from thee a thread even to a shoe-latchet (shoelace we would say today), lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.” You see, if the king of Sodom could say, ‘I made Abram rich’, then that would come with obligations. Abram would get sucked into Sodom after all. Abram does not want this. Abram will not compromise the glory of God or the safety of his own soul for such piddly treasures. For his God is the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth. He needs nothing from Sodom. He wants nothing to do with Sodom. That is the way you and I are called to live too.

Don't we see the glory of Jesus Christ here again? There came a time when the devil took Jesus Christ to a high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of this world. He said, ‘Just bow the knee to me, and all this is yours. No need to walk by faith, no need to suffer. Here it is – free for the taking!’ But Jesus Christ rejected that temptation too and chose the cross. Again, Abram does not just look ahead by faith to Christ's day to rejoice, but Christ is seen ahead of time in Abram too. As He is in all those who live close to him and love His glory.

What an example to Lot! This was precisely the example Lot needed to turn from life in Sodom and to become a pilgrim again by renewed faith in the Lord his God. What did Lot think at that moment? We are not told what he thought. We are told what Lot did. Lot went back to Sodom, where we will find him again in Genesis 19. The warning of a devastating loss fell on deaf ears. The mercy of an unexpected deliverance did not melt his heart enough to lead to repentance. The power of Christ seen ahead of time in the example of Abram did not move Lot enough to change his ways. Lot decided to rebuild in tornado alley.

Why not repent? The answer is simple. Pride, not wanting to admit you were wrong in the first place. Greed, thinking this world does have treasure worth pursuing now, worth compromising godliness to get and to enjoy. And distrust of God, as if the riches the possessor of heaven and earth can give are too cheap to deny yourself for now in this world.

What about you? Maybe you have some corn cobs of religion, a form of godliness that denies it power, but in your heart you are a stranger to the living God. Maybe you have been warned by God, rescued by God, and given powerful examples. You have seen the glory of Jesus Christ in their lives. But you choose to live a compromising life yourself. Oh, wake up! Before it is too late! The wrath of God against sin is a danger far greater and far more certain than tornadoes in tornado alley. Repent and believe the gospel!

Or maybe you, like Lot, have believed in the Lord. But you don't live a decided life of holiness as a pilgrim. You want one foot in Sodom and one foot in the church. You want to live partly by faith, and partly by sight. But God won't let you do so unwarned. Let His goodness, His generosity as the possessor of heaven and earth who gives His eternal riches, melt your heart. Not just to confess your sins, but to confess and forsake them, and find mercy in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Pastor Eric Moerdyk

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