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Tuesday, 01 January 2013 11:02

Lot [3]

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Dear listeners one of the touristy attractions of southern Ontario is the Niagara waterfalls. There is also a museum where you can watch a short video about the history of the falls. One section of that film is about a father and two children fishing in a small boat in the river above the falls. The motor conked out, and the father could not get it started again. The boat began to drift towards the falls. It is always a gripping moment. The father works more and more frantically, but without success.

This boat was swept over the edge in the torrent of water. The little girl managed to grab a rope thrown from shore at the last moment before the boat was swept off the edge. The little boy was rescued alive by the tourist boats down below. His life jacket popped him to the surface just in time. The father did not make it. The story is both amazing and gut wrenching isn't it.

The part of Lot's story we consider today has two elements. On the one hand a story of stunning danger and stunning rescue. On the other hand the foolhardiness of throwing yourself over the edge so to speak which you taste in Lot's choice, Lot’s returning to Sodom after he was warned by God, and Lot's wavering reluctance to be rescued by God when Sodom was destroyed.

What sparkles most of all in this story is the amazing mercy of the Lord, who saves Lot in spite of himself, who magnifies His mercy for such a man. That is why the theme of this sermon must not focus on Lot, but on the God of Lot:

Theme: the Lord delivers Lot with amazing mercy

I. Timely mercy for a blunderer

II. Hastening mercy for a lingerer

III. Magnified mercy for a waverer

The Lord has hinted to Lot of the complete destruction that will swallow up the city of Sodom because it is extra ordinarily wicked before God. The end of Sodom is near. Two angels are sent to investigate. They walk into the gates of Sodom as the sun is setting, looking like ordinary travelers. The gate was the most important place in city life. The town market was often right by the gate. Business deals haggled in the market were finalized in the gate. The town elders sat there. They were a combination of what we today call town councilors, judges, and police. The gate was large, in some cases as large as a foyer outside the sanctuary in a church. It had benches around the wall. The elders would sit there at sunrise and sunset. If you wanted to finalize a business deal, have your receipt notarized, or have a dispute mediated, you would grab some of the elders to settle the matter.

When we read of Lot sitting in the gate of Sodom, we see him in a position of authority and honour in Sodom. The rich man with a town house is a town counselor. It seems like his compromising worldly spirit has been blessed after all! It seems like he really is influencing the world for good. Isn't this the excuse the compromising Christian always grabs for? You have to be like the world to influence the world. But was Lot really a witness to them? Did his witness change them or did their lifestyle infect and influence him?

Let's see. The two angels enter by the city gates. Lot sees them and acts just as righteously as Abraham did in the previous chapter. In Genesis 18, Abraham saw what looked like strangers and asked them to sit in the shade while he ran off to prepare a meal for them. In Genesis 19, Lot is also a hospitable man. He bows with his face to the ground, a way back then of showing respect, like calling a stranger sir today. He urges them in vs. 2 to stay at his house. So Lot did say and do righteous things in the very gates of Sodom! Maybe his witness will work.

Why so eager to have these strangers? Well, the strangers say that they want to spend the night in the city streets. Lot knows Sodom well enough to know that this is the last place strangers should be at night. So we read in vs. 3, Lot presses upon them greatly. This word should be translated: he forces them. Lot wants them out of sight, and gone as early in the morning as possible.

What happens after supper tells us what the men of Sodom were like. All the men of the city, young and old, surround the house. They shout to Lot, ‘Bring out those men who came into your house today. We want to know them.’ They are not simply being friendly. They use the same word in the Hebrew that is used to describe the loving physical relationship of a husband and wife. But this use of the word know is anything but loving. These men want to engage in homosexual gang rape of these strangers. In a healthy culture, homosexual behaviour happens in secret and is seen as a shame. In Sodom it is trumpeted in the streets shamelessly as normal.

Our culture is heading in this direction too, step by step. It began with people thinking that there is no right or wrong use of their bodies when it comes to physical pleasure. Then comes people openly living together and committing adultery. Then homosexuality comes out of the closet. Then the gay pride parades with naked men sitting on floats actually engaging in Sodomite behaviour come to town.

But we are not going to focus on homosexuality, nor on the saving hope of the gospel for homosexuals too. We need to see today the mercy of God to Lot. Lot hears the shouting ugly crowd. He knows they do this to strangers, but apparently they have never come knocking on the door of his house before. So he goes out to try to reason with them. He tries to approach them as one of them, calling them brothers. He tells them, ‘Don’t be so wicked.’ Brave Lot trying to do the best he can.

What happens next makes it clear that Sodom has influenced Lot more than Lot has influenced them. For Lot makes one of the most shameful disgusting offers in all of Scripture. He offers to give them his two virgin daughters to rape instead of the two strangers. Calvin hits the nail on the head: as a father, you would rather die a thousand deaths yourself than do something like this.

Why did Lot do it? You need to realize just how highly hospitality was valued in that culture. I once read in a magazine about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. The reason he was able to hide among the tribes of Pakistan was their fanatical view of hospitality. One man said this: ‘if your worst enemy comes to your door and asks for hospitality, you must give it. You must feed him and protect him. If anyone tries to capture or harm him while he is in your home, you must defend him at all costs, even if you have to shoot your own brother to defend him.’ This is a twisted warped view of hospitality. Hospitality is commanded by God in many places. But not at this cost. Lot in his desperation grabs at the first possible compromise that comes to mind. But it is an evil as great as the one he tries to prevent. Sodom is influencing Lot, but Lot has not influenced them!

Lot was in this position because of his compromising spirit in the first place. Sin has a way of putting you into impossible dilemmas. Too late you say to yourself, ‘How did I ever get myself into this mess, and how can I ever get out.’ It can happen in so many ways. You start to cheat on your taxes because everyone else is doing it and you have to do it to get ahead. You can cut the corners on truth and right to make a profit. You can get drunk once too often and suddenly find yourself saying and doing things you never thought you would 10 years ago. You can listen to music where the lyrics are about lust and violence and think you are just doing it for the tunes, but the words start to stick in your head and water down your convictions. Sinful compromise is a slippery slope that always leads you lower than you first thought.

We hear Lot offer his daughters to the mob and we shudder and say, ‘I can't imagine thinking this let alone doing it.’ But let's not cluck our tongues too loudly. There are ways in which you and I can start to step in this direction. For example, there are mothers in conservative churches who put their daughters on birth control pills when they turn 15, to prevent an embarrassing unwanted pregnancy. You are not offering them to the mob, but you are offering them to individuals and are basically saying, ‘It is okay to be sexually active before marriage.

Or you allow your teenage daughters to dress in a provocative sensual way, with low cut blouses, tight clothes, or short skirts. The world tells us why they design clothing this way – to stir up lust. So basically you are offering your girls up to the mob to be lusted over. It is doubly sin – sinful of the men to lust, sinful of the people who offer themselves or their children up to be lusted over. It is taking some of the same steps as Lot. You need to be shocked at yourself!

The men of Sodom respond in a way that makes it clear they can't stand Lot. They say this fellow, this thing better translated, came in to stay a while and now thinks he is the judge. Call sin in any form what it is, and you are told, don't judge. The world hates the compromiser. They pretend to accept you more than the consistently holy Christian. But in the end they don't tolerate or accept anyone who is not willing to compromise with them all the way. So they threaten to rape Lot instead and to do even worse, presumably to kill him. This is how it often goes with a compromising spirit of worldliness. The deadly danger is not taken to heart until it is too late.

Then God steps in to deliver this blunderer with timely mercy. The ugly crowd closes in around him, to grab him. But the angels pull Lot inside at the last moment. They shut the door, and strike the crowd with blindness. As we hear Lot offering his daughters to this lustful mob, we don't feel he deserves a whole lot. But God delivers him in mercy. How great the mercy of God is!

The compromising child of God has to say the same thing, right? Your sin and compromise and inconsistency gets you into trouble – trouble you deserve to be in. And yet the Lord has mercy on you. He rescues you. What a great mercy! The mercy continues to pile up in this chapter as we see in our second point the Lord's:

II. hastening mercy for a lingerer

It is crystal clear that Sodom is so wicked it can no longer remain on earth. God will summon these wicked perverts to His judgment seat immediately. The two angels turn to Lot and ask him in vs. 12, ‘Do you have any family members that belong to you? All your children and even your sons in law, bring them out. We will destroy this place in the name of the Lord!’

What a mercy this is too! Lot is the only righteous person in all of Sodom. His family, his daughters, his wife, his sons in law are all Sodomites in heart. Yet God does not sweep them away with the rest of the city, at least, not right away. They are given special gospel warnings. They are given special gospel promises. They have a chance that the rest of the city never got.

Here we see the covenantal mercy of God. Yes Abraham is the one with whom God made the covenant of grace, and yet, everyone who believes in Old Testament or New Testament receives special privileges and opportunities for his entire family.

Maybe you are hard hearted. You are more like Lot's wife and daughters than like Lot. Yet the Lord gives you special warnings and promises above and beyond what he gives the Sodomite world in which we live.

Lot knocks on the door of the two young men engaged to marry his daughters. He tells them, ‘Get up, we have to leave Sodom now. The Lord is about to destroy this place.’ But the two boys do not take Lot seriously. Now on the one hand this is what every unrepentant sinner does. You try to pretend that it is a long ways away, and that it is no real danger to you today. Otherwise you could not sin comfortably.

But on the other hand, it again highlights for us just what a poor witness a compromising Christian is. Lot apparently had never spoken seriously with his sons in law about the wrath of God against sin. So now when he finally does, they think Lot is just playing a crazy practical joke. Lot had at times warned people about their wickedness, like he did the men who came demanding to rape his guests. But he is more concerned to be positive. People like Lot who compromise have a warped view of love. They are so afraid of being thought critical or narrow-minded, that they run to the opposite extreme.

Compromisers like Lot also shrink back from self denial and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. They are uncomfortable with the call of God to deny yourself, to take up your cross, to follow the master. They spend their lives trying to make the gate a little wider, and the way a little less narrow, and the cross a little lighter.

Lot's lifestyle also is against him. The people in your home know you better than anyone else. They have seen that Lot idolizes wealth. So now when Lot warns of judgment, these boys don't take him seriously, because his own testimony is inconsistent. He lives for the riches of Sodom, even if he does not approve of the manners of Sodom.

Lot walks back home alone. No one will listen to him. In his discouragement, he sits still instead of running away. The morning begins to dawn [vs.15] and we read there, the angels have to hasten him. They say to him, ‘Hurry, you are in danger. Don't sit there, get up, grab your family, get out of here. Otherwise you will be consumed in the iniquity of this city too! Run!’

But Lot lingers. Children, you linger sometimes, right? You are playing happily, and then your mother wants to go grocery shopping. She tells you to put your coat and shoes on, but you linger. You keep playing, because your heart is set on your toys, not on sitting in the car. Lot's heart is in Sodom. Yes, this is how far even a righteous child of God can sink. You are like a moth that flutters closer and closer to the candle’s flame.

J.C. Ryle in a powerful sermon on Lot says that this one word summarizes his whole life – he lingers. Let me paraphrase Ryle here: “There are many real children of God who appear to know far more than they live up to. They admit Christ is Lord, they love the truth, they like sound preaching. But something is missing. They are constantly disappointing the hopes of their more godly friends, their pastors. They believe in heaven, and do long for it faintly. They hate the devil and his work, but often seem to tempt him to come to them.

They know the time is short, but they live as if it is long. They know they have a spiritual battle to fight, but looking at them, it is hard to see that they are fighting it. They admit holiness is important and beautiful. They admire it in others. But they don't think they need to aim so high. They say, well my father or grandmother was like this too, and I don't think I can change.”

But what mercy God shows to such a lingerer! The angels in vs.16 literally take him by the hand, along with his wife and daughters, and half drag them out of the house, away from the city. Escape for your life! We are told God's motive in these beautiful words: the Lord being merciful unto him. This is not the normal word for mercy in the Hebrew. It is a much stronger word that is almost impossible to translate. A good translation would be compassion, a heart that is overwhelmed with tender concern and pity. God feels for Lot, the Lord's whole heart is stirred to rescue this compromising backsliding inconsistent Lot on whom He has set his love. We see in Lot a disturbing picture of our own hearts. But what compassionate loving mercy we see pouring out from the heart of God for Lot! The Lord gets rough in His mercy, with a holy beautiful roughness.

O lingerer, young or older, God grant that I may perform for you the same service shown to Lot by these two angels. I long to grab you by the hand so to speak and pull you away from your fatal attraction to sin and this world. The urgency of judgment moves me. The compassionate mercy of God fills me. Escape for your life's sake lest you be caught up in the ruin of our culture which has been given over to evil lusts. Just read Romans 1. The outcry of our wickedness is reaching heaven. Such a culture and world cannot long remain unpunished by God. Escape for your life!

Why do you flutter around it as if there is something worth lingering for? See the amazing hastening mercy of God sparkle in these pages! Let this mercy melt your heart and open your eyes. This is the God whom you grieve and resist with your lingering. The sin that is in you will self destruct your life if you compromise with it.

Some of you, though believers, have been living lingering. Do you see why there are still blessings in your life? Because God has had merciful compassion on you. He may let you sink far and choose compromise. But He does not let you destroy yourself completely. In merciful compassion, He has stepped in time and time again. This is why in spite of your lingering, you are not utterly ruined or lost. Good thing too – if it depended on us, every Lot would die in Sodom. This is the hope of our times – that God is like this, great in mercy!

Do you remember the words from 2 Peter 2:9, where we learned Lot was a righteous man? The application made there is this: The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations. The Lord is skilled in delivering His people in the middle of Sodom. What a God! What a salvation! Do you fear the times in which you live? Do you fear the lingering that seeps out of your own heart? Behold your God! He is merciful, meaning willing. In His hands, you are totally safe! So serve Him not by lingering, but by His grace and Spirit, in holiness.

There is a hand of mercy reaching for you! So much so that we see God's mercy not just as timely mercy and hastening mercy, but lastly

III. Magnified mercy for a waverer

Lot is told, ‘Escape, don't look back, don't stay in the valley. Go to the mountain.’ But Lot still stands there. He argues with the messengers of God in vs. 19. ‘Oh not so, my Lord. Behold now thy servant has found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy which thou hast showed unto me in saving my life, and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me and I die. Behold now this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one. O let me escape there, and my soul shall live.’ O Lot, will you never learn? Don't argue, listen. Don't just stand there, run. Don't try to stay as close as possible to the flames without getting burned. Run!

You see the self-centeredness drip from Lot's prayers. The more you compromise, you feed the beast of selfishness and it grows larger and larger, and the new man made by God's grace becomes weak and whispering. When Abraham prays in chapter 18, he speaks of himself as dust and ashes before the Lord and chooses his words carefully. Yet Abraham boldly pleads the glory of God. When Lot prays, it drips with ‘poor me’. Not thy will, but my will be done. Are there more prayers like Lot's than Abraham's?

Now we can shake our heads at Lot, but look in the mirror. You and I say, ‘But surely I can still compromise with sin a little. This one is not so bad. It is a little one.’ But it is part of the cities of the plain that God will destroy! Lot makes up imaginary dangers, as if the hills where Abraham lives blessed by God are somehow more dangerous than the valley cursed by God.

And yet what beautiful things again are revealed about God here. Did Lot stop to think what he said? ‘Behold, thy servant has found grace in thy sight.’ The word grace means giving the hell-deserving what they don't deserve – forgiveness of sin. Yes, the inexcusable and unacceptable can be forgiven! God saves sinners! Grace means much more than forgiveness. It means being saved from yourself, in spite of yourself.

The other beautiful word used in vs. 19 is this: thou hast magnified thy mercy. The word mercy is one Hebrew word everyone should know – the word ‘gesed’. It is such a rich word that it is often translated with a whole bunch of English words; in some places loving-kindness, in other places covenant love. In still other places loyal faithful love. This is what motivates God to save as He does, even and also His Lots.

Why? Because that is who God is! Seeing God as He is, that is the cure for lingering. We see this mercy magnified the most in Jesus Christ. Lot wanted a city of refuge. It was a fleshly city that did him no good. God has provided a city of refuge that does a sinner all good – Jesus Christ! Lot was told to go to the mountains. One of those mountains is now known to us as Mount Calvary, where the prince of glory died. He came down for sinners, even for lingerers. There the wrath of God that Sodomites deserve, that lingerers deserve, was poured out on Him in full. He paid the price, so that He now shows mercy in God's name to sinners, to all who come to God through Him. He is the one sent by God to seek and save the lost. He is God's mercy magnified, made great! How great is God's compassionate mercy? How great is His grace? How much can His loving kindness be magnified? The answer is and will always be – Jesus Christ crucified!

Lot's whiney argumentative question was obnoxious. But it highlights the grace of God in Jesus Christ. God says to him in vs. 21, ‘See I have accepted thee concerning this also. Poor Lot was probably going through post traumatic stress disorder as we call it today. He was almost raped and murdered. He is about to loose everything. God has compassion for this man even though he is in a mess of his own making.

O people of God, especially you lingerers. I am not going to urge you or rebuke you any more today. I am simply going to say to you. ‘Behold your God! Magnify His mercy!’

What a God and Savior! Lot is now saved to sin no more. The whiney self-centered compromising spirit that too often infected this righteous man is forever gone. He stands with a whole crowd around the throne of Jesus Christ now. Listen to what he sings there with the multitude! Worthy is the lamb that was slain, who redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive honour and glory. Amen.

Pastor Eric Moerdyk


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