Monday, 14 January 2013 10:27

LOT[5]

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Dear listeners, once while walking out of a store, I overheard a teenager talking about his vacation with his parents. It was only with great difficulty that they persuaded him to go along. He was very upfront about why he didn't want to go. He said, and I quote, “if there are no girls and no beer, I am going back home even if I have to walk the whole way.” That summarizes the youth culture of our times, doesn't it? This was also the culture of Sodom.

This brings us to the last verses Genesis records about the life of Lot. At first glance there is not much here for us. What human hand would ever put such things in the Bible? It makes us uncomfortable to read them in public, especially when our children are with us.

To use an unhappy comparison, it reads like the tabloid papers in the stands by the cash registers in the grocery stores. I have never been tempted to buy one or read one. I can't help but from time to time, when standing in line, noticing the headlines. It is all about scandals in the families of the rich, famous, and powerful, with salacious details and colour photographs.

Our text reads like headlines in a tabloid. Who goes to church to get served up a tabloid? Where is the good news in this? It is tempting to skip it until you realize how unlike the tabloids it really is. Unlike the tabloids, we are not told every detail or given colour pictures. The truth is told, but not in a sensational way. There is good news in this very passage. Our theme is

Lot's end - from incest to Christ

I. Abounding sin

II. Superabounding grace

Lot was in the gate of Zoar, having been rescued by the magnified mercy of God. He has lost everything he set his heart on. He has lost his home, his riches, and also his wife. The cost of his lingering, compromising, worldly attitude has been devastating. Here in the last words recorded in Genesis about this sad life we see the full and final price tag of his sin. His life stands as a warning beacon of what happens when you pursue a compromised lifestyle by sight, rather than a holy lifestyle by faith.

And yet, this is not a hopeless warning. Sin does not have the last word in the life of Lot like it does in the life of Lot's daughters. We read in 2 Peter 2 that Lot was in the end saved by the grace of God. Lot is a monument to the capable, powerful redeeming grace of God. He is living proof of mercy magnified! We need to hear the final warning of this series with this magnified mercy in mind.

Verse 30 tells us that Lot did not stay in Zoar very long. He had pleaded to be allowed to go to Zoar instead of to the mountains as commanded by God. He still wanted the city life that he lusted after, even in the face of God's judgment. He wanted to simply downsize when what was needed was a total change of direction. But once the fire and brimstone came down on Sodom and the other cities of the valley, Lot was uncomfortable in Zoar too. Verse 30 says he feared to dwell in Zoar. Lot has finally had enough of wicked cities to last him a lifetime.

But one thing Lot is not cured of is his pride. In telling him to live in the mountains, the angels are all but telling him to go back to Abraham. Knowing Abraham, Lot would have been well looked after. But this was too much for Lot. Why? One possible reason is he was ashamed of having to admit he made the wrong choice. He was ashamed to have to admit that he ignored the mercy shown by Abraham in rescuing him from captivity. But this shame, though it seems to be humble, is really pride. What a plague such pride can be!

O Lot, go back to your uncle. Say goodbye to everything and go where you can gain truth, godly friends, and the pure worship. Abraham has not lost anything. Lot, are you mature and wise enough now to admit you have been wrong? If you won't do it for your own sake, then at least do it for the sake of your girls.

And you? Are you mature and wise enough to admit you are wrong? Perhaps this series has really gotten your attention. The Lord has used it to convict you of patterns and choices in your life that must change. Are you just trying to downsize your behaviour, or are you breaking off radically with a change of direction?

I can think of several examples in my ministry where families were devastated by sin made visible in a sudden catastrophe and collapse. The warning signs are ignored until disaster strikes. That is the way it usually is with worldliness. It is so easy at such moments to say as parents it is not our fault our family has collapsed the way it has. And yet, we need to humble ourselves and face up to our own sins. And to say, my family members just upsized what I tried to keep downsized. The sins of my children are in some ways the children of my sins.

Lot leaves Zoar, and heads up into the mountains. He decides to become a hermit, living by himself in a cave with only his two daughters as neighbours. Now we need to remove any appearance of adventure or good times from our evaluation of this cave. Cave dwelling is about as low as you can get. Don't think of the caves you visit on vacation, complete with a tour guide, electric lights, and ice cream in the gift shop. Think of a damp, lonely place without a door and with little light beyond what you can bring in. Think of musty air, mold, bats, rats, roaches, and wild animals. Yes, he choose this rather than to rejoin Abraham.

How Lot's daughters must have resented this great change. They went from being city dwellers to cave dwellers. There used to be other young people to hang out with. Now they are stuck with their old gloomy father. They went from wealth to great poverty, from being engaged to being single and lonely. Their hopes of families of their own are fading. Their biological clock is ticking. So one day the two girls have a heart to heart sisterly chat. And then as you listen to them talk, you realize, you can take the girls out of Sodom, but that does not mean you have taken Sodom out of the girls.

Their chat is typically Sodomite. It is all about me, me, me. Give me what I want, now. I don't want to wait. God is irrelevant. They don't even speak of love and marriage. They speak crudely as if they were animals, thinking only of a man to come in unto them. That is how you talk about a bull in a feedlot, not about people made in the image of God. The only male they see is poor old dad. So in a real Sodomite trick, they say, ‘Let's seduce our father so we can preserve seed for him’, that is, have children from and for him. This is a disgusting but also very rare form of incest.

Now why did these girls do such a wicked and disgusting thing? When a man abuses someone, it is usually an act of lust and twisted desire. When a woman abuses someone, it is usually an act of power, that is, a way of getting something else that you want. In this case the daughters want children.

Why was this so important to them? Besides the obvious fact that God places motherly desires and instincts in a woman, you have to understand Canaanite culture here. They believed that the only way to live forever was through your children after you. They also wanted children because this was the pension system in those days. Your children would look after you in your old age. And they would ensure you got a proper burial, rather than having your body thrown in the garbage dump. So to sum it up, they wanted children to live forever, and to take care of them.

They wanted these things so badly that they are willing to exaggerate in their impatience. There is not a man in the earth, they say, who can give us children. This is not true and they know it. They just left Zoar. There are other cities and villages in the land. But they want children now. They are not willing to wait, or to trust in God.

Here Genesis 19 is meant to be a sharp contrast to Abraham and Sarah, who also waited for children.Yes, Abraham and Sarah had also become impatient. Sarah had given Hagar, her servant, to Abraham as a surrogate mother. See, there is nothing new under the sun. But they had been rebuked by God and had seen what a disaster this was. They instead wait on the Lord, believing that He will provide for them as He has promised.

But these two Sodomite daughters of Lot refuse to do so. They had every reason to do so. They had been rescued by angels, and led out of the city. They had a godly father who, though weak and compromising, did still daily grieve over sin and love righteousness. But all of this did nothing to them. They choose to take matters into their own hands.

Isn't this the youth culture of our times? Sex, drugs, rock and roll. Get what you want now. No self control, if you want it just do it. It is a dirty world, full of me, want, and now. Full of heartbreak and sickening consequences that hit you not all at once, but with increasing weight. You have heard of compounding interest in the banks, of interest piling up and adding up? Sin like this comes with compounding interest of shame, hardheartedness, emptiness, loneliness, and wretchedness.

Young people, hear me now. Honesty forces me to speak very plainly to you. What are you like? Are you children of our times, or children of the living God? Do you think of your youth as your own? Do you think your body, your weekends, your time is yours to do with what you please? Do you think only of what you want, and not of the big picture of this life and the life to come? Do you tempt others to join you and slide down the slippery slope with you?

If so, then you are already sliding down the slippery slope of Sodomite behaviour. This way of living leads to the gutter, to making the unthinkable normal. Our Sodomite culture reveals its pleasure hungry madness in so many ways. In the weekend of partying and in the sensual revealing dress, music, entertainment, and advertising. It is about getting what you want now, of dragging others into the gutter with you. So when your pastor or parents still warn you about all these things, it is not because we are uptight and old fashioned and just need to relax and live in the modern world. It is because we care about your spiritual wellbeing.

Now a plain word to parents. The sins of Lot’s daughters are the children of Lot's sins. They knew Lot would never agree to incest. But they know a way around his conscience. They make him drunk. They make sure that at the supper table his wine glass is always full. They urge him to drain the glass again and again until Lot is in a drunken haze where he hardly knows what is going on anymore. Now they could only do this if Lot had an occasional problem with drinking too much. It cannot have been a constant pattern because the New Testament tells us that no unrepentant drunkard will inherit the kingdom of God. If you are regularly getting drunk, you are not a Christian. Yet Lot from time to time fell into this sin, and his daughters knew it. Otherwise they never could have persuaded him to drink too much two nights in a row.

Do you see the great problem with alcohol? When you drink too much, your sense of right and wrong fades. You say and do things while under the influence that you would never do while sober. Yes, it makes you feel good for the moment. It gives a sense of joy and pleasure. It loosens your tongue and makes you forget your worries. At least for the moment. But at what price? To quote Proverbs, your eyes will look at strange women, and your mouth will say perverse things., You become a fool. You say, I was beaten up but I don't feel it. Let's go do it again next weekend. Nothing good ever happens while you are drunk.

Young people again, one more thing about alcohol. If you make a habit of drinking too much, you will get into trouble. You open yourself up to being violated by others sexually. You say and do things that harden your heart and shatter your life in the long run.

Why is the Bible so insistent about this? Because alcohol abuse is Satan's counterfeit of the work of the Holy Spirit. This is why Ephesians 5:18 puts it like this: “and be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit.” God has created us to find joy only in Him. His Holy Spirit living in your heart gives joy without a hangover, peace without a rude awakening, and pleasure without regret. But Satan's substitute of drunkenness is a sickening counterfeit copy of the Holy Spirit's work. There is no such thing as an innocent drunk. It is a denial of, an abuse of, a slander of the Holy Spirit. It is making spirits in a bottle your substitute Holy Spirit.

What a shameful awakening Lot had when he discovered that his two daughters were pregnant and that he was the father of their children. You see, these girls had forgotten how to blush. One names her boy, son of my father, and the other, son of my relative. These two boys become the father of two nations, Moab and Ammon.

What an agony this caused Lot. But how his own sins are visited on his head too. He had shouted to the screaming lustful mob outside his house, ‘take my daughters and violate them rather than my guests’. Now his daughters violate him. Lot fell into the occasional sin of drunkenness. His daughters simply upsize what he has tried unsuccessfully to keep downsized. If he had just learned self control as the fruit of the Holy Spirit, this would never have happened. If he had sought his help in the Holy Spirit rather than in spirits, he would not have to live with his shame like he does now.

Parents, do you complain about your young people? First stop and get honest with yourself. Perhaps a couple of your kids drink too much. Did they learn it from you? If so, then why are you surprised and shocked at their behaviour? Mothers, do you read the fashion magazines and tell yourself you do it just for ideas about clothing and your appearance? Then don't be surprised if your daughter reads and acts out the articles in there about living the Sodomite life.

These are the final words about the life of Lot in the book of Genesis. Scripture is silent here on purpose. There is no great testimony from Lot recorded. He goes out like a flashlight with the batteries used up rather than like a bright light. Lingerers like Lot reap what they sow. They reach heaven, but in poor condition.

Someone may want to say, ‘Where is the good news in this? Where is the grace in this? How do we move from drunken incest to Jesus Christ?’ Perhaps you ask this because these warnings strike uncomfortably close to home or perhaps because, like Lot, you have been violated by others whether by incest in your home or being taken advantage of while drunk. This message so far makes you nearly despair. But you need to see how this text moves from incest to Christ. We don't just see abounding sin here. We must see abounding grace here, grace that abounds more than sin.

ll. Super abounding grace

We see the grace of God in many ways actually. First of all, the warnings themselves are evidence of the goodness of God. Isn't it goodness when a power line that could kill the careless has warning signs on it? Isn't it goodness when a fence keeps you from getting too close to the waterfall? If there were no other grace, hope, or kindness in this passage, this would already be magnified kindness!

But there is far more super abounding grace to be traced from this text. Not just preventative kindness, but redeeming kindness. Can any thing good come from the tabloid scenes of this cave? The hint is found in one little word, the word Moab. Centuries after this tragic scene, there was a young woman from Moab who turns her back on her people and her gods. She comes to the Promised Land with a despairing child of Abraham to serve the God of Abraham. She says to her mother-in-law, ‘Your people will be my people and your God my God.’ Her name was Ruth, a child born of this unholy ugly union between Lot and his daughter. Ruth's great grandson was a man named David. He had the blood of this Moabite woman in his veins, going back to Lot and his daughter.

In the fullness of time, the great son of David came into this world – Jesus Christ the Savior who saves sinners from themselves, from their misery, shame, brokenness, and every fear and need. You can go back through the umbilical cord of Jesus Christ himself to this cave with its ugly scenes, to Lot and his daughters. Jesus Christ is born a child of that union in that cave.

Doesn't it tell you that there is hope for sinners? Jesus Christ is able to save the worst and the vilest. He is made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and yet without sin through the work of the Holy Spirit. He is a holy child, and yet is not ashamed of His DNA. He is the friend of sinners. Our society today would say to the pregnant daughters of Lot, ‘Abort the fruit that comes from such a shameful sick act.’ Yet from it comes Moab, David, Jesus Christ. He shed His blood on the cross so that the guilty can be made righteous, so that the shamed and stained can be made pure again!

There is mercy for the chief of sinners who runs from his sin and finds forgiveness in the perfect finished work of Jesus Christ. You can be the daughter of a righteous man and fall as deep as a woman can fall, but lower still is grace for the chief of sinners. You can be the son of a righteous man and plunge into the gutter and do the unthinkable. But there is grace also for someone like you. Here with open arms the Savior, Jesus Christ, welcomes the lowest of the low to return to Him. God is not ashamed to be called the God of Lot. Jesus Christ is not ashamed to be known as the descendant also of Lot.

One of the most beautiful examples I ran across in studying for this sermon was a wonderful poem of Charles Wesley that was later set to music. Just listen to a few of its stanzas for it captures precisely what God would have us see in this sorry sick sin-choked passage, and yet in this grace-soaked passage.

Weary of wandering from my God,

And now made willing to return

I hear and bow me to the rod

For thee, not without hope, I mourn:

O Jesus, full of truth and grace
More full of grace than I of sin
Yet once again I seek Thy face:
Open Thine arms and take me in
And freely my backslidings heal
And love the faithless sinner still.

The proof of God's magnified mercy and great grace is seen in other ways too in this very passage. We have seen who Lot was and what he did. Yes, he is responsible for his actions, even though he was drunk at the time. But God saved him from himself. One more time I quote to you the inspired words the Holy Spirit put for us in 2 Peter 2:7. God delivered just Lot from wicked Sodom, but also you could say, from himself. Verse 9 confirms this interpretation: the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations. Yes, Lot made some big blunders that cost him dearly down through the generations. But Lot was a believing child of God saved by grace.

I said earlier that we have no record of the deathbed of Lot, or of beautiful words spoken as a testimony at his death. But we do have a record of Lot's life after death. Revelation 7 records Lot's words too, which are the words of every sinner saved by Jesus Christ to sin no more: I beheld a great multitude clothed with white robes, and crying out with a loud voice: salvation to our God who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. The explanation given is this: these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. There are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple, and He that sits on the throne shall dwell among them. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them unto living fountains of water, and God shall wipe all tears from their eyes.

Maybe you have been taken advantage of by others. Incest, being violated while drunk, whatever the case may be. You have asked yourself many times, what good can ever come from the sorry story of my life? The answer for you can be the same as for Lot – Jesus Christ! That is what good can come of it! Trust in Him. You can have His grace, character, truth and love poured out into your heart, day by day, moment by moment, especially as you work through the consequences of your sin, shame, and brokenness. He will be your companion, your Savior, more full of grace and truth than you of sin and need. Until the day when you too have every tear wiped from your eyes.

There is one more gospel gift of good news to proclaim from this passage. There is no need to get drunk, to use the cheap counterfeit of Satan, when the real thing is freely available in Jesus Christ. Remember the text from Ephesians? Do not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit. Jesus Christ has poured out his Holy Spirit to live from the inside out, to change stony hard hearts into tender broken hearts. The Holy Spirit is the overflowing fountain of joy, peace, love, hope and beautiful fruits such as self-control about which you never need be ashamed. It is joy without a hangover or regrets, peace without interruption or hidden price tag. It is the love of God poured out in your heart. It is hope that does not disappoint or put to shame. It is the freedom and blessed enjoyment of God's gifts, especially sexuality and alcohol in God's time, measure, and way.

What a beautiful passage this really is! It need not make us turn away in silence like the tabloids, which are just rags to feed gossips, or pervert the innocent into cynics. No, it is truth that is mixed with grace! It is victorious triumphant truth spoken in love and with grace that saves and lifts up. So that you can sing with David, the descendant of these very caves – let not mercy be forgot, for thy goodness sake O Lord. And hear the answer: just and good the Lord abides, He His way will sinners show, He the meek in justice guides, making them His way to know. Amen.

Pastor Eric Moerdyk

 

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