This sermon was originally preached in 2015.
Our present text begins with two angels coming into Sodom and meeting Lot. Like any good host, Lot invites them into his house; however, the men of the city are intent on being less kind of the angels. We see the depravity of humanity as the men desperately try to seize the angels and continue to do so even when they are stricken with blindness. The angels announce to Lot the destruction of the city and plead with him to flee. Lot lingers, and in a stunning display of mercy, the angels physically drag Lot out of Sodom. God annihilates Sodom, and the text ends with a strange narrative of Lot and his two daughters.
Even though this chapter is large and filled with a lot of details, we can boil its message down to two points: the mercy and the judgment of God. The LORD’s righteous judgment is shown in his dealing with the city. Sodom is a hostile city that preys upon, abuses, and exploits travelers (who were already quite vulnerable in the ancient world). So, God’s judgment is just. But we also see His great mercy for Lot. Though Lot does nothing to warrant such grace, God literally pulls Lot from the fire of judgment. Though it might sound hard to believe, the story of Lot’s rescue is also the story of every Christian. We have only been saved because God was merciful enough to snatch us from the fire.
THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN // VERSES 1-11
There is much to notice in these eleven verses, which highlight the depravity of humanity, so let us begin our discussion quickly. Our chapter opens with two angels—presumably the same ones with Jesus in chapter 18—coming into the city of Sodom to decide its fate. Just like Abraham, Lot welcomes the visitors into his home with great hospitality. There is an ominous note in verses two and three. The angels wish to spend the night in the city square, which should be no problem if the people of the city are pleasant; however, Lot strongly urges them to stay in his house instead. Next, we see what Lot feared. The men of the city, each and every one of them, come to Lot’s home looking to know the two angels. Knowing someone is a common biblical euphemism for sexual relations; thus, they were seeking to rape the two angels. Here are a few comments to be offered on these verses.
First, I often hear of people saying that Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality. While that is true, we should keep in mind that the city was not destroyed solely for their homosexuality. Allow me to explain. The men here certainly desired to rape the two angels, so homosexuality was certainly present in Sodom. Because homosexuality is a sin, it certainly factored into God’s judgment of the city (Lev. 18:22; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Rom. 1:26-28; 1 Tim. 1:10). However, if we believe that Sodom was destroyed solely for homosexuality, we are incorrect. Even within these verses, the Sodomites’ lust for rape is often overlooked in favor of decrying homosexuality. Jude tells us that Sodom “indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire” (Jude 7). Ezekiel states that the sins of Sodom were “pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease” without aiding the poor (Ezek. 16:49). Sodom’s transgressions were far more numerous than homosexuality. We must certainly call homosexuality what it is: sin. Yet we must also take care not to overly emphasize something that the Bible does not place a great deal of emphasis upon.
Second, Lot’s attempt to compromise with the men of Sodom is bordering upon ridiculous—if, of course, it was not so unthinkable. Perhaps thinking that it was his duty as a host, Lot offers the men of Sodom his two virgin daughters to be used and abused by the men in place of the angels. He even instructs his “brothers” to do whatever pleases them (or whatever seems good) with his daughters. One cannot help but recall the proverb: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). But the Sodomites decline Lot’s offer, calling him a foreigner that will not be their judge. Lot is revealed here to be many things. He appears to be only a nominally righteous man. He knows the great evil that the Sodomites commit and desire to commit, yet he is flimsy in his own convictions and willing to negotiate with evil. He was willing to forsake his own daughters in order to appease the desires of his fellow citizens of Sodom. Lot, for all practical purposes, looks like nothing more than a nominal believer, who is willing to fold on his beliefs at any moment. In short, we should not model our Christian walk after the actions of Lot.
Third, the desperation with which the Sodomites seek their sin reveals the depth of their depravity. In verse 9, we find them nearly breaking the door down in attempt to reach the angels. The angels respond by rescuing Lot and striking the men of Sodom with blindness. One would think that after becoming blind the men would refrain from trying to abuse the two angels, but the men of Sodom loved their sin too much to let a little thing like blindness stop them. Verse 11 states that “they wore themselves out groping for the door.” They were so desperate for their sin that nothing would keep them from trying to attain it. Peter speaks correctly about this sort of men: “But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction” (2 Pet. 2:12).
THE MERCY OF GOD // VERSES 12-23
After seeing the utter depravity of Sodom, we now turn our attention to the vast mercy of God that saves Lot from destruction. The angels now reveal to Lot their reason for being in the city: God has commanded them to destroy it. At first, Lot seems to understand the gravity of the situation because he immediately runs to his future sons-in-law, urging them to leave with him. They, however, merely think Lot is joking with them, so they ignore their father-in-law’s warnings. Finally, the angels plead with Lot to take his wife and daughters, but Lot lingers. The angels, as a mercy from the LORD, physically drag Lot and his family out of the city.
Contrasting greatly with the LORD’s mercy is Lot’s hesitance. He forces the angels to pull him out of the city because he was too slow to flee from destruction. And even once Lot is outside of Sodom, he begs the angels to allow him passage to a small city in the valley. This interfered with the angels’ plan to destroy the entire valley of cities. Yet even there, God concedes to Lot this demand. This sluggish and indifferent behavior reveals just how much Lot had been influenced by the people of Sodom.
Still the LORD’s mercy is greater than Lot’s sinful lingering. The simple fact is that God was not required to save Lot. He could have merely left the man to his own devices, to reap what he had sown. However, God is gracious to Lot instead. He rips Lot from the city of destruction and even spares the small city of the valley to which Lot runs. As with most things, we can very easily sit atop our moral high ground, believing that we are in some form superior to Lot. Yet we must understand that God was no less merciful to us in salvation. Just as God snatched Lot from the destruction of Sodom, so did He rescue us from the death that our sin would bring. We are in no way morally better than Lot. Each of us is only saved by the sheer mercy of God.
THE JUDGMENT OF GOD // VERSES 24-29
Once Lot is safely out of range, the angels unleash the fury of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s judgment was sudden and swift. Fire and sulfur poured down from the heavens and obliterated everyone and everything in the cities. This reminds us that the end result of sin is always death (Rom. 6:23). In fact, Jesus uses the sudden destruction of Sodom as an example for how God’s final judgment will be. First, Jesus recalls the account of Noah and the great flood. Everyone lived life as normal until the flood came upon them. Next, Jesus cites the similar destruction of Sodom: “Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:28-30). Jesus reveals that His second coming will be just as swift, sudden, and devastating as the great flood or the destruction of Sodom. Yet as with both of those events, those who belong to the LORD will be rescued.
In verse 26, we read that tragedy strikes even Lot’s immediate family. Disobeying the strict orders of the angels, Lot’s wife looks back upon the destruction and is turned into a pillar of salt. Much speculation has been made as to the significance of Lot’s wife becoming salt. Some have suggested that God caused part of the raining sulfur to strike her as well, consuming her instantly. Others maintain that this was a strictly supernatural judgment of God. Regardless, the point is that in looking back toward Sodom she revealed her heart to still be in Sodom. She desired the sinful excess of Sodom, and therefore, the LORD gave her the city’s fate. In Luke 17, Jesus uses Lot’s wife as an example of what not to do during His second coming. He warns that we must not be given to the ways of this world: “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it” (Luke 17:32-33). Urging us to remember the error of Lot’s wife seems fitting given that she became a pillar of salt. Ross suggests that by transforming her into a pillar of salt the LORD made her into a “monument of disobedience” (Ross, 362).
We should also note that in verses 27-28 the story pans back to Abraham, who is watching the desolation of Sodom and Gomorrah from afar. We are told that the smoke from the destruction billowed up toward heaven like smoke from a furnace. How must Abraham have felt viewing this scene, knowing that ten righteous persons could not be found? Surely, he would have also been concerned for his nephew, Lot. However, we are told specifically in verse 29 that God remembered Abraham in sparing Lot. At first glance, it would appear that God ignored Abraham’s intercession for Sodom at the end of chapter 18, yet the LORD did even more than Abraham could have expected: He rescued his nephew from the fire. The words of Peter ring quite clear in this account: “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (2 Pet. 2:9).
THE COST OF SIN // VERSES 30-38
Occasionally, there are stories in the Bible that are simply not pleasant to read or discuss. This happens to be one of those texts. There is no situation in which incest is considered a pleasant topic of conversation. In fact, I recall the story of a man producing a Bible illustrated with Legos. The man is not a Christian but still endeavored to be faithful to the original text, which meant including such unsavory stories as this one. Of course, there was a tremendous amount of backlash against him given the explicit nature of stories like this, but he did not understand the source of frustration. He was simply presenting the Bible, after all. The Scriptures are, at times, explicit and frank in their presentation of sin, and it is all told for a purpose. I find it interesting that many times we want more details from the Bible. We want to know what life was like before the great flood or how amazing the garden of Eden was. And then in places like this, the Bible gives us more details than we ever really wanted to have. Nevertheless, all Scripture is beneficial to us, so let us examine this account of Lot impregnating his daughters.
The first aspect that we must notice is that Lot left Zoar to live in a cave with his daughters. We are told, in fact, that Lot was afraid to live in Zoar. This is especially odd because Lot vehemently pleaded for the angels to allow him to flee into Zoar to escape the destruction of Sodom. Likely, the ghastly sight of Sodom’s obliteration caused Lot to fear living so close to the now decimate valley. Recall that Lot’s original instructions were to escape to the hills. I cannot help wondering if Lot would have found a better living situation if he immediately obeyed the command of the LORD. Regardless, his present isolated living situation with his daughters causes them to fear that they will never find a man to marry. Thus, the oldest daughter concocts a plan for continuing their father’s lineage: they will get him drunk and have sex with him in order to become pregnant. Two nights in a row, the plan succeeds. Lot’s daughters become pregnant via their father, and their children become the fathers of the Moabites and the Ammonites. These two nations would be frequent enemies of Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites.
There are numerous issues of sin featured in these verses. First, Lot was unwise in placing his daughters in a situation that made them desperate enough to commit such an action. We can reasonably conclude from all of this that Lot was quite a poor excuse for a father. In Sodom, he offered up his daughters to be used and abused by evil men, and now he is still not looking out for their best interests. Some have argued that Lot may have chosen to live in an isolated cave because he was afraid to lose his daughters after suffering so much loss; however, though understandable, that motivation still does not justify Lot’s actions. Second, Lot should never have gotten drunk! While drinking alcohol is not innately a sin, drinking so much that you cannot remember sleeping with someone (especially your own daughter!) is certainly sinful. Throughout these verses, Lot is clearly in sin.
THE END OF THE MATTER
With all of this said, it is difficult for us to imagine Lot being a true follower of the LORD. Yet listen to what Peter has to say about Lot: “he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)” (2 Pet. 2:7-8).
Wait a minute.
Are we sure that Peter read the same chapter as us? How in the world did Peter reach the conclusion that Lot was a righteous man, especially to call him righteous three times? The only answer that we can give is that the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that Lot was indeed a true follower of the LORD. Though we primarily see the sin that Lot committed, Peter focuses upon the good that he was known for. We must also conclude that though Lot seemed like anything but righteous to us, righteousness is not based upon our good works. Lot was not declared righteous by doing good works any more than Abraham was—or even than you or I. We have all sinned and earned the wrath of God. We all deserve the punishment of Sodom. None deserve the mercy of God in being spared from judgment. But thanks be to God that in Christ we are declared righteous and are no longer condemned for our sin!
Yet even though Lot was forgiven for his many sins, it is still important for us to learn from the many mistakes made in his life. For instance, Lot’s legacy was forever marred by the sin of incest. The two nations that descended from Lot were both evil enemies of Israel. The Moabites repeatedly clashed against the Israelites, and the Ammonites were known for worshipping the false god, Molech, whom they worshipped via child sacrifice (Lev. 18:21; 1 Kings 11:7). Though there is no sin too great for God to forgive, earthly consequences still exist. Lot may have been a righteous man because of the grace of God, but he left a broken and tattered legacy. May we learn from Lot’s errors and finish our race better than he did.