Abraham: Chapter 19

Genesis 19
The connection of the solemn history which now opens before us is one of contrast, especially full of instruction for us who find ourselves on the eve of a judgment of incomparably larger extent. Our Lord Himself pointedly applies it no less than the catastrophe in the days of Noah to present warning. “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” (Luke 17:26-3326And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 30Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. 31In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. 32Remember Lot's wife. 33Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. (Luke 17:26‑33).) It will be a judgment of God, not merely in providence, but directed by the Lord, and as none of the wicked shall understand, so shall none escape. It essentially differs from such scenes as the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, to which the commentators so perversely refer it. The intimation of verse 84 seems expressly added to refute such a notion. Let us turn to the fact, as scripture records them.
“And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them, rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.” (Gen. 19:1-31And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; 2And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. 3And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. (Genesis 19:1‑3).) Jehovah no longer deigns to accompany His messengers, nor visits Lot, like Abraham. He would have been ashamed to be called the God of Lot, who “sat in the gate of Sodom,” instead of running to meet them “from the tent door,” like his kinsman pilgrim. Yet was much in common: no less courtesy, perhaps, but a little hospitality. Nevertheless, we see a certain shrinking on the part of the angels, as we have already noticed the absence of Jehovah. Not even He, much less they, said Abraham Nay, or proposed to stay without. To Lot, even though it was, they decline his proffered shelter, and propose to abide in the street all night. At length they yield to his pressure, enter his house, and accept of his unleavened bread.
Their visit gives occasion to the open and unnatural depravity of the inhabitants, “both old and young, all the people from every quarter.” (Ver. 4.) They foam out their shame shamelessly (ver. 5). Lot goes forth to plead for his guests, to remonstrate with his fellow-townsmen (alas! he calls them “brethren"), and offer his two daughters (ver. 6-8). For he has lost the simplicity of faith, and instead of looking only to the Lord in this scene of difficulty, and danger, and surrounding wickedness, he chooses in worldly wisdom what he conceived the lesser of two evils. Could we expect better from a righteous Lot which “sat in the gate of Sodom?” “And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door.” (Ver. 9.)
How often had Lot flattered and excused himself, as he gradually drew nearer to guilty Sodom, that his was the wise and right course, not like his exclusive uncle, Abraham? What is the use, what the duty, of a good man in the world, if not to improve it Was there not a haughty and self-righteous stiffness under the lowly guise of Abraham, who kept himself apart from all his neighbors in the land? Separate from the present world, he in his tent declared plainly that he was seeking a better (that is, a heavenly) country. But did not Lot's conscience ever smite him, lest under his assumption of a more active and benevolent zeal there might lurk an unjudged unbelief of God's estimate of the present, and promise of the future, which left room for the rank growth of covetousness, and the love of ease, honor, wealth, and power? Abraham had not a question as to God's favor and kindness, any more than as to His purpose of blessing and glory by-and-by: as little did: he doubt that the world, and, above all, the races in the midst of whom he pursued his stranger path, were damned to divine judgment, though there might be a defined delay in it; execution: Lot had no such clearness of vision. He anticipated better things. He had more confidence in human nature, more assurance of the moral influence of a good man like himself. He hears too late the rebuke of his folly from the lips of the most unclean in Sodom: “This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge.” They felt that a righteous man had no consistent place in their midst; and they were not so blind to his motives as himself. What had Lot gained, with his position, but vexation to his soul, as he saw from day to day their filthy conversation and lawless deeds? Certainly he had not pleased the Lord, whose will and lessons he had despised: how had he fared with the world to which he had held? How different it was with Abraham before the sons of Heth! (Chap. 23.)
But the hour of destruction was at hand for the cities of the plain; and when the miscreants came near to break the door, the angels “put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door. And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? Son-in-law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: But we will destroy this place, because the dry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it. And Lot went out, and Spoke unto his sons-in-law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law. And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his Wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him; and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: Behold now, thy servant hath 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 sortie evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do anything till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Vers. 11-26.)
Even in the hour of deliverance, it is humiliating to read how Lot “lingered,” though he might not, like his wife, “look back,” and become the lasting witness of the truth of the warning. No wonder there was no power in such a preacher of righteousness. Dwelling among the men of Sodom is the way neither to glorify God, nor to win their souls to the Savior. Even the last fatal night he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law,” as we have seen what a storm he brought on himself from his townsmen. What a contrast with him of whom Jehovah said, “I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of Jehovah, to do justice and judgment; that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him !” Yet, to worldly philanthropy and wit, did Abraham seem a useless person in his day and generation; to faith he is the man of whom God said, and of whom faith is sure, “thou shalt be a blessing, and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
Just so, there are many Lots; but where are those blessed, and a blessing, with faithful Abraham? If content to be less: we certainly sink below even this sad level, like Abraham's seed, who were not Abraham's children. (John 8) We may, in the pure and sovereign mercy of God, be “delivered” men, like Lot: but are we even now, like Abraham, men separate to the Lord, and knowing these things before? (2 Peter .) Is it enough for us to be snatched, as it were, out of the fire, when the word is, “we will destroy this place; Escape for thy life, lest thou also be consumed"? Or do we covet the portion (which indeed it is the Christian's shame not to covet) of being with the Lord before a sign of doom appears, morally far apart from all that cries for divine vengeance, sharing His mind who deigns to open His secrets, and treats us as His friends? Are we interceding for others in love, as Abraham, in chapter 18; or deprecating what we dread, as Lot, in chapter 19? “Oh, not so, my Lord; behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life, and 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: Oh, let me escape thither (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.” So it is always. The saints who live like others in the world share the world's fears. Their prayers savor of its state. Its troubles oppress them, as its successes ensnare them. This did not Abraham. “The mountain,” which was the source of fear to Lot, was the scene of communion between Jehovah and Abraham. There he had prayed, with touching importunity for the righteous endangered by the approaching judgment, and not in vain; for God did better than he asked. He did destroy the guilty cities, but He delivered less than ten righteous found there, righteous Lot himself, who was here begging (and not in vain) for the least city of the five.
And, now that the blow is struck, the difference between the heavenly-minded man and the earthly-minded is still kept up as strikingly as ever. “Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the Lord: and he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt. And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.” (Vers. 27-80.) Was not Abraham even here, where it could be least looked for, not only blessed but a blessing? Nothing could be done to Sodom and Gomorrah till Lot came to Zoar; but was it not for Abraham's sake? It was even then and there, because “God remembered” not Lot but “Abraham.”
This then was the end of the place where Lot had lived and labored, or at least talked. He was as little in the secret of the Lord as the men of Sodom, though no doubt he was vexed, or rather (as scripture so pregnantly tells us) the righteous man vexed his righteous soul from day to day. But God never called Lot to Sodom, as He had called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan. Abraham's groans were gracious, and had profitable fruit; Lot's were not without his own fault and torment, and barren even for himself. Abraham is attracted to the place where he had enjoyed the presence and converse of Jehovah, and looks down on the scene of desolation which attested in its solemn way what it is to hate the Lord, and what to love Him. And there Lot too goes up out of Zoar afraid to go at God's bidding when there was no ground for fear there, afraid longer to stay in Zoar, and not afraid to go where and when he had feared most of all, had he been aware into what a snare he was about to be caught by wine and women—alas! his own daughters. Such was the end of him who would needs be a judge in Sodom, but only the beginning of those who should inflict sorrowful results on the children of Abraham throughout their history, till that day come when Sodom's doom finds its antitype, and the Branch out of Jesse's roots shall reign, and Moab, with Edom, shall be the laying on of Israel's hand, and the sons of Ammon their obedience.