August 24, 2017

Cultivating a Life of Faith: A Man of Intolerance (Pt 9)

Jim Oesterwind

Genesis 19.1-38

  • City officials in Couer d’Alene, Idaho passed an ordinance banning discrimination (including sexual orientation) in places of public accommodation. Those who violate the ordinance are faced with astronomical fines and jail time.
  • Donald and Evelyn Knap are ordained ministers who run a for-profit business called The Hitching Post. The city ordinance would require that they not turn away a homosexual couple seeking to marry at their establishment. This same type of situation is faced by florists, cake-makers, and photographers throughout the nation. People are being forced to tolerate what should not be tolerated if we believe the Scripture.

Genesis 19 mentions Abraham once, but that mention forms a very clear contrast between a man who intolerant of sin and his nephew who allowed sin to come in like a flood. Genesis 18 provided a clear picture of a man developing intimacy with God which led to intercessory prayer for Lot and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God answers Abraham’s prayer in Genesis 19.

We know the purpose for which the two angels came to Sodom. They came for its judgment. Lot, sitting at the gate and in a place of leadership in Sodom, desires that the angels stay with him and be on their way early the next morning (Genesis 19.1-2).

It is clear that Lot recognizes that these men do not belong in a place like Sodom. But that begs the question, what was Lot doing there? Genesis 13.12-13 tell us that Lot pitched his tent as far as Sodom, and that they men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord. Lot was willing to live in the midst of great wickedness. In short, he tolerated the world’s sin.

The two angels tell Lot that they will spend the night in the open square. Lot wants to shelter them and get them out of the city quickly (Genesis 19.3).

Lot wouldn’t allow the angels, appearing in the form of men, to spend the night in the open. They enter his house, and he feeds them. Genesis 19.4-5 reveal why Lot was so insistent.

The men from the city, young and old, gathered at Lot’s house in order to satiate their deviant lusts which include rape and same-sex immorality. Romans 1.26 calls what is described here as vile passion. “Men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Romans 1.27).

However, the angels appearing as men were not willing participants in Genesis 19. That wouldn’t matter to the men of Sodom. They were driven and would not be denied. We see before us both rape and the deviant sin of same-sex fornication. Under the Mosaic Law, this sin would be grouped with bestiality and incest. It would require the death penalty.

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. Leviticus 18.22

For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Leviticus 18.29

If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20.13

Romans 1, as I’ve already cited, indicates very clearly that God has not changed His mind when it comes to same-sex fornication.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites… 1 Corinthians 6.9

But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. 1 Timothy 1.8-11

How can you explain the actions of Lot in Genesis 19.6-8? That he would beg the men to not behave so wickedly makes perfect sense. However, to offer his daughters in the place of the messengers is just incomprehensible to any father of daughters. Hospitality laws just are not enough to explain these verses away. That Lot would allow his daughters to be raped and abused by these perverted men indicates just how far a righteous man could go once he tolerates sin in his life.

The men were determined. They would not be thwarted by the offer of Lot’s daughters. Their ire was stirred. Their intentions were brutal concerning Lot. But the two angels intercede on Lot’s behalf. They pull him to safety and strike all the men of at the doorway with blindness. Yet they still wearied themselves trying to find the door (Genesis 19.9-11).

Judgment is coming to Sodom. The outcry against its inhabitants grew great before the Lord’s presence. Lot must escape with his family (Genesis 19.12-13).

Lot’s sons-in-law fail to listen to the warning of impending judgment (Genesis 19.14). They are not unlike many today who mock the fact that judgment could come at any moment. It’s a big joke to many in our world. This is true even of some believers.

Notice the words, “And while he lingered…” (Genesis 19.15-16). Why do you suppose Lot lingered? Could it be that he was overwhelmed by the thought of leaving all that for which he had worked? His possessions were great, his position was great, and he lingered.

Yet God had heard Abraham’s prayer. So motivated by the Lord’s mercy, the angels took hold of Lot, his wife, and two daughters and set them outside the city with explicit directives to flee to the mountains and not look back (Genesis 19.17).

Lot obviously is rationalizing and making excuses when he pleads with the two angels about escaping to the mountains. He desires to escape to a city. Twice he mentions that it’s just a little one. The immaturity of this man is readily apparent in this exchange and so is the mercy of God (Genesis 19.18-20).

The mercy of God is really incomprehensible here. He gives Lot that for which he asks. So, Lot enters Zoar, a place that he will later fear once the judgment of God rains down upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19.21-22).

The Lord caused brimstone and fire to rain upon Sodom and Gomorrah. It came from the heavens. There is no need to explain how this could be a natural phenomenon from an earthquake leading to volcanic disruptions. The Bible simply tells us that God rained brimstone and fire upon both cities. He overthrew them both in judgment. This was a supernatural event which led to the thorough destruction of both cities and their agricultural support in the plains (Genesis 19.23-25).

Sodom and Gomorrah are now probably covered by the Dead Sea according to Bible scholars and archeologists. Both cities are completely erased from the face of the earth due to their great wickedness.

Among the ruins of in the Sea of Salt is the body of Lot’s wife. Lot’s wife was judged by God because she disobeyed and looked back at Sodom (Genesis 19.26). The look revealed the heart, and God knows the heart. His judgment is quick and terrifying. So much so, that the Lord Jesus says in Luke 17:

“In that day (the Lord’s glorious appearing), he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. Luke 17.31-33

The writer of Hebrews records the words of the Lord,

“Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. Hebrews 10.38-39

But Lot’s wife did draw back in her heart. Only the Lord knows that heart, but her example is a terrifying one.

Abraham returned to the very spot where he had stood before the Lord to intercede on the behalf of the cities where Lot dwelt (Genesis 19.27-29). What he saw was the carnage of judgment.

The comfort Abraham had while viewing this panorama of ruin was found in the mercy God extended by delivering Lot and his two daughters. God did this for the sake of Abraham’s intercession. But that intercession was a result of intimacy with God. How effective our intercessory prayer would be if we developed intimacy with our God!

It has been said by many and in many different ways that Lot took his two daughters out of Sodom, but could not extricate Sodom from his two daughters (Genesis 19.30-38).

Notice the relationship between sexual immorality and drunkenness (mentioned four times in eight verses). God makes it very clear for us. Habakkuk 2.15 says, “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, pressing him to your bottle, even to make him drunk, that you may look on his nakedness.”

Today there is a dangerous tolerance of the consumption of alcohol even among believers. Frankly, I don’t understand it. The Bible is clear in many passages about the destructive and addictive nature of alcohol (Proverbs 20.1; 21.17; 23.29-35). The Bible also clearly warns us as mature believers that we should avoid that which causes others to stumble (Romans 14.21).

Strong drink is a brawler leading people astray. It would be useful for medicinal purposes if we did not have pain medication today (Proverbs 31.6). John the Baptist was great in the sight of the Lord. The Bible prophesied that he would not drink wine nor strong drink (Luke 1.15). He would be filled with the Holy Spirit instead. Paul wrote, “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5.18).

My understanding of the Scriptures is quite simple. God warns us of the evils of strong drink and where it leads. All fortified, modern alcohol is strong drink. Therefore, God’s Word warns us today to stay clear of it. The destructive nature of alcohol is demonstrated in the countless homes and lives that have been ruined – including Lot’s family.

Lot, a righteous man, drinks wine and becomes drunk. His inhibitions dissolve, and he does what is once again unthinkable to us. The incestuous relationships with both his daughters on successive evenings lead to the formation of both the Ammonites and Moabites.

Is there any wonder that we should separate ourselves from this world to God for His glory? Fellowship with believers of like precious faith is necessary so that we are not left to ourselves and the sin nature that so quickly spirals downward in each of us.

The Bible tells us that God turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, “condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeking and hearing their lawless deeds)” (2 Peter 2.6-8).

The only way we are able to make good decisions in this world is by meditating on the merciful kindness of God. If we are preoccupied with this world, we will fall prey to it just as Lot did. Lot loved his privilege, position, and possessions. He took it upon himself to live pragmatically. He felt that he must choose the lesser of two evils. But he could have avoided such an anemic philosophy by finding a refuge in the lovingkindness of God. Only those who are intolerant of the world’s sin find their lives because friendship with this world is enmity with God (see James 4.4).

If you want to know what happens to a Christian who loves the world more than God, go no further than Lot’s example. Lot not only personally suffered; his whole family was destroyed by his example. Once Genesis 19 closes this ugly chapter on human history, nothing else is recorded about Lot’s life (save the NT explanations and illustrations).

Lot forms a stark contrast with Abraham. Lot represents all fathers who think it their duty to work hard, amass wealth, purchase college degrees for their children, and leave them with a decent amount of money when they die. What a terrible way to live! It is really shallow and temporally oriented. Why do we train our children by example to love what moths corrupt and thieves break through and steal? I want my boys to know right from wrong, to know the merciful kindness of their heavenly Father, and to abhor sin. I want them to turn away from it. I want them to stand against it. I want them to be intolerant of the world’s evil.

Compromise may lead to the toleration and vexation of our righteous souls, but there is something worse that will come of it. Our souls may be vexed when tolerating evil, but our children may come to the point when they will not know that vexation of the spirit at all! Toleration may not even be a concept they consider as evil comes in like a flood.

This chapter isn’t so much about same-sex immorality as it is about the toleration of same-sex immorality, the toleration of drunkenness, the toleration of materialism, and the toleration of incest. But the surprising observation is that this toleration comes from a righteous man, namely a believer! Not only did Lot tolerate evil, but he participated in it. Three questions occur that ought to focus our understanding of Genesis 19:

Are you tolerant of the world’s sin?

There was a time when society universally abhorred the idea of the sin outlined in this chapter. But this is changing. Now people make inane observations like, “Well, that’s not my cup of tea, but who am I to judge?” The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah should repel us, but for many they are becoming acceptable.

Ezekiel 16.49-50 says that Sodom and Gomorrah “had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did [they] strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before [the LORD]; therefore [He] took them away as [He] saw fit.” We are more prone to tolerate the world’s sin if a stand against it costs us. Our pride, luxury, and love of recreation forms a striking similarity to that of Sodom and Gomorrah. They are like we are. “They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built” (Luke 17.28), but God rained fire and brimstone upon them and destroyed them all.

We tolerate the world’s sin because we care too much for the pleasures and concerns of this life. Perhaps we laugh at what we consider radical Christians who warn us to flee from the wrath which is to come. We look for preachers who speak smooth things and prophesy deceits. We conceal our participation with the world and are traitors to the cause of our Lord Jesus. But shouldn’t we respond to His merciful kindness and be intolerant of the world’s sin? The choice should be abundantly clear by now. Take the world, but give me Jesus!

Are you lingering in the world’s sin?

Some Christians recognize the evil in the world, but they so love the pleasures she offers that they cannot walk with God. We rationalize and excuse our position, but we blink and life has passed us by.

We find that we have lingered for years in a world headed for destruction. We know little about the eternal quality of life that our dear Savior wants us to know. We make these grandiose resolutions, but never get around to them. We are not as bad as the world and yet we linger in it. We just fail to advance in our Christian life. We are useless salt.

If our families follow us, they may no longer be vexed by the world around them. Intolerance or tolerance never occurs to them. Remember Lot’s wife. Remember his daughters. Remember his sons-in-law. Let us lay hold on eternal life. The normal Christian life does not linger in the world. We forget what is behind us and press forward to that which is before us. We cannot linger here; we shall rest from our striving against sin when we are with Jesus.

Are you standing against the world’s sin?

Then you are like Abraham staring at the burned-out remnants of scarred earth. He was not weary in well-doing. He was set apart from the world to God for His glory. While the Lord turned Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes and while Lot tormented his righteous soul, the Lord delivered godly Abraham out of temptations. He’ll do the same for those who stand against sin and abhor wickedness. God blesses our intolerance. We have nothing to fear if God goes with us, and He does.

Notice that God gave Lot a refuge in Zoar, but Lot never enjoyed it. He was consumed with fear and fled to the mountains anyway. All that was left for him was drunkenness and incest. This is a really sad commentary on the tolerant life. There is no refuge in this world for us. Lot asked of Zoar, “Is it not a little one?” But great or little, we have no connection with the cities of this world. We look to a City whose builder and maker is God Himself. We look forward to that City as men and women of intolerance.


Jim Oesterwind is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Antioch, CA. He blogs at Sun and Shield.


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