For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.” 2 Peter 4-10
Back in 2010 I wrote about Lot, the nephew of Abraham’s – then called Abram – and how I was perplexed that he was called righteous by the New Testament writer Peter (see http://word.johnjschneider.com/2010/08/28/righteous-lot/ ). I want to revisit that passage as the chapter, Genesis chapter 19, dealing with the event in question, was read in church last Sunday without comment and if you read it now, which I hope you do, I think you may have the same level of discomfort about the character of Lot as the head of his house and a close relation of Abram, the Father of God’s chosen nation, Israel.
The basics of the story are, 1) Abram and Lot must create space between their huge families and Abram gives Lot first choice of where to go, 2) Lot chooses the Sodom metroplex which includes Gomorrah, an area notorious for the most reprobate social deviancy known to God, 3) God soon visits Abe to advise him He plans to wipe off the face of the Earth this entire region and will extract Lot’s family from it to safety.
I realize that there are many things about God and His plan I don’t understand. That is reasonable since that is kind of like expecting the ants and bugs you played with as a child to comprehend the way you mess with them while they are peacefully going about with their daily existence. But here’s what I don’t understand about Lot’s character especially him being called righteous:
1. Allowed the choice he takes the best for himself he leaves second best to the person who gave him all his opportunities in life – namely his uncle Abram. (The was “best” because it was a very fertile and lush region and Lot has lots of cattle, he needed to maintain and grow his wealth.
2. He chooses an area known for its extreme ungodliness, hardly the decision one would expect of the God seeking and emulating individual, at least in my opinion. I mean I wouldn’t want my kids family hanging out with this kind of a role model.
3. When the destroying angels visit Lot and the dark, evil citizenry try to break down Lot’s door demanding the visitors be brought out so that everyone can “have relations with them” Lot generously offers to give them his young daughters instead, as they have “who have not had relations with man”! And adds, “please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like.” How were his daughters to feel about their father making such an offer in order to save a couple of strangers? What other kinds of parenting skills did he exhibit in this family?
4. After the angels abort this absurd plan of Lot’s they tell him to gather all his people and follow them out of the city to an area where they will be safe from the blast zone (as it will be like a nuclear detonation in effect). But Lot tries to negotiate a different location, someplace closer, to a more local town because he would be more safe there than where the angels are suggesting! Right, Lot is going to know much better than the angels about what is best for him and his family! A closer location to the fire and brimstone will be safer than away in the mountains! But the angels agree to this demand, just to get him moving and out the door!
5. Finally Lot gets to where the angels originally told him they would be going. And the first news we hear about is how Lot is made drunk by his daughter so she could have sex with him to get a child. And not once but his other daughter does the same thing the next night! They have sex with their father on two nights supposedly without him knowing about it.
So these are the five points that make me wonder what it was that Peter could call Lot Righteous while these things were happening.
I’m sure there is a really good explanation, and some day, when I’m in the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, and am in one of His Old Testament classes, where He teaches everything there is that can possibly be known about every verse of the Bible, this will all be made known.
But as for now, if the only thing I can get out of this story is that if someone can make so many really bad decisions and make such a mess of not only his life but the lives of his family (remember Lot’s wife), and can come out of it being known by God as being righteous, well then there is hope for someone like me who has caused enough trouble of my own. And really, that is just what the accomplishment of Jesus life, death, and resurrection from the dead has done for us. That Jesus our indictment for our sin, accepted the guilty verdict, subjected Himself to the sentence of the court, death on a cross, for every human being; and then physically rose from the death to give us the promise of life eternal; the gift is freely ours. God implores us: repent and believe the Good News.
That after all the rebellion in the world, from the beginning to the end, against God, which is what sin is, all the negative thoughts toward other, all the harm caused toward others, all the hate, violence, subjugation of individuals and races, all the shady dealings done from one person to another, it is all had to be atoned, as the conscience we all were given told us things were to be this way.
So what was to have been the way what is the opposite of that kind of behavior described above? Just read what Jesus taught the crowd when He gave His Sermon on the Mount. It is a highly detailed explanation of kind of behavior that comes from the heart, behaviors that pleases God, but is also good for mankind. It isn’t just the Beatitudes, though they are important. They are the concepts detailed in three full chapters, Matthew 5, 6 and 7. And the Sermon is saying it isn’t about following a list of laws, but life of the heart. Here is what is what is expected, what was originally intended, impossible with man, but now possible with God (Luke 18:23-27). Thanks to Jesus’ work on the cross. “It is finished.
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]