Righteous Lot?

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]

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Looking Down from Heaven

Who wouldn’t agree one of the most emotional events in a person’s life is the death of a family member or friend. It is one of the hallmarks of the human experience indicating a level above that of mere animal. My Dad died in 2005 and Mom 9 years later and still today I really miss them, thinking so may things I should have said to them while alive but didn’t.

So believe me when I write this short note I do understand how the heart can longingly look back on those who have meant the most to us, but it has occurred to me there is one aspect of society’s thoughts of the departed that has intrigued me. Often a phrase is used to impart comfort and kindness, or sometimes not. Example: “so and so is looking down from heaven at you and would be so proud,” or conversely: “so and so would be very disappointed in you to see you doing that.”

But how would they be looking down at us all in any fashion to observe us behaving in any manner? Too be sure I speak from pure conjecture on this topic, but I’ve never seen or read any substantiating validity for the “Looking Down from Heaven” concept. Certainly it would be a view over an awful long distance. Well, maybe not “awful” since the viewee would be there in heaven, right?

And what exactly would that mechanism be to telescope one’s vision from heaven to Earth? How would you even pinpoint this blue marble out of all the rocks circling the billions of stars in the billions of galaxies? And then you’d have to know exactly where a person would be on the planet at a particular second in time and space to be able to focus on them.

Unless of course heaven had some contraption such that you’d key in some data points, and a valid reason, of course, as a security check against any nefarious peeking, and hit a green button and stand back to face the giant flat screen and see if your request was approved. Frankly, I don’t know about you, but there are way too many things I do, and have done I wouldn’t want others to witness or know about. That’s why doors have latches!

I don’t know, but there are just too many considerations that indicate to me that when someone is gone they won’t be able to stalk us any longer. So I just can’t see it. Maybe it is one of those mysteries we will understand on the other side. Unless Heaven is not the destination of that final train! In that case read any number of other posts on this blog for help.

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Sin or Society: Man’s Social Dilemma

Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper,  a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table.  But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste?  “For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”  But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me.  “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.  “For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial.  “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”  Matthew 26:6-13

Reportedly one reason leveled at Christianity in general and Jesus Christ in particular by detractors concerns Jesus’ lack of focus on social injustices. Since He came to save the world why didn’t He eradicate poverty? Why not deal with slavery? Or the cruelty of government? Since He clearly had phenomenal power at His disposal, the myriad reports of these are amazing, surely He could have turned His miraculous gifts in the direction of society’s more crucial issues.

I believe the reason that He did not was that there were more pressing problems facing mankind than those manifesting as the social ills of the day. The problem of the sickness of the heart is the one crucial issue that has plagued mankind that was the real cause of the cancers manifesting in societies worldwide.

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  Mark 7:21,22

Humans have grown very adept at hiding this fact and inoculating himself from the real poison and trying a multitude of failed methods attempted to eradicate this curse of a sick heart. But as it was brought about by disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden, the only cure is obedience by God’s perfect Son, and our accepting of the gift of life through Him, Jesus Christ. And His resurrection from the dead is our only hope; an event occurring in the corner of the world 2000 years ago has been believed on by millions and celebrated up to today. Thanks You Lord for such an awesome gift.

“nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” John 11:50

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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Uh Oh, It’s the Bible!

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Here we have in the first ten words of the Bible (in English) written thousands of years ago the answer to questions many humans continue to ask: “Are we alone in the universe?” and “how did the universe come to be?” And the answers are “no” and “God” respectively I’m reading again through the Bible, as I do annually, and want to comment on things that strike me as I go. Like the inquisitor’s two main topics, the Who and the How?

I admit without apology that I believe all of man’s answers to life and living as told through this holy book can be accepted only as a matter of faith. That is faith is the assurance that these things that are written are true. Hebrews 11:1 Can you believe in miracles? Can you believe that water can be made into wine? Can you believe that the dead can be raised? Can you believe that an all-supreme being came to earth in the form of man and walked among us? Can you believe that this planet, that all that we see was the result of careful design and engineering and creation and humanity was placed here?

Or would you rather believe that the universe formed on its own unguided after a big bang? Believe that single cell organisms abruptly appeared from the primordial slime and evolved into other creatures all on their own? Can you believe that humans evolved from one species of creature into something different all on their own? Can you believe that life itself was something that spontaneously occurred from a non-living entity creating its own consciousness, its own sense of “self-awareness.” Then for you “Evolution” is the designer, engineer, manufacturer.

If you are in the former camp you can read the books of the Bible with an open mind seeking to understand what is written and why it was written, seeking to know truth.

If you are in the latter camp nothing you read will make sense and you’ll imagine that it is all make believe like the dozens or hundreds of other cultures’ “holy books.” You won’t be alone; I was in your company for the first 26 years of my life until a sudden event had a monumental impact on my perspective of life.

I should say it is possible that one can accept God and true science. At least the science of the kind that is provable, that gave us discoveries like x-rays, vaccines, etc. things that are provable. But I will be honest, science can neither prove the existence of God nor can it prove the existence of what is today accepted as fact called evolution, in spite of what some scientists state are “facts” rather than theories taken on faith.

So if you are somewhere between the camp of the skeptic and the believer and are seeking answers keep reading. What is presented in the 66 books of the Bible does make sense. Read it and see. Next I comment on the first few chapters of Genesis.

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Abraham’s Sacrifice of Isaac

What would you do, I’m speaking to you parents, if God asked you to take your only child, the child you’ve longed to have all the decades you’ve been married and have tried to have a child but couldn’t, and take that child and bring him to a far mountain and sacrifice him to the Lord as a blood sacrifice? Like He asked Abraham in Gen. 22: 1-12

If it was me I think I’d either question my sanity, since God does not have His people do things against His doctrines, i.e., kill your children, or I’d wonder if it was the devil tempting me like Satin did to Charles Manson.

But the Old Testament times were different days, and Abraham had plenty of experience with God telling him to do things like leave his home and go to a land far away where He would make the land a present to him and his posterity. So I guess Abraham recognized his voice.

But, and this is a huge but, God was asking him to sacrifice his only son, the son He promised would be the heir and future of his hopes and his nation! But there is nothing in the text that gives us any insight at all about how he debated or mulled this proposal in his mind. Except that early in the next morning they set of on the journey. In other words, Abraham obeyed God.

But you have to believe he was freaking out inside, right? What father wouldn’t? But consider the relationship Abraham had with God. Think about the faith he had in the Lord. This was not just a casual belief in God. This was not a “Churchianity” like so many of us have today, where we let the impact of the Holy Spirit indwelling us barely register on how we live our lives and deal with our world. This must have been a full walk moment by moment in the knowledge of the Lord to have the faith the Lord “will provide for Himself the lamb” without explicitly being told. He must have known God would never have Abraham harm his son, so he felt completely confident that he could tie up Isaac, lay him on the alter, on top of the wood, and even raise the knife over his head ready to strike! And I feel certain that even if God did not stop him from killing his son, he knew God was able to raise him from the dead, as well. See Heb. Heb. 11:19

I’m not quite sure I’ve got that much faith! But Abraham spent a lot of time following God’s instructions wandering around the Promised Land. Sure he stumbled on occasion, telling some kings his beautiful wife was his sister because he didn’t trust God enough to protect his family. But the magnificent thing about the way Abraham did believe God was that it was absolute. He believed God and God awarded him with Righteousness because of it. Gen. 15:6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

And the great thing about this is that it can happen to every human being in this same way – Jesus called it being Born Again. Just read John chapter 3. John 3:7 “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.'” When He was talking to a renown Teacher of the Law this Pharisee didn’t realize Jesus was speaking out of that very Law, as He so frequently did to their blindness.

I don’t know if there was tremendous relief in Abraham when God called out to stay his knife and do not harm the boy. Maybe his faith just pegged a notch. Maybe he did break out in a sweat. Who knows. What a phenomenal relationship he had with God, to go through such a blind trail. I sure hope I can fair as well, because I these kinds of pressures don’t let up in these crazy days of ours!

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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