Although I’m supposed to be preparing something from Genesis 18 for our church preaching workshop tomorrow, I’ve been diverted by Lot as I’ve been reading through Genesis 12-23 to try and fit things into context. So here are a few thoughts, prompted by my reading and Kent Hughes.
Lot really is a righteous tragedy. He left the sophistication of city life in Ur with Uncle Abraham to be an alien and a pilgrim in a cultural backwater (at least, Canaan would have seemed that way to a sophisticated Mesopotamian. But he evidently hankered after the sophistication of city life, perhaps given a boost by his spell in Egypt when Uncle Abraham overshot the landing strip in Canaan.
Yet his choice of an urban paradise was strange, given the depravity and debauchery of Sodom. Ur had a high culture, though it was thoroughly idolatrous. Not only had it piped water, but a sophisticated law code. But Sodom was a place where dignity was cheap and respect for authority virtually non-existent. The law of Sodom was “anything goes”, and generally it did. 2 Peter 2:10 makes it clear that Sodom was not merely a place of debauchery, but also of anarchy.
Sadly, Lot ended his life a cave man, quite literally. And his tragic spell of utter depravity recounted in the final part of Genesis 19 would have shocked even his debauched erstwhile neighbours of Sodom.
But God’s verdict on Lot was that he was righteous (2 Peter 2:7). Was it that in order to prepare him for the Holy City God had to knock out of him completely and forever the desire for worldly city life? For preparation for eternal city life is not to be found in urban sophistication, but in sanctified camping. Such an attitude is not the exclusive isolation of shunning everything in the world, trying to live as if it doesn’t exist. What it means is sitting loose to worldly idolatrous culture — what Scripture calls separation.
The highlight of Abraham’s tent dwelling tour of Canaan was his communion with God, signified by his frequent altar building. Lot seemed to take more delight in Egypt and Sodom, until God’s discipline made him an unfit earthly citizen, so that he might be well fitted for heaven.
Lot can teach us this, among other things, that we need to take care of an unhealthy desire for urban sophistication, lest we, too, suffer similar painful discipline. Yes, Lot was saved, “but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15); in Lot’s case quite literally.