Genesis 19-20 – Judgment and Mercy
“Father, today’s story of judgment is difficult to understand. Will you help us learn from your Word and apply it to our lives today? Forgive us Lord, we deserve your judgment, and need your mercy and your love, just like Lot and Abraham. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
Remember from last week’s lesson on Genesis 18, there was an outcry for God to do something about the wickedness of Sodom. At the same time, Abraham prayed for mercy for the city on behalf of his nephew, Lot. How will God respond?
Pause and read Genesis 19-20.
Lot at the City Gate
As God listened to both the prayers for justice and the prayers for mercy, the two angels arrived in Sodom. Lot greeted them at the gate, bowed before them as his Uncle Abraham had done earlier in the day, and offered them a place to stay in his own home. Both responses reflected his culture and upbringing. He honored the men as traveling guests and pledged to care for them.
Why was Lot sitting at the gate of the city? The text does not tell us. Some suggest he has become one of the leaders of Sodom, earning the right to represent the city at the gate. On the other hand, people conducted business at the city gate – either selling their wares or buying those carried by caravans or travelers. Perhaps he is closing up shop at the end of the day. Maybe he waited at the gate in an attempt to protect guests who might find themselves in danger in the city square at night. Certainly, he knew the heart of the people he lived among. Or perhaps he simply was in the right place at the right time by God’s design.
Regardless of the reason, it’s plain to see Lot had been drawn into Sodom little by little. In Genesis 13:12-13, the Bible tells us Lot “pitched his tents near Sodom” even though the people were wicked. In Genesis 14, Abraham rescued Lot after a group of invading kings took him captive, along with other inhabitants of Sodom. Genesis 14:12 clearly tells us Lot was living in Sodom at that time. Now, in chapter 20, he is greeting people at the gate.
Drawn to Sodom
Well, we must consider the enticement of sin. All of us are prone to it. Maybe it’s the desire to experience the thrill of the wrongdoing, maybe it’s the influence of friends or family, but we are all drawn to do wrong by our nature.
James 1:13-15 makes it very clear: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
Is that it? Was Lot drawn to the sin in Sodom? That may have been the case.
But I Peter 2:6-9 says, “If he [God] condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) – if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.” [emphasis mine]
Regardless of what drew Lot to Sodom, it bothered Lot greatly to see the sin of his city. Perhaps he was part of the outcry to God against Sodom! But sadly, even as a righteous man, we will soon see that living there blurred his lines of right and wrong.
Surrounded by Wickedness
By the time Lot’s door closed behind the angels, the wickedness of the city surrounded Lot’s house. It’s astounding to think an entire city of men desired to rape, and probably kill, innocent guests to their city. Clearly, the outcry to God concerning the morality of this city is accurate. The time for judgment has come.
And then Lot offers the men his daughters in appeasement.
Are you kidding me? This is the righteous man? Is this OK with God?
NO, it’s not OK with God. The Bible repeatedly teaches purity in sexual matters. I Corinthians 6:13b says, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord.” The Greek word for sexual immorality means “the surrendering of sexual purity, promiscuity of every type.” This was against God’s will. Protecting the angels did not require the sacrifice of his daughters.
The men, however, were uninterested in the girls. They turned on Lot, accusing him of casting judgment on them, and threatened to kill him. In an instant, the angels intervened. Clearly, Lot needed help. They reached out, grabbed Lot, shut the door and struck the men blind. Try as they might, they could no longer find the door.
Quickly, the angels explained to Lot that God’s judgment would soon destroy the city. They directed him to gather his family and prepare to leave. Lot slipped out the back door to find the men who pledged to marry his daughters, and beg them to leave with him. They thought he was joking.
By the time he came back home, the sky lit with the coming of the dawn. The angel’s said, “Time’s up. We gotta go!”
It intrigues me that Lot still hesitated to leave. Why?
Even if he had good intentions of trying to help this community find God, even if he bristled every time he saw the wickedness in his city – part of him still wanted to stay. Why? I don’t know. But he could have left a long time ago, and he didn’t. Maybe he didn’t want to start over. Or maybe he doubted it would really be destroyed. Perhaps he didn’t want to leave the potential sons-in-law behind. Or maybe over the years, he lost his ability to see sin clearly. When we surround ourselves with sin, our judgment gets cloudy.
The angels grabbed him, his wife, and his two daughters by the hand and drug them out of the city. God’s mercy rescued them, even though they didn’t want to leave. Why?
Because God doesn’t give up on us even when we do stupid things, especially when someone is praying for us.
Verse 29 clearly says, “. . . when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe. . .” Lot received God’s mercy instead of God’s judgment because Abraham prayed.
By the time Lot and his little family reached the little town of Zoar, Sodom and Gomorrah went up in smoke. Burning sulfur overtook the land – and Lot’s wife – who lagged far enough behind she was caught in the fallout. She just didn’t want to go… Sodom’s full-grown sin gave birth to death, just like the verses we read from James (see above).
Lot lived in fear in a cave in the mountains. He should’ve traveled back to Uncle Abraham and found a place to start over. He should have admitted that he submitted his family to a terrible predicament. But he didn’t. He stayed hidden in the mountains and bore the consequences of his terrible choice with his daughters. With terrible irony, they raped him. They thought the end justified the means. They were wrong.
And the sin of Sodom continued. It moved with them because they lacked repentance. It didn’t have to end that way. God’s mercy waits with open arms.
Looking down on the burning plain shook Abraham. Soon he moved his flocks and tents to a new area with a different ruler. Perhaps he couldn’t bear to look down on the destruction anymore. I wonder if he thought God didn’t answer his prayer for Lot. He didn’t necessarily know Lot hid in the mountains. The darkness of discouragement and doubt seemed to overshadow him.
Fear overtook him in the new land, and he once again claimed Sarah as his sister instead of his wife. She must have been a real beauty even at 90 years old because sure enough, the King of Gerar sent for Sarah He wanted her to be his wife.
Wait! Isn’t she pregnant? Well, probably. But they may not know it quite yet.
What in the world are you doing Abraham? You just gave away your wife, who is going to have YOUR baby this time next year. God did save Lot, and He is going to keep His promise to you too! What a mess we make when we act out of fear and discouragement.
Is God OK with Abraham claiming Sarah is his sister and giving her to the king? NO, he is not! This, too, is sexual sin.
But God doesn’t give up on us even when we do stupid things. He always keeps His promises. He promised a baby, and a baby would come. In addition to this, God once again proved to Sarah that this promise is for her too! He protected her from the king’s touch. There would be no way to doubt that God had kept His promise to both Abraham and Sarah.
God intervened by sending a dream to Abimelech. It scared the poor man out of his wits. “You are as good as dead,” God said, “because you took another man’s wife.” Well, that certainly got his attention. The very next morning, the king gave Sarah back to Abraham, along with plenty of gifts.
Once again, God dared Abraham to believe He will keep His promise.
God is so merciful – even in his judgment. He longs for us to believe.
Questions for thought:
Group Discussion: How can we influence our culture without being drawn into sin with it?
Application for your life: Who are you praying for? Just as Abraham prayed for mercy for Lot, we can pray for mercy for those in our lives who are being influenced by sin. Being a part of a small group Bible study with other believers will help you stay faithful to God. Together, you can help each other discern right from wrong. Are you part of a group like that?
For further study: The Bible mentions Sodom many times as an example of judgment. One of those passages refers to the final judgment of the earth. Read Jesus’ words in Luke 17:20-37.