Sermon preached by Mr Jonathan Northern, December 2006
I want us to consider together the contrasting life of Lot and his Uncle Abraham. You may remember that we have been looking together at the Sermon on the Mount, and for the last two weeks we have been looking at the warning Â— ‘Do not lay up treasure upon earth but seek first the kingdom of God.’
Really, the lives of Lot and Abraham are a commentary upon those final verses in Matthew chapter 6.
I would like to turn to Genesis chapter 13 v12 & v18 ‘Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. …Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.’
I want to keep half an eye on Abraham this morning but focus more of our attention upon Lot, the nephew of Abraham. Here are two men of God: we read in 2 Peter chapter 2 v8 that Lot was a just and righteous man. Yet it is clear that although Abraham and Lot are both in heaven, their lives became so different. A choice is made by Lot, who had followed Abraham away from Ur of the Chaldees. He had left behind his family and his roots and the culture of Ur of the Chaldees, just like uncle Abraham, and yet here he made a choice, a decision which was to have consequences for the whole of the rest of his life here upon earth. Lot stands in Scripture as a reminder to us all, if we are Christians especially. Here we are warned of becoming a carnal Christian. A Christian? Yes Â— and yet a Christian who is living so close to the world, that really their life becomes as near a disaster as it can get without the loss of the soul.
So we see in Lot someone who is typical of a carnal Christian and that must challenge us. It is possible to be saved and yet to have a life that suffers great loss. The apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians chapter 3, speaks about the person that lays down the right foundation Â— Jesus Christ and Him crucified, yet they build upon that foundation a life and a work which in the final day will be lost. The apostle says their work is lost and yet they will be saved. That was true of Lot. He had the right foundation; faithfully he had followed the Lord; he had heeded the example of his uncle and forsaken Ur of the Chaldees, yet by this very practical choice in his life, he was going to suffer the chastening of the Lord in a very severe way.
He is then Â— a saved man with a squandered life.
Abraham, on the other hand, like Lot, was a sinner. He had recently backslidden and gone into Egypt. You can read in the earlier chapters of Genesis how, in Egypt, his faith had faltered and he had felt the need to lie to the king of Egypt in order to protect himself. At the beginning of this chapter, we read of this man Abraham; yes, his faith had faltered and he had dishonoured the Lord by his lack of faith and his lies, but we read here that he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning. Here is a man then, who has made his way back. He has backslidden from the Lord, his faith has faltered but, look at verse four Â— He returned ‘unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.’ Now, in a sense, this physical journey which Abraham had taken back from Egypt into the land of promise, back to the altar, back to the place of worship, was a very practical journey, but it reveals a spiritual journey as well. Abraham is now restored and his faith is flourishing again. He is in the land of Canaan and back in fellowship with his God. He is walking with God. He is walking in the land of promise and we shall see later on how Abraham had a faith which the Lord blessed and fed and strengthened. Lot, on the other hand, is confronted here with a tremendous choice and it would lead to great ruin.
We too, often come to places in our lives where we can make a choice, even as Christians, and that choice can have a far-reaching effect upon our lives Â— whether we will be useful to the Lord or end our lives with little fruit.
I want to begin by looking at what Lot lost and then I want to discover how Lot came to make this disastrous choice, because it will be instructive for us.
What Lot lost.
At the end of chapter 19 we find Lot has escaped from Sodom by the skin of his teeth. He has left his house, he has left his baggage, he has left many of his family and is living like a cave man, in a very rustic, poor situation. Lot’s choice was to go into the land of Sodom. Why? Because he saw the potential for wealth: the potential for gain: the potential for creature comforts. But the Lord sorely chastened Lot and at the end of his life we find him living in a cave, having lost his wife and most of his family, with two daughters who knew nothing better than the habits of the sad culture they had left behind. Lot lost almost everything, except for his soul.
He lost his spiritual vigour.
There is no mention of Lot building an altar. There is no mention in any of these chapters of Lot being a good testimony. We are told by the apostle Peter that he was vexed. His soul was tortured by the filthy
conversation of the wicked; those things that he saw and heard destroyed his spiritual vigour. That is a warning to us. We may make a career choice; it may be as we look at it, in practical terms, a very wise choice. It will lead to great bounty, to great wealth; it may lead us into a social life which is very appealing. It may mean that we rub shoulders with the rich and famous and the high and mighty, but what will it do for our soul? Lot is a warning to us as believers.
He lost much of his practical faith.
He had confidence in God. We know that he was a saved man, but in practical terms, his faith almost disappeared. I say that because we see it here in chapter 19; when he is delivered by the two angels from the city of Sodom, he says to them, ‘I cannot go to the mountain, some evil will take me.’ Here is a man who has just witnessed the Lord protecting him from a baying crowd of ‘perverts’ and the angels deliver him, by the skin of his teeth, from the fire and brimstone. What has happened to Lot’s faith? He has no practical faith Â— this is a warning to us. The closer we associate with this world, the weaker will grow our courage, our trust and our faith in God. We shall not be able to cast ourselves upon Him. We shall not be able to ‘take no thought for the morrow’ and not worry about what we are going to eat and what we are going to drink, as the Lord was teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. We will lose our practical faith; that is what happened to Lot.
He lost his family.
Now I must be careful here, because we cannot save our family. As much as we would like to, we cannot put faith into our children. God is sovereign. We cannot save our families, but we can lose them by the choices we make, by the lifestyle we lead, by the example we set. Pastors cannot save the members of their congregation. I can preach to you, I can urge you to seek Christ, I can urge you to repent and seek salvation, but I cannot save you. But, you know, as a pastor, I can lose you. As a shepherd I can lead you into damaging pastures. I can expose you to all manner of danger, and how many pastors and church workers have been the ruin of their people because they have been a poor example. They have set before them the example of Lot Â— of worldliness. They have taught their people worldly ideas, worldly practices, worldly worship, and it has been the ruin of their congregation. Lot, through the choice that he made, was culpable in the loss of his children. Look what we read here Â— Ch 19 v 14 ‘Lot went out and spoke to his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.’ They were but idle tales. I suspect that these young men said to their father in law, “Well, you live here and have seen no problem living here for the last ten years.
What has got into you? Why must you suddenly urge us to leave now?” Lot should have seen the writing on the wall. He should have noticed that this place was ripening for God’s judgement, yet he was living there and by his example he loses his family. What was the spiritual legacy of Lot? His soul was saved but he had no legacy.
Lot was a saved man, but he was a carnal believer and he left no legacy but Moabites and Ammonites Â— people who were idolatrous; people who knew nothing of the Lord.
Turn back with me to chapter 18 v17-19.
`The LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment, that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him.’
Abraham was a blessed man who left a spiritual legacy.
Now I want to return to chapter 13.
There is not just a warning here to believers but to all. There is a warning to associates of Christians, some of us here this morning. If we are honest with ourselves, we would have to say, “Well I’m not yet a Christian, I am an associate of Christians. There are those in my family who are Christians; there are those among my friends who are Christians and I’m drawn to them Â— or perhaps I am not drawn to them; I have just been lumbered with them through the circumstances of my life.”
The Lord Jesus said Â— ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’
Some think she was a Sodomite whom he married after he had pitched his tent toward Sodom. What we know of Lot’s wife is that she was partly drawn to Lot’s faith. She wasn’t like her sons in law, who refused to leave. Did you notice the description in the way in which she left? She was behind Lot, she was dragging her heels; she was one who left Sodom reluctantly. She looked back wistfully and was turned into a pillar of salt as a warning to every associate of Christians.
Where do you belong? Where is your heart? Dragging your feet reluctantly, as it were, behind those that bring a Christian influence into your life, but actually you look wistfully towards this world and towards its culture, its godlessness and its unbelief. That was Lot’s wife. Lot’s family had the benefits of living with a man of God, yet they were utterly destroyed in the fire and brimstone that God rained upon Sodom.
Now I want to look at Chapter 13 vv5-8. We see that wealth brings its problems. We can pick up from this chapter that wealth, though it may be the gift of God and the favour of God towards us, brings its problems. The Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs, in his book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment says, ‘One way that we can cultivate Christian contentment is to look at the wealth of the wealthy and remind ourselves that it has attached to it problems.’ Wealth is something that we intrinsically desire. The Lord speaks of this in the Sermon on the Mount, doesn’t He? We love wealth, we lay up wealth. If we are not careful we set our heart upon it, but we need to be reminded that wealth carries with it a health warning. If we say, “I am thankful to the Lord that he has not made me a multi-millionaire, because I know that it would be a snare to me, it would be divisive to my family, it would bring problems in my life. It would bring so much stress, strain and anxiety, but the Lord has spared me that by keeping me less well off.” Then we can rejoice that the Lord has favoured us in that way. Verses 8 and 9 Abraham said unto Lot, ‘Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me.’ Now Abraham here gives Lot, who is the younger, the choice. That was very gracious and must have been very striking in the life of Lot. Abraham was the older, he was the senior partner, he was the patriarch. He had every right to impose his will upon Lot and say to Lot “I’m going to have this piece. You need to go off and find some other piece.” Abraham is not concerned about his wealth, first and foremost. Abraham’s heart and affection are not on his wealth but on his God. Therefore he is quite comfortable deferring and foregoing his rights and in a very charitable way offering Lot the choice. But, sadly for Lot, that was the worst thing perhaps that could have happened. Look at verse 10, `Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.’
How did he know what the garden of the Lord was like? Teasing question, isn’t it?
But if you look at the beginning of Genesis, it was called ‘The book of Adam.’ Probably there was a parchment written down which catalogued the early earth. Lot here can visualise what the garden of Eden was like. He has been down into Egypt and the surroundings of the river Nile, so that is used here to describe the plain of Jordan. It was a lush, well watered, rich environment and so…
Lot makes his decision based upon sight.
What he sees Â— and there is the first warning to us. A pivotal decision in his life, but he makes that choice based upon sight. Upon physical, practical, present earthly consideration. Now we must learn, if we are believers, to walk by faith not by sight. That is the difference between
Abraham and Lot. Abraham, by faith, says, “I know, whether I go left or right, God will take care of me. I know that He has called me to leave Ur of the Chaldees. He has promised to give me the blessings of heaven and He has promised to me this land in which I walk, so I don’t really mind whether I go this way or that way. I can leave the issue to my nephew; it’s no concern to me because I am walking by faith, trusting in God, knowing that He will take care of me.” Whereas Lot falters, leaves faith out of the equation and makes his good business decision, his great career move based upon sight. “This looks the best land, this looks the place where I will have least stress and strain, where I won’t have my herdsmen coming to me saying, tot, what shall we do now the grass is short?'” He saw all the wealth and excitement and the cities of the plain and so he pitched his tent based upon sight. Now that is a warning to all of us. Perhaps I can speak a word here to the young people and the children. As you grow up, you have got to make very critical decisions which will have a far-reaching effect on the whole of the rest of your life. It may be choosing a wife or a husband. What are you going to base those decisions on? Now I know I have been very general here. Do you make those decisions based upon sight or do you mix faith with your choice? Faith says, ‘I will look at those things that the word of God teaches me. Those things which will be important to me if my faith is to flourish and my soul is to benefit.’ When you make decisions concerning your career, where you are going to live, where you are going to work, it is very easy to be drawn to a form of employment which will be attractive and wealth generating and lead, perhaps, to success and fame. But we need to think of the spiritual costs and consequences. Lot forgot those and we see in the outcome for Lot and his family, what a disastrous decision it was! At the time (verse 10) ‘he beheld all the plain of Jordan.’ It seemed the good and the right thing to do but it backfired badly.
I want to think now of four things which became the consequences of Lot in his life, and they are warnings to us Â—
Firstly Â— Lot did not consider the spiritual dangers associated with his good business or career choice.
Verse 13 clearly tells us as if we are are to notice this, tot pitched his tent toward Sodom but the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.’ If Lot had opened his eyes, he would have seen that there were other factors that he needed to consider in forming his judgment, but he left those out. We must not do so. We cannot see the consequences, perhaps, in our life. We think of the choice of a church. It may seem that it doesn’t really matter where we go to church. You know many of the decisions made about where people should attend church are based on sight, not on faith. “Well, I want to go to a
church where there are lots of young people. I want to go to a church which is popular, many people would say. I want to go to a church where there are lots of people, because if I go to a church where there are lots of people, then I won’t be thrown in at the deep end, I will not be expected to do this or that or the other, I can just be a fly on the wall, and there will be lots of young people for my children to mix with.” But what is that church like? It may be a good church; it may be sound; it may be preaching the truth, but it may not. We must open our eyes and ask if this church is faithful to the Lord. Is it teaching its people to stand separate from the world and worldly practices and worldly habits? If I go off to university and I end up in a church which draws away my soul into the things of this world and I become a carnal Christian like Lot, even though I have a great circle of Christian friends, it may he disastrous to my usefulness to the Lord. What use was Lot to the Lord after this point in his life?
Secondly Â— he seemed to excuse himself by thinking he could handle the threat of this godless society.
Perhaps Abraham challenged him Â— “Lot, you have pitched your tent towards Sodom; don’t you think you need to be careful?” They must have had some form of dialogue and perhaps Lot answered something like this Â— “Well, yes, I am a strong believer, uncle, I can handle this situation,” Pastor Trevor Carlisle spoke a couple of weeks ago about Ruth. He spoke about Naomi and Elimelech and how first they went to sojourn in the land of Moab, then they dwelt in the land of Moab, then they settled in the land of Moab, Well, Lot did very similar things. First of all we read he pitched his tent toward Sodom, but by chapter nineteen we read that the angels came into Lot’s house within Sodom, and he had become one of the elders, the eminent men of the city. Perhaps Lot said something like this to Abraham:- “Yes, I know I’m drifting in that direction, but I can handle this situation, I will keep myself apart from their godless culture and practices; I will perhaps be a good influence. Yes I will go to their pubs, I will go to some of their meetings and I will be a good influence upon them.” That is not the principle of the Word of God. We are to mark those who are ungodly and avoid them. We are to ‘come out from among them and be separate and touch not the unclean thing,’ and the Lord says to you, ‘I will be a father and you will be to me sons and daughters,’ but Lot here forgot that principle of being separate from the world. He allowed himself to be drawn in and he finally became a resident and a leading light in the city, (or so he thought). Now we didn’t read it, but chapter fourteen reveals that there was trouble for Lot. So often that is the case; if we pitch our tent towards a place of wealth and sin, we will reap trouble Â— Lot did! He was taken captive and God graciously gave Abraham the victory to deliver him from the hand of those who had kidnapped him and his
family, but Lot didn’t notice the warning signs. Was that not a little warning bell to Lot? Lot, you are living in Sodom, you hope to be blessed, you hope to flourish in this town and you have been taken captive by a gang of marauding kings. Lot, you should have stopped and thought… ‘Is this God telling me that my life is not what it should be? Is God giving me a gentle warning, a gentle reproof? I see Abraham my uncle is prospering; he has got servants and is living on less good grass, but he is not having this trouble in his life.’
Now, not all trouble is a reproof. Sometimes the Lord sends trouble into our lives in order to test our faith. He allows us to be persecuted. He allows difficulties to come into our lives Â— illness and suchlike, to keep us close to him. But sometimes it is a reproof. So whenever we face difficulty, it is a wise thing to step back and say, “Why has my loving heavenly Father allowed this in my life? Is He calling me to examine myself? Is He asking me to search my soul and to search my life to see whether I have backslidden, to see whether I have made some foolish decision?” But Lot ignores this warning sign. He continues to live in Sodom and, as we see, he becomes ensconced within the city. The Bible puts a specific health warning on the world. You know what I mean by the world? This world that is away from God. The world in ‘which we live that says, “We do not want God. We want to set the rules. We want to make up our own agenda. We do not want the influence of God upon our culture.” That is the world I am speaking of. The Bible very clearly recognizes and labels this world and it puts a warning on it rather like the warning on the back of a packet of cigarettes. It is a health warning that says something like this:- Being part of this world will seriously damage your spiritual health and the spiritual health of your children. Lot continued to draw pleasure from living with the world, in the world and part of the world. The world of Sodom did great damage to his spiritual health. Now we are not called to live as hermits. Abraham dwelt in the plain of Mamre. Mamre became one of his colleagues who helped him (in chapter fourteen) deliver Lot. He was confederate with Abraham. So clearly Abraham had friends who were not believing friends but they did not involve him in the compromise that was involved here in the life of Lot.
But, thirdly, I want us to notice that Lot’s standards were dragged down by his living in the land of Sodom.
What happened when these men came and banged on the door’? Horrendously, he offers to them his two daughters and we say Â— “How sick. How awful that he should do that.” What led Lot to do that’? His standards had been eroded, yes, reluctantly, but his standards should have been so high that he would rather die than allow his daughters to be abused in that way. What had happened to Lot is that he had lived so long in a loose-living society that his standards had been watered down and that is a warning to us. We live in a godless society; we cannot help it, but if we fraternise with it for too long, we will find that our standards will be watered down too. We will not notice when people around us use bad language. We wilt not feel any pain when we see godless behaviour on the television screen. We will become almost immune to it. We will not notice that our standards have dropped. An atheist said, two or three hundred years ago, “The only way to knock Christianity out of the British people is to get rid of Sunday. If you cannot get rid of Sunday as a day of worship and rest you will never get rid of Christianity from the country.” He was right, wasn’t he? But we now live in a society where the Lord’s Day is completely obliterated and sadly the standards of Christians have been watered down too. We live in a society that has said, “Go to the pub, go to the restaurant, go to the shop, do your supermarket shop on the Lord’s Day. It doesn’t matter: do what you want,” and Christians are beginning to imbibe the same way of thinking. They are like Lot, they have become carnal Christians.
Fourthly, Lot was guilty of short-sightedness.
Look at verse ten again in chapter thirteen. Lot lifted up his eyes and beheld all the plain of Jordan that it was well watered before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorah. It was well watered before it was destroyed. We look at this world, we look at its social lifestyle, pleasures and its entertainments, its wealth-creating potential and we are drawn to this world. “I don’t need the Lord. I will play fast and loose with my soul because I can have all I want of this world. This earth whets my appetite.” It may be attractive to our sinful natures today but soon it will be destroyed. This world will not be here for that long. The earth will melt with fervent heat, the elements will be burned up and all that we know of this world will be taken away. We must not be as short-sighted as Lot; we must be as believers who look with confident hope and glorious anticipation to that day when our Lord will return and we shall know eternal blessings untainted by the stains of sin.
I want to close by looking at Abraham by way of contrast, and I want to conclude with this positive note. Here is a man who is a type of a worthy Christian. By contrast with Lot, who faltered through his life, we find in Abraham a different man. The Lord spoke to Abraham. Look at verse fourteen. ‘The Lord said unto Abraham after that Lot was separated from him.’ Here is the first difference; the Lord continues to speak with Abraham, He communicates with him. It may seem a small, very insignificant sentence, but there is so much attached to it. ‘The Lord said unto Abraham.’ He didn’t have the best grass, he had forfeited the opportunity of first choice, but God continued to speak with this man.
What a blessing, friends, if we keep ourselves from this world, we forfeit, perhaps, a great career; we choose to worship, perhaps, in a
small and insignificant church, but the Lord speaks with us. The Lord continues to lead us and guide us and communicate with us as He does with Abraham here. These are the blessings given to a man who walks by faith, not by sight. God communicated with him and so He will with all who live by faith.
The second thing we notice, from verse fourteen to verse seventeen, the Lord says, ‘Walk through the land.’ What is he doing for Abraham here?
He is inviting him to survey the land in faith.
He is never personally going to be the owner of this land, but the Lord is encouraging him to feed his faith. Look around you, survey all the blessings that are yours, Abraham, by faith. By faith he anticipated the fulfilment of all God’s promises; not just this earthly one, this physical one, but also the promise of a deliverer. The promise that in his seed there would be a blessing for all nations. Abraham is given here, through the Word of God, food for faith. Here is the blessing then Â—
When we walk by faith, God will feed our faith.
When we willingly forfeit the blessings of this world we see that they are tainted with sin. The Lord will take care of us. He took care of Abraham here.
We will close with verse eighteen Â— ‘Then Abraham moved his tent and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre which is in Hebron and built there an altar unto the LORD.’ Here was a man that lived and walked with God and the Lord lived and walked with him and took care of him.
In the next chapter we read how he was given strength to be victorious and, you know, a Christian that walks with the Lord will have great spiritual victories and will be able to conquer for the Lord. Not physically but spiritually. We will conquer sin. We may be instruments like Abraham was to deliver spiritual captives and to restore those who have backslidden and bring them back into a place of safety with the Lord.
So here is a commentary on those lovely words of Jesus at the end of Matthew chapter 6.
Abraham sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; he didn’t concern himself with the best grass, he didn’t muscle himself into a position where he had the chief things of this world. He sought first to walk with God by faith. Remember how that verse ends, ‘And all these things shall be added unto you.’
Do we read that Abraham’s herds starved? No! Do we read that he had to sack half his staff and sell half his cattle? No! The Lord took care of him.
The Lord will take care of every one of us when we put Him first in life. Amen