Part 5 of “The Tree” – a study of Jesus’ family tree.
Genesis 13, 14 & 19
Entitlement is the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. Entitlement looks like the kid who threw a fit because he received thirty-seven gifts for his birthday last year, and only received thirty-six this year. Entitlement looks like the ungrateful child whose grandmother gave him a $20 gift card, but rather than saying “thankyou” she said: “That’s it?” Entitlement looks like the new college student who is devastated to learn that there is no one on campus who will wash his dirty clothes or clean his room.
Entitlement chains a person to their victimhood and blinds that person from seeing the good within their reach. The daughters of Lot were such people.
Lot was the nephew of Abraham. Where Abraham’s life ended with hope, redemption, and encouragement for all who read this, Lot’s story ends tragically and leaves its reader with a sense of pity, fear, and disgust. The conclusion of Lot’s story is found in Genesis 19:30-38:
Afterward Lot left Zoar because he was afraid of the people there, and he went to live in a cave in the mountains with his two daughters. One day the older daughter said to her sister, “There are no men left anywhere in this entire area, so we can’t get married like everyone else. And our father will soon be too old to have children. Come, let’s get him drunk with wine, and then we will have sex with him. That way we will preserve our family line through our father.” So that night they got him drunk with wine, and the older daughter went in and had intercourse with her father. He was unaware of her lying down or getting up again. The next morning the older daughter said to her younger sister, “I had sex with our father last night. Let’s get him drunk with wine again tonight, and you go in and have sex with him. That way we will preserve our family line through our father.” So that night they got him drunk with wine again, and the younger daughter went in and had intercourse with him. As before, he was unaware of her lying down or getting up again. As a result, both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their own father. When the older daughter gave birth to a son, she named him Moab. He became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Moabites. When the younger daughter gave birth to a son, she named him Ben-ammi. He became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Ammonites. (Genesis 19:30–38, NLT)
Lot’s life ended so horribly, I believe, for four reasons.
Lot Trusted His Own Wisdom over God’s Promise
Genesis 13 states that because growing flocks, herds, and tents, the relationship between herdsmen that worked for Abram and the herdsmen that worked for Lot began to grow tense. To settle the escalating tension, Abraham made the following suggestion: “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left” (vv. 8-9). So it happened: “Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar.” Lot saw that the grass was greener in the Jordan Valley and chose the better land for himself (Genesis 13:10–13).
Lot, no doubt, knew of God’s promises to Abraham. There were other ways for the two men to resolve the disputes between their herdsmen, but instead, they thought it best to part ways. Abraham gave Lot the opportunity to choose what he wanted, but rather than relying on his uncle for wisdom, Lot chose the option that would best benefit him.
There are two hints in Genesis 13:10 that tell us Lot’s choice had little to do with God: The first thing we learn from verse 10 is that Lot chose selfishly: “Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord. He did not ask the LORD which choice was better for his family and his own soul, but instead took the land that he believed would benefit him materially.
The second hint we are given is in Genesis 13:10. Lot saw that the Jordan Valley was not only like the garden of the LORD, but also, “like the land of Egypt…” If you recall from the previous sermon, Abraham and Sarah found trouble in Egypt just a few verses earlier when the famine in the land of Canaan was severe (13:1) and Abraham chose to go to Egypt instead. Lot was with Abraham when their lack of faith in God’s promise led them to Egypt and he witnessed what happens when people base their decisions on feeling rather than faith in God. Still, Lot desired what Egypt had in spite of the promise of God.
Lot Distanced Himself from the Voice of God
(Gen. 14; 19:1)
The second thing that led to Lot’s tragic end was that, although his uncle represented the voice of God (as imperfect as he was), Lot moved away from Abraham in search for something better. And, when it came to Sodom, Lot could not stay away. First, Lot settled “among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom,” (13:12) and in Genesis 19:1, Lot found himself, not just a resident of Sodom, but a prominent man in a city filled with, “great sinners against the Lord.” Even when Lot had the opportunity to leave, he chose otherwise.
In Genesis 14, Lot became the victim of war between several regional kings. Sodom and Gomorrah was pillaged and Lot was taken captive. In response, Abraham took 318 fighting men and rescued his nephew and his nephew’s people. After he rescued Lot and defeated the armies, Abraham said something to the Kings that was is very interesting: “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’” (14:22–23)
In contrast to Lot, who was interested in how he could benefit from Sodom, Abraham was convinced that his blessing came from God; therefore, he saw no need to keep any of the wealth of Sodom that Abraham took from the kings who took his nephew. Abraham wanted God to receive the glory from his successes. After witnessing Abraham’s military success over the four kings, and after watching his uncle refuse the wealth of Sodom and Gomorrah, it would have made sense for Lot rejoin Abraham. Instead, Lot chose the city of Sodom over the presence of God within the company his uncle. In effect, Lot distanced himself from the voice of God.
Lot Cared More about Himself than His Family
(Gen. 19:1- 22)
Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was great “and their sin is very grave” (Gen 18:20), God planned to completely destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Before destroying the city in which Lot lived, God told Abraham of his plans. Most likely out of concern for his nephew, Abraham pleaded with God to spare the city if even 10 righteous people dwelled there. God agreed, but not even 10 righteous people could be found.
However, God had sent two angels to rescue Lot (for the second time) from the impending doom that awaited his neighbors. When Lot saw the angels, whom I believe to have been disguised as men, he offered them his hospitality:
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. (Genesis 19:1–3)
The first three verses provide indication that Lot did have some religious convictions. After the men agreed to come to his house, he made them a meal and, “baked unleavened bread…” (v. 3). That Lot baked “unleavened bread” tells us that He was a worshiper of Yahweh like Adam, Seth, Noah, and his uncle.
Lot was probably not unlike many of the men we find in our churches today. Men who believe in God, claim to follow Jesus, and enjoy knowing and worshiping Him, but find themselves torn between two worlds: the world they can touch, feel, and prosper materially from, and the distant, unseen, but promised world. The question we should ask ourselves at this point in Lot’s story is why did he not move with his family to a safer place?
The events that took place after Lot invited the men into his home is shocking (for emphasis, this passage is from the New Living Translation):
But before they retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house. They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him. “Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing. Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish. But please, leave these men alone, for they are my guests and are under my protection. (Genesis 19:4–8, NLT)
What!?!? Lot felt morally obligated to protect the men he took into his home, but no moral obligation to protect his two virgin daughters. The men of the city then attempted to break into the house, but the angels blinded them so that Lot and his family to leave before the city was destroyed, but Lot cared more about himself than his own family.
Even after what happened the night before, Lot still hesitated to leave the place that God had decided to destroy because it was so utterly wicked. “As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city” (Genesis 19:15–16).
Lot Feared People More than He Trusted God
Lot, his wife, and his two daughters did leave Sodom along with Lot’s two sons-in-law, and all that he had loved. God destroyed the city which, I believe, had become the idol of Lot’s heart. After all that they had experienced, from the horror of the Lot potentially handing his daughters over to the men of the city, to the supernatural intervention of God, Lot’s wife could not bring herself to simply walk away. Against the command to leave and not look back upon the city, Lot’s wife looked, and she meet a tragic end by becoming a pillar of salt.
Under the wrath of a God whose patience ran dry over Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham looked on from a distance:
And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.” (Genesis 19:27–29)
Because Lot stayed in Sodom when he should have moved back under the care of his uncle, his wife and two sons-in-law died. All that was left of Lot and his clan were his two daughters. The angels encouraged him to flee with his family to the hills, but Lot wanted to remain in the valley in a small city called Zoar. His wish was granted and the angels promised Lot that he and his family would be safe there. However, out of fear for his life and disregard of the angels’ promise, Lot went to the hills and made his home in a cave. Lot’s lack of faith in the promise of God, and the desire to make a name for himself, landed him in a cave alone with the only family he had left. In Zoar, Lot could have found new husbands for both of his daughters, but he was paralyzed by fear and a distrust that the God of his uncle could keep him safe.
Returning to the first passage of the sermon (Genesis 19:30-38), it was fear of not having children like the other women they knew that emboldened Lot’s daughters to become pregnant by getting their father drunk and raping him. Both became pregnant and the oldest daughter named her son Moab from whom came the Moabites, and the younger daughter named her son Ben-ammi, from whom came the Ammonites. Both groups became known for their gross idolatry and immorality. The Moabites worshiped the god, Chemosh, while the Ammonites worshiped the god, Molech. Followers of both deities would offer their children as sacrifices to be burned in the fires of their god.
Lot ended up the way he did for the same reason so many find themselves in the place they had never thought possible. Perhaps now, many are convinced that there is no redemption. However, there is a wisdom to be gained, four things in particular, through the story of Lot’s life:
- Do not trust in the apparent wisdom of our age or your own self-imposed wisdom over what God has said or promised. Everything God has said and promised in his Book is ultimately for your good.
- Creating distance between you and the voice of God will eventually result in the fickleness of other voices, including your own, to replace the one responsible for creating all things out of nothing, because of his goodness and love, for your joy and satisfaction.
- God has made us for a contentment and a peace that can only be experienced with a life centered primarily on a love for God, and secondarily, on a love for others. Human flourishing cannot be experienced in a universe where idols are its center.
- If you are a Christian, the best antidote for fear of anything or any person is a right understanding of who God is and what He thinks of you.
In 1996, I took a class on Buddhism and the life of Siddhartha Gautama taught by a devout Buddhist out of a motivation to understand Myanmar and the culture in which my wife grew up. I absolutely enjoyed the class, but at the same time, felt deep remorse over the millions who ascribe to its worldview. Throughout the class I built friendships with my classmates as well as my professor and enjoyed many conversations with them about Jesus Christ and what it means to be a Christian.
I will never forget one of the classes when the professor took out of his bag a broken clay bowl and asked, “Is this a perfect bowl.” There was silence, because most of the class either believed the question to be a trick or they just didn’t know the right answer. I finally broke the silence with an answer: “No. The broken bowel is not perfect” I said. “Why can’t this bowl be a perfect broken bowl?” ask my professor. I understood the point that the professor was trying to make, so I again responded, “the bowel is not perfect, because it can no longer serve that purpose for which all bowels were originally created.” I will never forget the response of one of my classmates, with whom I had shared the gospel with earlier that day. She turned around to look at me and said in a voice loud enough for the entire class room to hear, “Well, I guess I am a broken bowl then.”
The wisdom of our age will tell you that it is okay to be broken, and will try to convince you to accept your brokenness as perfection. That is wrong. Our brokenness is because we are all under a curse. Our brokenness is the result of our being born sinners that our world and your world is not the way it is supposed to be.
You may be sitting here today “broken” because you were the victim of someone else’s perverted idea of entitlement – an entitlement that led to abuses suffered verbally, physically, emotionally, or even sexually. You may be sitting here today in the wake of the destruction your own sense of sin-induced entitlement that has left a trail or pattern of destruction. You may be sitting here today convinced that because you are broken, that there is no hope for wholeness or repair. I want you to hear the voice of God out of the pain of your darkness and brokenness that continues to echo from the cross of Abraham’s seed: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jer. 31:3).
Even out of the darkness and evil that Lot’s son Moab was born, and the great evil that his descendants would be responsible for, a little Moabitest girl would eventually be borne by the name of Ruth. Ruth would eventually meet and marry a man from Bethlehem whose name was Boaz. The two would eventually have a son whom they named Obed who was the grandfather of King David. God’s redemptive grace is bigger than Lot’s sin, the sin of his daughters, the sins of the Moabites, and whatever sin you may think is too big for the power of God’s amazing grace. He is bigger than your brokenness, so don’t settle or accept that as the end. Instead, rest in the promise of a God who, even as his Son cried: “It is finished,” shouts, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5)! Jesus didn’t die just to take your sins away; Jesus died to make you new: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
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