Sermon Prep (part 2): Lot

Posts in the Sermon Prep: Sodom series

  1. This morning’s sermon will be on …
  2. Sermon Prep (part 1)
  3. Sermon Prep (part 2): Lot
  4. Sermon Prep, part 3
  5. Sermon Prep: Finished!

Lot is an interesting character in this story. At first glance, he’s the hero, but as the story unfolds, we start to see some things that make us question his choices. In fact, one of the questions that keeps popping up for me when I read Genesis 19 is why Lot is called “Righteous”? What sets him apart, other than one moment of courage that, itself, seems sullied by a horrific compromise? So, here’s my run sheet on the guy.

Lot

19:1 Sitting at the gates of the city – this is a position of prominence in the city, the equivalent of a city council meeting, or high court. Lot has obviously done well for himself in Sodom.

Lot mirrors the actions of Abraham in 18:2, bowing to the angels.

Hospitality, one of the cardinal virtues of the ANE. Protection is implied, consent of the guest is a show of honor.

19:3 patsar me’hod – “he single-mindedly, obstinately pressed upon them with urgency, exceeding force”. Lot seems very aware of the kind of welcome the visitors will receive at the hands of the city. How long has Lot been living with the disparity between his position of respect and prominence in a wicked city, and his internal moral voice? The arrival of the guests seems to be a watershed moment for Lot’s moral identity.

19:6 Lot exits the safety of the house. He presumed that his prominence in the city would be a safeguard against the mob?

19:7,8 “do not act wickedly … they are under the shadow of my roof.” Lot’s perspective here is instructive. His assumptions about the people will be important later when we try to understand what the sin of sodom was. He assumes that they are not morally ignorant (they understand wickedness). They know his obligations as a host to the visitors (shadow of my roof). His offer of his daughters shows that Lot believes that the crowd is motivated by sensual lusts, which he hopes to divert away from his guests.

The offer of his daughters is ugly, ugly, ugly, ugly. What’s are the relevant features of this offer? Women as property under the sovereign rule of the male head of household, safety of guests over safety of family, homosexual vs. heterosexual?, how would this affect their status as “betrothed”? Are there other examples of this kind of barter?

How does Lot get called “Righteous” in light of this hideous sort of compromise?

The rejection of the offer shows that Lot’s assumptions about the mob’s motivation was wrong. There seems to be an air of violence about their intent, not just sensuality.

19:9 “who are you to declare judgement against us? You’re not from here, yet in your wealth and status you presume to declare what is right and wrong for us? Why should we bend to your moral pronouncements?” c.f. 19:1 – is this a latent resentment against Lot’s prominence, or a general revolt against moral restraint?

19:14 Lot’s sons-in-law thought he was joking about God’s impending wrath. Are they from the city? How does Lot’s willingness to marry into the city fit with his inner turmoil between morality and position? That they take Lot’s warning as a joke might indicate that they are unused to hearing language about righteousness, justice, and judgement coming from Lot.

19:16 But he hesitated. This is it. This is the window into Lot’s soul. In Sodom, he has wealth, he has position and prominence, he is integrating his family into the city, and everything that he has in this world is within those walls. The laughter of his sons-in-law has given him pause. Who are these visitors? How do I know that they’re telling the truth? Maybe my sons-in-law are right, and this is a huge joke. Should I risk everything by abandoning the city? It’s been a long time (how many years since the split w/ abraham?) since I’ve heard anything about, or from, Yahweh, and after all, the covenant is with Abraham, not with me … Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

19:19 Now he believes. Once outside the city walls, he sees the lovingkindness (checed – mercy? grace?) and compassion that motivated the angels to rescue him (Doug, how very reformed! Lot does not believe, and then is saved; he is saved, and then believes. And then runs!)

19:20 Lot is still looking for a city. Escape to the mountians? They have no Starbucks there! What if I just move to the suburbs instead, and chill over here in this little town.

19:23 The rising sun. Measurements of time are prominent in this story. The angels arrive at dusk, the violent mob assembles at night, at first light the angels urge Lot to run, and when the sun rises, he reaches the safe city.

That’s the wrapup. So, why is Lot called righteous? What righteous actions did Lot take? He offered hospitality, he protected the safety of his guests, and (though it was a bit late in coming) believed in the lovingkindness of God in protecting him and his family. He fled, which was an act of faith. But he was also a man at home in a wicked city, prominent among the people, who seemed to at least be able to navigate the moral ambiguity of that place. He offers up his daughters to be raped by an angry mob. He betrothed his daughters to faithless men. In the moment of decision, his faith falters, and he has to be dragged to safety.

So, why call Lot righteous? Why save him from the destruction of Sodom? 19:29 might be an indication that it actually has nothing at all to do with him or his actions: it says that God remembered Abraham, and so saved Lot.

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7 thoughts on “Sermon Prep (part 2): Lot

  1. aly hawkins

    19:3 – I don’t think the text necessarily implies the city’s “welcome” as Lot’s reason for insisting the visitors come to his house. Could it be that he hoped to receive a blessing from God? Perhaps this is where his righteousness comes in – urgently desiring to be visited by God.

    19:7-8 – Again, perhaps Lot’s ugly, ugly, ugly (I agree wholeheartedly) offer of his daughters instead of the visitors has more to do with his knowledge of the visitors’ identities, and his hope that he might please or impress God by the lengths he’s willing to go to save His messengers. Could there be any parallel (this is a stretch, I know) between Lot/his daughters and Abraham/Isaac on Mt. Moriah? Just a thought.

    I’m not sure about the implication of these ideas on the rest of the story…if Lot truly desires to please God, why does he hesitate?

  2. michael lee Post author

    “Could there be any parallel (this is a stretch, I know) between Lot/his daughters and Abraham/Isaac on Mt. Moriah? Just a thought.”

    An interesting idea, but I don’t know how strong the connection is. This wasn’t a faith-test, daughters and sons are rarely interchangeable figures in biblical metaphor, and there’s not really much of the christological typology associated with Isaac. If the author intended an association, I think it would probably be more intentional.

    Yeah, the queston of Lot’s recognition of the visitors is significant to the story. He’s not (as far as we know) privy to Abraham’s interaction with them, and there doesn’t seem to be anything in their appearance that would mark them as supernatural visitors. When they first appear at the start of chapter 18, it says that Abraham saw three men, and welcomed them as such. Lot appears to welcome them in the same way.

    I don’t see anything yet at this point in the story to imply that Lot knows more about the situation than what it appears to be on the face of it; two visitors have come to town and, in seeming ignorance of the sort of place they have come to, have demured his offer of hospitality.

    The phrase that gets used to describe his urging is also significant. It speaks of urgency, immediacy, pleading, insistence, stubborness, and there are overtones of condescension. It’s the kind of phrase that might get used to describe a parent giving an insistent warning to a child. The root of pastar is “to beat”, and in this case, it’s a kind of “beating an idea into a closed mind”, an insistent stuborness on the part of Lot.

  3. Doug

    Sovereign grace seems to be the only reason one could call Lot “righteous”. Semi-Pelagians want to find the redeeming and righteous qualities in Lot to give reasons for his being “elect”.) While he is not as bad as he could be, there clearly is a mixture in his heart and lifestyle. He wants it all- the blessing of God and the good life of the city. He is in so many ways like so many of us. The writer of 2 Peter claims, “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 he was so distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless why did he stay in the city? Was he trying to be a witness and influence or was he enjoying city life.
    It is interesting that in the OT the image of city is often a place of human striving that resists God’s reign. i.e Babel and Babylon. The garden, on the other hand, is a place of paradise where the presence of God is not attained by effort but conferred by His grace. He walked with them in the garden in the cool of the day. Interestingly, the image of paradise in the NT morphs into a garden-like city in the image of the new Jerusalem.
    Lot has chosen the city (read- human self effort (Pelagius?)) Yet in spite of his choice God chooses Lot (covenental grace)

  4. aly hawkins

    Okay, not to be a harpy, but the text says “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground” (19:1). It doesn’t say “the two angels, who were totally in disguise so Lot didn’t recognize them for what they were came to Sodom, blah, blah.” I don’t think you can assume that he didn’t know they were angels…in fact, his bowing completely to the ground and his attempts to protect them make some sense when interpreted that way. (But I don’t have a degree in theology and know jack poop about the ANE…I humbly acknowledge that.)

  5. Cliff

    On why Lot lives in the city…..

    It is interesting that Lot has, as you say, a prominant place in the city – riches, respect, even honor. Lot has a history of being a climber. When offered a choice between the good grazing land and the wilderness, he picked the good land and left Abraham with the desert. Despite this, God chooses Abraham and Lot is left holding the money bag.

    I wonder if he had a bit of an inferiority complex over this arrangement and simply decided that instead of being God’s #2 he would be the city’s #1 — or was he trying on his own power to convert the city and thus earn God’s favor? Maybe Abraham was aware of Lot’s desires and was supporting him in his desparate bargaining act – knowing that the destruction of the city would be devastating to a man who had made its conversion his way of earning God’s love.

    Perhaps the whole point of the story is that God wanted us to see that God saw Lot as “righteous” before he saw himself that way.

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