Monday, April 8, 2013

When a Molehill Becomes a Mountain

Today's passage:  Genesis 19: 17-38
     I wish I could just skip the end of this chapter  I wish there had been a way to avoid this sordid mess between Lot and his daughters.  And when I back up several verses, apparently there was.
     The most obvious way for Lot to have avoided some of this was if he had not been a drinker.  I think Lot must have had a history with alcohol because the oldest daughter knows that if she sets wine before Dad, he's going to overindulge.  How would Lot's eldest know this unless he had a history with drink?  He is so incoherent that the verses say "and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose."  Did she spike it with something?  It doesn't appear that is the case.  He may have been drowning his sorrows because of losing his wife.  Aha!  Now there is where the real solution would have been, had Lot's wife still been alive, this would never have been able to come to pass.
Lot and his family fleeing from Sodom
Taken from Religion in the Home (Part 1)
By Charlotte M. Yonge
Engravings by Julius Shnorr Von Karolsfeld
Published by George W. Bertron, 1913
     This automatically starts the age-old argument that if Lot's wife had not been so attached to the things of this world and looked back at the inferno behind her, she would not have become a salt statue.  Let's not forget that she had left two married daughters behind and possibly grandchildren.  We don't read about any grandchildren, but that does not mean that her daughters had not borne any (especially as they would not have figured into Lot's future genealogy).  She was more than likely a grieving mother who is anguished that part of her family would not survive.  And I'm not saying that is the only reason she looked back, she may very well have been clinging to her old life.  Remember, security is a woman's number one need.  But could this have even been prevented?  Back up a few verses.  When the angel ushers them out of the city, where does he tell this family to go?  The mountain.  Why don't they do as the angel instructs?  Lot thought he had a better way.  He couldn't stand the thought of being that far away from society.  He suggests, no he begs, to enter into that small town of Zoar, not too great a distance from Sodom and Gomorrah.  I checked out a few Bible maps, and although there is no great consensus as to where these cities existed, somewhere along the coast of the Dead Sea, Zoar would have been situated at a diagonal across the Dead Sea, giving an inhabitant there a pretty good view of the smoke and destruction happening in Sodom.  I always thought that Mrs. Lot had looked back just as they had stepped outside Sodom's city gates.  But these verses make it sound as if they had already entered Zoar.  Eventually, Lot leaves Zoar, and goes where?  To the mountain, exactly where the angel told him to go at the start of all this.  Would Mrs. Lot have been able to have a good view of Sodom's destruction from the cave?  It is quite possible that might have happened, but if the angel suggested it, I'm thinking the chance of that was less likely.  The angel was probably trying to help Lot shelter his wife's anguished heart, knowing the temptation to look back at the city might be too great for a mother's love.  Lot was the one who argued, diverted, sidetracked.  And ended up in the mountain anyway, but without his wife, which prompts the whole incestuous mess that also gives rise to Israel's greatest enemies.
     As for Lot's daughters, why they would even devise such a scheme shows how little they had been taught about the ways of God.  Daddy had just offered them up to the men of the city a few short days ago, so how would this be any worse?  Mrs. Lot had perished so there was no possibility of a brother ever being born (as it appears Lot only had daughters) and now they were cut off from civilization by taking refuge in a cave.  When would they ever meet a husband?  Warped thinking I know, but they had been raised in a city of warped thinking.  Certainly the Sodom culture had rubbed off a little on Lot's daughters.  I can only say that at least they had the sense to know to get Dad drunk first.  I'm glad that Lot would never consent to this willingly while sober.
     So what is the lesson here?  Do things God's way.  When God suggests a course, don't negotiate.  He knows what is best and is trying to spare us a lifetime of pain.  Lot and the whole nation of Israel would have to live with his mistake for the rest of their lives.  His daughters would have to explain to Moab and Benammi that Granddad was also Dad. Is it any wonder that these two father nations that end up despising Israel?  Talk about dysfunctional.
     I would think that if God sent an angel to tell me something, if He thought it so important to dispatch one of His personal messengers to deliver me to safety, I might want to take his advice.  Lot ended up in the mountain anyway, but not without some loss. What I want may seem like a little thing, but it is the littlest things in my life that become the biggest problems.  If God tells me to go to the isolated mountain, the loneliness might overtake me, but I would rather succumb to that then the guilt and shame as a result of  living in the molehill.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fire Escape

Today's passage:  Genesis 18-19:1-15
     I don't have one central thought for this post, but many random thoughts strung together.  My usual approach to reading a book in the Bible is to read a chapter at a time (I rarely get to read more than that and many mornings only a few verses in a chapter).  With Genesis, many events continue into the next chapter, so I find myself reading on.  I can't believe just how much I had forgotten or had not noticed since reading this book last.  It is amazing to me how God brings things to my attention that I didn't see before. Life experiences can further color what I see in His Word.
Abraham feeds three guests
Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Four
By Lillie A. Faris
Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
Standard Publishing Company, 1927
     So my first random thought is Abraham's prayer in the last verses of Chapter Eighteen.  I always pictured Abraham looking up into the heavens as he begged God for the righteous souls of Sodom, but forgot that the Lord Jesus is standing right there beside Abraham.  The Lord has just informed Abraham that He will be destroying the city, as He sends the two angels who accompanied Him ahead into said city.  Abraham begs and pleads with the Lord to spare the city if there be ten righteous men there.  The Lord agrees to this.  We see Abraham bargaining all the way down from fifty to ten, with the Lord agreeing to each plea.  I've heard it preached on many occasions, that Abraham stopped too soon.  Had he asked God for merely five righteous, might God had spared the city for even that?  But he didn't.  I think there is a reason that Abraham didn't.  He thought that there would have been at least ten righteous there.  Obviously, he and Lot had lost touch.  At some point, Lot's tent was no longer pitched toward Sodom, but pitched inside the city itself.  Abraham could not have known the effect this had on Lot and his family.  He probably did not realize that they were not the Godly influence they should have been.  In fact, when the angels go into the city to retrieve Lot, his wife, and two daughters, that is only four "righteous" souls that could be found.  Lot's other daughters had married ungodly men (I say this because they scoffed at Lot when he told them what would happen) and did not leave with them.  So even if Abraham had pleaded down to five, God still would not have been able to show mercy because there were not even that many righteous to be found.
     Here is my second random thought.  I'm not sure why the angels have to go into Sodom.  Was it only because they were going there to deliver Lot and the remnant of the  family that would leave with him?  In Chapter Eighteen the Lord says in verses 20 and 21, "...Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me, and if not, I will know."  So was it just a recon mission or a rescue mission?  If it is simply to deliver the warning to Lot and his family, I would be very embarrassed to be Lot.  Lot has to defend the virtue of his angelic visitors from the Sodomites (by offering the virtue of his daughters), a position he would never have been in had he not chosen to live and to stay in such a wicked place.  It can be argued that someone needs to be the light in the darkness, but in this case, Lot was not being the light.  I can tell this because his sons-in-law mock when he suddenly declares that God will judge them.  Why is he acting like a righteous man so suddenly? Had he been the light he was supposed to have been, not only might they have believed his message, but perhaps would have joined him in proclaiming it.  Of course, I can't know this for sure, since Noah also was a great proclaimer and nobody outside his family joined him.  But that is the key difference, Noah's family at least believed him.  With Noah, his wife and sons (who either married godly wives or influenced them to become godly wives) and daughters-in-law believed his message and went with him.  Lot's story of his family is tragically different.
     And finally, my third random thought is found in verses 16 and 17 which  read:  "And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.  And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him:  and they brought him forth, and set him without the city."   After all that has happened, Lot still has doubts about leaving.  He lingered.  God could have left him there, let the angels depart, and destroyed him.  I don't know if God spared Lot for Lot, or spared Lot for Abraham but the Lord is merciful once again.  Maybe Lot lingered because of the children he would leave behind.  Maybe he lingered because he couldn't bear to see his material wealth consumed.  I would love to assign a more spiritual motive to his lingering, such as his heart being bereaved for the souls of the city, but I think it unlikely.  But God is so merciful that the angels take Lot by the hand and drag he and his family outside the city gates before the fire starts to fall.  How merciful is my God!  He warns Lot of the impending doom, He even gives him a night to prepare himself, and even though Lot is still hesitant, God still delivers him.
     The fire is falling all around us.  God stays His hand each and every day because there may be a Lot in some city who is still hesitant to come to Him.  He doesn't drag us by the hand, as He did in Lot's case, but He gently beckons us to receive Him.  Some may be lingering.  He is waiting for you.  I don't know when He will return.  I don't know when Death will visit any one of us, but it could be today.  Are you standing in Sodom, still deciding whether to follow the Lord, waiting on the angel to grab your hand and make it more clear to you?  I'm not sure God will work like that today, but He gives clarity in His Word.  He may not grip your hand but He can grip your heart with His truth.  Come to Him before it is too late.  He wants to be merciful.  He wants each one to receive Him.  He wants to deliver us from the fire, because He does not want us to be consumed.  He is a God of great mercy, let Him show it in your life today.
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