10. Characteristics of Worldly Believers—Friends of the World (Genesis 19)Related Media
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant's house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” “Get out of our way,” they replied. And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We'll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door… (Genesis 19)
What are characteristics of worldly believers—friends of the world? If Abraham is pictured as a friend of God in Genesis 18 (cf. Jas 2:23), in Genesis 19, Lot is pictured as a friend of the world (cf. Jas 4:4).
In Scripture, we are warned of this possibility; it is possible for a follower of Christ to be conformed to the world in such a way that it is hard to distinguish him. Paul said this to the Corinthian church:
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1–3)
These Christians were acting and living just like the world and, therefore, could not understand or digest the spiritual riches of God’s Word. They were jealous and quarreling with one another. He said, “Are you not acting like mere men?”
Yes, this is at times common of new believers. Though born again and possessing a new nature, they are still worldly and often hard to distinguish from nonbelievers.
Sadly, this is often not only true for young believers but for old believers as well. Many Christians never shed the garment of the world but, instead, become more entrenched in it. This was true of Lot, Abraham’s nephew.
Lot was a believer, as 2 Peter 2:7–8 calls him a righteous man. However, he was righteous because of his faith, not because of his actions. Like Abraham, God justified him because of his faith (cf. Gen 15:6); however, worldliness was still a strong part of his character.
Instead of staying in the promised land with Abraham, in Genesis 13, he sets his tents towards the wicked city of Sodom. He desired Sodom because of its wealth. He looked at it, and it reminded him of Egypt and its wealth (v. 10). No doubt, he was tired of living in tents with Abraham and wanted luxury. He desired the riches of this world, and in the end, it produced destructive fruits in his life and that of his family. In chapter 14, he is living in Sodom. Then, here in Genesis 19, he is at the gates, meaning that he probably achieved his desires. The elders and officials sat at the city gates, where business and legal transactions were conducted. Lot gained the world but, ultimately, lost everything else.
As we consider Lot’s story, one cannot but be reminded of Paul’s teaching about the judgment of believers in 1 Corinthians 3:12–15:
If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
At the judgment seat of Christ, some believers will be rewarded for their faithfulness on earth, while others barely escape the fire. Their lives produced no enduring fruit for God’s kingdom. They were worldly.
Here in this narrative, God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot loses everything. The worldly success he gained, as he sat at the city gates, was lost. His popularity, prestige, and property were lost. And worst of all, he lost his family. His wife was turned into a pillar of salt and his daughters, though saved from the fire, had Sodom in their hearts. They raped him and bore two sons from him.
Yes, Scripture testifies that some true believers will still be friends of the world and spiritual adulterers (cf. James 4:4). Just as some will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and some will be called least in the kingdom (Matt 5:19)—missing God’s best.
What do worldly Christians look like—friends of the world? If Abraham is pictured as a friend of God in Genesis 18, as God shares secrets with him, Lot is pictured as a friend of the world here. It is important to ask ourselves this question so that we don’t have the same fate as Lot. In this text, we see eleven characteristics of worldly Christians—friends of this world.
Big Question: What characteristics of friends of the world can be discerned from Lot’s life?
Friends of the World Lack Intimacy with God
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant's house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. (Genesis 19:1–3)
One thing that stands out in this narrative is that God never comes to Lot’s home. In Genesis 18, the angels and the Lord were on their way to Sodom until Abraham invited them into his home. The narrative doesn’t tell us about any hesitation on the part of the visitors. They just say, “Very well,” and enter Abraham’s home (v. 5). However, with Lot, God does not come with the angels. He stays with Abraham, as Abraham intercedes for Sodom. God never comes to Lot’s home.
In addition, when Lot petitions the angels to spend the night at his home, they first say, “No.” Lot had to “strongly” insist for them to enter his house. “Gordon Wenham translates it, ‘manhandled’ them! He did some major arm-twisting till they said yes.”1
This is true of carnal believers in general; they lack intimacy with God. Certainly, God indwells every believer with his Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 6:19); however, not every believer has intimacy with God. Abraham is called God’s friend; God enters his home and fellowships with him. With Lot, he does not.
As mentioned, Scripture also teaches that the Corinthian believers were worldly. In 1 Corinthians 3:1, Paul calls them carnal or worldly. Throughout the Corinthian books their worldliness is clearly displayed. In 1 Corinthians 1, they are separating into factions, as they idolize their teachers. In 1 Corinthians 5, a man is having sex with his father’s wife. In 1 Corinthians 6, they are suing one another. In 1 Corinthians 14, they are abusing spiritual gifts. In 2 Corinthians, they challenge Paul’s apostleship, even though he started the church. Consider what he says to them in 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15–17:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?... Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
He writes to Christians and calls them to separate from the world. Then he writes a promise from God, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.” God is not promising salvation for being separate; he is promising intimacy. The Corinthians lacked intimacy with God because they yoked with the world, as did Lot.
Now, it wasn’t so much about Lot’s location. Daniel lived and worked in Babylon. Joseph lived and worked in Egypt. Lot’s problem was that Sodom was in his heart, as he lived a compromised Christian life. The world affected him, instead of him affecting the world, and because of his worldliness, he lacked intimacy with God.
James 4:4 says, “Don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” If we are friends with the world, we will lack intimacy with God and, instead, invite his judgment.
Application Question: What is the difference between being in the world and not being of the world? How can we know if we are yoked with the world? How can we break this yoke so we can have greater intimacy with God?
Friends of the World Lack Generosity in Their Offerings to God
But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. (Genesis 19:3)
Another obvious difference between Lot’s interaction with the angels and Abraham’s is that Lot gave them only unleavened bread—essentially crackers. There is nothing wrong with this; however, there is a great difference between Lot’s generosity and Abraham’s. Abraham prepared three seahs of grain (or five gallons), a calf, milk, and yogurt for the Lord and the angels (cf. Gen 18:6–8). Abraham was very generous with what he offered to the Lord and Lot wasn’t.
Certainly, there may have been a difference in wealth; although, Lot was wealthy too. In Genesis 14, Abraham and Lot separated because the land could not hold both of their herds. Also in Genesis 19:1, we see that Lot rose to prominence in Sodom, as he was sitting at the gates. He probably was an elder in the land. Therefore, considering that they were both wealthy, the difference in hospitality stands out.
In considering the diversity of offerings, it is hard to not think of Cain and Abel. Genesis 4:3–4 says that Cain gave “some” of the fruits of the field, while Abel gave the “fat portions” from the “firstborn.” Abel’s offering was accepted while Cain’s was rejected. The first born was considered the best of the flock and the fat portions were considered the choice part of the meat. All the flavor and seasoning are there. We will see later in the Mosaic law, God requires the Israelites to give the fat portions to him. Leviticus 3:16 says, “All the fat is the Lord’s.” Essentially, Abel gave his best, while Lot only gave scraps.
As with Cain and Abel, Abraham’s and Lot’s offerings reflected their hearts. Abraham gave his best because he cherished God, and Lot only gave some because he didn’t. This is common with worldly believers. Because their heart is attached to their wealth, they are not generous in their offerings to the Lord. They are too worried about securing a higher living status or preparing for retirement. Their minds are consumed with this world, instead of the next, and this is seen in their generosity both to the Lord and others.
However, whenever we study God’s Scriptural requirements for offerings, it is clear that he always requires the best. With the sacrificial lambs, he required lambs without spot or blemish. They had to be the best lambs.
In fact, in Malachi 1, God becomes angry with Israel because they didn’t offer their best. Consider what he says,
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ “You place defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the LORD's table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. “Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the LORD Almighty. “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. (Malachi 1:6–10)
God rejects their offerings. They offered the blind and the crippled, and he essentially says, “Would you give that to your governor? Then I will not accept it either!” The reason the Israelites did not offer God their best was because they wanted to keep the best for themselves; however, God only accepts our best. No doubt, God rejects a lot of offerings in the church, as well. Instead of offering the best of our time, effort, and mind, we give him scraps. We give our best to work, family, friends, and entertainment and then offer God the last five minutes of the day, as we fall asleep. The Lord says, “I won’t receive that!” We offer him offerings that cost us nothing. We ask ourselves, “What will cost me the least so that I can give it to the Lord?”
Consider David’s heart in giving an offering to the Lord. He said, “I will not give the Lord what cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24, paraphrase).
What are you giving the Lord? Are you giving him your best? Or are you giving the blind and the crippled?
God wants our best. The difference in Abraham’s offering and Lot’s is the fact that Abraham gave his best, while Lot just gave a portion. This reflected the giver’s heart. Friends of God give him their best. Friends of the world offer him their scraps.
Application Question: In what ways is God challenging you to offer him more of your best? In what ways do you feel the tension of keeping back the best portions for yourself? How do we overcome our clinging hearts?
Friends of the World Have Compromised Morals, Especially When Pressured
Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” (Genesis 19:4–8)
Before it was time to go to bed, the men in the city, both young and old, came to Lot’s house and asked for the visitors. They wanted to have sexual relations with them. This shows the great depravity of these cities. Commonly, in cultures that are being corrupted, it is the youth that have loose morals and the older generations stand in awe of the youth. This is how it is in many nations when considering the acceptance of things like homosexuality and transgenderism. The youth say, “What’s wrong with it? What’s the difference between same-sex, opposite-sex, or pan-sex?” and the older generation shakes their heads in awe. However, in Sodom’s depraved culture, it was both the young and the old who were corrupted. In fact, they were so corrupt they saw nothing morally wrong with raping two visitors. They say this about Lot who tried to stop them, “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge!” (v. 9). They essentially say, “Don’t judge us! Who are you to judge us? What makes your morals better than ours?” Have you ever heard that before?
Something that should come to mind as we consider this incident and the men’s reply is the question, “What is the standard?” The men are right, if there are no moral absolutes. How can Lot judge the gang rape as wrong? What makes his standard better or moral? If the philosophy of relativity is correct, no standard is better than another. However, the reason we know this incident is wrong is because God sets the standard, and the standard is his Word.
As we consider this scenario, Lot clearly has morals that these men don’t have. However, when they continued to pressure him, he did something which could be considered worse than their sin. He offered his two daughters to be gang raped by this crowd of men. There is a similar story in Judges 19 where a concubine was handed over to a crowd of men and not only was raped but killed. The same fate probably awaited Lot’s daughters.
Here we see the next characteristic of worldly Christians, they have compromised morals, especially when pressured. In some ways they are just like the world or even worse.
How did Lot become this way?
Paul said, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor 5:6). Lot probably started with just a little bit of sin—a little compromise. Maybe, it started with materialism. He was materialistic like the world. But then to gain more material, he lied about his taxes. And then to gain even more, he compromised his morals to do “business” in corrupt Sodom. He continued this snowball until he was leavened just like the world.
Yes, Christians can compromise to the point where they are just like the world. Remember James 4? These Christians were arguing and fighting with one another, even leading to murder. James said,
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:1–4)
These Christians were so worldly, murder seemed justifiable. Similarly, David, a man after God’s own heart, allowed lust to stay around in his life. One day he lusted so much that he committed adultery. Then to cover his sin, he committed murder. Afterward, he lived a hypocritical life until confronted by a prophet—leading him to repent.
Yes, Satan’s desire is to steal, kill, and destroy. He uses temptation and sin to destroy believers and that happened with Lot. Lot’s fall began with little compromises, and now Lot was almost as bad as these men.
But let us notice this: before the pressure came into Lot’s life, he looked godly. He offered hospitality to the visitors and tried to protect them. He was outwardly moral. However, when the pressure came, he compromised and offered his daughters. Trials revealed what was really in his heart, as they do with all.
This is common for us. We want to be godly, but when taking a test we could potentially fail, we choose to cheat. When pressure comes, worldly believers give into the world. They like the concept of godliness, as long as it doesn’t cost them something, as long as it doesn’t hurt. Psalm 15:1–4 says this:
LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
Those who dwell in the Lord’s presence (i.e. friends of God) keep their oaths “even when it hurts.” They keep their oaths even when the pressure is on, but worldly believers continually compromise under pressure. It would have been more righteous for Lot to offer himself to protect these men, instead of offering his daughters.
Are you willing to be holy and righteous even when it hurts, even when there is a cost? Worldly believers only want to be godly when it’s convenient—as long as there is no cost or pressure. When it gets lonely on the weekends, they give in and find satisfaction and joy in the same ways the world does. They want no cost in their lives—no cross (cf. Luke 24:26–27).
Application Question: What are common ways that we are tempted to compromise when under pressure? How can we stand when temptation comes?
Friends of the World Sacrifice Their Families for Cultural Status
Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” (Genesis 19:8)
We have just considered Lot’s tragic offer of his daughters to a gang of men and how friends of the world compromise their morals when pressured; however, more insight can be gained from this. His offer was actually in accordance with cultural expectations of that day. In the ancient eastern culture, there was a strong emphasis on hospitality, so much so, that “it was understood a guest was to be protected more than your own family.”2 If Lot failed to do this, he would have lost face in the community—it would be considered shameful.
Sadly, this happens in Christian homes all the time, but in different ways. To protect themselves from the shame of society, Christians who become pregnant out of wedlock commonly sacrifice their unborn children at abortion clinics all around the world. They offer their children on the altar of shame. Others who are married offer them on the altar of comfort. They don’t want the discomfort children would bring to their lives so they sacrifice them.
Some parents, to appease family and culture, spend their life seeking a certain economic status by securing the right education, the right housing, and the right cars. Sadly, in order to do this, many neglect their children. They don’t see their kids. They expect the education system to raise them. By seeking the applause and affirmation of the world, they sacrifice their children.
Many Christian families, sometimes even those in ministry, sacrifice their children while pursuing success. Consequently, many young females give themselves physically to men seeking the affirmation and love lacked in their homes. Many young men struggle with great insecurity and anxiety because of a lack of parental affirmation. They find themselves on an endless pursuit of approval, which often leads them to the world. If the world will love and approve them, where their mothers and fathers did not, then they will follow the world. Many Christians do exactly what Lot did; they just do it in a different way.
As we will see, not only did Lot literally offer his daughters to this gang of men, but it is clear that he really sacrificed them long before. At the end of the story, his daughters rape him to have children. While Lot was seeking wealth and riches in Sodom, Sodom was being sown into his daughter’s hearts every day. Sodom was not only known for homosexuality, but incest and bestiality, just as its neighbors in Canaan (cf. Lev 18:24). These girls were neglected by their father and became worldly just like Sodom.
Friends of the world sacrifice their children for cultural status.
Application Question: In what ways have you seen Christians sacrifice their children for cultural status? How can we protect our families and our children from this common scenario?
Friends of the World Lack Spiritual Influence
“Get out of our way,” they replied. And they said, “This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We'll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door. (Genesis 19:9)
Another thing we can learn from this narrative about worldly believers is that they lack spiritual influence. When Lot tries to get these men to stop, they replied, “‘Get out of our way…This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! We'll treat you worse than them.’”
It is implied by their statement that Lot either never or rarely challenged Sodomites over their sin. They said that he was “now” trying to play the judge. No doubt, Lot realized long ago that if he was bold for God in that culture, he would lose friends and his ability to prosper, so he remained quiet. He saw silence as a reasonable opportunity cost.
Second Peter 2:7–9 said this about Lot:
and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (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 godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.
Peter called Lot righteous and said that Sodom’s sins tormented his righteous soul; however, it must be assumed that it stopped there. He was tormented but didn’t speak out against it.
In fact, as mentioned, he had so little spiritual influence, he barely affected his family. He lost his wife to worldliness and love for Sodom. He lost his sons-in-law who thought he was joking when he warned them about God’s judgment (cf. 19:14). Obviously, he had never warned them about God’s judgment, and therefore, they could not take him seriously. He also lost his daughters who eventually raped him.
In his many years of living in Sodom, Lot didn’t even save his family. Even his daughters were corrupted by the world. Lot had little to no spiritual influence.
This is true of worldly believers as well. Because their language, clothing, entertainment, goals, and morals, are no different from the world’s, nobody takes them seriously when it comes to faith. They don’t really spiritually affect their family and peers in a positive manner.
Christ said this in Matthew 5:13: ‘“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
The metaphor of salt is meant to demonstrate how Christians are to influence and preserve society from corruption. However, Christ said that if salt loses its saltiness, it is good for nothing. For those who are familiar with chemistry, we know that salt cannot lose its saltiness. Sodium Chloride (NaCl) cannot lose its essential properties. Then, what was Christ talking about? The way salt loses its saltiness is by mixing with something else. Often salt could be found on river banks, and if it was mixed with dirt or other particles, it would no longer be salty.
This is true for believers as well. When believers start to mix with the world, though they can never lose their essential properties as a child of God, they lose their effectiveness by compromise. Worldly believers have lost their saltiness. They may have some positive effects on people, but it is largely absent. Lot is to be praised for raising daughters that still had their virginity in that society. He obviously shepherded their actions but neglected their hearts. Because of that, he lost them.
Are you still salty? Are you still influencing others for Christ?
Application Question: How can Christians strike the balance of being in the world but not of the world?
Friends of the World Are Reluctant to Give up Sin
With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can't flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I'll die. Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn't it? Then my life will be spared.” He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. (Genesis 19:15–20)
After the men refused Lot’s offer of his daughters, they tried to break down the doors to reach the angels. The angels blinded the men, and yet, the men still tried to claw their way to the door—showing their desperation (v. 10–11). Even blindness would not stop them.
After this scenario, the angels had their evidence. Sodom was corrupt, and therefore, God was going to destroy it. They asked Lot if he had any others in the city with him (v. 12). This interesting narrative note demonstrates the fact that angels are not omniscient. They did not know if others were with him. Lot tried to convince his sons-in-law but they would not listen (v.14).
Next, the angels urged Lot to take his wife and two daughters out of the city or they would be punished with it (v.15). Then verse 16 says something peculiar, “When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them” (v. 16). It says that after they urged him to flee, Lot “hesitated.” The Hebrew term means to linger, delay, or wait.3
This doesn’t make any sense. If someone said the building I was located at was about to explode, I would run for dear life! This hesitation shows Lot’s reluctance to give up his sin. Now, it was not sin to live in Sodom. The sin was Sodom being in Lot’s heart—he loved the world and the things of the world (cf. 1 John 2:15).
In fact, after dragging him and his family out of the city, the angels urged Lot to flee to the mountains, but he petitions to stay in a small city named Zoar—a little town at the southern end of the Jordan River Valley.4 Zoar literally means “small.” Lot implies that traveling to the mountains would be too difficult for him or that living there would be too hard, so he asked to go to Zoar. However, it really seems that Lot is just unwilling to give up his sin—his love for the world. He wants to keep at least a little bit in his life. Derek Kidner said this about Lot, “Not even brimstone will make a pilgrim of him: he must have his little Sodom again if life is to be supportable.”5
Sadly, this is how many Christians are. They like aspects of the world, even though they grieve God’s heart. It is for that reason many never get rid of certain sins but instead allow them to linger in their lives. They are hesitant like Lot to fully give up the world—a sinful character trait, hobby, ambition, or relationship—and therefore, it stays in their lives.
Christ said this about sin in Matthew 5:29–30:
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Essentially Christ says that if we are going to get rid of sin, we must have an absolute animosity for it. We must hate it so much that we are willing to murder it. This is the reason many cannot be set free from besetting sins—they don’t hate them enough.
Often the person struggling with pornography is not willing to get rid of the TV, the Internet, or any other doorway to that sin. The person in an ungodly relationship often is not willing to end that relationship in order to be holy. People often are not willing to be drastic to be free from sin.
This was Lot’s problem. That is why he hesitated and had to be dragged out of Sodom. And that is why he asked to go to Zoar. He was a man who loved the world and the things of the world. He did not hate his own compromise enough to be free of it. Friends of the world are reluctant to get rid of their sin and compromise. They want just a little Zoar in their life.
What is your Zoar? What are your little areas of compromise in your life?
Application Question: Why is it so hard to hate certain sins in such a way that we will do anything to get rid of them? Have you experienced certain sins or compromises lingering in your life simply because you didn’t hate them enough?
Friends of the World Are Materialistic
As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”… Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:17, 24–26)
Interpretation Question: Why did Lot’s wife look back at Sodom, even though the angels told her not to?
Next, we see the unfortunate death of Lot’s wife. The angels told Lot and his family to flee the city and to not look back. When they got to Zoar, the angels would then destroy the city. However, while on the way to Zoar, Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. This sounds like a fairytale; however, Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived from 37–100 AD, said he saw the pillar of Lot’s wife. It was still there over 2,000 years later.6
Most likely Lot’s wife was a Sodomite, someone he met in Sodom. Why did she look back?
Christ used the story of Lot’s wife as a picture of the time right before the second coming in Luke 17:28–32. He said,
“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot's wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.
During the time period that the Son of Man comes, nobody on the roof of his house should go back to get his goods. It will be a time of great judgment, as with Sodom. Christ says, “Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it.” Since he uses Lot’s wife as a reference in the context of a person returning to get goods in his house, the implication is that she looked back because of her possessions. They left their house, herds, and fields. Everything they owned was left behind, and therefore, Lot’s wife could not but look back. Her heart was in Sodom with all her things!
This is how many Christians are. They are consumed with things: houses, cars, iPhones, iPads, and clothes. They are materialistic.
Christ gives materialism as a descriptor of the world and how Christians should not live for these things. In Matthew 6:31–32, Christ says, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”
He says the pagans run after food, drink, and clothes. They are consumed with them, but Christians should not be. Sadly, a lot of Christians are just like the world—consumed with material. They are frantic every time a new product comes out, and they run around like the world does to obtain them.
Interpretation Question: What should the Christian’s relationship to the material things of this world be like?
At least two verses clearly address this. Christ said in Matthew 6:19–21:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Christ said believers should not store up the riches of this world because they tend to steal our hearts. He said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When Christians store up the riches of this world, it becomes hard for them to focus on heavenly things. Like Lot and his wife, they often become more concerned with keeping or gaining wealth rather than the things of heaven. Lot and his wife had a difficult time leaving their wealth because wealth had their hearts.
Paul also teaches about the Christian attitude towards the material things of this world in 1 Corinthians 7:29–31. He says,
What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
Paul said that those who buy something should treat it as if it was not theirs to keep. When I go to a hotel, I don’t buy new curtains or covers because I will only be there temporarily. Similarly, we should never forget the temporary nature of worldly things, as they are passing away. In addition, those who use the things of this world should not be engrossed in them. The things God graciously gives us should instead be used as tools to worship and glorify him.
However, worldly Christians are consumed with the things of this world. They run around seeking to gain them just like the world. They know nothing of, “Do not store up riches on this earth.” They have been raised in the world, and they have never gotten the spirit of materialism out of them. If you ask them how they practice the discipline of not storing up riches on this earth, they would have nothing to say because their practice is no different from the worlds’.
The disciples sold all they had. Much of the early church did the same. Scripture does not command us to practice this discipline the same way, but we all must at least pray about it and ask God how we should obey his command. Lot and his wife knew nothing about this. They were consumed with their things, which hindered their obedience to God.
Application Question: How big of a problem is materialism for you? How do you practice the discipline of not storing up riches?
Friends of the World Lack Fear of God
With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”… Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:15–17, 24–26)
The previous point leads us to the next. Not only were Lot and his wife materialistic, but they also clearly lacked a fear of the Lord. The angels told Lot’s family to not look back nor to stop anywhere in the plain, and if they did, they would be swept away (v. 17). However, Lot’s wife still looked back and, consequently, was turned into a pillar of salt.
Why did she not heed the angel’s warning? Obviously, she didn’t take God and his discipline seriously. She thought, “God won’t discipline me for looking back” or “A little look won’t hurt” or “God is a forgiving God.” Sadly, this is all too common in the church. We know about a God of love, but we know very little about a God of discipline.
Application Question: Why is the fear of the Lord so uncommon among Christians today?
Maybe it’s uncommon because of the watered down preaching often seen in churches. When considering the gospel, it is often taught as a means of self-fulfillment and higher self-esteem. It is the pathway to getting rid of problems and the door to health and wealth. But the reality of God’s wrath and being delivered from it is often minimized or not mentioned at all.
Sadly, this is the current state of the church. Christ preached more on hell than heaven; however, the church today doesn’t want to mention hell or God’s wrath for fear of offending others. However, the gospel is offensive! It is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor 1:18)! In addition, Scripture says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10). We can’t live wise lives unless we fear God.
Often, carnal Christians view God as their big Buddy in the sky. They often declare that he doesn’t mind their sin. He knows that they are just going through “a phase,” and everything is OK. Or, they know God will forgive their sins, so they will just ask forgiveness when they’re done sinning. They know nothing of the God who is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). To them, the God who destroyed the world with water is a fairy tale. The God who destroyed Sodom is a God of the past, and the God who exiled Israel is not the God of the New Testament. Worldly believers don’t fear or take God seriously.
Lot’s wife turned back because she didn’t fear God, and no doubt, part of the reason Lot hesitated was his lack of fear. The angels said, “God is going to destroy the city! Run!” Then Lot stopped to think, “Is God really going to destroy the city? Would he really do such a thing?” He had to be dragged out of the city by the angels. Often worldly Christians must be dragged to church, dragged to read their Bible’s, dragged out of darkness. Why? It’s because they don’t fear God. The fear of God is the beginning of living a wise life.
Application Question: What are major hindrances to fearing God? How do we grow in the fear of the Lord? Do you you fear God? Why or why not?
Friends of the World Receive God’s Discipline
But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can't flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I'll die. Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn't it? Then my life will be spared.” He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.) By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. (Genesis 19:18–23)
Interesting enough, when Lot pleads with the angels to allow him to go Zoar, the angels grant his request. Certainly, this is pretty amazing. Yes, Zoar was small, but it was sinful just like the rest of Sodom and Gomorrah.
This was a tremendous grace to Zoar, as it would give the people longer to repent. However, this was not good for Lot and his daughters. This would only enforce Lot’s worldliness and put them around more corrupt people. In fact, we later see that Lot eventually moved away from Zoar to the caves in the mountains because of fear. Genesis 19:30 says, “Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave.”
Why was Lot afraid to stay in the city that he requested to live in? Obviously, Zoar was full of wicked people—just like Sodom—and we already know how Sodomites treated visitors. No wonder, they, eventually, fled to the mountains.
Interpretation Question: Why did God allow Lot to go Zoar, when he had already condemned the city because of its sin?
Allowing them to go to Zoar was probably a form of discipline. Sometimes God spanks us when we sin, and sometimes he simply says, “Go ahead. You don’t want to obey. Go ahead and reap the consequences of your sin.” The story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 is a good example of this. The son approached the father and asked for his inheritance, essentially saying, “I want you dead!” The father gave the son the inheritance and let him go until he learned his lesson and returned home.
Many times God does that with us. He doesn’t fight us. He says, “Go ahead and enjoy your sin and compromise, until you have learned your lesson.” Like the Prodigal Son, worldly believers often must get to the point of brokenness—where they come to their senses—and then return to the Father’s house.
We see something of this in Romans 1:21–28, where God’s judgment on pagans for not acknowledging him is described. Consider God’s judgment,
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. (Romans 1:24)
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. (Romans 1:26)
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28)
What was God’s judgment on the pagan world? He gave them over to the sexual impurity, homosexuality, and depravity that was already in their hearts. Many times God’s judgment is displayed by allowing a nation, a community, or a person to experience their evil desires and its consequences, with the hope that they eventually repent.
Sadly, this not only happens to the world but to Christians. They want to enjoy the sexual immorality of the world, and therefore, God hands them over. They experience conflict, emotional scars, disease, or worse. This happens in the church far too often.
One of the characteristics of worldly Christians is experiencing God’s discipline. Hebrews 12:5–6 says,
And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
It seems Lot experienced God’s discipline when he was allowed to go to Zoar, which he soon left out of fear.
Application Question: Do you think that Lot being allowed to go to Zoar was a form of God’s discipline? In what ways have you experienced God’s discipline, and how did you respond to it?
Friends of the World Pass Compromise to Their Children
Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the earth. Let's get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father.” That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and lay with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I lay with my father. Let's get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and lie with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went and lay with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. So both of Lot's daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today. (Genesis 19:30–38)
The story is not over; it only gets worse. Lot and his daughters move away from Zoar and settle in a cave in the mountains. Caves were often places where people buried the dead. Lot would rather live in a tomb than stay in Zoar. As mentioned earlier, his daughters, who desired to have children, got their father drunk and raped him. They bore two sons: The older son’s name was Moab, which means “from father” and Ben-ammi, which means “son of kinsman.”7 The fact that the daughters named their children after their incest means they weren’t ashamed of it. It was actually something they boasted about! When they met people and introduced their children, they essentially boasted in how their children were conceived.
Interestingly, early records tell us incest was forbidden in this ancient eastern culture, which shows how depraved the daughter’s actions were. Kent Hughes gives us some insight into this:
Incest was considered wrong in Near-Eastern culture, as Harry Hoffner has shown in his festschrift for Cyrus Gordon, Orient and Occident. And Hebrew culture explicitly forbade a man’s having relations with his daughters or daughters-in-law (Leviticus 20:12; Ezekiel 22:10, 11). The penalty for such sin was death (Leviticus 20:11–13). Mesopotamian culture similarly forbade such incest in the Code of Hammurabi (Paragraphs 154–158). Likewise Hittite laws forbade such sins, punishing them either by death or banishment and, later, by paying a fine and sending an animal out of the town bearing the guilt on the analogy of Israel’s scapegoat.8
Though incest had become a common practice in Sodom and Gomorrah and also in Canaan, it was against the common laws of that time. Lot’s daughters’ deceptive acts were clearly wrong, and their boast in it made it even worse.
Lot’s compromise was not only passed onto his children but his children’s children. The two male children became the fathers of the Moabites and the Ammonites—future enemies of Israel. It was the Moabite king that tried to persuade the false prophet Baalam to curse Israel while in the wilderness (Num 22–24). Then, when Baalam wouldn’t curse them, the king sent Moabite women to tempt the Israelite men with sexual immorality and Baal worship (Num 25).
In the book of Judges, the Ammonites are seen fighting against Israel while they were in Canaan (Judges 11). They were bitter rivals. The sins of Lot continued in his children, even to the point that they became enemies of God and his people.
This happens with many parents who profess Christ but don’t practice their faith at home or in their daily lives. Often they raise up children who eventually become antagonistic towards God. They say, “If that is Christianity, I want nothing to do with it!” Like the Ammonites and Moabites, they become enemies of God all together.
Exodus 20:5–6 describes the process of the fathers’ sins following the children:
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Does this mean the children of the disobedient will be punished to the third and fourth generation? No, it means that the parents’ sins and the consequences of them will show up until the third or fourth generation (cf. Deut 24:16). Sin is hard to root out of a family line. It is common to find alcoholism, domestic abuse, children out of wedlock, and even witchcraft, pass from generation to generation. Lot’s sins affected his children’s children, and this commonly happens in the homes of worldly Christians as well.
Application Question: In what ways have you seen or experienced how sin and its consequences pass from generation to generation? In what ways have you seen or experienced how righteousness and its blessings pass from generation to generation?
Friends of the World Still Receive God’s Grace and Mercy
Observation Question: In what ways do we see God’s grace and mercy on Lot in this narrative?
As we finish this text, we also cannot but notice how God’s grace and mercy were still on Lot’s life. God’s favor is like a thread running throughout the entire narrative. Where do we see this?
1. God’s grace and mercy are seen in Lot’s eternal salvation.
Again, Peter calls Lot a righteous man—meaning that he was saved (cf. 2 Pet 2:7). He was not righteous because of anything righteous he did, but because of the righteousness given to him through faith in God. Just like Abraham, he was justified by faith (cf. Gen 15:6). This in itself is grace—unmerited favor. God saves undeserving sinners. Thank you, Lord.
2. God’s grace and mercy are seen in Lot’s deliverance from judgment.
Abraham was incorrect in his assessment that God would not allow the righteous to suffer with the wicked (cf. Gen 18:23–25). The righteous suffer with the wicked all the time. The angels even told Lot that if he didn’t leave Sodom he would be swept away with the wicked (19:15). It was God’s grace and mercy that Lot was saved.
In fact, many times God, by his grace, protects us from the consequences of our sins and others, even though we deserve them. We saw this in Genesis 12, as Abraham rebelled in Egypt. He lied about his wife, and she was taken into Pharaoh’s harem. While there, God protected her and brought a disease upon Pharaoh’s household until she was released. Yes, even in rebellion, the Lord is still the shepherd of lost sheep; he cares for them and graciously provides for them. Many times God protects us from the full consequences of sin, as well.
3. God’s grace and mercy are seen in Lot’s uncle Abraham and his prayers.
In addition, one of the great mercies in Lot’s life was his uncle Abraham. I have no idea why Lot did not return to his uncle’s house after losing everything in Sodom. When the angels told Lot to go to the mountains, they were probably referring to Abraham’s house. Sodom was the land of the plain and Abraham lived in the mountains (cf. Gen 19:27). Maybe, Lot was too ashamed to return to Abraham. Maybe, he was angry at Abraham because of the constant conviction coming from his righteous life.
Whatever the reason, we can be clear about this: Lot was saved from judgment because of righteous Abraham’s prayer. Genesis 19:29 says, “So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.” When Abraham prayed to God about delivering the righteous, God did. He saved Lot.
This is true of many worldly Christians; they are recipients of grace stemming from the prayers of the church, believing parents, or friends. As the saints pray for them, though God disciplines, in that discipline God remembers mercy (cf. Hab 3:2). He gives mercy to them because of the saints’ prayers, and many times he eventually leads them back to Christ. Lot and his daughters received God’s mercy in response to Abraham’s prayers.
Let us not give up on those who are far away from God. God hears the prayers of his saints. The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16).
4. Grace and mercy are seen in Lot’s prayer for Zoar and its deliverance.
But, I think we see another form of grace and mercy in Lot’s prayer. When Lot prays to go down to Zoar, God spares the city, even though they were wicked. Lot’s prayers, though probably few, were effective. In the same way, by God’s grace, God still uses worldly Christians to save and bless some. Those who are truly born again will always produce some fruit (cf. James 2:17, John 15:8), even though they miss God’s best.
Because they are God’s children, they are still recipients of God’s grace and mercy. It is his love, goodness, and patience that are meant to draw them to repentance (cf. Rom 2:4). Like the Prodigal Son’s father, God waits, and waits for worldly believers to return so he can kiss them, hug them, and put his robe on them (cf. Luke 15:20–23). He still wants to give them his best. Thank you, Lord, for your amazing grace and mercy.
Application Question: In what ways have you experienced God’s grace and mercy, even while in rebellion? How can we show God’s love to those not faithfully walking with God or in total rebellion?
What are characteristics of worldly believers—friends of the world?
- Friends of the World Lack Intimacy with God
- Friends of the World Lack Generosity in Their Offerings to God
- Friends of the World Have Compromised Morals, especially when Pressured
- Friends of the World Sacrifice Their Families for Cultural Status
- Friends of the World Lack Spiritual Influence
- Friends of the World Are Reluctant to Give up Sin
- Friends of the World Are Materialistic
- Friends of the World Lack Fear of God
- Friends of the World Receive God’s Discipline
- Friends of the World Pass Compromise to Their Children
- Friends of the World Still Receive God’s Grace and Mercy
Copyright © 2017 Gregory Brown
The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard Bible, and King James Version.
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Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.
1 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 270). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
2 Guzik, David (2012-12-08). Genesis (Kindle Locations 3188–3190). Enduring Word Media. Kindle Edition.
3 Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Locations 2062–2063). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
4 Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Locations 2109–2110). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
5 Kidner, D. (1967). Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 145–146). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
6 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 275). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
7 Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Locations 2313–2314). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
8 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 281). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Related Topics: Christian Life