Saturday, August 30, 2008

Genesis 19:18-22 Partial Obedience

Genesis 19:18-22: But Lot said to them, “Oh no, my lords! Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your lovingkindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest the disaster overtake me and I die; now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved.” And he said to him, “Behold, I grant you this request also, not to overthrow the town of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the town was called Zoar.

The angels had just ushered Lot and his family out of his house and urged them to “escape for their lives to the mountains” and Lot has the audacity to say, “No, I can’t escape to the mountains.” It seems he felt that the trip to the mountains might have finished him off. Or perhaps he felt he could not survive sufficiently in the mountainous environment. Instead, he begged the angels to let him escape to a nearby little town. Lot even suggested that this town “was small” with the implication possibly being that “it can’t be as bad as Sodom, could it?” There he would have more of the comforts of life.

I am reminded of the young man who desperately wanted to obey and serve God, perhaps as a missionary if that’s what God wanted. His only request, however, was “please don’t send me to Africa.” Sometimes we feel like that, don’t we? Sometimes we want so much to do what God wants. We know it is best for us. But we allow our human limitations to define the options. We say, “God I’ll do this, but please don’t make me do that. Surely, I’ll still be obeying if I do this?” I would like to say “no, you would not be obeying if you didn’t do exactly what God said,” but I am not sure it is that black and white an issue. This passage gives us an insight into how God works with men and women, and it is not always the way we would predict or expect.
Through His angels, God allowed Lot his request. He agreed not to overthrow that town to which Lot wanted to go. The plan apparently was that He in fact do so, as it was all part and parcel of the ‘Greater Sodom Area’. Although ten righteous ones could not be found in Sodom, God was willing to save this town for the sake of one righteous man and his family. While we as Christians are to flee and escape places of iniquity, our presence often influences God to save or keep back His punishment of a particular place. Christians have an incredible opportunity to impact a town’s, city’s, or country’s future.

Lastly we note the angels indicate that “until Lot moved out of Sodom and arrived safely in the new town”, they could not implement the destruction they needed to undertake. Clearly, God protects and keeps us in time of trouble and disaster in accordance with His plan. The passage ends with the naming of the town Lot’s family would be staying as being Zoar. It was located at the southeast end of the Dead Sea. We first heard of Zoar back in Genesis 13:10 when Abraham was telling Lot to select the land he wanted so that they would separate from each other. Lot looked over the valley of Jordan and scripture says he noticed that it was “well watered . . . like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar.” While it too was to be destroyed, it seems God saved it, allowing Lot to dwell in a place he had once felt very desirous. In Genesis 14:2 and 14:8 we also learn that Zoar was known as Bela and its king had joined the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim in the war against Ellasar, Elam, and Goiim. (For more details on this, see comments under Genesis 14.) Because of this grouping, it is possible that the destruction might have been intended to impact all five of these areas, although now we see that Zoar (because of Lot) was saved.

So not only can God sometimes grant us our desire, but He also saves others in the process. However, we must be most careful to ensure that it is truly God and not us that has brought about this change in plans. In Lot’s case, the angelic visitors verbally granted him his request. We need similar assurance before we try to second-guess God’s best for us.

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