By Gregg Bing
Abraham is called in Scripture “the friend of God.” This special relationship developed because of Abraham’s life of faith. Abraham believed God’s promises and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Abraham also walked by faith, being careful to obey God’s commands. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, though a righteous man, chose to walk a different path and experienced the pain and sorrow that results from “friendship with the world.”
Lot lived with Abraham when he dwelt in Ur of the Chaldees in Mesopotamia, a land given over to idol worship and worldly pleasures. This is why, when God called Abraham, He told him to “Get out of your country from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). While Abraham left behind the country of Mesopotamia, along with its idolatrous lifestyle, he did not immediately leave his family or his father’s house. He journeyed with his father, Terah, and his nephew, Lot, to Haran and dwelt there until his father died. After Terah’s death, Abraham resumed his journey and the Lord led him to the land of Canaan; however, Abraham still kept Lot with him.
When Abraham arrived in Canaan, the Lord appeared to him and promised to give the land to his descendants as an inheritance. There in the promised land, Abraham faithfully kept himself separate from the people of Canaan, for they, too, were idolaters. He dwelt in tents and built altars, ensuring his walk and his worship were separate from the ungodly cities of Canaan.
When a famine arose in the land, Abraham’s faith faltered, and he fled south to the land of Egypt. As long as Abraham remained in Egypt he was out of fellowship with God. Abraham’s sinful deception of the people of Egypt led the Pharaoh to order him to leave. However, both Abraham and Lot acquired great possessions in Egypt, specifically livestock, herds, and servants.
Upon their return to the land of Canaan, strife broke out between the herdsmen of Abraham and those of Lot. The land was not able to contain all their possessions if they continued to dwell together. The time had come for Abraham to make a complete break from his family and his father’s house. Abraham instructed Lot to separate from him, but he offered to let Lot choose the land he wished to dwell in.
As we turn our attention to Lot, we find three stages in his life of “friendship with the world” and the lessons we learn from each.
Lot should have deferred to Abraham and let him make the choice. He knew that God had called Abraham and promised the land to Abraham’s descendants; the choice should have been his. But, we read in Scripture that:
“Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.” (Gen. 13:10-11)
Lot “chose for himself.” His was a selfish choice, a choice based on the desires of the flesh. Knowing that his flocks and herds would need water, he chose the plain of Jordan because it was “well watered everywhere.” This seems to have been the only criteria for choosing this area. The Scriptures compare this plain to “the garden of the Lord,” which Lot had never seen, but had likely heard of. The other comparison is that the plain of Jordan was “like the land of Egypt.” This was true, not only in that it was well watered, but because it was a wicked and ungodly land. So we read that:
“Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” (Gen. 13:12-13)
Abraham dwelt in the land that God promised his descendants for a possession. Though the Canaanites were idol worshippers, Abraham was careful to keep himself separate from their wicked ways. Lot chose a land that was outwardly beautiful, but was associated with two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, cities filled with men who were “exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.” Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to be a factor in Lot’s choice. No doubt he did what many of us do at times: he rationalized. Lot pitched his tent in the land, “even as far as Sodom,” reasoning that just because he lived near this wicked city, didn’t mean he had to become a part of it. This is a dangerous line of thinking, one based not on the wisdom of God but on the wisdom of men.
Lot soon found himself subject to the dangers of being associated with Sodom and Gomorrah. When the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah (and their allies) fought against a group of neighboring kings, Lot and his family were taken into captivity (Gen. 14:11-12). Abraham, out of concern for his nephew, raised an army of his servants and was used of God to rescue Lot and his family.
The king of Sodom sought to reward Abraham for delivering them from their captivity. He offered Abraham the spoils of the victory to take for himself. But Abraham, while returning from the slaughter of these enemy kings, had been met by Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God. Melchizedek reminded Abraham that God, who was the possessor of both heaven and earth, had delivered Abraham’s enemies into his hand, and this same God would provide for all his needs. Not wanting to be indebted to this wicked king, Abraham refused to take a single thing from his hand (Gen. 14:17-24). Abraham’s refusal of the spoils of Sodom provided a wonderful illustration to Lot of the importance of keeping one’s self separate from the wickedness of this world, but Lot failed to learn anything from this experience.
Many years later, we find two angels sent from God to visit Sodom and Gomorrah and confirm the terrible wickedness of these cities before destroying them. As the angels entered the city, they found Lot “sitting in the gate of Sodom.” Lot rose to his feet, bowed himself to the ground before them, and invited them to “turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night” (Gen. 19:1-2). Lot was no longer dwelling in a tent near Sodom; he now had a house in the city. Not only that, we find him seated at the city gate, the place where the city’s legal business was carried out. Lot’s rationalization that he could simply dwell near the city without becoming involved in its activities was wrong. He had not only moved inside the city, he had become a part of its leadership as well.
Maybe Lot was continuing to rationalize, thinking that by getting more involved in the city’s affairs, he could have a positive influence on the men of Sodom. The reality was that Lot had little, if any, effect on the spiritual condition of the people of Sodom. Abraham had asked God to spare the city if enough righteous people could be found there, but not even ten righteous were there. What happened that night proved that the wickedness in Sodom had only grown worse.
The two angels, in the form of men, dined with Lot that night, but before they could lay down to sleep, “the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house” (Gen. 19:4). They demanded that Lot bring the two men out so they could “know them” sexually. When Lot pleaded with them not to do this wicked thing, they belittled him, “Stand back! This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them” (Gen. 19:9).
The two angels pulled Lot back inside to safety and then struck the men outside with blindness to deter them. The angels told Lot that God was going to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and instructed him to take his family and get out. But Lot’s sons-in-law treated his warning as a joke. As the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry and take his wife and his two unmarried daughters with him. When Lot continued to linger in the city, the angels took him, his wife, and his two daughters by the hand and set them outside the city (Gen. 19:16).
Why would Lot cling to such a wicked place, especially after hearing God was about to destroy it? The world has that type of pull on men, even righteous men when they are walking “after the flesh.” The angels told Lot to take his family and flee into the mountains, but Lot had become so used to the pleasures of the city of Sodom that he pleaded, “Please, no, my lords! Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die. See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live” (Gen. 19:18-20). What a pitiful man Lot had become, still rationalizing: “This city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one!”
After Lot and his family escaped to safety, God rained fire and brimstone on the wicked cities of the plain of Jordan. This area which had once been lush, green, and beautiful, became a wasteland and remains so, even today. The angels warned Lot that he and his family were to flee and not turn back, but Lot’s wife looked back longingly (for she loved this world she had lived in all these years), and, when she did, she became a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:24-26). 1 John 2:15-17 warns about loving the things of this world.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
Lot’s life warns us of the dangers of compromise. Lot compromised his values. He was a righteous man (because he believed in God), but he chose to live in association with the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. The result:
“He was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds).” (2 Pet. 2:7-8)
Not only did Lot suffer this torment, he compromised his family by exposing them to the same “filthy conduct.” As a result, his sons and their families, along with his married daughters and their families (Gen. 19:12), perished in the destruction sent from God. His wife was turned to a pillar of salt because she simply could not let go of the life she had enjoyed there. Only his two unmarried daughters escaped, and, as we shall see, they too were corrupted by the evils of the world in which they were raised.
Finally, Lot compromised his testimony. As we saw earlier, the people of the city had no respect for Lot. His attempts to sit in judgment upon them were viewed with contempt. Any spiritual influence he might have had upon them was lost because he chose to become a part of their world. The spiritual leadership he should have exercised toward his wife and children was empty because of the poor decisions he himself had made. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul instructed believers in how to maintain an effective testimony in the world.
“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Phil. 2:12-16)
If we are to “shine as lights in the world, holding fast (forth) the word of life,” then we must live, in the midst of this “crooked and perverse generation,” lives that are “blameless and harmless.” If we profess to be “children of God” we must behave like children of God. While we cannot live sinless lives, we can maintain a lifestyle people cannot easily find fault with. Our walk should demonstrate that knowing Christ as Savior has made a difference in our lives. Lot’s friendship with the world ruined any testimony he might have had among the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The only reason that Lot was saved was because “God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow” (Gen. 19:27-29). Being afraid to dwell in Zoar, Lot fled with his two unmarried daughters into the mountains to dwell there. What follows is the sad conclusion to the life of Lot, a man who knew the Lord but did not live for the Lord.
Though Lot’s two unmarried daughters were the only ones to escape God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, they never did really escape “the world.” These two young women reasoned with each other that it was up to them to “preserve the lineage” of their father. How did they propose to do so? They made Lot drink wine until he was so drunk he did not know what he was doing. The firstborn daughter went into him that night and lay with her father so that she could become pregnant with his child. The next night this shameful scene was repeated so that the younger daughter also became pregnant with his child (Gen. 19:30-36). How sad to view the depths to which Lot and his family had sunk both morally and spiritually.
What kind of lineage of Lot was preserved? His firstborn daughter bore Lot a son “and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day” (Gen. 19:37). His youngest daughter also bore him a son “and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day” (Gen. 19:38). The Moabites and Ammonites both became enemies of Abraham’s family and the nation of Israel. They also were idol worshippers of the most abominable and detestable nature. The Moabites worshipped Chemosh, while the Ammonites worshipped Molech. Both peoples honored their “god” by making their children pass through sacrificial fires (1 Kings 11:7, 2 Kings 16:3, 23:10). What a legacy Lot left behind!
In Lot, we find a stern warning of the dangers of living in “friendship with the world.” Lot not only tormented his own soul, he sacrificed the lives of his own family members, and he destroyed any testimony he might have had for the Lord. The Apostle James wrote:
“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)
Friendship with the world puts us at enmity with God, preventing us from experiencing the love, joy and peace of a daily walk with Him. Friendship with the world affords only a life of disappointment and sorrow. May the lesson of Lot’s life and the consequences he experienced remind us how important it is to keep ourselves separate from the world.