Lot and his daughters left Sodom before the fire fell from heaven and moved into Zoar, instead of going where the angels told them to go, to the hills. Lot was afraid he could not make it to the hills. Next thing you know, Lot took his daughters to the hills and moved into a cave, because he was afraid to live in Zoar. Fear took him to Zoar, and fear pushed him out. Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote, “When a man is out of the will of God, he is haunted by the bogeys of his imagination.” And… you just have to wonder, why didn’t Lot see that his life had been on steady decline since he separated from Abraham? He moved away because of land and water issues, but room for livestock is not a problem now…he is living in a cave with his daughters! What kept Lot from running, not walking, as fast as he could go, to the oaks of Mamre? Was it pride? Or shame? Or was his mind so dulled by fear and depression that he could not think clearly anymore? It is a sad story.
The metaphorical descent into the darkness and isolation of a cave is sad enough. But there’s more.
Just when we think life could not get any worse for Lot, it gets horribly worse, as his two daughters get him drunk and seduce him, one after the other, so they can each have a child. Make no mistake: Lot is not a victim in this story. His daughters are not without blame, and what they did was unthinkable. But they were their father’s daughters. Children learn what they live with, and Lot’s own corruption paved the way for his daughters to make the choices they made. His worldliness as the leader in his home in Sodom set the course for his wife and daughters, even though each was responsible for her choices. Lot did not make his wife look back at Sodom and lose her life in the process. Lot did not make his daughters hatch the plot that they did in the cave. But his decisions, his lifestyle, his character, his lack of true leadership in Sodom and in his own home, made it easier for them to go to a very dark place.
In Genesis 19, “The firstborn said to the younger, ‘Our father is old and there is not a man on earth (for you and me.)’” There are so many things wrong here. First, we see that the fear Lot had that made him flee to the hills and live in a cave has taken up residence in his daughters, at least the older one. Her fear is that they are so isolated that there is no possibility of marriage and motherhood for them. The truth is what God said to Abraham and Sarah: “Is anything too hard, or too wonderful, for the Lord?” To the young ladies or young men who entertain the thought that there is no possibility you could ever find a godly husband or wife in the ‘little ol’ burg where I live,’ I would say… your God is too small. Replace that fear with faith.
The second wrong we see here is the deadly influence the older daughter has on the younger. She encourages her to join her in getting their father drunk so that, she says, “we may preserve offspring from our father.” If I asked for a show of hands here this morning of the people who had an older brother or sister who at one point or another led you into sin, I think the response would be shocking. It happens often. Older brothers and sisters have a tremendous opportunity and a godly opportunity to do just the opposite, to be an encouragement and an example of faith for their younger siblings. But, younger siblings, you don’t have to follow your older siblings into sin! This is where the younger sister could have said, “What are you talking about?! You and I both know that what you are suggesting is sinful and wrong. Even the pagans around us know that is wrong.” But she was also a daughter of Lot, and her moral compass, like her older sister’s and like her father’s, had been corrupted. Sodom was in their souls. They used wine to get their father drunk, but alcohol also cannot be blamed for Lot’s sinful actions that followed. As Kent Hughes writes, “Alcohol was no excuse. Lot’s drunkenness simply facilitated the working out of the dark side of his own heart…sin was alive and well in ‘righteous’ Lot’s family. And he was the father of it all!” As we have mentioned before, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” It certainly did so with Lot.
God agreed not to destroy the city of Sodom if there were only 10 righteous. Just 10! But there was only one, Abraham’s nephew Lot, even though we may not be a big fan of his character. One sentence in Genesis 19 tells us how much influence Lot had in the city, even with his own family: “But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.” He went to them in the middle of the night, the two men who had promised to marry his daughters, told them the story of the men and the mob and the miracle of blindness, and that the men in his house were from heaven and were going to destroy the city the next morning. They laughed at him. “Hey, that’s a good one, future pops! Now listen, you just go on back and see if you can get some sleep and leave us to ours. Angels destroying the city. Ha! That’s rich!”
The next morning the angels urged Lot to take his wife and two daughters and leave, and verse 16 tells us, “But he lingered.” You see how Sodom had entered his soul; he did not want to leave it. We know we are in bondage to sin or to a particular lifestyle that is comfortable but soul-tormenting when we know we should run from it… but we don’t want to. By an act of God’s grace and mercy, the two angels seized Lot and his wife and daughters and brought them outside the city. On the way out of town they were told to escape to the hills, because the whole valley, not just the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, would be destroyed.
This is another indication of how much Lot had assimilated, because he begged the angels to let them go to Zoar, a nearby town. He wanted to settle in Zoar, which was a mini-Sodom in itself. His wife was not able to make it that far; she looked back after being told not to do so and died with the rest of the wicked. But Lot? Derek Kidner writes, “The grip of ‘this present evil world,’ even on those who love it with a bad conscience, is powerfully shown in this last-minute struggle. The warning (from Jesus) to ‘remember Lot’s wife’ gives us reason to see ourselves potentially in the lingering, quibbling Lot himself, wheedling a last concession as he is dragged to safety. Not even brimstone will make a pilgrim of him: he must have his little Sodom again if life is to be supportable.”
Judgment came to Sodom quickly and without mercy, and Jesus said of that city, “they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all.” Lot escaped, but with what? Allen Ross writes, “…his heart had become a part of this world. His wife was just too attached to the city to follow the call of grace, and his daughters were not uncomfortable with immorality with their father…Ultimately, he could not have both (his faith and Sodom). Sodom would destroy him if the Lord did not destroy Sodom.”
We do not need a visitation from heaven to warn us of future judgment, do we? We have the Bible that tells us God has appointed a day upon which the whole world will be judged (Acts 17:31). It is on his calendar. We also do not need another visitation from heaven to tell us the good news of great joy, that a Savior was born, and that he lived that he might die in our place, so that the day of judgment will be a day of rejoicing for us, not a day of great torment and sorrow and regret.
Harry Ironside wrote this years ago: “One of the first gospel illustrations that ever made a real impression upon my young heart was a simple story when I was less than nine years old. Pioneers were making their way across one of the central states to a distant place that had been opened up for homesteading. They traveled in covered wagons drawn by oxen, and progress was necessarily slow. One day they were horrified to note a long line of smoke in the west, stretching for miles across the prairie, and soon it was evident that the dried grass was burning fiercely and coming toward them rapidly. They had crossed a river the day before, but it would be impossible to go back to that before the flames would be upon them. Only one man seemed to understand what had to be done. He gave the command to set fire to the grass behind them. Then when a space was burned over, the whole company moved back upon it. As the flames roared on toward them from the west, a little girl cried out in terror, ‘Are you sure we will not all be burned up?’ The leader replied, ‘My child, the flames cannot reach us here, for we are standing where the fire has been.” What a picture of the believer, who is safe in Christ. The fires of God’s judgment burned themselves out on Him, and all who are in Christ are safe forever, for they are now standing where the fire has been.’”
The epilogue of this story of destruction finds Abraham looking down at the smoldering dumpster fire of destruction in the valley, the smoke rising to the skies in one huge column, and the Bible says, “God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst.” We could say today and every day, those of us who are in Christ, “But God remembered Jesus, His Son, and all that are in Him…today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.”
Remember when three heavenly visitors came to see Abraham and Sarah, and one of them was the Lord himself? They enjoyed a big meal with Abraham that he and Sarah had prepared for them. Then they asked the question. “Where is Sarah your wife?” This was not a location question, though that is how Abraham interpreted it. They knew she was standing right there, just inside the door of the tent, and could hear everything they said. The real question they were asking was, “What is Sarah believing?” This was another “Adam, where are you?” question. I see you Adam, hiding behind the tree and under those silly fig leaves, but I want you to acknowledge where you really are right now. “Sarah,” they were saying through the tent, “we know you can hear us, and we want you to listen carefully to hear again the promise of the Lord.”
The LORD speaks next and tells Abraham (and Sarah who is eavesdropping) exactly what he had told Abraham in the previous chapter. He repeats the promise that “about this time next year,” she would bear Abraham a son. This was on the schedule, and this was not a Delta flight. It was going to happen, on time. When Sarah heard that, she “laughed to herself.” She laughed because, well, she and her husband were advanced in years, and because “the way of women had ceased to be with Sarah.” In other words, because she was no longer having a monthly cycle, it was physically impossible for her to have a baby. And that was true, and that was the physical reason behind her laughter. But the spiritual reason was at the heart of the issue. She laughed because she did not believe God the way Abraham believed God. And this, I think, was the first important reason for this visit. Before God would allow Abraham to stretch his faith with remarkable intercessory prayer, he would gently confront Sarah about her unbelief. It was important for her to fully embrace God’s plan and purpose. That was needed for her relationship with God. That was needed for her relationship with her husband. That would be needed for her relationship with Isaac.
I believe this is as true today as it was then. It is hard enough when a believer marries an unbeliever, contrary to what Scripture teaches. But even for two believers, God’s desire is that husband and wife are each pursuing the Lord with all their hearts. If it is a passion for one and only a preference for the other, God will not let that go. He will visit with us to draw each toward a passion and a pursuit of him. Bonus? A growing passion for the Lord strengthens your marriage.
Notice in this text, it is God who confronts Sarah about her unbelief, not Abraham. She laughed at the word of the Lord, who then asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?” Then he speaks the essential message of this passage: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Or also translated, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?” That was the question God wanted Sarah to answer for herself. There is nothing too wonderful for the Lord, including and especially the things that we see as simply impossible. It was physically impossible for Sarah to have a baby. Not for the Lord. It was physically impossible for Mary to have a baby, and even more so, as she was a virgin. Not for the Lord. It was impossible for the people of God to escape Pharaoh’s army as they were backed up against the Red Sea. Not for the Lord. It was impossible for Daniel to survive a night with ravenous lions, or the three Hebrew boys to walk out of the fiery furnace. Not for the Lord. It was impossible for Jesus to conquer sin, death, and the grave. Not for the Lord.
You say, “You don’t know my husband,” or, “You don’t know my wife. He/she will never change. It is impossible.” Not for the Lord. You may say of yourself, “I can never be free from this sin that has me in its grip. It is impossible.” Not. For. The. Lord. But I will tell you what you must overcome, and God will help you do this. You have to come to the place where you have no more excuses and no more self-justification. When the Lord asked Abraham why Sarah laughed, Sarah finally spoke out loud and said, “I did not laugh.” She was lying to herself and to God. She was justifying herself before almighty God. She was making an excuse for her unbelief before God.
God hears all of our excuses and knows all of our justifications for sin, and he comes to us anyway. He brings a mountain of grace to exchange for our pitiful pocketful of favorite sins. He tells us the truth: “No, but you did laugh.” And he waits for us to believe him. That there is nothing too hard, nothing too wonderful for the Lord to do. Even in the hearts and minds of people like you and me.