READ: Genesis 18:16-19:38
BACKGROUND: This, to say the least, is one weird and messed-up story. It is heartbreaking, disgusting, and powerful all at the same time. The story picks up right after God and two angels (appearing as men) come to Abraham to promise again that he and Sarah will have a child and he’ll be the father of many nations. Then they turn towards Sodom & Gomorrah.
18 – This is one of the key themes of the Old Testament: That all the people of the earth would be blessed through and by God’s people!
20 – The horrific, unspeakable sins of Sodom & Gomorrah cry out to Heaven to be deal with.
21 – God already knew what was going on (after all, he knows everything) but he demonstrated his justice by noting that he would first gather all the facts.
23-32 – Abraham, a mere man, came face-to-face with God, and boldly made requests. Notice that those requests were motivated not by selfish ambition but out of a deep concern for others. Sadly, there weren’t even 10 righteous people to be found.
19:3 – Lot insisted they stay at his home because he knew the danger they were in.
5 – The men of the city wanted to rape the two men who were staying with Lot.
8 – It was customary in that culture to protect your guests even with your own life, which maybe explains Lot’s actions and his thinking here. It doesn’t make them right though. Lot is not always the best example of faith. Offering up his two daughters to be raped instead of the two guests was not a good solution.
11 – Being angels and not simply humans, the two men afflicted the men of the town with blindness. The Hebrew word here indicates blurred vision that results in mental confusion and bewilderment.
14 – The fact that Lot’s sons-in-law thought he was kidding around demonstrates the level of moral authority he had even in his own household. That is, very little.
19 – Lot doesn’t want to go to the mountains. He’s comfy where he’s at. So he asks the angels to spare Zoar (literally “tiny place”) so he can go and live there.
24 – Major deposits of sulfur (brimstone) and asphalt have been found in this area. It’s possible that God destroyed these towns via an earthquake and that lightning ignited some of the underground gases that were released creating a rain of smoke and fire.
26 – The area also has massive rock salt deposits from the thermal brine brewing underneath the surface. Lot’s wife was struck dead when she looked back (or returned back). It is highly possible that describing her as a “pillar of salt” means either she was killed in the earthquake when a giant shower of salt deposits that had been blown skyward came crashing back down.
31-38 – Gross! Huge failure on the part of Lot and also on the part of his daughters. The Moabites and the Ammonites became bitter enemies and persecutors of Israel.
THINK: Have you ever met anyone famous? I haven’t. Not like actually met and had a conversation with anyways. I shook Bill Clinton’s hand once when he spoke at my high school, I got Mark Prior’s autograph over a fence before his arm fell apart and doomed the Cubs, and I once shouted “Hey Jo!” at Joakim Noah on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. That’s as close as I’ve come. And frankly I can’t imagine having the chance to meet some of my heroes (past & present). Just think about it for a minute. What would it be like to meet your hero? What would it be like to sit down with the President of the United States for a conversation? Or go back in time and hang out with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln? Or get whisked to California and watch a Lakers game with Justin Bieber? 🙂 We’d feel super nervous in those moments, and we would really want to impress the person on the other side of the table. We might be so intimidated and overwhelmed that we’d stumble over the things we wanted to say. It just feels, in some ways, like celebrities are unapproachable. We can read about them and watch them on TV, but actually meeting them and getting to know them seems way out of reach.
Sometimes I think we treat God like this. We think of him as so big and so powerful and so holy that we can’t really have a conversation with him or even picture ourselves doing that. We’re intimidated by the idea of prayer because we feel like we don’t have all the right things to say or like God wouldn’t listen to us even if we did. God just seems out of reach.
If there is one awesome thing in this heartbreaking section of Genesis it is this: it gives us an amazing picture of how we can approach God and how deeply God loves us! Abraham acknowledged that he isn’t worthy to speak to and make requests of the LORD (even though he was way more righteous and way more worthy than most of us, he still wasn’t nearly worthy enough), but God listened to him anyways. God allowed Abraham to pour out his heart. And in praying boldly, Abraham learned not only that the Sovereign God of the universe is ready and willing to have conversations with us and listen to us and make himself approachable to us, but also that he is a God of incredible love and mercy (look how many times he listened to Abraham’s pleas). When we pray we learn a lot about who God is and who he is calling us to be. That is an amazing gift!
ASK: Do I sometimes avoid praying because I feel like God is unapproachable and he doesn’t/wouldn’t listen anyways? What does it mean for my life – going forward – that the Creator of the world is willing to listen to me, that he is approachable?