I’ve been reading about one my oldest ancestors … one who isn’t exactly the pride of the family.
His name is Lot. He was Abram’s nephew. When Abram was called out of Mesopotamia to travel to Canaan, Lot and his family came along. God prospered Abram’s extended family, making Lot part of a wealthy household. When they finally decided that the land could no longer support all of their prosperity in one place, Abram gave Lot the choice of where he might settle. Lot made the choice we would all probably make: The Jordan Valley, which “was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt.” He picked the Eden-like surroundings that were geographically closest to his old hometown of Ur. He also chose to live in one of the key cultural centers of the area, the city of Sodom. But Lot soon found out that there is more to this life than enjoying all that this earth and contemporary culture has to offer.
It may have been topographically beautiful, and the city may have been artsy and progressive … but Sodom was morally reprehensible. Imagine a city where men would be so brazen as to come to your home and beat down your doors if you didn’t turn your male houseguests over to them to be sexually assaulted! That’s what happened when two angels visited Lot. So confounded by the situation was Lot that, as an alternative to seeing his guests defiled, he instead offered his two virgin daughters to the mob. “Do to them as you please,” said Dad.
In answer to Abram’s prayers, and by the help of his two, strong angel visitants, Lot and his daughters were rescued from Sodom. But, even in the rescue, Lot’s spinelessness was evident. His own extended family didn’t take his warnings seriously. Even as he was being commanded to leave, “he lingered,” and had to be “seized” by the angels to get him out of town. His own wife didn’t heed the warning to keep from looking back at the judged city, and lost her life.
And here’s the next, not-so-well-known part of the story. This whole episode so shook Lot that he attempted to flee from the world he lived in. No longer able to be a cosmopolitan hipster in Sodom, he found himself in Zoar – but he was afraid to actually live there. So, he exiled himself and his two daughters to a cave outside of town. This led to a desperate act by his girls, who got him drunk and had incestual relations with him in order to get pregnant. It seemed the only way they could “have a life” as they saw their father getting old and nearing death.
That’s our uncle Lot. A grimy story, and one we don’t like to talk about often at family get-togethers. For some reason, though, his story is making more sense to me in our modern day.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our day is marked by gay “mobs” pounding on our “doors”, insisting that we and everyone in our houses submit to their sexual definitions, and to embrace their activities. This is especially true in our Sodom-like larger cities. Like Lot, we can find ourselves exasperated by their incessant influence, and even be duped into thinking that illicit-yet-traditional sexual activity could serve as a preferred antidote.
Because it is so hard to live according to God’s principles in a godless world, our next step might be, like Lot’s, a fearful abandonment of culture. If we just take our virgin daughters, run away from the city, and go live in caves, we’ll be safe, right?
But Yahweh’s plan for His chosen people has always been to bless the world around us, not avoid it. If only Lot could have been more like Uncle Abram, who was politically involved, engaged in public acts of religion, and (though he had moments of difficulty navigating his cultural landscape, too) ended up being more of an influence on his culture than vice-versa.
Like Lot, I can be a sucker for the beautiful things of this world. I can find myself clinging to them, even when God calls me away from them. I can find myself so tired and fearful of the decaying culture of our world that I want to go hide in a cave somewhere.
But my wife and daughters are depending on me to lead them into better decisions than the American dream, urban values, or isolation. After all, we have been called to be a part of God’s promise to Abraham: “I will bless you and make your name great. so that you will be a blessing … in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”