A Twilight Musing
(from Gen. chaps. 12-19)
Back in Bible times there was a young dude named Lot, who had an uncle named Abraham. Nephew Lot was a young orphan boy when God struck a Big Deal with Uncle Abe that promised a big long-term payoff in lots of descendants and a prime piece of land for them to live in. Uncle Abe went whole-hog with God on this Deal, in spite of the fact that his wife Sarah hadn’t had a baby yet; and God thought it was pretty cool that Abe trusted Him that much. When the Lord told Abe to set out for a distant place that He would show him, Abe invited Lot to go along and be a junior partner in the adventure, and Lot, being young and at loose ends, accepted the offer.
Only Lot didn’t really understand the kind of all-in commitment that Uncle Abe was making: complete faith that God was as good as His word and a willingness to wait for God’s timing for the promised payoff. Lot, on the other hand, showed increasingly that he was more concerned with his own immediate advantage than with any far-off promises of God. Ultimately, he ended up being out of touch with God and blowing his part in the Big Deal between God and Uncle Abe. Here’s how it happened.
Things started out well enough. In the process of settling down in the Promised Land, after they finally got there, Uncle Abe got very rich in livestock, and Lot rode his coattails and got rich, too. In fact, their flocks were so big that they clashed and caused fistfights to break out between their opposing herdsmen. So Uncle Abe proposed that they part ways, and he let Lot choose which territory he preferred. Here came Lot’s first big slipup: he chose the richest land, the country that stretched out in the direction of Sodom. In fact, he finally ended up living in Sodom, even though the “men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord” (Gen. 13:13). Evidently, Lot thought he could live there and still be a good man.
Abe, on the other hand, settled in Canaan, a land not so obviously rich, but the one where God had directed him. God continued to reassure Abe that he and Sarah would produce a bunch of people who would possess the land, even though Sarah still had not become pregnant. Abe continued to trust God and to wait for Him to deliver on His promise in His own good time. Lot, however, took things in his own hands without much regard to anything God might want him to do. And that got him into trouble.
Seems the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah got themselves into a battle that they lost, and the victors sacked the twin cities and made away with a lot of loot, including Lot’s possessions. Somebody told Uncle Abe, and he came to the rescue (with only 318 men!), recovering Lot and his possessions along with everything else that had been taken. The king of Sodom was very grateful for this rescue (no record of what Lot had to say) and offered to share his possessions with Abe; but Abe refused to be made rich by anybody but God. Somebody else came out after the battle, a priest of God named Melchizidek, to whom Abe gave a tenth (that is, a tithe) of his own possessions. In contrast, Lot must have just gone back with all his stuff and resettled comfortably in Sodom. It was a bad reaction to being captured and then rescued. He should have taken it as a heads up about what was coming.
We don’t have any record of Uncle Abe seeing Lot again after this event, but Lot soon found himself in another pickle that called for a rescue, and Abe indirectly provided help. God told Abe that He had decided to check out whether Sodom and Gomorrah were as sinful as their rep said they were, and He was going to wipe them out if it was true. Then, as the angels set off for Sodom, Abe, no doubt mindful of his nephew Lot, had a bargaining chat with God about how many good people it would take to save the city. Turns out that ten would have been enough, but only Lot had even a glimmer of goodness.
Lot’s encounter with the angels doesn’t stack up very well against his Uncle Abe’s. Both men showed them hospitality before they knew they were hosting angels, but for Abe they were God’s messengers for the final, time-specific announcement of the birth of Abe’s and Sarah’s son, Isaac. Like Uncle Abe, Lot received the men/angels into his house, but he dilly-dallied about getting out of town, and the angels finally had to drag him and his wife and his two daughters out by the hand. Lot’s wife ignored the warning not to look back and got turned into a salt-lick for cattle, so all that Lot had left was his two daughters. All his riches had gone up in the sulphur smoke behind him.
It was a sad end for a guy who could have shared in all the good stuff that God blessed Abe with. Bit by bit he went his own way rather than God’s way. The story tells us he ended up living “in a cave with his two daughters” (Gen. 19:30). That didn’t turn out very well for him either. The girls got him drunk and themselves pregnant and they became the mothers of two nations that were enemies of the descendants of Abraham.
It was a pretty pathetic end for Lot. What a comedown! Makes you want to be sure you don’t mess up when God offers you a share in a Big Deal.
“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:1-4, ESV).
Dr. Elton Higgs was a faculty member in the English department of the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1965-2001. Having retired from UM-D as Prof. of English in 2001, he now lives with his wife and adult daughter in Jackson, MI.. He has published scholarly articles on Chaucer, Langland, the Pearl Poet, Shakespeare, and Milton. His self-published Collected Poems is online at Lulu.com. He also published a couple dozen short articles in religious journals. (Ed.: Dr. Higgs was the most important mentor during undergrad for the creator of this website, and his influence was inestimable; it's thrilling to welcome this dear friend onboard.)