Struggle of the Mind
“That righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day” (2 Peter 2:8).
By Rick Suraci
We live in an age of compromise and rationalization. It is one thing to make compromises that serve both sides of an issue, while not compromising Christian principles. It is entirely another thing to rationalize our stand on things. Compromising occurs between disagreeing sides. Rationalizing takes place in the mind. To rationalize is to relax what one has already concluded to be an appropriate standard. This can be deeply serious for the New Creation. The thoughts following focus on pinpointing rationalizing behavior and how it leads to being not quite right, not quite in harmony with principle, or not quite overcoming enough.
In 2 Peter, the apostle speaks of the angels that sinned, the world at the time of the Flood, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He describes Lot as righteous. “If He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:7-9, NASB).
How had Lot been so thoroughly tested? We will look at this account with Lot and his experiences as a symbol of the Great Company. Watch for the theme of not quite.
How could Lot represent the Great Company, if he was not a direct descendent of Abraham? How could he represent a potential child of the promise, if he wasn’t one? We suggest an alternate starting point for the picture that seems to fit without contradiction:
Before Abram left his father’s house, his father Terah left his own house! “Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran … and Sarai … Abram’s wife, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees” (Genesis 11:31). In Reprint 3936, Br. Russell suggests that they journeyed toward Canaan to escape the gross idolatry surrounding them in Ur. Thus Lot was together with Abram as they fled idolatry. This beginning helps us trace Lot’s actions in contrast to Abram’s actions regarding faithfulness.
The names in the account are meaningful. Lot’s father was Haran, meaning “mountaineer” (Strong’s 2039). Lot’s name means “covering” (Strong’s 3876). Lot was a “covered” one, son of a mountaineer, one who lived in the mountains. His heritage and his name represent a close relationship to God through Christ.
The story of the separation of Lot and Abram is found in Genesis 13:8-13. Abram addressed Lot as his “brother,” and gave him the choice as to who would go where. Lot saw two things in his chosen direction. (1) Space, fertile ground, and an opportunity to flourish. Who would not want an easier work environment for their herdsmen? (2) Clearly defined settlements of evil. Lot, whom Terah brought out of an idolatrous environment, chose to live in an even worse idolatrous environment. Lot, son of the mountaineer Haran, chose the valley.
The tragedy of not quite: Lot rationalized a choice to move closer to centers of evil in exchange for greater prosperity. He moved his tents as far as Sodom. He was up close, though not involved.
But his choice was not quite enough to keep him from evil. What about me? Do I set my own course on a spiritually sound path — or not quite? Are my choices for the good of my family on ALL levels — or are they not quite good enough?
Years later, Genesis 18 gives another contrast between Abraham and Lot. Abraham, unknowingly at first, was visited by three angels. Abraham saw them approach and jumped to serve them. He stood, as his honored guests sat and ate. He had palpable enthusiasm! The angels told Abraham about the coming birth of Isaac.
Then, as they were leaving, heading towards Sodom to judge their immorality, because of God’s love for Abraham, the angels disclosed their plan. Abraham’s concern is evident as he bargained with God, for Sodom and its people. But his words showed Abraham’s deep respect for God and acquiescence to His will.
Arrival at Sodom
In Genesis 19:1-3, while sitting at the gate of Sodom, Lot saw two of the angels arrive. He also jumped to serve with reverence, but in a slightly different manner. Abraham and Lot were each sitting at the entrance to their home — the tent (temporary dwelling) of Abraham, and the city of Lot. Both displayed reverence and warm hospitality. Apparently, Lot was trying to protect the angels. Paraphrasing Genesis 19:2-3, Lot said, “Glad you are here! Come to my house, relax, eat, sleep … then leave at the crack of dawn! Don’t stay here, too much evil, too dangerous! Lot strongly urged them to come into his house, and he served them.
Lot’s righteousness is evident, as he was protective and humble. He was almost the same as Abraham, but not quite! At one time Lot’s house had been a tent, but now he lived within the city. How did that happen?
The tragedy of not quite: Lot established himself just outside the evil city, but over time he became established within it. Lot was not quite safe and likely did ALMOST enough to keep evil out. What about me? Do I plant myself too close to the line, and with time, allow the line to creep towards me, and actually surround me? Are my spiritual defenses not quite strong enough? Not quite clear enough? Not quite adhered to enough?
Genesis 19:4-5: The wicked men of Sodom surrounded Lot’s house. Righteous Lot stood before them alone, and pleaded with them not to act wickedly. Abraham had pleaded with the Lord about saving any righteous men. Lot pleaded with wicked men to not act wickedly. Almost the same, but not quite!
To appease the wicked men, Lot offered them his daughters. This is a righteous man cracking under extreme pressure. Did he not have angels of God within his home? If Lot had not made his home in the very lap of evil, such a traumatic event would never have arisen. Had he relied upon the angels, instead of himself, such a gross compromise would never have been considered.
Genesis 19 continues with Lot rescued by the angels, pulling him back into the house and blinding the assailants. The angels asked Lot about his family, informing him that they would destroy the city. Lot pleaded with those who were important to him, but they would not believe him. His sons-in-law were Sodomites. His daughters who married them had seemingly forgotten their righteous heritage.
The tragedy of not quite: Lot spoke the truth to his extended family — but because of the environment that he had consciously placed himself in, he was not quite able to convince them. What about me? Do I obediently speak the truth, but from a compromised position?
The next morning a dramatic symptom of not quite unfolded, expressed by HESITATION. The angels urged Lot, his wife, and two daughters to leave. But Lot hesitated (Genesis 19:16). After all that Lot had seen, he was still attached. God was compassionate, and the angels led them out of the city. Then they were given a forceful three-part command: Leave the valley. Escape to the mountains. Don’t look back! Lot had warned others to leave, yet he himself had second thoughts.
The tragedy of not quite: Lot displayed faith, but not full conviction. Hesitation hinders conviction. What about me? Do I have the genuine conviction of faith needed when I have a “Thus saith the Lord” before me?
Lot again hesitated, asking the angels if he could go to a small town nearby instead of the mountains. The request was granted, and they fled to the town of Zoar. Lot had a history of having to flee wickedness — first with his grandfather, then with Abraham, and now from Sodom. All three relocating experiences were directed by the hand of God. Lot, a “covered” one (symbolically covered by Jesus’ sacrifice), son of the mountaineer (mountains are a symbol of God’s dwelling place), bargained NOT to go to the mountains. Instead, he requested a “tiny” city — perhaps showing a lesser sinfulness — but still not the refuge of the mountains.
The tragedy of not quite: On three occasions, Lot had followed the direction of God. In the first two instances, with Terah and then Abraham, Lot went with others. Now, when left to his own devices, he bargained for an option, Zoar, which was not where he was told to go. What about me? Do I have the genuine conviction of faith to follow through as the Lord guides me? Or does fear of what may happen alter my destination?
Genesis 19:23-26: When Lot reached Zoar, the destruction of Sodom began. Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. Perhaps the fact that she is not named suggests that she represented part of Lot’s own hesitation. For the Great Company, in a sense, a part of them dies as they reluctantly flee the sinful world.
Lot continued to a better place — a place of “tiny” sin — but not to the mountains, where he was told to go. His grandfather fleeing Ur would have shown the need to flee. His father’s name would have shown that the mountains were his destiny. The angel of God would have led him there. Lot compromised all three parts of the angel’s command! Meanwhile, Abraham observed the destruction from his higher place of safety. God remembered Abraham by saving the ever-hesitating Lot (Genesis 19:29).
The tragedy of not quite: Lot fled Sodom and the destruction, but suffered great loss in the process. He left part of him behind as he fled. Lot’s hesitation, pictured by his wife, shows a double minded attitude. In comparison, Abraham was able to look upon the destruction from afar. He knew God’s will was just and merciful. What about me? Do I ever suffer loss as a result of half-hearted fleeing from my own bad choices? When I finally decide to go, is it with conviction or confusion?
The last event recorded in Lot’s life was sad. Lot and his daughters finally did go to the mountains. There he was defiled by his daughters, who later bore sons. These sons became the Moabites and the Ammonites — both peoples who were rebellious against God.
The tragedy of not quite: Though Lot finally did get to the mountain, the damage had been done. Having lived in vile circumstances led his daughters to faithless actions, leading to a faithless legacy. Meanwhile, faithful and separated Abraham was blessed with a son, the seed of promise, through whom all families of the earth would be blessed. What about me? Am I in a place in my consecrated walk that leaves an open door to a legacy less than spiritual obedience and sacrifice?
Lessons For Us
Lot’s experiences show us that we also are susceptible of not quite.
Jude 1:21-23 (NASB): “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”
Let us take the lessons of Lot’s tragedies of not quite to heart. Walk with conviction. Do not “go along to get along.” Do not hesitate because of attachments to worldly environments. Instead, walk away without reservation.