“And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked.”—2 Pet. 2:7
Have you ever thought of Lot as a just or righteous man? Would you be more inclined to call him “bad Lot” or “weak Lot?” Why would the Apostle Peter use this appellative “just” to describe a character usually viewed as one who was far less than faithful?
Lot was the nephew of Abraham, being the son of his older brother, Haran. He was part of the entourage which Terah, Abraham’s father, led out of Ur of the Chaldees northwestward along the Euphrates river to a place they named Haran, in honor of Terah’s oldest son, now dead.
After the death of Terah, Abraham left Haran for “the promised land,” a land which God had indicated he would inform him of when he was still residing in Ur. This act of Abraham is denoted as one of the great acts of faith in his life by the Apostle Paul in Heb. 11:8.
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
If it was faith which prompted Abraham to leave Haran, was it any less faith on the part of Lot? Some might say that he was younger, and therefore he had little choice. But his sister, Milcah, was left behind. He did have a choice. He chose to go with Abraham. Assuredly, this was an act of faith on Lot’s part! Yet, he was not singled out for this act of faith as was Abraham. Why? Because his faith did not continue to grow to maturity.
Arriving in the land of Canaan, both Abraham and Lot prospered so much that “the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great.” (Gen. 13:6) Strife developed between their herdsmen. In an amicable discussion, the two decided to part company. Lot chose the then fertile area around the base of the Dead Sea. Although now a barren area, it was apparently agriculturally productive before the cataclysm that destroyed the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
This decision to relocate in the area of Sodom was not in itself an act unpleasing to God. Given first choice, it was only logical to select the area with the best prospects for prosperity. However, it did place Lot in a position of temptation. Prosperity is always tempting, and one of then greatest antagonists of faith. Where prosperity exists, man feels less and less need for God.
Six Steps to Sin
Following the course of temptation, the move to Sodom traces his decline in six successive steps.
1. STRIFE. (Gen. 13:7) Disagreements are natural. No two independent people can long live without differences of opinion, but these disputes need not degenerate into strife. “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” (Jas. 3:16) Strife breeds suspicions of the other person’s motive and destroys the incentive to work together. While Jude says that we are “to contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 4), he does not say that we are to be contentious for it.
2. BEHOLDING. (Gen. 13:10) Every materialistic act begins with a desire. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (Jas.1:15) Modern commercial enterprises spend millions of dollars for the very purpose of creating just such desire. Stores invest heavily in creating eye appeal. For Mother Eve, one of the appeals of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” was that “it was pleasant to the eyes.” (Gen. 3:6) Similarly, one of the strong temptation to the Christian is “the lust of the eyes.” (1 John 2:16)
3. CHOOSING. (Gen. 13:11) Desiring an object in a store window does not mean that we must buy it. Noticing the fertility of the Jordan valley, Lot could have considered other aspects of his decision: perhaps he should defer to his older uncle, Abraham; perhaps he should have taken into consideration the character of his new neighbors, which was already iniquitous. But Lot carried through with his desires and made a positive decision to make a choice based solely on materialistic considerations.
4. DWELLING TOWARD SODOM. (Gen. 13:12) To Lot’s credit, he did not choose to live in Sodom, with all its iniquities. Nevertheless, by pitching his tent “toward Sodom” he was inviting the future temptations which caused him such loss in his later life. In similar vein, Solomon writes in his love song, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines.” (Song of Solomon 2:15) It is the little temptations, the small sins, which sear the conscience, opening the door for the greater sins to follow.
5. LIVING IN SODOM. (Gen. 14:12) True to this pattern, it is only a short while before we see Lot changing his residence to within the city. No doubt the conveniences of an urban environment over a desert tent and the prosperity which enabled him to purchase a home in the city were all factors in this decision. “Surely,” he may have thought, “there can be no greater danger in living in the city than in dwelling in its environs.” But there was, and it took two great cataclysms to extricate him from his difficulties.
6. SITTING IN THE GATE. (Gen. 19:1) The position of “sitting in the gate” was reserved for the elders, or judges, of the city. It denoted a position of prominence and esteem. After experiencing the wickedness of his Sodomite neighbors, Lot chooses not to leave the city, but to try to reform it. Numerous compromises would have been required to win the acceptance and necessary votes to hold such a high office, but a conscience which is seared often chooses to ignore the dangers of such compromises.
As a result of Lot’s living in Sodom, his very life came into danger on two occasions. In one he was taken captive, in the other he fled to avoid destruction. In the one, the whole city was saved for Lot’s sake. In the other, the whole city was destroyed for Lot’s sake.
The first of these incidents is recorded in Genesis, chapter 14. Chedarlaomer, king of Elam, had been holding the people around the Dead Sea as a tribute people. A rebellion finally occurred, in which all the residents of Sodom, including Lot, were taken captive.
Upon hearing of this, Abraham garners together his entire household, some 318 men, and sets out on a rescue mission. Successful, he restores all of Sodom’s possessions to the king of Sodom, and Lot to his home. On the return journey he is met by Melchizedek, king of Salem, and after partaking of ceremonial bread and wine, gives Melchizedek a tithe, or ten percent, of the spoils.
The second tragedy is recorded in the 19th chapter of Genesis, and this time the attacker of Sodom is God himself, because of the extreme wickedness of the residents of both Sodom and its sister city, Gomorroh. After negotiating for its being saved from destruction if 10 righteous people could be found therein, Abraham leaves the matter in God’s hands. (Gen. 18)
Ten righteous were not found. Only Lot, his wife and two daughters were sufficiently concerned to flee the city before an earthquake cause subterranean deposits of sulfur and salt to be forced up through the resultant fissures. The friction thus caused set the sulfur on fire and, with the accompanying salt, rained back on the earth. Lot’s wife, stopping to look longingly back, became encrusted in the descending salt and was turned into a salty pillar.
How well these two incidents demonstrate workings of God in our lives. How often our wrong decisions put us in harm’s way. How frequently the Lord delivers us from these situations, even though they may be of our own making. Delivering us, he does not change our life’s environment. He returns us to our individual Sodoms. The choice is ours, whether to remain or flee. The time comes, however, when no other choice is left us. It will be “flee, or die.”
It is worthy of consideration, in this regard, to note the counsel of Rev. 18:4, “”And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
If Israel had not sprinkled their doorposts with the blood of the lamb on the night of the Passover, they, too, would have suffered the terrible consequences of the last plague on Egypt—the death of their firstborms.
It is incumbent upon the Christian to note the consequences of his own actions, to ask the Lord for deliverance and to accept that salvation. But they must go further. They must repent of their former wrong conduct and change their future course of action lest, ultimately, they be destroyed with the wicked.
Vexation of Soul
“And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.)”—2 Pet. 2: 7, 8
Peter’s evaluation of Lot, despite his history, was that he was “just” and had a “righteous soul.” Noting Lot’s involvement with the Sodomites, he assures us that this was vexing to his soul. It is worthy of note that the word translated “vexed” in verse 7 is very different from the one translated “vexed” in verse 8.
Both the New International Version and the Revised Version translate verse 7 with the word “distressed.” Lot was distressed with the unrighteous acts of his neighbors. He did not agree with them. He probably sought his judgeship with a hope of reforming the city, perhaps enacting a more strict legal code on moral matters.
The word “vexed,” however, in verse 8, comes from the Greek basanizo, a word often translated “torment:” but which, according to Strong’s Concordance, meant literally “a touch stone.” A touch stone was used in gold mining, to assay the gold content of ore. The ore was rubbed against the stone and, if containing gold, would leave streaks of gold on the touch stone. Idiomatically, it came to signify a “putting to the test, an investigation, to assay or assess.”
The thought, then, in our text, is that, being distressed with the unrighteousness surrounding him, Lot’s soul was put to the test. How would he react. Would he seek to reform, or would he flee? It was, indeed, a vexing question.
Entering the Defenced Cities
A parallel to this lesson is found in Jer. 8:9-22. Here he talks of “wise men” who had “rejected the word of the Lord.” In consequence their wives and fields were given to others. Their response to the troubles around them was to say, “Peace, peace, where there is no peace.” Like Lot, they compromised with the evil for the sake of maintaining peaceful relationships—co-existence.
The further deterioration in conditions around them lead them to the decision of Jer. 8:14. “Why do we sit still? assemble yourselves, and let us enter into the defenced cities, and let us be silent there: for the LORD our God hath put us to silence, and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the LORD.”
It was this decision, one that was just as wrong as Lot’s decision to remain in Sodom after being rescued by Lot, which causes these “wise men” to lament in verse 20: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
Thus, in spite of the deterioration of Lot’s faith and his continuing association with the Sodomites. he earns Peter’s judgment as “just” and “righteous.” But, as the story shows, being righteous does not necessarily mean being right. His righteousness related to his heart intents. They were good. He was vexed, distressed, by the wickedness which surrounded him. But his decisions were not right. Thus he failed of the high commendation of faith which Paul gave his uncle Abraham.
The judgment of Lot in the Lord’s eyes is not given in the Bible. We do well, though, to profit from his mistakes and not to repeat them. As for his judgment or ours, how comforting are the Apostle’s words in 2 Cor. 8:12, “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.”