Lot’s Deliverance

Adapted From A Sermon By

George Burder

Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Gen 19:24-26

The apostle Jude, exhorting Christians to perseverance in the faith, reminds them of the terrible judgments of God upon fallen angels—upon his people Israel—and upon the inhabitants of Sodom. Of the inhabitants of Sodom he says in verse 7, “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” Examples of this kind are not for imitation, but for caution, for warning, for admonition; that all sinners, in all ages, may avoid the destruction, by avoiding the sin.

The history before us is of a very moving one, but also a very instructive one, which we will do well to consider carefully. We will arrange its most striking circumstances under the three following headings.

1. The destruction of Sodom;

2. Lot’s deliverance; and,

3. The apostasy of his wife.

The destruction of Sodom and some neighbouring cities was brought about by their extreme wickedness. “Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD;” Gen. 13. 13. The country in which they lived was remarkably beautiful and fertile, it “was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD,” the garden that is described in the second chapter of Genesis; and much resembled some of the finest parts of Egypt. Prosperity, however, without grace, is a dangerous snare to the soul.

The goodness of God should have led them to repentance and obedience; but, on the contrary, “this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease.” (Ezek. 16. 49.) Their plenty only pampered their bodies, and became fuel to their lusts; while abundance of idleness furnished them with those opportunities of indulgence, which honest work would have prevented. They were uncommonly and outrageously wicked; they gave themselves up to sexual immorality, and to still more vile practices; and instead of being ashamed of their sins, they proclaimed them openly, and gloried in their shame. Neither was this the horrid depravity of a few individuals; it was general; it was almost universal; there were not ten persons in it, including the family of Lot, who were free from the dreadful infection.

These sins are said to cry out in Chapter 18, “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great.” Atrocious sins cry out to God for vengeance; they demand an end to that patience which has borne with them so long; they require that the earth should be cleared from such monsters of iniquity; and that a holy God should rise, and manifest his just indignation against them.

God, who is slow to anger, eventually arose to judgment. He first revealed his intentions to Abraham, who lived a few miles off, and who earnestly interceded for them; and had there been but ten righteous men in Sodom, it would have been spared for their sakes; such is the gracious attention which God bears to those who fear him.

The angels, who were appointed to be the executioners of divine wrath, entered Sodom in the evening; and, appearing as human travellers, were gladly welcomed to Lot’s hospitable home. There they soon witnessed the dreadful depravity, impudence, and violence of the people. Lot, who reproved them for their conduct, was insulted, and exposed to imminent danger, and was rescued from their violent hands only by the supernatural interference of the angels, who struck the wild mob with blindness.

Immediate ruin had then become inevitable: and no reprieve would be allowed, but that which was necessary for the safety of Lot.

Early in the morning, probably at daybreak, this good man, his wife, and daughters, were forced, by a gracious violence, to leave the city and run to a place of refuge. When this had taken place, and Lot was safe in Zoar—“Then,” says our text, “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven.”

How sudden and unexpected was this disaster! “The sun had risen on the earth.” As yet, many who had been revelling in the night were fast asleep in their beds. Others were rising to pursue the business or enjoy the pleasures of the day. Even they who had been warned of the danger were perfectly secure. “Peace and safety” was their cry, when, alas! sudden destruction was just at hand. Our Savior refers to this (Luke 17. 28.)“Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all.” They were surprised with the ruin which they would not fear; and indeed, so it is with sinners in general, even with those who die on their beds; the most awful warnings do not alarm them, men see no danger, and death itself strikes the fatal blow in an unexpected moment.

How peculiar, and how tremendous was this destruction? A deluge of water was once the instrument of divine vengeance, overwhelming a guilty world; but who ever heard of a deluge of fire? All the elements are at the disposal of their Maker, whether for the purposes of wrath or of mercy.

Now, indeed, was “the wrath of God revealed from heaven!” (Rom 1:18) The expressions are striking—“The Lord rained” “from the Lord”—The Lord the Son, from the Lord the Father, as some interpret the words; at least it means that Jehovah himself sent down this fiery shower; it was his own supernatural act, and not the effect of ordinary causes.

Doubtless it was a method of destruction most startling and most dreadful; alluding to this, the psalmist says, “Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.” (Psalm 11:6) The consternation of this awful hour was, probably, enhanced by the most vivid and frequent flashes of lightning; by tremendous peals of thunder; and by repeated shocks of earthquake. Ah! who can describe, or even conceive, what terror and dismay seized every guilty heart when this universal desolation overwhelmed them; and when these sulphurous flames on earth were about to convey them to everlasting burnings, to “the lake that burns with fire and sulfur” for ever.” (Rev 21:8)

In this awful way the many inhabitants of five large cities, and perhaps a great number of villages, were at once consumed, and blotted out from the land of the living! In this way were many thousands of guilty rebels hurried away by the most awful kind of death, to suffer the “punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7)

The country itself, once a earthly paradise, became the enduring monument of this awful event—“the whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout;” (Deut. 29. 23.) The scene of this desolation is now called the Dead Sea; because, on some accounts, no animal lives in it. According to Josephus it is about seventy miles in length, and about twenty in breadth; the ruins of Sodom were formerly visible; and a peculiar substance, called bitumen, or asphalt, is yet found in it.

But let us turn, in the second place, to a more pleasing part of the subject, The deliverance of Lot—“righteous Lot,” as the Scripture calls him.

Lot, having been educated by Abraham, the father of the faithful, was no doubt fully instructed in the knowledge of God; nor did he receive this instruction in vain. It is a great privilege for young people to dwell in a pious house, and enjoy the prayers and the example of a believing relative. Some, indeed, despise this advantage; but many, like Lot, will have reason to be eternally thankful for it.

However, as a result of the great increase of his worldly possessions, he separates from his uncle, and chooses for his residence the fertile meadows of Sodom. In this choice he seems to have been influenced by motives too worldly and carnal. Here, indeed, his wealth increased for a time; but before long, a war breaking out in the country, Sodom was seized and plundered by the enemy, his flocks and herds removed, and himself taken prisoner. By the bold behavior of Abraham, however, he recovered his liberty and his property, and settled again in the same pleasant, but ungodly spot.

In this horribly wicked place, he was enabled to maintain his integrity, to keep himself free from the vices of his neighbors, and conduct himself as was appropriate for a worshipper of Jehovah. But he was far from being happy. He could not be an unconcerned spectator of the enormous wickedness of the inhabitants. The apostle Peter says, He was “greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked... for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.” It was much to his honor, that he felt this abhorrence of sin; but he must have felt reproach continually, for fixing his settling down in such an abandoned place.

It is the unavoidable lot of some, to dwell among the profane; and happy are they who can withstand the torrent of sin; who “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness;” but, like, Lot, “expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11) Yet, let every one who values the salvation of his soul avoid, if possible, such a dangerous situation; for no worldly gain can compensate for the evil to which it exposes him; and few, too few, like Lot, preserve themselves untainted from the general pollution.

Those who desire to be rich,” even at the hazard of their souls, too frequently “fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-12)

This consideration should be duly weighed by parents, in their choice of schools for the education of their children, and in placing them abroad in the world for business: it should weigh with job seekers in the choice of where they send their resumes. It make persons of every description cautious in the selection of their companions, especially in the choice of a companion for life; and, indeed, in every step of their affairs: for many venture, like Lot, into a Sodom, but few, like him, escape unhurt. Not every one is blessed with Lot’s strength; not every one is blessed with an Abraham to pray for him.

Lot’s hospitality in entertaining the extraordinary strangers, is something we should strive to imitate; for he “entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2) By them he was informed of the destruction which they were commissioned to execute upon Sodom and its inhabitants. “We are about to destroy this place,” they said, “because the outcry against its people has become great before the LORD, and the LORD has sent us to destroy it.” But he was permitted, and advised, to hastily warn his relatives.

That night, he finds his way to their homes, though probably at great personal risk: he calls them up; he warns them as a prophet; he entreats them as a parent. “Up,” he said, “Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city.” But his sons-in-law rejected the warning with contempt. “But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.” They had been used to jesting, and they treated this as a jest. “Why should tomorrow be different from any other day? Who ever saw it rain fire? Or from where should that sulfur come from exactly!” “Thus,” said Bishop Hall, “to carnal men, preaching is foolishness; devotion idleness; the prophets madmen; Paul a babbler.” These men’s incredulity is as worthy of the fire, as the other's uncleanness. “ Whoever does not believe is condemned already.” (John 3:18)

But now the moment of danger has come. There is no time to lose. The angels press Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But sadly! even Lot himself lingered. Who can imagine the agitation and distress of his mind, on leaving all his property to be destroyed, and his married daughters to be burnt to death! No wonder that he lingered; but “the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”

And how common it is for people under conviction of sin and danger to linger! They are satisfied that they ought to separate themselves from the wicked world, and immediately run from the wrath to come; but still they delay; they are unwilling to leave their connections; to forsake all, and follow Christ. Nor is the case decided, until the Lord exerts his constraining power and grace, and as it were, by a holy violence, “plucks them as brands out of the fire.” (Zechariah 3:1-2)

Being now brought out of the city, the angels who were to destroy it leave them, but with this advice, given with a most gracious urgency—“Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away” ver. 17. It is in this way that sinners are warmly exhorted by the word of God to come out from the spiritual Sodom, from their state of sin and danger. “Knowing the fear of the Lord” (2 Cor 5:11) we would “save others by snatching them out of the fire.” It is a matter of eternal life or death! Escape, or perish! Repent, or perish! Be, converted, or perish!

The Lord was pleased to tell Lot where to run for refuge. “Escape to the hills.” As the whole valley was devoted to destruction, the distant hills were indicated as a place of safety. But Lot, aged, wearied, and frightened, probably thinking he was to weak to reach one of them, asked to go to a small town that was nearer. “Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” This was his failing; for God, who had brought him out, and directed him to the hills, was surely able to strengthen him to reach it.

It is dangerous to choose for ourselves, and so the sequel of the story proves; for though his request was granted, and Zoar spared for his sake, yet it appears that he was afterwards forced to leave it, and dwell in a lonely cave; where, sadly! he was tempted to a great sin. How much better then would it have been to immediately obey the heavenly order, and take refuge in the appointed hill! where God would have graciously lead him, and where doubtless he would have been safe.

When a sinner forsakes his evil ways, the Gospel directs him to Christ as the only refuge, the only one “who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thess 1:10) But how many are apt to linger in the plain! to rest merely in reformation and morality; or to resort to some other shelter of their own making. A sinner should never rest, until, by faith, he has fled to Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world;” until Jesus is made to him, “wisdom; righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30) Then, and then only, he is safe.

Lot, his wife, and daughters, being delivered from Sodom, and on their way to Zoar, all seemed to be well. Lot, no doubt, remembered the divine injunction “Do not look back.” God’s law, in the least command, as well as in the greatest, is holy, and just, and good: he had wise reasons for this prohibition. Lot must not look back; for it would reveal his unwillingness to leave Sodom, and his possessions there; it might show that he doubted whether the threatening would be carried out; at any rate it would cause some delay; he therefore obeys, proceeds, and eventually reaches the wished for asylum. Not so his wife: she looks back, and perishes: and this is the

Third particular, which remains to be considered; The Apostasy Of Lot’s Wife. She“looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”

That this very extraordinary and very awful circumstance deserves particular attention, is evident from the use which our Lord makes of it, Luke 17. 32, where he says to his disciples, “Remember Lot’s wife.

In the flight of the family, it is probable that Lot, more fully convinced of the approaching danger than the rest, took the lead. His wife, not sufficiently attentive to the strict prohibition, “Do not look back,” was inclined, by some motive or other, to stop; turn round, and gaze upon the doomed city.

Perhaps a doubter will say, And what great harm was there in that? There was much harm in every way. It was an act of disobedience; and disobedience is the very essence of sin. It was a contempt of the divine authority, which is equally to be regarded in those things which may seem to us small, as well as those which are apparently great. Her sin was aggravated by her ingratitude. It was losing sight of the great goodness of God, in delivering the family, and distinguishing them from the thousands who were about to perish. God resents with peculiar indignation this base disregard of his extraordinary mercies.

Probably there was a mixture of unbelief in her offence. She turned, and stopped to see whether the threatened danger was likely to take place or not. So many people will believe nothing but what they can see or account for; let them remember Lot's wife.

But love of the world was doubtless her principal sin. She felt a strong attachment to the place, to the people, and to her worldly belongings, now left behind; and perhaps held on to the hope that the destruction would not take place, and that she might yet return to the beloved spot.

Indulging in these sinful thoughts and affections, she stood, gazing on the city as yet in view, until the horrible storm overtook her. She was struck dead and became a pillar of salt, and there remained, as we learn not only from Scripture, but from several ancient and credible historians, a standing monument, for many ages, of the divine wrath against apostasy.

What must have been the terror of righteous Lot, when he entered Zoar, and missed his life’s partner! Anxious fears for her safety would immediately arise in his heart. When the dreadful storm had let up, he would doubtless go searching for her; but who can imagine his astonishment and grief, when he found her transformed into a pillar salt! What an awful addition was this to the loss of all his property, and of his two sons-in-law, who had perished in the flames! Such, though his life was spared, were the dreadful effects of his worldly-mindedness in settling among the abominable criminals of that country.

And now what remains, but that we select, and deeply fix our hearts, on some of the important lessons which this awful history is intended to teach us.

Surely we must be struck, in the first place, with the extreme depravity human nature, and the dreadful lengths to which it may progress, unless restrained by the power of God. We look with just concern on the guilty cities of the plain; but are there not with us, even with us, sins, and glaring sins too, against the Lord! The sins of Sodom and worse are committed in this country; sadly, it may be said to people called Christians, “Sodom has not done as you have done!”

Far greater are our privileges than Sodom ever possessed, and our sins are therefore more aggravated than theirs. May we not then fear a just punishment! God is now, and always, the hater of sin; and though a punishment like Sodom’s may not fall upon us in this world, yet, he, who is our Judge has said, and he says it to us as much as to the Jews—“it will be more bearable on the day of judgment,” (Matthew 10:15) than for those who hear the Gospel, but reject its evidences, and neglect its salvation.

Hear then the warning voice of the Gospel, before the storm of wrath comes down. Escape for your life—Do not look behind—Do not linger in the plain. —Escape to the mountain—Run to the Friend of sinners, who will grant you refuge, pardon, grace, and eternal life.

What an awful lesson is here against apostasy! Allow the Savior’s caution to resound in your ears—“Remember Lot’s wife!” Yes! let us remember her, so as not to imitate her. If you have turned your backs on the world, then give it up altogether. Will you regret the loss of those friends, of those amusements, or even of that property which would have ruined your soul forever! Surely not!

Be thankful, and remember the apostle Paul. Say with him, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

To him be all the honor and glory, world without end.