Messengers of Mercy
W. Ross Rainey, Plymouth, Michigan, ministers the truth of God in both the U.S.A. and Canada. He also is associate editor of Ministry in Focus. This is his second study in the life of Abraham.
Scripture Reading: Genesis 19:1-16
In his book, Abraham; or, the Obedience of Faith, F. B. Meyer entitled his comments on Genesis 19, “Angel Work in A Bad Town.” It might seem strange to think of the presence of holy angels in sinful Sodom but it is infinitely stranger to think of the holy, sinless Son of God in this wicked world! In addition to the two angels, the main persons in this account are Lot, his wife and two daughters, and the men of Sodom. Furthermore, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is the second of two Old Testament incidents referred to by the Lord Jesus Christ as illustrations of the day of judgment at the time of His Second Advent to the earth (Luke 17:28-30). The first is the flood of Noah’s day.
Abraham is seen in the background of Genesis 19 (see v. 29), yet not even the fervent prayer of the godly and faithful Abraham could avert the righteous judgment and doom of Sodom, although his persevering intercession was by no means in vain. The two angels who had visited Abraham with their Divine Master arrived in Sodom (19:1), and the history of events is continued from 18:22 concerning the movements of these messengers of mercy midst the impending judgment of both Sodom and Gomorrah.
In our consideration of this particular passage, we note the first of two main themes which sum up the major subject matter of these verses:
The Licentiousness of Sodom (19:1-11)
Though Peter calls Lot “just” and “righteous” (2 Pet. 2:7-8), he was a backslider, a grossly wayward believer. The sad account of his prodigal path is readily traced step by step and serves as a permanent warning to every child of God (cf. 13:10, 12; 14:12; 19:1). In the first two steps of his backsliding, Lot is typical of the worldling — looking, choosing, separating, journeying, pitching, and dwelling where he should not have been. And even though he had been warned, he still went back to wicked Sodom. Yet, in His infinite mercy the Lord delivered Lot from the overthrow of the city.
Lot became so deeply entrenched in the world that at the opening of this chapter he is observed sitting “in the gate of Sodom.” He had become a citizen of that wicked city, probably after the deliverance from the Elamite invasion, when, as a relative of Abraham, he would have been treated with great honour. “The gate” was the public place of the city where the business of the community was transacted (see Ruth 4:1). Lot courteously received the two angels, extending hospitality to them, but it was their desire to remain all night in the “street,” this having been an open space within the city walls where those, unable to find hospitality, would quite naturally spend the night. Knowing all about this custom, Lot was also aware of the extreme licentiousness of vile Sodom, and with no little persuasion the heavenly messengers accepted his hospitality.
It is significant that Lot baked his guests “unleavened bread,” possibly recognizing that they were angels or, as some have suggested, because they could be baked quickly (see 1 Sam. 28:24). However, they were not even settled down for the night when the inhabitants of Sodom were at Lot’s door. The deterioration of Lot’s character is revealed in the words of 19:8, though his proposal was not then viewed with the horror which it deserves (see Judg. 19:24). Though bound by the laws of hospitality to protect his guests, he was also bound by the laws of fathership to protect his daughters, and his act can only be viewed as one of cowardice to save his own skin. Observe that he called these wicked people “brethren” (19:7), but his feeble protest and debase proposal had no effect except to exasperate the Sodomites. The worldly believer will always be regarded by the world as a stranger and, while Lot may have tried to clean up Sodom, this only infuriates the man of the world.
Midst the seriousness of the situation the angels acted, using their supernatural power to cast “blindness” (19:11) on the Sodomites. However, this was no ordinary blindness, but a confusing of the vision in such a way that the brain deceived the eye (the only other instance of the word is in 2 Kings 6:18).
The contrasts between Abraham and Lot are both interesting and significant: (1) “tent” (18:1) —”gate” (19:1); (2) the heavenly visitors readily accepted Abraham’s hospitality (18:5) — Lot had to strongly urge his heavenly guests to accept his hospitality, virtually pressuring them into it (19:2-3); and (3) Sarah baked cakes for Abraham and their visitors (18:6) — Lot apparently baked bread himself (19:3).
We come now to our second main theme — namely:
The Lingering of Lot (19:12-16)
As revealed in verse 12, the angels were seeking, no doubt, to make up the contingent of Abraham’s ten righteous (see 18:32). Lot had at least two sons-in-law, two sons, and four daughters, two of whom lived with him, the other two having married men of Sodom (19:12-15). It appears that Lot did not even think it worthwhile to warn his sons, but he did warn his sons-in-law. What a tremendous price he had paid for his carnal ambitions!
“Whatsover” in 19:12 is best rendered “whomsoever” (R.V.). The believer can take no property with him out of this world (1 Tim. 6:7), but he can take his family safely out — by God’s grace — if they consent to come (see Josh. 2:13; 6:23). However, Lot’s warning to his sons-in-law had no effect. They simply laughed at him, and so will the world laugh and mock at the comprising believer. Lot probably spent the night feverishly trying to persuade his loved ones to leave Sodom in view of its impending doom. One thing is certain, he did not spend the night in sleep or in peacefulness of heart and mind.
Literally taking Lot, his wife, and his two daughters by the hand, the angels led them out of the city, and this, because the Lord was merciful unto them, in particular to Lot (19:16). What a picture is presented here of Jude 23!
There are many practical lessons in this passage, among them the following:
1. Like the angels, we should be willing to go wherever the Lord directs us, even for just one soul (see Acts 8:26ff).
2. As we go in the Lord’s will and strength, even into the Sodoms of our day, we can trust Him to care for us (Isa. 54:17; Matt. 8:3; Luke 15:4).
3. The angels plainly told Lot of his grave danger (Gen. 19:12-13). There was no “watering down” of the message.
4. “The angels hastened Lot” (Gen. 19:15). There is an urgency about receiving the Gospel message now (Isa. 1:18; 2 Cor. 6:2).
5. Lot’s deliverance was because of Abraham’s intercessory prayer, Let us not give up praying for the unsaved or for backsliding believers.
6. To refuse the Word of God and the one way of escape is to suffer judgment (Heb. 10:26-27 with 2:3).
7. Sodom is a picture of the world, while the angels and their message picture the going forth of the Gospel through the Lord’s heavenly citizens (Gal. 1:4, 2 Cor. 5:20; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 6:18). The world will one day be destroyed (2 Pet. 3:10, 12).
8. The mercy of God is behind our salvation (Rom. 9:16). He will never forsake His own no matter how wayward they become. Lot is an example of 1 Corinthians 3:15.