For the week of November 15, 2008 / 17 Heshvan 5769
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 18:1 - 22:24
Haftarah: 2 Melachim / 2 Kings 4:1-37
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. (Bereshit / Genesis 19:1; ESV)
In the Torah, Abraham's nephew Lot represents people who have close association with God, yet miss out on the fullness of truly knowing him. This might be a difficult concept for those who see people as either in or out with regard to having a right relationship to God. Lot, on one hand knows God and is a recipient of his great mercy on more than one occasion, yet he seems to be drawn away from God's reality.
The process of Lot's relationship to the wicked city of Sodom is interesting. Due to his and Abraham's prosperity, they needed to part company. Lot chose to live in the vicinity of Sodom. We read, "Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD" (Bereshit / Genesis 13:12,13; ESV). At that point he settled near, but not in, Sodom. It was not too long, however, that he moved right into that city (see 14:12). By the time that God was about to destroy Sodom, Lot may have been a city elder, as indicated by his sitting in the city gate (see 19:1).
How Lot felt towards the Sodomites is found in the incident where the men of the city came to his house in order to abuse the angels who were visiting him. The people of Sodom didn't know they were angels of course, since they looked like men. All they knew was that they were newcomers to their town and potential victims for their desires. When Lot pleads with the Sodomites not to act wickedly, he addresses them as "brothers". That they didn't regard him in the same way is evident in their response to him:
Lot lived in Sodom and for some reason or other he felt at home in Sodom, but he was not a Sodomite. The Sodomites didn't regard him as such, and neither did God. Lot didn't belong in Sodom no matter how much at home he may have felt there.
When Lot, his wife, and daughters are rescued, there is an interaction between Lot and one of the angels. Lot's wife, of course, dies during the escape, since she looked back at the city contrary to the angel's instruction. One of the angels told Lot to escape to the hills, but Lot pleads to go to the town of Zoar instead (see 19:19-22). One might wonder with all that was going on, why he would bargain with the angel. Whatever his full reasons were, Lot was scared. He preferred the town over the countryside. Some time after Sodom was destroyed Lot leaves Zoar, goes to the hills after all, and lives in a cave where his life continues to deteriorate.
Lot's insistence to go to Zoar instead of heeding God's direction is in contrast to Abraham's faithfulness to God. God had called Abraham to journey into the unknown (See last week's TorahBytes message). God's word led Abraham to live a nomadic life in his old age, a life of continual reliance upon God. Lot, on the other hand, preferred city life, his heart drawing him to settle down and find place and identity in protective surroundings. How he could ever feel truly at home among such wickedness, we don't know. Yet his desire for place and acceptance enabled him to not only put up with great evil, but allowed him to gain some level of prominence, which in the end proved to be of little value.
Like Lot there are so many today who, even though they have some sort of real relationship with God, think that they could be at home amidst great evil. That these people are not exactly like those who they strive to be with is often evident, yet they find a sense of security and satisfaction in these relationships. In the end these relationship are found to be fake and the source of much grief, pain, and destruction.
A life of faith in God is one that often puts us at odds with the prevailing culture. It forces us to trust in him instead of other people and the false security of earthly things. But it is only as we find our home among those who truly follow God that we can become all that God wants us to be.
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