(Genesis 19, Matthew 18; Optional Psalm 17, Proverbs 4:10-12)
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GENESIS 19 – We’ve been charting the slow fade of Lot (Abraham’s nephew). Step 1 (Gen 13:11) – Lot “chose for himself” the land he wanted, and all that Scripture highlights is that he made his decision on how beautiful it looked “before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah” – Gen 13:10. Step 2 (Gen 13:12-13) – Lot moved near Sodom, where “the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.” Step 3 (Gen 14:12) – Some time later, we find that Lot has moved his household “in Sodom,” and Abraham has to rescue them because they’ve been captured along with the king of Sodom and the whole area.
Gen 19:1 – Step 4 – Lot is now “sitting in the gate of Sodom,” which means he’s gotten very enmeshed in the life of this wicked town. Through the OT we’ll see that “in the gate” is where the business of a town is done. As you read the shocking things that Lot says and does in Gen 19, be sobered that a believer can sink this far (see 2 Pet 2:6-9). Knowing my own sinful rationalizations, I’d guess that Lot thought he could have a godly influence on the area, and probably would have pointed out how beautiful it was, and all the benefits for his family. But notice the influence has corrupted Lot, NOT helped the area. A vital theme in Scripture (especially Proverbs) is the importance of your influencers.
Gen 19:7-9 – Step 5 – Lot calls this wicked mob “brothers” and offers his virgin daughters to their rapacious lust. After so many years entwined in the wicked town, THIS is what Lot now thinks is a good option! 2 Pet 2:6-9 tells us that “righteous Lot” had been for years “tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.” But apparently, Lot must not have taken a PUBLIC stand against the wickedness before. At this tiny attempt to stem their wickedness, the mob turns on Lot and finds even this puny rebuke to be very judgmental.
Gen 19:10-17 – The heavenly messengers have to drag Lot and his family out of the area to rain down God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Gen 19:12-14 is another sad evidence that Lot must have been “tormenting his righteous soul” PRIVATELY over the years he was getting increasingly enmeshed in Sodom. When he tries to urgently warn his sons-in-law to flee God’s righteous wrath, they think he’s joking.
Gen 19:16-22 – Step 6 – Lot LINGERED, even as the angels urgently warned him and his family to leave. Finally, they’re literally dragged away. The Bible describes this as God’s mercy and compassion (compare 2 Pet 2:6-9). God’s grace towards us often may not FEEL compassionate as He drags us away from what we’re used to. And Lot STILL can’t totally let go. He begs and bargains with the angels to at least go to a LITTLE town in the area, and NOT “escape to the hills” (like the angels commanded in Gen 19:17).
Gen 19:30 – Step 7 – Lot was at first afraid to “escape to the hills,” but became even MORE afraid in Zoar. We’ll see throughout Scripture that a proper fear of God burns away other fears and enables a bold, courageous life. But we see in Lot (a compromising believer) the tyranny of lesser fears. And from 2 Pet 2:6-9 we find that Lot wasn’t at all happy in his years in Sodom, either!
Gen 19:31-8 – Step 8 – In a drunken stupor, Lot impregnates his own daughters, beginning of two tribes (Moabites and Ammonites) who will constantly war against Abraham’s descendants. We saw in Gen 19:7-8 how much being steeped in the sexual wickedness of Sodom has corrupted Lot’s perception. And now we see how perverted his daughters’ thinking also became.
MATTHEW 18 – In the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt 5-7), Jesus taught the VALUES of His kingdom. In Matthew 13, Jesus taught many PARABLES of the kingdom of heaven. And here in Matt 18, we get a feel for prevailing ATTITUDES in His kingdom, and a flavor of everyday life among His followers.
Matt 18:1-4 – The GREATEST in the kingdom of heaven are those who humble themselves like a completely dependent child. This humility is vital as an introduction to the next section…
Matt 18:5-20 – In the kingdom of heaven, SIN will be taken very seriously. Jesus is not just talking about PHYSICAL children, but about how His followers are to have the humility of a little child even as we look out for other followers of Jesus (other “little ones”), being used by God to rescue one another from sinful temptation.
Matt 18:7-9 – Feel the weight of Jesus’ terrifying warnings about the eternal fire of hell. While the story of Lot shows us the shocking depths a believer can go, sections like Matt 18:7-9 (and Matt 7:21-23) remind us there will be many in hell that THOUGHT they were part of the kingdom of heaven but weren’t. Remember that believers NOW have much more accountability than Lot had (he didn’t have ANY written Scripture, and he certainly didn’t have the teachings of Jesus like we do).
Matt 18:15-20 – This church discipline process is an often-ignored part of being in the kingdom of Jesus where sin is taken seriously and where we look out for fellow “little ones” (see Matt 18:2, 6, 10, 14). It’s NOT to be a “gotcha” process! It’s introduced by Jesus calling for humility (compare Matt 18:1-4 and Gal 6:1) and by Jesus laying out the Father’s compassionate heart to restore a wandering sheep. The GOAL of this process is to gain your brother (Matt 18:15) – to RESTORE the believer who has strayed (also Gal 6:1). Notice that through the whole process the public knowledge of the sin is kept as small as possible, so that we ARE taking sin seriously AND taking restoration seriously. [IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE… Matt 18:19-20 is often lifted COMPLETELY out of its church discipline context and twisted into a general verse on prayer as if we could manipulate God. The “two or three” believers that agree in prayer point back to the two or three believers in Matt 18:16 who are involved in trying to restore a straying sinner.]
Matt 18:21-35 – In Matt 18:1-4 we saw that a key attitude in God’s kingdom is HUMILITY. In Matt 18:5-20 we see that SIN must be taken seriously in the kingdom of heaven. Now we see that FORGIVENESS is ALSO taken seriously in the kingdom of heaven. Many rabbis taught you must forgive three times, so Peter surely thought he was being generous in Matt 18:21, and must have been shocked when Jesus taught UNENDING forgiveness.
Matt 18:28 – Considered on its own, the amount owed TO the servant by a fellow servant was not insignificant (he was owed several month’s wages). But in COMPARISON to the unimaginably huge debt he HIMSELF owed (Matt 18:23-24), the lack of humility (remember Matt 18:1-4) is SHOCKING and ungrateful.
Optional Psalm 17 – A plea to God when believers are being unjustly attacked.
Ps 17:7 – A wonderful prayer for the persecuted church.
Ps 17:13 – Another IMPRECATORY PRAYER, where the psalmist pleads for God to subdue the wicked enemy. Compare 1 Pet 2:21-23 and Rom 12:17-21 where believers today are reminded to entrust our cause to God the righteous Judge who will get the proper vengeance in His own wise time.
Optional Proverbs 4:10-12 – More motivation to heed godly counsel and wisdom.