Lot: Mayor of Sodom
October 12th, 1988 @ 7:30 PM
LOT: MAYOR OF SODOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-12-88 7:30 p.m.
As has been announced, the title of the pastor’s message tonight, delivered here in the First Baptist Church of Dallas, is Lot: the Mayor of Sodom. And we are following through a large section in the center of the Book of Genesis. So, in so brief a time, I can but point to the passages.
First: we are going to be introduced to Abraham and to Lot in Genesis 11:27-28, and in Genesis 12:5. Abraham, as you know, is God’s friend. He is referred to three different times in the Bible as the friend of God [2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, James 2:23]. He is the father of the faithful [Romans 4:11]. The three great living religions look back to him as their patriarchal father: Judaism, and Islam, and Christianity.
Abraham had a brother named Haran. Haran died in the land of Mesopotamia [Genesis 11:26-28]. And Haran’s son Lot was sort of adopted, taken under his wing, by Abraham. And when Abraham left Mesopotamia, when he left Ur, to go to Haran, and when he left Haran to come into Canaan, he carried with him his nephew Lot [Genesis 12:4-5].
Now the difference in those two men is the difference between day and night, between the east and the west. Abraham’s life was one of complete trust in God. He lived a life of faith. For example, God promised him the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession [Genesis 13:14-17], but he never owned an inch of that country. The only exception was, he bought from the sons of Heth Machpelah, the cave of Machpelah, in which he and Sarah and other members of the family were buried [Genesis 23:1-20]. And if you’ve ever been to Hebron, you’ve looked down into that cave and have seen the sarcophagi of Abraham and Sarah. That’s the only part of the land of Canaan that he ever owned in his earthly pilgrimage. Yet God promised it to him for an everlasting possession [Genesis 13:14-17], and he trusted in God for it [Hebrews 11:10]. I think someday that great promise of the Lord will be fulfilled in the millennium.
He was a man of faith, I say. He was ninety and nine years old, and his wife Sarah was eighty-nine years old [Genesis 17:17]. Yet God had promised that he would have a son and Sarah would have a son, a child of their blood and bone, born out of their companionship [Genesis 15:2-6]. And he is ninety-nine and she is eighty-nine, and no son has been born [Genesis 17:15-21]. When he was a hundred years old and Sarah was ninety, God fulfilled that promise [Genesis 17:17, 21:2, 5].
One other typical example of the complete trust of Abraham in God: when that lad was a teenager, when Isaac, the child of promise was a teenager, God sent him to a mount called Moriah, and there God directed Abraham to lift up his knife and to plunge it into the heart of that promised son. And Abraham obeyed the Lord, built an altar on top of Mount Moriah, bound his son, and laid him as a sacrifice upon the stones [Genesis 22:1-12]. Remember what the Bible says, “accounting that God was able to raise him from the dead”? [Hebrews 11:17-19]. What a man of faith and trust, Abraham.
Lot was a diametrical opposite. He was a man of the world. All the businessmen of all the cities of America would admire Lot. He was capable. He was able to see an advantage in the world. Now he was a righteous man; in the passage you just read, in 2 Peter 2:7-8, he is described in the Bible as a righteous man. He was not crooked. He was a good man. But he was willing to compromise his spiritual life for worldly advancement and worldly gain.
He is a representative man. There is no Bible character that represents so many men as does Lot. As I have said, you’ll have one Abraham, and maybe one Joshua and one Daniel, but you will have one thousand Lots. They’re everywhere: a man of the world.
So we are going to look at Lot and the choice that he made. This will be found in Genesis 13:5-13. It began in Genesis 13:7 with strife between the herdsmen of Lot and the herdsmen of Abraham. And in Genesis 13:8-9, unselfish Abraham says to his nephew, “You choose in any direction that you please, and I will take what is left.”
In Genesis 13:10-11 he chooses, Lot chooses the beautiful, well-watered plain and the cities of the valley. The world would say Lot is a shrewd businessman. He knows a bargain when he sees it, and he takes advantage of it. Lot did not say to Abraham, “God has blessed me through you. You choose. You choose, Abraham, and I’ll take what is left.” Nor did Lot say to his uncle Abraham, “We will share it alike. We will divide the land between us.” What he did say was, “I will take all of the fertile, well-watered plain. I will take the cities of the valley, and you can have the desert wilderness and the rocky mountains.” And Abraham was kind and generous to his nephew and said, “You take the well-watered plain and you take the cities of the valley; and I will take the rocky mountains and the desert wilderness.”
So we have the division of the two: Abraham is up there on the mountains, and, verse 12 of chapter 13: “And Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom; and dwelt in the cities of the plain” [Genesis 13:12]. And in chapter 19 and verse 1, he prospered in Sodom. When you went into the city you would have met him first out of all the citizens of that flourishing metropolis. No man ever got on so well as did Lot in Sodom. He was the mayor of the city. He sat in the gate [Genesis 19:1]. He was “Judge Lot.” Mrs. Lot was a fashionable leader in the social circles of Sodom. And the Misses Lots, his children, married well. They married Sodomites, and they prospered in the metropolis.
In verse 4 of chapter 13, it says Abraham built an altar. First thing he did there up in the mountains, in the desert, Abraham builds an altar [Genesis 12:7-8, 13:4]. You can read Genesis all the rest of your life, and you will never find that Lot built an altar in Sodom. He was a righteous man. He was a shrewd businessman. He was a worldly man. He built no altar in Sodom.
We are now going to look at the dividends of his worldly choice, what happens when the man builds his life in the world, possessed by the ambitions and answering to the calls of the world. Well, in Genesis 14:5, 10-12, he is captured in battle. Sodom is taken. And in that fall of the city of Sodom, in the war, Lot is captured. His whole family and everything that he owns is taken away. That means, in that day, he was taken into slavery, and all of his family. He would have been sold as a slave, and all of his family would have been in servitude had it not been that he was delivered by the hand of his uncle Abraham [Genesis 14:14-16].
Now, when that happened when Lot is delivered by Abraham from slavery, what does he do? Does he refuse to turn to Sodom and say to Abraham, “I am going to share God’s life with you”? No! The first thing this shrewd businessman Lot does is, he turns his heart and his life with his family and goes back into Sodom [Genesis 14:16]. The world had a hold of his heart and had a hold of his life, and he couldn’t disassociate himself from it.
Now we’re going to look at a second thing that happened to Lot, prosperous Lot, in the city of Sodom [Genesis 18:1-33]. The story is the entire chapter of Genesis number 18. The angels come by, and they announce to Abraham the judgment of God upon Sodom [Genesis 18:16-21].
Now Abraham, remember, Abraham knows that in that town, and in that city, there is Lot and his family. So [Abraham] prays before God, when the angels leave to go on their way to visit the judgment of the Lord upon Sodom, Abraham stays before the Lord, and he prays before the Lord, and this is what he prays; now you watch it, “O God, if Lot, who has been in Sodom now twenty years; Lord, if there are fifty converts in Sodom, fruit of the testimony and witness of this righteous man Lot, worldly, but righteous, Lord, if there are fifty converts in Sodom, will You spare the city for fifty?”
And God says, “Yes. If Lot has won fifty converts in Sodom in twenty years, I will spare the city for the sake of those fifty converts” [Genesis 18:22-26]
And Abraham, standing yet before the Lord says, “Lord, what if we lack five of them. If Lot has won forty-five converts to the Lord in twenty years, would you spare the city for the sake of forty-five?”
And God says: “I will spare, if Lot has won forty-five converts in the city, I will spare the city for the sake of the forty-five” [Genesis 18:27-28].
And Abraham says: “Lord, do not be full of disappointment in me as I cling to Thee, and stay before Thee. Lord, what if there are forty converts in twenty years, would you spare it for forty?”
And God says, “I will spare it for forty” [Genesis 18:29].
And Abraham says, “Lord, if there are thirty converts that Lot has won in twenty years, would You spare it for the sake of thirty?”
And God says: “I will spare it for thirty” [Genesis 18:30].
And Abraham says: “O Lord, do not be disgusted, overly disappointed in me. But if there are twenty, Lord, would You spare the city if there are twenty converts of Lot?” That would be one a year for twenty years.
God says, “I will spare it if there are twenty” [Genesis 18:31].
And Abraham says, “Lord, just once more, just once more. If in twenty years Lot has won ten converts, Lord, would You spare the city for those ten?”
And God says, “Abraham, for the sake of the ten that Lot has won in twenty years, I will spare the city for the sake of ten” [Genesis 18:32].
I want you to look at that for a moment. Lot’s children married Sodomites. And wouldn’t you think that in his own family, he would have had at least ten to come to the Lord? But what did we say? In Sodom Lot built no altar; in Sodom Lot had no witness; in Sodom Lot never made one convert. No one would listen to him; no one seemed to care; even his sons-in-law, they just laughed and mocked at this righteous man—lost his witness in Sodom.
Sweet people, I have turned over in my mind whether such a thing as I did one time, here in the city, whether I ought to speak of it or not, or whether I even should have done it or not, I don’t know, but I thought I would go ahead and speak of it. It’s not a bad thing that I’m going to describe; it’s just worldly, just worldliness.
There was a dear woman in the church, a dear woman, godly woman, dear woman in the church, and her husband was lost. And she would just come to me and ask me to pray for her husband, and to pray for her husband. And I did. “O God, help us to reach this man for Christ.”
So upon a day, I made an appointment to go to the home to speak to the husband about Jesus, to pray with him, to read God’s Holy Word with him, and to present the claims of Christ on his life, that he would be a Christian. I went to the home, stood at the door and raised my hand to knock on the door. There was a large oval glass, a pane of glass, in the door. And when I raised my hand to knock on the door, I looked through the pane of glass into the living room. On one side of the living room he sat, this man sat, this lost man sat, reading a newspaper. And on the other side of the room, there she sat in a chair, smoking, the room was filled with smoke.
Sweet people, I have no idea, right or wrong, but there was something that, when I raised my hand to knock on the door, and look through that glass, and she was there across from her husband smoking a cigarette, filling the room with smoke, I lowered my hand. I turned around and walked down the steps and out the yard.
I don’t know what to say. And I can be vastly wrong in the reaction of my heart toward worldliness on the part of God’s people. It just seems to me that if someone loves Jesus, and is committed to Christ, and has the burden of the lost on the heart and the soul, it just seems to me that we ought to be different from the world, ought to be separated from the world.
Well, that was Lot. His daughters married Sodomites. And God said, “If you have just got ten converts in twenty years, your sons-in-law and your daughters-in-law in your family, just ten, I will spare the city for the sake of ten” [Genesis 18:32]. And Lot in twenty years had never won a soul to the Lord Jesus, not in twenty years.
All right, another thing: we’re looking at the dividends of the worldly life. In Genesis 19:16, 17, 20, Lot is taken bodily, physically, coercively by those angels and is forced out of the city. And he lingers [Genesis 19:16]; that’s explicable, isn’t it? Understandable, isn’t it? Everything he had was in Sodom. His children are there, his grandchildren are there, his home is there, his house is there, his family is there, his property is there, his heart is there; everything he has, it is in Sodom. And when those angels force him out, “Flee for your life,” he lingers and lingers and lingers [Genesis 19:15-20].
You know what that’s a picture of? That’s a picture of the day of our death, when everything that we have is in this world. I can understand why a worldly man or a worldly woman would look upon death as a horrible visitation. They don’t have anything in heaven, there’s no riches toward God, there’s no mansion beyond those pearly gates. There’s not anything but loss and darkness; everything they have is in this world. Just like Lot; everything he possessed was in Sodom. And when the angels had to force him out Lot lingered and lingered. Everything he had was in Sodom [Genesis 19:15-20].
Let me tell you something that happened to a friend of mine, a neophyte, because we were in school together. And he was called to a church in South Carolina, where Brother Ed Poole comes from, in a mill town in South Carolina. And as you know if you’ve ever been over there, the man that owns the mill owns the whole creation. There’s not anything there but the mill, and everybody works in the mill, and the man that owns the mill owns the town and owns everything in it. Well, this young neophyte, this young friend of mine, this young preacher called to be pastor of that church, well, he was up there just preaching away; oh, he was just telling it as it is. And he was saying, “We don’t own anything. There’s not anything that is ours. Not anything. We may use it for a while, but we don’t own anything.”
And after the service was over, why, the owner of the mill said, “Young fellow, I want you to meet me at such and such a place at two o’clock this afternoon.”
And the young preacher said, “Excellent.” So he met the owner of the mill, and the owner of the town, and the owner of everything, met him at two o’clock.
And the owner, the mill man, took him to that big mill and said “You see this mill? I own it! And yet you preached there in the pulpit that I don’t own anything.” Then he took him to these apartment houses, then he took him to these cottages, then he took him to the farms. “All of this, I own! And yet you say I don’t own anything.” After they spent time going around looking at those things, why, the mill owner says, “Now I want to meet you one other time. At this same hour next Sunday at two o’clock I want you to meet me.”
And the young fellow replied, he said, “Sir I’ll be glad to meet you in this same place, at this same hour, Sunday at two o’clock, only 100 years from now.”
We don’t own anything, absolutely nothing. Even the body that I have is given me, and lent me, and loaned me from the Lord, and goes back to the dust of the ground; we own nothing. Like Job said in my sermon Sunday, “Naked came I from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither” [Job 1:21]. O God, how I need to remember that; all that I have is just to be used for His glory, for His purpose, for His advancement of His kingdom, for the saving of the lost. That’s why Lot lingered [Genesis 19:16].
We must close. One other thing: in Genesis 19:35-38 is one of the most sordid stories of incest to be found in the Word of God. The reason for the telling of the story is because of the horrible progeny of Lot. The elder daughter, as you know—when the angels took Lot out of Sodom, his wife looked back and was destroyed [Genesis 19:26], and the two girls were saved with him. And the elder daughter got her father drunk, and lay with him, as the Bible would say, and out of that incestuous relationship with his own daughter Moab was born [Genesis 19:33,37]. Then when the elder daughter saw that she had succeeded in thus seducing her father and becoming pregnant by her own father, why, she persuaded [the] younger daughter to get her father drunk just like that. And the younger daughter lay with her father all night long. And she became pregnant and became the mother of Ammon [Genesis 19:34-35, 38]. And the Bible says that that is where the Moabites and the Ammonites came from [Genesis 19:37, 38]. And they were destined to become the worst enemies of God, the Moabites and the Ammonites [Deuteronomy 23:1-6].
Dear people, worldliness, worldliness is a curse from God’s heaven; worldliness. And the Bible teaches us, of anything else it could possibly teach us, we are to separate ourselves from the world [2 Corinthians 6:17], all of its blandishments, all of its allurements, all of its cheap evanescence, vanishing, temporary, transient rewards; we are to separate ourselves from it [Romans 12:2]. We are to be a people of God, a sanctified family of the Lord [Titus 2:14]. And I can tell you this on the basis of the Word of God Himself: if you will separate yourself from the world and will give yourself to God, God will repay you a thousandfold, just as He did Abraham. Abraham loved the Lord, served the Lord, blessed the name of the Lord. He’s our patriarchal father [Romans 4:11]. Lot lost everything in the lost world [Genesis 19:30]. Lord grant to us a faith and a commitment that we’ll believe, if I give myself and all that I am to the service of Christ, He will reward me a thousandfold, both in this world and in the world to come [Matthew 25:21, 23].
Now we’re going to sing us a song of appeal. And while we sing it, somebody you to give your heart and life in trust to the Lord Jesus, welcome [Romans 10:9-13]. A family you to come into the fellowship of our dear church, welcome. A somebody you to give your life in answer to God’s call, welcome. A fellow pilgrim with us who serve Jesus with all of the strength of our hearts and lives, welcome. As the Spirit shall press the appeal upon your heart, while we sing this song, answer with your life. Do it now. Angels attend you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
LOT: MAYOR OF SODOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Genesis 11:27, 29; 12:5
1. Lot is Abraham’s nephew, son of Haran
2. Abraham was faithful and obedient to God
3. Lot was righteous, able, capable but worldly – represents most people in the world
II. The choice
1. Strife between Lot’s and Abraham’s herdsmen
2. Abraham unselfish
3. Lot was shrewd, chose to live near Lot
III. Dividends of Lot’s worldly choice
1. Captured in battle
2. Taken into slavery
3. Abraham saves Lot but Lot goes back to Sodom
4. Abraham prays for Sodom for Lot’s sake
5. Angels force Lot out of Sodom before they destroy it
6. Lot has difficulty leaving his worldly possessions
7. Lot’s daughters after Sodom destroyed and the consequences