Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 10 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 19:1 – “Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.” The term “sitting at the gate” signifies that Lot was a leader within the community who settled disputes and offered counsel to others. Lot had become a respected member of a highly sinful society. What does that say about Lot?
2. Genesis 19:1 — “The two angels came to Sodom in the evening”. Note that the Lord and the two angels visited Abraham, but the Lord did not accompany the two angels to Sodom. Abraham had a level of relationship with the Lord that Lot, having chosen to partner with corruption, never experienced. 2 Peter 2:7, 8 describes Lot as a “righteous” man, 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.” However, Lot chose to stay among the wicked, to do business with them, to raise his children with them, to partner with them. There is no account of Lot’s influence on Sodom, but as you will see, the Bible has much to say about how Sodom influenced Lot’s family. Christians are called to be in the world but not “of the world”. To be influence agents but not influenced by agents of evil. Perhaps the greatest threat to the modern church is syncretism — the blending of worldly ideas with the Biblical standard, the mixing of the holy and unholy, compromise with the world for the sake of getting along, finding unity with the ungodly around something other than Jesus. Within the world, Christians cannot isolate themselves and still accomplish their mission of preaching the Gospel to all creation, but we will always be set apart from the ungodly, lacking unity with those who unify around moralism, humanism, patriotism, traditions, culture, or any other substitute for Jesus. The Lord would not even engage Sodom, but Lot had to be kicked out by the angels — he didn’t leave of his own volition. Where might you have grown attached to ungodly things or have sent mixed messages, combining worldly viewpoints with the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ? If someone were to ask your acquaintances what you are all about and what you care about most, would they say, “Jesus”?
3. Genesis 19:2 — “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house….” Lot clearly knew that his fellow citizens were untrustworthy and unfit for holy guests.
4. Genesis 19:8 — “Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” Rules of hospitality were well established in the customs of the day, requiring the host to protect their guests at all costs. Lot valued the cultural customs of hospitality more than God’s command of love – he was willing to subject his daughters to gang rape and likely death for the sake of customs. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for the same heart – “Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3) Many socially acceptable customs, traditions, and standards of our day are actually contrary to God’s word. Consider where you might have allowed your fidelity to God to be compromised because of what has always been practiced.
5. Genesis 19:9 — “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge!” As per the comments on Matthew 7 from yesterday, the common refrain from the unrepentant sinner to those who would challenge their sin is, “Who are you to judge me?” Lot was not condemning the sinner but rather condemning their actions and likely hoping to protect them from the inevitable consequences of their sin.
6. Genesis 19:9 — “Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” When Lot tried to prevent people for sinning, he was labeled as “judgmental”. Why do Christians face so much persecution? Unrepentant sinners hate the one who challenges them on their behavior.
7. Genesis 19:16 — “But he lingered.” Having been compromised by Sodom’s culture, Lot had grown unresponsive to God’s word sent through God’s messengers. As previously mentioned, the Bible says that Lot was a “righteous [man], 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)”. (2 Peter 2:7,8) Yet Lot had partnered with his sinful community to the point where he could not bring himself to separate from them, and as a result, he lost most of his family, and he allowed his daughters to be morally corrupted to the point where they committed terrible sexual sin themselves. At the point where God was prepared to destroy the city, Lot’s witness was so weak and corrupted that his only response to the mob of homosexual predators who threatened to rape the angels was to offer his virgin daughters for their sexual gratification! At this point, Lot’s pleas to his sons-in-law to leave the doomed city where taken as jokes. Of course, we all know what happened to Lot’s wife. A key point from this story is that Lot’s compromise was slow, over time. The whole culture had gradually slipped into ever-increasing sin to the point where no one could comprehend its gravity and where completely desensitized and unaware of the looming destruction. God’s wrath, though it should have been anticipated, came as a thief in the night. Jesus, uses this story to warn our generation: “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— so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. (Luke 17:32) We must be wary of gradual compromise and syncretism. In Luke 17, Jesus continues to explain what caused both Lot’s sin and Abraham’s sin in his dealings with Abimelech: “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it…. He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.’” (Luke 17:33, 37) If we have not truly denied self, taken up the Cross daily, and chosen to follow Jesus on his mission rather than our own, we are in peril of losing our saltiness and luminance before a society that desperately needs salvation. We must not allow ourselves to lose our holiness in this sinful world.
8. Genesis 19:26 — “But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Had Lot left Sodom when he should have, he would not have lost his wife. Had he never taken his family to Sodom, his wife would never had grown attached to the wicked city. Godly leaders are called to protect weaker Christians from their weakness by being a shield against temptation whenever possible. This responsibility starts within the home.
9. Genesis 19:32 — “Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” Lot was a righteous man, but he chose to raise his daughters in Sodom. Sodom was more of an influence on Lot’s daughters than their father was; so they had become sexually perverse.
10. Genesis 19:36 – “Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.” The children of incest grew into enemy nations against Israel.
11. Genesis 20:2 — “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.’” Fear of man can lead you to sin terribly. It takes faith to obey God regardless the perceived cost.
12. Genesis 20:5 — “Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” Abimelech showed more integrity than God’s prophet Abraham — what a tragedy. And Abraham’s cowardice almost cost Abimelech his life. How terrible is it for one of God’s people to dishonor God by sinning before unbelievers? How incredible is God’s grace that He does not give up on the failures of His servants? Abraham, like the rest of us, was in no position to brag of his righteousness; he could only brag about the mercy, grace, and righteousness of God.
13. Genesis 20:6 — “It was I who kept you from sinning against me.” You have no idea how many times God has protected you from your own weakness by shielding you from temptations you would not be able to handle — another reason no one can brag about their righteousness. God knows that, often times, if you got what you wanted, you would not be able to handle it with integrity and would drift from Him.
14. Genesis 20:11 — “Abraham said, ‘I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’” The Bible says that we cannot know the hearts of other people, and we often prejudge others inappropriately causing us to sin by treating them unfairly. This year, we will read several stories in the Bible where misunderstandings between people led to avoidable conflict, pain, and destruction. As Christians, we must be very careful not to let our biases get in the way of fairness.
15. Genesis 20:14 – “Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male servants and female servants, and gave them to Abraham, and returned Sarah his wife to him.” Abimelech paid restitution despite having been deceived and having attempted to act in integrity. Abimelech paid the price for peace though the conflict wasn’t his fault.
16. Proverbs 10:8 – “The wise of heart will receive commandments.” A wise heart is an obedient heart.
17. Proverbs 10:4, 5 – “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.” Success requires persistent hard work for a long time. Successful people do not expect instant gratification.
18. Proverbs 10:10, 11 – “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” A person’s words either build up others or tear them down, and words reveal whether or not you have a heart of love which is a godly heart.
19. Proverbs 10:22 – “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” Many seek to create their own blessings on earth, but sorrow comes with them. Only God knows what is best for us. We must not sacrifice His will for what we want. When we set our own goals, we may accomplish them and miss what God intended for us. Make sure you are pursuing God’s plan for your life and not your own plan.
20. Matthew 8:4 — “And Jesus said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.’” Likely, Jesus was not trying to hide His glory from the world but rather was first revealing Himself to the religious leaders that they might lead others by example in repentance. When leaders fail, God raises up new, faithful leaders.
21. Matthew 8:6 — “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” The Centurion put his reputation on the line to approach Jesus because of his compassion for his servant.
22. Matthew 8:10 — “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” True followers of Jesus trust Him at His word and act upon His word with complete confidence.
23. Matthew 8:11, 12 – “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Many who think they are going to heaven aren’t.
24. Matthew 8:13 — “And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.'” As physical beings, we have a tendency to view God from a physical perspective, limiting in our minds how we think God might work in a situation based upon what we have seen and understand. Here we see that Jesus did not have to go to the servant to heal the servant, though that was what most would have expected. The power of the Holy Spirit is not limited by time and space.
25. Matthew 8:20 – “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’” Jesus exemplified personal sacrifice and commitment and expected His disciples to follow His example.
26. Matthew 8:22 — “And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’” Following Jesus requires wholehearted, total commitment. You cannot go with Him while staying where you are. You also cannot ask Him to wait for you until you are ready to join Him on the journey. Nor can you take a path halfway between where you are going and where He is going and still be with Him. You just need to walk with Jesus right now, leaving behind all self-interest in pursuit of His will.
27. Matthew 8:25 — “And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’” Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts, and our ways are not God’s ways — they are completely different. We cannot understand our lives or what we should do from our own understanding which is based upon our limited awareness and perspective. What we see and what we feel is not the total reality and is often a distorted interpretation of reality. While the disciples thought they were going to die, Jesus was sleeping calmly because Jesus had quintessential (beyond the five (quint-) senses) awareness or supernatural (beyond natural abilities) awareness through the Holy Spirit. To understand anything, you must be guided by the Holy Spirit, not relying on your own understanding.
28. Matthew 8:26 – “And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’” Crisis reveals what you really believe about Jesus and in what you place your faith. Doubt is your signal that you don’t know God as well as you should.
29. Matthew 8:28 — “And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes.” Jesus led His disciples to the land of the pagans who worshipped Baal and valued swine, unclean to Jews. Immediately they met two demon-possessed men coming out of tombs (imagine that in your mind) confirming in the minds of the disciples they had no business being there. However, Jesus intended to spread the Gospel to these Hellenistic people. Jesus performed a miracle but the response from the crowd was not positive — “they begged him to leave their region.” Once again, this undoubtedly convinced the disciples that this journey was a wasted effort, time squandered on ungodly people who would never accept Jesus. Jesus did not try to convince the crowds but rather he will focus His attention on the one under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We will soon read of the powerful impact this one trip had on the entire region. This is also another good example of how we are called to engage or sinful culture without partnering with that sinful culture. Jesus in no way compromised His fidelity, His integrity, or His holiness while He travelled the country of the Gadarenes. He did not try to validate their culture or show ‘respect’ for their false religion. He did not change along the way, but He transformed others.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 10 Jan 18: Today, don’t just do something. Wait for the Holy Spirits guidance and act upon it. Don’t just follow your routine or plan. Ask God what He wants you to do, and quietly wait for a response. If He convicts you to call someone, call them. If you convicts you to go somewhere, then go. Keep your eyes open for where the Holy Spirit is working in someone’s life, and join Him there. Be an ambassador for Jesus to the person the Holy Spirit is already working on. Don’t waste your time trying to build something where the Holy Spirit is not building. You will find at first it is very difficult to follow the Holy Spirit and wait upon the Lord for direction. We are a very busy people who often measure the day’s success on what we got done. The problem with that is we might get all the wrong things done, being so busy we missed what God would have had us do. God is already working His plan around you — join Him in what He is already doing rather than asking Him to join you on what you want to do or on what you think He should do. (Matthew 8:28)