Sermon by Tony Hobbs – 11th February 2018
DEALING WITH CHANGE
CHANGE NECESSIATED BY PUTTING RIGHT PAST MISTAKES
1. Most change is uncomfortable even when we know its necessary.
2. Any decision or action has consequences.
When we’ve made mistakes or wrong decisions in the past, consequences may be particularly difficult and uncomfortable to change.
Because God loves us, He gives us opportunities to get back on the right path.
But to respond to His offer, we may need to go through some major changes that involve giving up things that have become important to us.
In this passage we see Lot and his family dealing with Divine offer of rescue.
A rescue that’s necessary, at least partly due to decisions Lot has made in the past.
To respond, they need to give up their home and possessions and flee – as what we would call refugees.
The passage in its wider context
When reading Genesis we must be careful not to think of the book as a series of independent accounts, offering only scant historical detail.
Although the accounts may be light on the sort of historical data modern readers would like, it is rich is literary and theological data – which we can find all too easy to miss.
The book as a whole is carefully crafted, displaying numerous sophisticated Hebrew literary techniques.
The passage in its immediate context
This passage shows the consequences of choices made earlier by Lot (chapter 13).
The passage also mirrors Abraham’s visit from God in chapter 18. (The echoes can be seen in English but are far more obvious in the Hebrew.)
Lot contrasted with Abraham
Abraham’s encounter with the Lord was powerful and intimate, including Abraham offering full hospitality.
It was theologically massive, with the start of the implementation of God’s promises to Abraham, as well as Abraham discovering that God is willing to accept intercession.
By contrast, Lot’s encounter with the messengers is well-intentioned but compromised. He can offer only limited safety. The promised ‘feast’ is little more than everyday food.
His immense wealth of chapter 13 is not evident.
Sucked-in to evil? Stuck in evil?
In Genesis, cities are associated with evil. They are not good places to be.
A nomad can move on when encountering something undesirable. It is much more difficult for the house owner in a city.
Lot has moved from being a nomad to a city dweller. The ‘bright lights’ were perhaps not Lot’s original intention (13:10,11) but by moving to the area where cities were established, he moved towards temptation, deliberately living near to Sodom.
The evil of Sodom
We are given few details about the evil of Sodom.
The two sins we explicitly told about – but there were no doubt many more – are: homosexuality and serious breaches of hospitality. (As Westerners we mustn’t under-estimate the latter.)
Living a compromise
Lot has obviously not become totally immersed in the evil of Sodom.
He tries of offer hospitality.
He tries to protect his guests from homosexual rape by the mob.
He does so by trying to offer a major breach of his family responsibilities: offering his own daughters to the mob.
Not enough just managing symptoms
This is an example of an important principle.
When people get into situations that are rooted in evil, even attempts to do what is right may be little more than compromises; the lesser of two evils.
In such situations compromise – managing the symptoms, so to speak – may not be enough and drastic surgery may be required.
Unable to see
The messengers strike the mob with blindness. The Hebrew uses a rare word which probably means blinded by light. (Bit like snow blindness.)
Those who live in darkness are unable to bare the light.
Similarly, Lot and his family struggle to see the need for rescue and drastic change and those that are willing to go literally need to be dragged from the city.
The fear of change
The once Nomadic Lot can no longer cope with the idea of Nomadic life in the hills and caves, and begs for another compromise: a little city, where, by implication, there is less evil!
The scant details of his wife’s experience leave us with scientific questions but the literary and psychological force is easy enough: the longing for what is past rather than embracing the future.
This reminds us of Jesus’ tough warning about compromised commitment to Him:
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Following the Lord may call for drastic change.
Change that is needed because of inappropriate decisions in the past may be particularly difficult. We may need to let go of things that have become very important to us.
But even if we’ve got sucked-in to inappropriate things, even bad things, God is always willing to rescue us and give us a new start.
We need to keep our eyes on Him, on the kingdom, and not be driven by things and situations just because they have become established and comfortable.