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“And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife and thy two daughters which are here: lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city! And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth and set him without the city.” ~Genesis 19:16-17
The angels of the Lord – sent in a time of great urgency, to rescue a man who could not see his need. We find Lot in the city of Sodom, just before God destroys it, reluctant to leave. The night has been a rough one – he has almost lost his life, and his daughters, trying to protect two strangers that showed up at his door. Those very strangers he sought to protect delivered him, in his prideful, self-centered obliviousness, and smote those at the door with blindness so that they could not find the door. Morning has come, the city is in an uproar, and the tension is growing. Something is about to happen. The Lord of Hosts is about to come down, and totally obliterate two cities that have turned their backs on Him. These strangers – angels of the Lord – arise in the morning, and call to Lot and his family: “Lets go! Hurry up! Take your wife, and you daughters! Get out of here before it’s too late.” And what does Lot do? He lingers.
Perhaps as he stood there, his eyes fell on all that he owned. The Bible says only a few chapters earlier that Lot was a wealthy man. There was no time now to take that wealth. The circumstances called for a desperate measures. Whatever it was, it held him fast. Even as he lingered – dawdled, wasted precious time, the angels of the Lord grabbed his hand, and his wife’s hand, and the hand of his daughters, and physically removed them from the city, and set them outside of the gates. Why? Scripture says the Lord wanted to be merciful unto him.
How often are we like Lot? We hear the voice of the Lord, urging us to act, but we linger. God, in His mercy, and seeing us in our shortcomings, brings in the means to move us: parents, authorities, teachers, siblings, painful trials, broken relationships. Whatever it costs to take us away from the immediate danger, that somehow, we overlook in light of those competing loves in our life.
But then, as Lot stands without the city, we find that he is still ignorant – wallowing in prideful stupor. A self-sufficient, selfish man, who wants life easy. He is given directions again: “Flee to the mountains.” Instead of obeying, Lot wants it different. He whines his way out of obedience. “The mountains? My family and I will die there! Let us go to this small city over here. Please? It is just a very small one.” Can you picture the frustration of the angels? What is this person’s problem? Is he blind? Mentally insane? “Have it your way. Go to the city. But hurry up. The wrath of God waits for you to remove yourself from this place so that you will not be harmed.”
As Lot heads off the the small city, I am reminded of my own life. God, in His mercy, removes me from a great pitfall in my life. He asks for complete surrender to His call. Without recognizing the mercy I have just been extended, I reply, “The sacrifice is too great. You have taken the big sin. Let me keep the small sin. Please Lord, it is just a very little one.” Have you done that? The small and the big were irrelevant to God. Only a few verses later, we find Lot fleeing to the mountains – God’s intended place of refuge for him – fleeing what? The destruction of that very small city. And what has he lost in the process? His wife is no longer at his side. She turned back between Sodom and Zoar. Would she still be there if he had obeyed the angels command, and gone up into the mountain? Had she been there, surely he would not have fathered the nation of Moab, and the children of Ammnon. Yet, he could not obey. The cost he had to pay was probably higher than he would have been willing to sacrifice, had he counted it beforehand.
David writes in the Psalms that the Lord waited, that he might be gracious. In regards to Lot, the Lord was patient…he waited for an arrogant sinful man, who had not put God before his eyes, to hear the Word of the Lord and obey. Lot’s life was spared – but he failed to finish well. He could not leave himself behind. He took his selfish, egotistical pride with him everywhere he went. Shame, and dishonor followed him – he became the father of two nations, enemies of God’s chosen people. A man who went where he wanted to, and paid the price, never learning the lesson.
My mom reminded me only about a month ago: “God gives believers tests in life – often in the form of trials. If those tests are not passed, they come again, and again, and again…always getting harder, and always costing more than the one before.” Such was the life of Lot. He never should have left his home with Abram. When he did, he chose the land of best appearances – he reserved what he thought would make him the greatest. He moved to a city of perversion, sodomy, immorality, and false worship – made his home there, and married his daughters off to two sinful men, who refused to leave when the angels came to forewarn his family. He lingered when it was time to leave, and took the “easy” way out instead of trusting the very ones who had just delivered him from the wrath of God. He became the father of two wicked nations, and he stands as an example in Scripture of a man who lived a life that was an abomination to the Lord. And what of you, and me? What of the tests that God has given us? Do you take the easy way out…look to compensate for weaknesses so that you land on top, and everyone else on the bottom? Try to make things better by patching up? Refuse to make right those wrongs which are holding you back from abundant life?
Have you heard the voice of God, urging you to desperation – to act, to remove yourself from some place, or thing, or situation in life? Do not linger. Get up, and do not turn back. For the instructions, however difficult they may be, are the Lord, desiring to be merciful to you. He waits to be gracious to you – desiring that you obey. Yet, that window of grace is open only for a short season, and then it is closed – the price is payed, and the test must be re-taken, at a far greater cost. Dear believer, remember this: obedience does not linger. It acts instantly, cheerfully, and completely.