Love not the World.

(A meditation on the life of Lot)

When writing to the young men of the divine family, the Apostle John gave the exhortation, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world" (1 John 2:15). The young men were strong in the faith and, as having the word of God abiding in them, they had overcome the wicked one. Spite of their accomplishments in the good fight of faith, the young men, like the babes in the family of God, were in danger of being allured and ensnared by the things of this present world. The world is a system of things that belongs to man after the flesh, and Satan is its god and prince. Nothing in it belongs to God, "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."

Some Christians have been attracted by the world's politics, and have engaged in its political life, thinking by this means to improve the world; little realising that they are endeavouring to make better a world that God has condemned in the cross of Christ. Others have been enticed by the wealth, position, glory and other rewards the world offers; not having known or been fully persuaded of the truth of the heavenly calling. Many have been seduced by the religion or philosophy of the world, for these make great appeal to the emotions and mind of the flesh.

But the Christian has been called of God to a life of separation from "this present evil world;" his mind is to be set on things above, where the Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Our life is heavenly in origin and character; it is hidden from the eye of the man of this world, and it is enjoyed in communion with God and with His Son in things that the natural man cannot know. The eternal life that will soon be ours in heaven for evermore is to be laid hold of now; indeed, we have received it as the gift of God, so that while passing through the present world, we might have the deep joys connected with the divine affections and heavenly relationships that belong to us in Christ.

At the close of his path of faithful testimony for the Lord Jesus, the Apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy his "dearly beloved son" in the faith, spoke of the few on whom he could rely in the service of the Lord. Luke was with him, his only companion; some had been sent elsewhere in the testimony of the Lord; Mark was to he brought, as serviceable to Paul in the ministry. All of Asia had turned away from Paul, and Demas who had evidently been his companion along with Luke (Col. 4:14), forsook him "having loved this present world" (2 Tim. 4:10). Since that day there have been many like Demas, who have forsaken the path of reproach and shame connected with the testimony of God, having loved the present world. The "crown of righteousness" was laid up for the Apostle, but he could say it was for "all them also that love His appearing." Do we love Christ's appearing, or this present world?

In the Old Testament, in Lot, the nephew of Abram, we have one who was allured by the world and his life, as presented to us in the Scriptures, has many salutary lessons for Christians to learn. The Apostle Peter leaves us in no doubt that Lot was a righteous man," this divine commentary in the New Testament disclosing features of his character that we could not have learned from the Old Testament history. Lot's associations with the world did not bring him abiding honour, nor did they procure happiness, for his righteous soul was vexed "from day to day." The Christian who seeks this present world will find sooner or later that there is no true happiness in it for him.

The first notice of Lot is in "The generations of Terah," the father of Abram, where we learn that he was the son of Haran, Abram's brother (Genesis 11:27). A few verses on we are told that "Terah took Abram his son, and Lot — and they went forth together out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to go into the land of Canaan." There does not appear to have been any soul exercise with Lot in relation to this separation from Ur; the call of Jehovah had come to Abram (Genesis 12:1), and at the beginning the initiative seems to have been taken by Terah. Terah, Abram and Lot all forsook the land and city where "they served other gods" (Joshua 24:2); Abram at the call of God; Terah, it would seem, influenced by Abram's call, or it may have been for some natural reason that God has not seen fit to disclose; Lot taken by Terah, then moving about under the influence of Abram, content to be carried along to Canaan in Abram's faith, or to be taken down to Egypt when faith failed in Abram.

Many Christians are like Lot, inasmuch as there is little evidence of soul exercise before God in relation to their movements. It may be that they have been brought up under godly influence — a most precious privilege — but have been content to be carried along on the faith of some faithful relative or friend even their place of communion in the Christian circle, and their Christian companions, have been more the accompaniments of the influences that have controlled their lives rather than the fruits of exercise of soul. When the time of testing comes, how often it becomes evident that the soul has had little to do directly with God; although God can use the testing to strengthen and increase what faith there is.

And the time came when Lot was tested. Such was the material prosperity of Abram and Lot that the land could not support the flocks and herds of both, and there was strife between their herdsmen. Abram would not have contention between brethren, especially before the eyes of the Canaanites and Perizzites, who dwelt in the land, therefore he proposed that Lot should separate from him, and that he should have the choice of the land. There is no protest by Lot that he values too much the company of the man of faith to leave him; there is not even any expression of regret regarding the strife between the herdsmen; he does not suggest that the choice should be with the elder; indeed, it would almost appear that influences were at work in the heart of Lot that caused him to regard this crisis as an opportunity of obtaining that which would gratify the natural desires of his heart. Had he desired the continuation of Abram's companionship, and to be associated with his altar and his pilgrim pathway of separation to which God had called him, there would no doubt have been found a ready solution to the difficulties that had produced the discord between the herdsmen.

The strife had only been between the rival herdsmen, but Abram evidently discerned the danger of it spreading to their masters. This being so, does it not seem that there was not between Abram and Lot the fullest measure of communion and confidence that would have marked them if they had been united in one mind and one judgment. There was something very far wrong when only their separation from each other could ensure their living without strife. We can rest assured that the man of faith was not engrossed with his possessions; he would never have allowed his flocks and herds to separate him from one with whom he could have happy fellowship in the things of God. What follows in the sad history of Lot makes it only too plain that the strife between the herdsmen could not be dissociated from the difference in outlook between Abram and Lot. One had his mind on the things of God, the other on present things.

Quite ready to separate from Abram, in whose company, and under whose influence, he had been prospered by God, Lot lifted up his eyes and beheld all the plain of Jordan. How attractive it was to him! He viewed it as a veritable paradise; his experienced eye perceived that it was thoroughly watered — just what was desirable for the prosperity of his flocks and herds. It was comparable with the land of Egypt, on the way to Zar, which Lot had doubtless admired when he went down to Egypt with Abram. Outwardly all was pleasant and alluring; the vista was matchless, the prospects assuring; but there was that which could not be seen by mortal eye — the thoughts of God, and the counsels of God in relation to the inhabitants of the plain.

Whether Lot knew it or not, "The men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly," and the moral conditions were such that God could not tolerate it much longer. Had Lot been living in communion with God, he might have had something of the feelings of His heart in regard to what was transpiring in Sodom, and have learned something of God's thoughts regarding its impending judgment. God's thoughts were concerned with the lives of the men who inhabited the cities of the plain, but Lot's were absorbed with the natural beauty of the land, and with its rich pastures. Little did Lot realise that before long the fair valley, upon which he was feasting his eyes, would be the scene of devastating divine judgment, and that much of its fertile pastures, that promised him so much, would lie beneath the waters of a salt sea.

There are many Christians who, like Lot, have been deceived by the fair appearance of present things; "the lust of the eyes" has been their undoing; like Eve when viewing the forbidden fruit, she saw "that it was pleasant to the eyes." A wrong step may lead, as in the case of Eve, to irretrievable ruin; as in the case of Lot to a shameful close; and in the case of a Christian to making shipwreck of the faith. How different it was with Abraham, of whom it is later recorded by the Spirit of God, "He looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10). Faith is attracted by things unseen by the natural eye, for "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Having surveyed with his eyes the valley of the Jordan, Lot chose it as his portion, and journeyed towards the east. It was the first step in a course that took him away from the godly influence of Abraham, and deeper and deeper into the quagmire of the world. On separating, "Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent towards Sodom." Abram continued on his pilgrim pathway, but Lot became a dweller in the cities of the sinners that grieved the heart of God.

We must not suppose that when Lot made his choice of the valley of Jordan that he intended to become involved in associations with the men of Sodom, but the first downward step led him in that direction. And so it often is with Christians: they have no intention of becoming involved in unholy alliances with the world, but after the first step towards the world they find themselves becoming more deeply involved, with little desire, and less spiritual power, to extricate themselves from what they know to be contrary to the will of God.

There may have been external influences affecting Lot's first step, although the Scripture does not indicate this when the choice of the valley was made. At a later date, as we shall see, Jehovah judged Lot's wife for looking behind as they fled from the doomed city of Sodom. It is possible that her influence had something to do with the downward course of Lot; but even if it were so, the full responsibility for it lay with Lot himself. God did not excuse Adam for taking of the forbidding fruit because it was under the persuasive influence of his wife that he disobeyed the commandment nor will God hold any Christian blameless for entering unholy alliances with the world, even if seduced by others. Many a godly man has been ensnared by the world through natural relationships. What he has refused at first for himself, he has accepted for his wife, or perhaps for his children; and at the end has brought dishonour upon the Name of the Lord, and involved himself in shame and trouble.

Having dwelt in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent towards Sodom, the next thing we learn of Lot is that when the four confederate kings defeated the kings of the cities of the plain "They took all the property of Sodom and Gomorrah . . . and they took Lot and his property, Abram's brother's son, and departed. For he dwelt in Sodom." What a humiliating position was this for one who, along with Abram, had known the care and protection of Jehovah. Poor Lot' had gone where he could not claim the support of God, and where his powerlessness to protect himself had been fully evinced. So long as we walk in the path of God's will we can rely on His help and protection, even as Jehovah said to Abram, after he rescued Lot, "Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield."

It was because "Lot dwelt in Sodom" that this calamity had befallen him. Earlier, it was recorded, "And the people of Sodom were wicked, and great sinners before Jehovah" (Genesis 13:13); yet it was among such people that Lot was dwelling. He may not have known the true character of the Sodomites when first he departed from Abram, but he could hardly have dwelt in the cities of the plain without knowing something of their wickedness. The decline had been gradual, yet the steps are clearly defined: first there was the choice of the pleasant, fertile plain, secondly there was the separation from the company of the man of faith, thirdly there was the dwelling in the cities of the plain, fourthly there was the pitching of the tent towards Sodom, and finally his dwelling in the wicked city. So long as Lot had his tents there was the appearance of his being a pilgrim, but even the outward show had gone when he dwelt in Sodom.

Decline in a Christian may be gradual, so gradual that the different downward steps may be almost imperceptible; but one thing is certain, before one downward step is taken there has been a lowering of the moral tone in the life; Christ has lost His true place in the affections, and the conscience has become less sensitive. Prayer, communion with God, and the reading of the Scriptures are neglected, and other things come in to take their place. If there is not self-judgment, and a return to the first works, the basis has been laid in soul declension for a downward drift into the things of the present world.

We can be sure that it was not because Lot had pleasure in the sins of the men of Sodom that he went to dwell with them; the testimony of 2nd Peter, which records his soul vexation at their lawless deeds, makes this clear. Nor can we see anything to suggest that he went there to increase his wealth. If it was to increase his happiness. he would be speedily undeceived. Indeed, we cannot say for certain what took him there. From Genesis 19:9 we may get the clue. There, the men of Sodom say, "This one came to sojourn, and he must be a judge." The force of the word "be," we are told, means "again and again." Lot evidently went there, not to dwell, but to sojourn; and it would seem that he tried over and over again to reform them. He evidently thought that they would listen to him, and, indeed, they seem to have paid some heed to his words, although there was inward resentment at his interference with their manner of life.

Since the days of Lot, many a Christian has foolishly thought that he could help to improve the men of this world, and has joined affinity with them in their schemes for the culture of man after the flesh. How very foolish for any Christian to think that the men of this world can be improved; the cross is the witness of what man is, and in the cross God has judged the flesh as incorrigibly wicked. Mingling with evil men will never improve them; God's word plainly declares that evil cannot be made holy by bringing what is holy into con-tact with it, indeed, the evil defiles the holy (Haggai 2:12, 13).

Lot does not appear to have thought of breaking his links with Sodom. We should have thought that having discovered the conditions in the city, he would have separated from it with all speed. But no, he had evidently made up his mind to dwell there, and in consequence, when God, in His government, allows the cities of the plain to fall into the hands of Amraphel, king of Shinar, and his allies, Lot shares their fate. Yet if, in His governmental dealings, God disciplines Lot for his unholy associations with an evil world, in His mercy he is rescued from the captivity into which his careless ways had brought him.

Abraham, the man of faith, who has walked in the path of separation from the world, is manifested to be the man of power. Neither the strength of the con-federate kings, nor the knowledge of their victories, deters God's pilgrim from following to secure the release of his brother Lot. Faith counts upon God, and takes cognisance of all in the light of His power. Abraham is like Paul who, at a later date, can say, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13). The man of faith can say, "When I am weak, then am I strong"; for "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Cor. 12:10; 2 Tim. 1:7). Everything is taken out of the hand of the captor; not only Lot, but his property, and all the spoil that had been taken away.

Surely this was a favourable occasion for Lot to reflect on all that had befallen him, and on the path that had led to it. God had been very merciful, and had given him an opportunity to break his links with those who had given him such vexation of soul. Now he could get back to the point of departure, and once more be found in pilgrim association with Abram, whom God had used as the instrument of his liberation. But what-ever were his inmost thoughts about these things, there was no step taken either to separate from the sinners of Sodom or to be found again with Abram in identification with his altar. Lot was without doubt very thankful for the services of Abraham, but he had evidently little, if any, desire to share his life of pilgrimage.

Many a Christian has been rescued from the consequences of his folly by some spiritually-minded brother in Christ, and has thus had opportunity to consider the departure that was responsible for the failure and shame. Some, through deep exercise of soul have profited by the godly intervention, and have been restored to the path of God's will. Alas! others, like Lot, though glad to have been helped out of their difficulties, have returned to their old ways that have brought dishonour to the Name of the Lord, and sorrow to their own hearts and to those who have sought to help them.

Such then it was with Lot, for the next time we read of him he was more firmly held in the meshes of the evil city. When the angels of God came to destroy Sodom, he was found as one of its leading citizens, sitting in its gate. Spite of all the degenerating influences around him, there was that remaining with Lot that enabled him to discern that the heavenly visitants were no ordinary "men," for he "rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; and he said, Behold now, my lords." Still, he was ignorant of their true identity, and regarding the mission on which God had sent them. How different it was with Abraham! Shortly before this, perhaps but a few hours, "The LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great nation . . . for I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD." Then God disclosed to His faithful servant and friend His purpose regarding the destruction of the wicked cities.

Moreover, it would appear that at the very time Lot was sitting in Sodom's gate, and receiving the heavenly instruments of its overthrow, Abraham was communing with Jehovah, and interceding for the guilty city. Such was the state of its inhabitants that God could not find even ten righteous persons, for which He would have spared the city of Sodom, as requested by Abraham in his gracious pleadings. There was nothing to show for all Lot's labour there.

Lot's pressing hospitality manifested the goodness of his heart, and showed him to be quite different in character from the inhabitants of Sodom; but he was a good man in evil associations, and one who had not heeded the divine warning that was given to him when he was led captive, and freed in the mercy of God. It is a serious matter to neglect or despise the warnings of God, both for saint or sinner. God is very patient in His dealings with men; He is longsuffering, giving space for repentance before acting in judgment for the honour of His Name.

God's longsuffering has been manifested in His dealings with nations, cities, the church, as well as with individuals. His message to Nineveh, through Jonah, was, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be over-thrown" (Jonah 3:4); and the word of the Lord to the assembly in Ephesus was, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come out unto thee quickly, and I will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" (Rev. 2:5). Nineveh repented, and judgment was withheld; the professing church has not repented, and the judgment will assuredly be executed, although God lingers in patience. Sodom had been warned in the governmental overthrow and captivity at the hands of the allied kings: Lot too had been warned, at the same time. There was no repentance in Sodom — not ten righteous people resided there; nor had Lot accepted the divine warning, and separated from his sinful surroundings and associations to seek after God to do His will.

The hospitality offered to the angels was no doubt, in part, because Lot knew only too well what manner of men the Sodomites were. Angels had no need of human protection, and they were most reluctant to accept the proffered hospitality. (There was no such reluctance when Abraham entertained the heavenly guests; but Abraham was not linked with sinners as Lot was). God's messengers had not come to be entertained in the doomed city; they came to inflict divine judgment; their entry into his house, and their eating of his repast, were the expressions of God's merciful dealings with him on account of the intercession of Abraham, who had prayed, "Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?"

The presence of the angels fully exposed at Lot's very door the wickedness of Sodom, and but magnified the guilt of "both old and young, all the people from every quarter," and what could Lot say in mitigation of such unbridled lust? Lot might plead with the sinners to refrain from the gross evil meditated in their wicked hearts, and propose a lesser evil to spare, as he thought, the guests he had brought within the shelter of his house, but he could not plead with the angels to spare the men of Sodom; nothing but divine judgment could meet the evil. The shameless proposal made by Lot to his fellow citizens manifested how powerless was the man who sat in Sodom's gate to restrain their corrupt and lawless ways. If he had ever thought to improve the inhabitants of Sodom by his influence and counsel, this moment must surely have brought to his poor deluded heart the realisation that his life for them had been wasted, and that all his efforts were futile.

And how very solemn to hear one who had been a companion of the man of faith speak to these debased Sodomites, and call them "Brethren," only to be reviled, rebuked and threatened. This was the world's reward to the righteous man who had given his life in service for them. They said, "This one came to sojourn, and he must he a judge. Now we will deal worse with thee than with them." Lot's address plainly shows how deeply he had become involved in the affairs of Sodom: his intention was to sojourn, to stay for a little while, but he became a judge among them, and looked upon them as his brethren. Many a Christian has, in a similar way, been thoroughly immersed in the world. He has touched the world in some small way, meaning to get away again, but instead he has gone further and further into its associations until he found himself helpless, or unwilling, to break the bands that bound him. Some small link, that may be considered harmless, can be used by Satan to trap the unwary, and lead them away from the ways of God.

Christians who think that they can help the men of this world to do what is right by joining hands with them would do well to study the attitude of the men of Sodom towards Lot at this juncture. Often had he judged; day by day his righteous soul was vexed with their abandoned manner of life, and his presence among them had no doubt curbed, in some measure, their lawless ways; but the resentment to his interference now finds expression in their threatenings, "Now will we deal worse with thee than with them." Nor was it idle threatening, for "They pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door." Apart from the intervention of the angels their wicked threat would have been carried out.

At heart the world does not value the Christian's judgment, nor does it relish the restraint that his presence often brings; and even if there is the acceptance of his counsel, there is inward resentment, which, when there is the opportunity, will manifest itself in no uncertain way; it may be, as in the case of Lot, with mocking and threatening. The world has no desire for the principles of God, for His holiness, or for anything of God that will deny them their pleasures, and sooner or later the Christian who attempts to bring the things of God into the world's circles will find that it hates God and all that are His. This was proved to the full when the Son of God was here; He had to say, "They have both seen and hated both me and my Father."

The Christian who gets mixed up with the world not only damages his own soul, but causes grievous harm to others. Lot was not alone in Sodom; his wife and daughters were there with him, and his daughters were about to be married to men who dwelt in the wicked city. In mercy, the angels offered deliverance to all who were of Lot's house, and acting on their words, Lot warned the men who were to be his sons-in-law, urging them to escape from the impending destruction of the city. His "sons-in-law" thought that he was jesting, for he had not been acting hitherto like a man in a doomed city. His whole life was the contradiction of his words, therefore the young men treated the warning as a huge jest. And what of Christians who find their life in the things of the world? When they tell their associates that this world is about to be judged, and that they should separate from it, what will they say? Our lives should be the practical expression of our words, and not the contradiction of them. We should be like Paul, who said, "But by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor. 4:2).

The day for the overthrow of Sodom came (and the day for this world's judgment will just as surely come, though God lingers in mercy, just as He did with Sodom), and the angels urged Lot, saying, "Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city." How compassionate and long-suffering God is! Not content with urging Lot, "While he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him." It was hard for Lot to leave the city, for in it were all his possessions, all his associations, all he had laboured for, all he had found his life in, and perhaps some of his natural relations (see Gen. 19:12). Poor Lot and his wife and daughters were almost dragged out of Sodom, for their hearts were bound to the evil city with many strong ties, and what had they outside of it? Alas! many Christians are like Lot; their practical ties are with this present world, and they know little of the bonds that bind the true believer to Christ in heaven, and to the saints of God who have heard the call of God to walk as pilgrims and strangers through this world.

Through God's mercy Lot is brought out of the city of doom, and the angelic command to them is "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." Only with his wife, and immediate relatives, does Lot escape! Had he heeded the divine warning, when Abraham rescued him from the clutches of the confederate kings, he might now have been like Abraham, a stranger in the land, but possessed of God's blessings, and able to rely on His protection. But the divine admonition had not affected Lot's course, he would not break with the guilty men of Sodom, so that while, in God's goodness, he escapes from the conflagration, in God's government he loses all his possessions, and finds the things he had valued reduced to ashes. The plain that had appeared to him as the garden of God holds no refuge for him; it is also to be destroyed; all its fair and fat pastures were so soon to be like a smoking furnace. What a lesson for the Christian! What a warning for those who seek to settle down in the delights of a doomed world! The mountain, not the valley, is Lot's place of refuge, as directed by the angels.

But Lot has no heart for the mountain. That might do for Abraham, who had never known what it was to be "a man of the world" in the cities of the plain, but the very thought of the mountain was "evil" and death to Lot. How hard it is for a worldly Christian to forsake the life of man's city for a life of separation and communion with God! The thought of a life of faith fills his heart with forebodings. The normal life of the Christian is far from attractive to the Christian who lives in the world. He is thankful to God for saving his soul from destruction, but he does not relish the pilgrim pathway. This is seen in Lot, who knows that God has been merciful to him, in sparing his life, but the prospect of isolation on the mountain fills him with dread. There-fore Lot pleads to be allowed to enter Zoar, which God allows him to do, holding back the fire of His wrath until he entered it.

Lot's plea was that Zoar was only a little city. The life of man's world still held his heart, righteous man though he was, and his plea suggests that because of its size, Zoar might be spared, for its evil would not be of the same magnitude as Sodom's. It is true that Sodom is singled out, even among the cities of the plain, for the enormity of its sins, even as we read, "But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly"; but the sins in which Sodom exceeded characterized the rest, and only God's mercy, through Lot's pleading spared Zoar. Zoar might appear different in the eyes of Lot; it was little different in Jehovah's eyes; its sins, like Sodom's, reached to heaven, and called for the judgment of a righteous and holy God. The principles of the world are seen in both Sodom and Zoar; the Christian is called to walk apart from these principles, to walk in the light of God's world, in the light of the city that Abraham looked for, "A city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10). We are to be entirely separate to God, not to be ensnared either in the small cities or the large cities of men; our calling is like Abraham's. He was to leave his whole former life at Ur of the Chaldeans to be a pilgrim and a stranger, not to seek the old life again in the cities of the plain.

If Lot could have looked on to this moment, to foresee the doom of the cities of the plain, when he made his choice of the well-watered plain of Jordan, he might have chosen differently, but the difference of choice would not have been from purer motives of heart. But God has forewarned us of the impending judgment of the world, and spite of this many Christians are entangled in its associations, and are found pursuing its pleasures and its prizes, and like Lot will have to be dragged out of the world, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. To be kept from the pernicious influences of the world, we must know the blessedness of communion with God, and have the mind set on the things that are above, where the Christ sits at God's right hand. Oh that our poor hearts knew more of the attractiveness of the Person of the Lord Jesus, and that the powerful influence of His heavenly call was more constantly felt!

When the angels brought forth Lot from Sodom, their command was, "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee," but Lot's "wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt." Although delivered out of Sodom, she had left her heart there, and she was more concerned with Sodom than with the word of God spoken by the angels. Are we not reminded of this in Hebrews 2:2? "If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward." In Luke 17, where the Lord speaks of the day when the Son of man shall be revealed, He says, "He that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot's wife." Was it in the heart of Lot's wife to return back to Sodom? To the disciples, the Lord Jesus said, "Ye are the salt of the earth;" and Lot and his wife should have been "salt" after this fashion in Sodom. What she should have been morally in Sodom, she becomes physically outside of Sodom, as a memorial of "the goodness and the severity of God."

Does not the judgment on Lot's wife suggest that she might have had a good deal to do with the failure of her husband? For women can exercise a very powerful influence on their husbands, and on the lives of their families, for good or ill. Of this we can be sure, she lightly esteemed the word of God; and we may take it for granted that a woman who has little regard for God's word will not wield a beneficial influence on those around her. The actions of her daughters, as recorded at the close of this chapter, do not reflect favourably upon the mother who had brought them up.

God has regard for those who confide in Him, and this is exemplified in the words, "And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt." Abraham had drawn near to Jehovah, and said, "Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?" How God delights in intercession! And because of the pleading of the man of faith, the righteous Lot is spared, and not destroyed with the wicked. Does not this remind us of the scripture, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much"? (James 5:16).

The closing scenes of Genesis 19, though no doubt given to tell us of the origin of Moab and Ammon, two nations that manifested unwearied and bitter opposition to the people of God, also unveil the shame of Lot; and this too is for our learning. What shameful and sorrowful results can issue from entanglements with "this present evil world"; not only for ourselves, but for those who are related to us. Lot had thought that Zoar would be a city of refuge for him, but alas, it proved to be a place of fear. His intercession for Zoar had evidently not produced gratitude from its citizens, if he had disclosed to them the reason for their preservation. Indeed, it is conceivable that the fear of Lot was caused by suggestions that he had been the cause of the destruction of the cities of the plain, just as at a later date the children of Israel "murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD" (Num. 16:41). Israel blamed Moses, who had so often interceded for them, for the death of those who perished in their rebellion against God.

How much better it would have been for Lot to have heeded the word of God's messengers, "Escape to the mountain"; it would have preserved him from the fear that overtook him in Zoar, and he would have known the mountain retreat as God's place of shelter, rather than his cave of shame. So often we think we know what is best for us, and turn away from what God enjoins, only to prove at length our own folly, and to have lost what God had in His mercy prepared for us. Had Lot sought the face of God he might have found the mountain a place of communion, but instead it is the scene of his lasting reproach. Separation from the world does not necessarily mean communion with God, for the gross corruptions of the world can be found within the seclusion of a monastery, or a nunnery, just as in the midst of a wicked city. The influences of Sodom had left their mark on the daughters of Lot, for they brought to the cave what they had learned there. They had not learned that God could provide a generation for Lot, if it were His will, without resorting to such debasing means. Abraham and Sarah, Manoah and his wife, and Zacharias and Elizabeth, all proved how God could intervene to provide children for them, in His own way.

What lessons there are for us to learn from the life of Lot! Little did he imagine all the trouble that would accrue from his choice of the well-watered plain of the Jordan, when his heart was filled with the attractiveness of present things, rather than with the things that faith enables us to view. Poor Lot never seems to have learned what God would have taught him. After getting into Sodom, and learning its true character, he should have hastened out of it. The word for the Christian is plain, "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:17, 18).

Even when disciplined by God, and rescued in divine mercy by Abraham, Lot, instead of forsaking Sodom, becomes more deeply involved in its associations. God's word for us is, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" (2 Cor. 6:14-16). Scripture is so clear, yet Christians are either ignorant of God's will for them, or they do not desire to do the will of God. What befell Lot in Sodom should be carefully pondered by us all, and especially by any Christian who has been ensnared by any of the many associations of the world.

At the time when God intervenes to bring Lot out of the doomed city, God's commandment is not wanted; Lot thinks he knows what is best for him. He proves at length that God's commandment was for his good, but evidently too late to gain much from it. How much better for him if, even at this late date in his history, he had rested in simple faith in God's word, and had acted in simple obedience. God knows what is best for us, and when we quietly rest in what He says all will be well for us. O that we valued God's word, and remembered what the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John 14:21).

What God has Given to Us in Christ

Tell me that this poor world hinders me, that the flesh hinders me, that Satan hinders me, I admit it; but that ought not to blind my eyes to what His glory and purpose ever was, and is: that He will bring us into glory with Christ, and that He has wrought us for it already. Do not suppose for a moment that God does not mean you to have the joy of it. The moment that I believe that Christ the Son of God has died for me on the cross, nothing is too great for me. The question is, What is that worth? People talk of presumption! There is nothing too great for me to expect in Christ.
J. N. Darby.