If Lot was vexed by living in Sodom, as the Bible says, why didn’t he get out of there? How could he be considered righteous?
Writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter noted in his second letter several examples of God’s judgment of unrighteousness. In spite of the crises Americans have experienced recently as a nation, divine judgment doesn’t seem to be a major topic of conversation among people in general. We expect that lack of concern among unbelievers, but many believers don’t seem to be overly concerned either. In fact, some believers who have suggested the matter of divine discipline upon an apostate nation have been castigated quite severely. But we must note the reality of God’s judgments in Scripture, both in the past and in things to come.
However, in judgment God can and does deliver His own people as He wills. We have an example of this fact in Genesis 19 and 2 Peter 2:6 through 9. God rescued Lot in the moments before judgment fell in the form of fire and brimstone upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah due to the abomination of homosexuality, which was rampant in those places.
It is indeed sad that Peter had to tell us that Lot was righteous. The account of Lot in Genesis 12 and 19 lacks evidence that he was a believer. He exercised selfishness, pride, and a lack of discernment when he chose the supposedly better land for himself and separated from Abraham. In Sodom, he actually offered his daughters for sex in an effort to placate the Sodomites banging on his door who wanted relations with the angel visitors. Even after God got him and his family out of Sodom, we have recorded his sordid end in a cave. He almost lost his life because of Sodom, and his wife did lose her life because of that wicked city.
Yet God knows the heart. Lot is a perfect illustration of the backslider. He could be considered righteous because somehow he believed, in spite of his compromise and sin. But how he suffered. He lost everything he had and ended up living in a cave. But our passage of 2 Peter 2:6 through 9 also says that Lot was vexed in his soul by the sin and the wicked people around him. The word here is actually stronger than what we think of as “vexed,” a word that appears in some Bible versions; it is a word that indicates Lot was tormented day after day when he saw what was going on around him. Believers in a backslidden condition today may appear to enjoy their “freedom,” but they often don’t let on that, inside, they are, like Lot, most miserable unless and until they get out of the state they are in.
Why didn’t Lot leave? Why did God have to literally drag him out of Sodom? A number of reasons may exist. The Bible doesn’t specifically state them. But through examples of people in general who stay in this carnal state until divine chastening or death, we can surmise several possibilities:
First, there were economic reasons for staying. Lot had it too good in Sodom to want to leave. His wife indicated this likelihood with her one last longing look that turned her into a pillar of salt. Temporal things meant more to them than God. How often have people stayed in situations because of their job, retirement security, or other plusses at the expense of their souls.
Second, there was the political or social factor. Apparently Lot had friends. The account seems to indicate he was quite well known, unlike people down the street we’ve all noticed who are so private that one can never really get acquainted with them. But one of the primary reasons people stay in carnality and compromise is that they don’t want to lose their friends and relatives, whether in business or in other aspects of life.
Third, other reasons may be related to simple laziness and procrastination, knowing what to do but not doing it. Lot may have been like the person who says he or she is called to the mission field or some kind of Christian work but who never gets around to doing it.
Lot is like worldly believers who are out of the Lord’s will. When they die, they will go to Heaven; but when they stand before the Bema (2 Corinthians 5:10), they will miss out on the rewards and blessings they could have otherwise had—throughout all eternity.
This article appeared in the “Q & A” column of the Baptist Bulletin (January 2002) by Norman A. Olson.