The Deception of the Greener Grass

Many families try to read through the Bible with their children only to be stopped short at Genesis 18-19, the sad story of Lot and his family. Suddenly the G story becomes more PG and even R-rated! Things come up that no one wants to explain to young children — the men of the city wanting to assault the angel visitors, Lot offering his daughters to the mob so that the men can have their way with them, and Lot’s daughters seducing their father in order to have a child!

How did things end up so wrong for Lot, the nephew of Abraham who followed him into the land of Canaan and was a successful herdsman in his own right? How did he end up so far off the track and why didn’t he get back on track? The answers to these questions can give us insight for our personal decision making and for training our children so they don’t have great beginnings but ugly endings like Lot.

Lot’s First Wrong Turn: By mutual agreement, Lot and Abraham realized that their booming livestock business could no longer be a joint endeavor. Abraham generously let Lot have the first pick as to where he would move his flocks and herdsmen. In Genesis 13:10 we see that Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt…” He spotted what looked like the Garden of Eden or the Nile River Valley and snapped up the prime real estate.

At first glance this seems like a savvy business decision. Who wouldn’t want that for his pasture? But if you read a little farther in verse 12: Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Wait, I thought he was a herdsman, what is he doing moving into the cities, pagan cities at that?!  “…the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.”  (Gen 13:13)

Nowhere does the Bible explain this shift. But it is clear that this move could be real trouble. As you follow this story, you see that Uncle Abraham keeps his eye on Lot and even risks his life to rescue Lot from a jam, a jam that developed from throwing his lot in with Sodom. (Genesis 14:11-16) But even his kidnapping and narrow escape did not wake up Lot to the negative effect of his new homeys.

Fast forward to Genesis 18:16-33… God tells Abraham that He is about to destroy Sodom: Uncle Abraham once again tries to look out for Lot. He bargains with God not to destroy Sodom & Gomorrah if God can find 10 righteous ones in these towns. I believe that Abraham figured that surely Lot has had influence upon his new home town; surely he has brought 6 other people into the fellowship of Yahweh. But sadly, not so.

Despite the fact that he was tormented in soul by their lawless deeds (2 Peter 2:7-8), Lot is now hanging out at the main gates of Sodom. He is stunned by the appearance of the angels and comes up with a protection plan that completely abandons his daughters. It is clear by the angry mob and the reactions of his future sons-in-law (they laugh in his face when he tries to warn and rescue them) that he has not earned the respect of anyone in town. Lot has not been the one influencing the pagans, but rather they seem to have fully influenced his family.

The Declaration of Judgment on Sodom & Gomorrah: Learning this news drives Lot into overdrive. He jumps from one fear-filled thought to another. When told judgment is imminent — he lingers. When told to escape to the hills, he negotiates for a more comfortable refuge, little Zoar. Once in Zoar, he gets freaked out and flees to the hills after all. Once sheltered in caves, he gets drunk, leaving himself helpless against the desperate plans of his daughters.

Starting from the time he separated from Abraham, Lot drifted following his feelings. He somehow lost his flocks and the wealth attached to them. He somehow picked up a wife, probably out of pagan Sodom (we might infer this from her deep and tragic loyalty to it). He failed to lead her spiritually despite having learned of Yahweh, the God of the covenant, from his time traveling with Abraham.

And it all started by yearning for the greener grass, the easier path. How often are we or our children tempted by taking a shortcut, following our feelings, and choosing to be popular with ungodly people or at least people who don’t challenge us to mature?

What to do when we’ve made a mistake? When the wheels fell off and S & G were destroyed with sulfur and fire, why didn’t Lot go back to his uncle? Abraham clearly cared enough for his nephew that he was willing to take on a much larger military force in order to rescue him. He would have taken Lot back and restarted him in the family business. He could have found some good men for the daughters in desperation to find a man, any man, to father their children.

Perhaps Lot was too proud to admit that he had blown it. Perhaps he was ashamed at having squandered the opportunity of the well-watered valley. Maybe he was angry at himself for messing his life up so completely. We must train our children on how to pick themselves up after falling flat on their face. Failure happens. That’s not the problem. Staying stuck in failure is. Be gracious to your children when they mess up. Bite your tongue and let natural consequences teach them. Don’t make returning to the wise community of your family tougher than it already is.

And remember — God is a God of second chances! He is a redeemer and restorer. Even in the case of Lot, incest and destruction are not the end of the story. Generations later one descendant of this mess reverses Lot’s mess. Ruth the Moabitess proved to be the opposite of her great-great-great grandfather. She chose hardship rather than comfort and pleasure. She chose loneliness with the people of God rather than comfort with her own people. 

After her husband and father-in-law had died, there was no future with her mother-in-law Naomi. She tried to chase Ruth away, painting a bleak picture of a stark future. (Ruth 1:11-13) But even with her bitter rebuke, she could not get her daughter-in-law to stop clinging to her. But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-18

She risked everything to stay with Naomi — there was no view of happiness with her mother-in-law. If you have never read Ruth, I urge you to do so. God totally rewarded her choice to follow Yahweh. She got a noble husband, a comfortable future for Naomi, and she ended up with a solid, Jewish family, with kids and grandkids and a little great grandson named David, who became a shepherd like his ancestor Lot and became the king of Israel!

Lot teaches failure from following his feelings, but redemption through repentance. The details may be grisly, but as parents we can overlook some of these details until a time when our children may be able to process the tragedies that befall us when we choose to align ourselves with the enemies of God.

Your fellow servant-warrior, Christopher

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