Genesis 18:16-19:37 and Matthew 6:25-34 and Matthew 7:7-14
Our two focus passages for today parallel each other. At the end of Genesis 18 we see Abraham pleading with God to spare the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And in Genesis 19 we see the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and more importantly the effects of living in the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had on Lot and his family. And to truly understand the meaning of Genesis 18:16-19:37 we need to explore more deeply our two focus passages from the New Testament.
God’s instructions to Lot after rescuing him and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah were, “Run for your lives! Don’t look back and stop anywhere on the plain! Run to the mountains, or you will be swept away!” (Genesis 19:17) And the next three verse record Lot’s answer to these very simple instructions. “No, my lords—please. Your servant has indeed found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness by saving my life. But I can’t run to the mountains; the disaster will overtake me, and I will die. Look this, this town is close enough for me to flee to. It is a small place. Please let me run to it—it’s only a small, isn’t it?—so that I can survive” (Genesis 19:18-20).
Most of you will probably not see a problem with Lot’s small request, but you would be wrong in that thinking. And the reason you probably don’t see a problem in Lot’s request is because you think that Lot made that request only as matter of survival, which is far from the truth. The real reason Lot made that request was because he was so worried about losing all the worldly things that made him powerful and important that he forgot that God is in control and that his ways are so much better than our ways. And to fully understand this concept we need to move into the first of our New Testament passages Matthew 6:25-34.
Starting in verse 25 and going through verse 32 Jesus says this, “Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” In this passage Jesus tells us not to worry and then he gives the reason why we should not worry. The first thing we need to understand is the “don’t worry” part. When Jesus said “don’t worry” he is not telling is that it is wrong to make provisions for future physical needs. Instead he is speaking against anxiety or worry that shows a lack of faith in God’s care and love, which was exactly Lot’s problem.
Now that we understand “don’t worry” we can move on to why we “don’t worry”. Starting in verse 30 and going through verse 32 Jesus said this, “If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” These words that Jesus spoke some two thousand years ago contain God’s promises to all his children in this age of trouble and uncertainty. God has promised to provide our food, clothing and other necessities, all the things that Lot was afraid he would lose. We do not need to worry about such things, because we can be sure that God will assume full responsibility for those who are submitted entirely to his authority and purposes, which leads us into how Genesis 19 ends.
Genesis 19 ends in this way starting in verse 30 and going through verse 38, “Lot departed from Zoar and lived in the mountains along with his two daughters, because he was afraid to live in Zoar. Instead, he and his two daughters lived in a cave. Then the firstborn said to the younger, ‘Our father is old, and there is no man in the land to sleep with us as is the custom of all the land. Come, let’s get our father to drink wine so that we can sleep with him and preserve our father’s line.’ So they got their father to drink wine that night, and the firstborn came and slept with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she got up. The next day the firstborn said to the younger, ‘Look, I slept with my father last night. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight so you can go sleep with him and we can preserve our father’s line.’ That night they again got their father to drink wine, and the younger went and slept with him; he did not know when she lay down or when she got up. So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The firstborn gave birth to a son and named him Moab. He is the father of the Moabites of today. The younger also gave birth to a son, and she named him Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites of today.” So what do we see here at the end of this sad, but often repeated story at the end of Genesis 19.
What see here is that Lot’s daughters were guilty of the sin of incest, and Lot was guilty of the sin of drunkeness, which tells us two critical things. (1) Extended exposure to the ungodliness of the Sodomites had seriously lowered the moral standards of his children, and Lot had tolerated it. Lot’s reckless tolerance for ungodly behavior caused him to lose his family. Even his descendants became pagans (people who do not follow God or who follow false gods). (2) Lot is an example of an unbelieving father whose faith and commitment may have been just enough to save himself, but not enough to influence or save his family. Lot learned too late that true faith involves teaching one’s family to avoid and resist the world’s evil influence, which takes us into Matthew 6:33 and Matthew 7:7-14.
In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says these famous words, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” Jesus here is telling us that those who follow him are to seek—above all else—God’s kingdom and his righteousness. The verb “seek” here means being continually absorbed in a search for something, or making a long and consistent effort to obtain something. God’s kingdom and righteousness are not passive matters; they are things we most actively pursue. Jesus refers to two objects, or focuses of our seeking: (1) “His kingdom” (his power and authority over all, his purposes and way of life both on earth and into eternity)—we must desperately desire for God’s authority and power to be evident in our lives and in our Christian gatherings. Our own desires should never get in the way of what God wants to do in our individual lives and our churches. We must pray that God’s kingdom will operate in the mighty power of the Holy Spirit to save people from sin, to destroy demons power, to heal the sick and to bring honor to the Lord Jesus in every way.
(2) “His righteousness” (his standards of truth, right and goodness)—through the power of the Holy Spirit, we must make every effort to obey Christ’s commands, show Christ’s standards of truth and right, avoid the ungodly practices of the world and show Christ’s love toward everyone. All of which Lot and his family failed to do. But how can we avoid the same mistakes Lot and his family made? The answer to that is found in Matthew 7:7-14.
Jesus in Matthew 7:7-14 says this, “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him. Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”
Verses 7-8 tell us to ask, seek and knock, which is Jesus encouraging perseverance (“active patience” or determination) in prayer. This means we must keep on asking, seeking and knocking. This does not mean that we need to bet God to answer our prayers. Rather it means that instead of worrying about a certain issue, we take it to God and acknowledge that the situation is in his hands. Asking means that we recognize our need and that we trust God to hear our prayers. Seeking means that our request is earnest and that we are willing to obey God and pursue his purposes when he responds with an answer or instruction. Knocking means that we keep bringing the request to God even when he does not respond quickly. Such “active patience” does not show a lack of faith, but rather a constant admission that we need God’s help and have turned over our needs to him. Christ’s assurance that those who ask will receive from God is based on: (1) keeping our priorities focused on God and seeking his kingdom purposes first; (2) recognizing God’s fatherly goodness and love; (3) praying according to God’s will and keeping our desires in line with his; (4) maintaining communication and friendship with Christ; and (5) obeying Christ. Lot and his family did not ask, seek or knock and the consequences were deadly not only for Lot and his immediate family, but for all of Lot’s descendants, which leads us into Matthew 7:13-14.
Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 says this, “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” Jesus is teaching us that we are not to expect a majority of people to follow him on the road that leads to eternal life with God. And we see two important things in these two verses. (1) Comparatively few will pass through the gate of Godly humility and true repentance—turning from and denying their own way in order to follow Jesus. This means doing all that we can do to obey his commands, pursuing his purposes and standards and pressing on through the difficulties of life with true faith, purity and love.
(2) In the Sermon on the Mount (the section of Matthew we are currently in), Jesus describes the great benefits and blessings that go along with being his disciple, but also insists that his followers will face opposition and persecution. Jesus taught that following him is costly. It involves making difficult choices and going through difficult situations at times. There are obligations concerning right living, pressing on in faith through persecution, love for our enemies and self-denial. The initial step of surrendering to Christ and accepting his forgiveness for sin may not be difficult, but trusting him to make the necessary life changes and continuing to follow him, no matter what, is not an easy path to follow and will test our faith extremely. A test that Lot and his family failed miserably, and a test that we will fail if we do not heed the lessons that are taught to us in today’s passage.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Genesis 20-22, Matthew 7:15-29, Psalm 9:1-12 and Proverbs 2:16-22