“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.”
The herdmen of Abraham and the herdmen of Lot had been quarrelling.
As they were returning from Egypt to the land of Canaan!
“And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.”
And Lot lifted up his eyes and chose all the plain of the Jordan!
The plain of the Jordan, a well-watered and fertile land. Once a year, in the springtime, the Jordan river overflowed its banks, the swift-flowing stream fed by torrents flowing down from Mount Hermon in the north, carried with it a rich sediment of silt which it deposited over the whole land. Not only did the water of the Jordan tend to fertilize the soil and irrigate the land, but it also provided water for the numerous cattle that Lot had obtained in his association with Abram. Because of its fertility the land was beautiful and lush. The text informs us that the land, before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, was comparable to Egypt and even as the garden of the Lord. The beauty of Egypt Lot had only recently witnessed with his own eyes. Of the beauty of the garden of the Lord, that is the garden of Eden, Lot also undoubtedly had been well informed. Tradition was most accurate in those days. When you consider that Methuselah lived 243 years before Adam died, and Noah lived 500 years as a contemporary with Methuselah, and until two years before Abram was born, then the description of Eden could very easily have been transmitted to Lot. So beautiful was the Jordan plain that it was to Lot. more beautiful than fertile Egypt, it reminded him of the beautiful garden in the land of Eden where the Lord God had placed the parents of the whole human race before the curse of God settled over the earth because of man’s sin. This was what Lot beheld as his eyes scanned the plain of the Jordan to the east.
Moreover, because of the richness of the soil, prosperous communities of cities were erected there, chief of which were Sodom and Gomorrah. As in modern times cities may arise over night where rich material resources are discovered, so, no doubt, these cities toward which Lot looked had their reason for existence. Centers they became of agriculture and commerce, promoting every worldly enterprise.
What natural man in his right mind would not choose such a place in preference to the arid and rocky terrain where Abram now dwelt? Nay, rather, what child of God, such as Lot was, would not by natural inclination prefer to live there? Even if his going there entailed dwelling near the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? For we read in verses 12 and 13: “And Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.”
Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan! He chose all that appealed to the eye of his flesh for its material beauty, for its potential wealth. This does not necessarily mean that he chose the wickedness of the cities of the plain. Does not the apostle Peter tell us that he vexed his righteous soul with the filthy conversation of the wicked? (II Pet. 2:7). Indeed, Lot was a child of God who presently would have to be delivered by fire from the destruction of the cities. But when he made his choice, all this was farthest from his thought.
The well-watered plain was typical of all the material prosperity the world has to offer. There was no sign of depression there. It was a material utopia. And at the same time it served, in conjunction with the cities, a type of the world that is always developing in the way of destruction. Sodom is a picture of that world in the raw. Ezekiel so describes it. “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” (Ezek. 16:49, 50).
Indeed, the object of Lot’s choice was typical of the material world which is fast developing in sin and corruption unto destruction!
Motivated was he by carnal lust!
That his eyes were lifted up so that he beheld all the plain of Jordan was not in itself wrong. That he even considered in his mind the material possibilities the plain had to offer was also not wrong in itself. Should not the child of God see the world and analyze discreetly all that that world has to offer? If he knows his calling, he does not walk through this world like the horse with old-fashioned blinders which could allow it to see only that which was ahead of it, but not see what was to the left or right. Nay, rather, he observes that world as it is, and properly assesses its worth. He will even make use of that world, if he can bring it into the service of his God. Then he does not serve Mammon, but Mammon serves him. (Luke 16:9).
But this is not what Lot did! His natural and burning lust was fanned into a flame. And Lot chose the plains!
Lot must choose! All men must choose! Even the child of God must make a choice! But for him the choice must always be antithetical, that is, he must choose the good, while always rejecting the evil. The principle of the antithesis the Lord introduced for man already in the garden of Eden when He placed man before the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and taught him thereby that man is not to live by bread alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Before this antithesis Lot also is placed, and it was his calling to choose to be obedient to the Word of God and reject all that militated against that Word.
But this child of God decided to set aside his antithetical calling, and he chose bread alone! He passed by, as it were with the wave of the hand, the things of God and His covenant, only to obtain as Esau a mess of pottage. He lifted up his eyes to behold all the plain of Jordan, and then chose to journey to the east, and so separated himself from Abram.
What a sad commentary on an erstwhile congenial and brotherly relation!
But the sadness of this separation lay not only in the fact that here were brethren according to the flesh who were being pulled apart. It was much deeper than that.
Lot separated himself from Abram, the Church! Was it not with Abram that God had established His covenant? Was it not unto him and his seed that God had given exceeding precious promises: “I will be thy God, and thou and thy seed after thee shall shall be My people”—and, “Unto thee and thy seed after thee will I give this land and thou shalt possess it forever?” And that seed was not merely his son Isaac, which was yet to be born, but, according to the apostle to the Galatians, that seed was Christ, the Hope of everlasting salvation.
Without hesitation Lot should have answered Abram’s proposal to separate from each other, by saying: My dear brother, I agree with you that we should stop our fighting, and we should do everything in our power to make our hostility to cease, but please do not ever suggest that I leave thee. I know that God has placed in thy loins the Hope of salvation, and for me to get out of this land would be to separate myself really from Christ and His Church, even from heaven itself. No, Abram, the very thought of leaving thee would bring me with grey hairs to the grave. Moreover, my dear brother, don’t you see that everywhere I would go, there would be in that place no manifestation of the Church of God. Right here with thee is the only true manifestation of the Church. And of that manifestation I must be and forever remain a living member. How can you even suggest that I should separate myself from thee? And what is more, Abram, if we should go through with this thing, namely, to separate from one another, and you give me the opportunity to choose, I might naturally be inclined to go to the plain of the Jordan because there is much grass and water there. But don’t you see, Abram, that behind that temptation lies the wicked cities? How could I ever leave the Church only for material reasons, and then hope to bring up my family the Lord will give me in that ungodly place? If I should go there and let my light shine, as I would, don’t you see that I would not last for a moment, they would persecute me to the death. But what is more important, how can light and darkness dwell together?
Such, indeed, would have been Lot’s remonstrations if he had stood at the moment on a high spiritual plain. But, alas, his faith was dim, and his spiritual life at a low ebb.
Lot beheld what his flesh wanted him to see, and the sparkle of material gain so blinded his eyes that he could not see the things which are spiritual, and made his ears so deaf that he could no longer hear the Word of God.
So he departs from Abram, and breaks with the Church and all that that implies!
He journeys to the east, pulling up his tent stakes! In itself a beautiful picture of the child of God who is called to be a stranger and a pilgrim in the earth, but only to set up his tent in the camp of wickedness, yea, much worse, to get rid of his tent and every semblance of a pilgrim only to purchase or build a house as a place of permanent abode. (Gen. 19:2-4).
Alas, dear reader, is not this exactly what many children of God are doing today? Seeking material prosperity because the pastures are green and lush, and they desire a life of ease and pleasure, and choose not to live in tents in the arid and stony places where most usually the Church of Christ is found? And is it not so that the doctrine of the antithesis, according to which the Church is to live in the world but never of it, is almost wholly forgotten, or even negated by another philosophy that the Church ought to be some kind of a salt that is going to make the rotten and putrid meat of the world better, or the philosophy that God in His so-called common grace makes the Sodomites good people with whom the people of God may go arm in arm? On the basis of this philosophy has not the Church today lost her distinctive character, and given to her members the license to go hog-wild after the things which are below, so that they have no longer a desire for the things which are above?
Now the story of Lot was not divinely included in the infallible Scriptures simply to tell us what happened to Lot. Rather, it was preserved for our instruction upon whom the ends of the age have come. Nor was this story preserved for us to simply teach us how far a child of God may go without being eternally lost. Rather, it was written that we may learn not to go in the direction Lot went. Indeed, Lot, the child of God, was saved, but it was as by fire in the most literal sense of the word.
Positively, this portion of Scripture teaches us to seek not the things which are perishing, be they ever so intriguing and tempting; but the things which are above, which have abiding value; and to live antithetically, in loving obedience to the will of God, and hating that which is evil as God hates it. And surely not to separate ourselves from the purest manifestation of Christ’s Church, but abide in it as living members—even if by being faithful we shall be required for a time to live with Abram in the dry and rocky places.