Were it not for the testimony of Scripture in II Peter 2:7 that Lot vexed his righteous soul, it would be hard to believe that he had a righteous soul. His works did not reflect such a soul. And tracing his life, we see him departing farther and farther into the world. He moved away from Abram because he saw the lush, green fields near Sodom and Gomorrah. But now in Genesis 14 we find him living in the midst of the heathen in Sodom. He is a citizen of the land.
Undoubtedly those lush fields had served him well from a material point of view, and now he, who had much goods and cattle and servants when he departed from Abram—and in fact that was exactly why they had to separate – is now much richer. He can afford a house in Sodom. He can operate from out of the city and have his servants take care of his many cattle and sheep.
But all his riches do not change the fact that he was an ingrate. Nor does it alter the fact that he was an extremely weak believer. He showed no gratitude to Abram who had cared for him ever since his father died. He had a covetous eye. And Paul declares in Ephesians 5:5 that a covetous man is an idolater. One does not simply covet and break the tenth commandment. But a covetous heart leads one to all manner of sin. And it is not at all surprising that Lot, who shamefully treated Abram by choosing the best part of the land, should also make himself at home with the wicked and appear as another idolater.
And, by the way, let it not escape us that the advantages in the world materially are always to be found where the wicked are. That is all that they know and seek. You can be sure that where material advantage is to be found, there you will find the world. So often these earthly goods can be gotten only in fellowship with the world. And Lot does not hesitate to join with wicked men to satisfy his covetous eye and heart.
He was a deserter, and soon enough he experiences what it means to cast one’s lot in with the wicked. When the judgments of God fall on the wicked, those who have joined the wicked can expect to be caught up in the misery of His judgments. Lot joined the world, and Lot suffered the miseries of the world. Four kings to whom tribute had been paid came up with a large army to punish the five kings that refused to pay tribute. And two of these five kings were the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. When Sodom and its inhabitants were captured Lot was taken. The four kings asked no questions. They saw no difference between the Sodomites and Lot. His righteous soul did not show on his face: To them he was an enemy as well as all the rest of the Sodomites. And had his righteous soul shown on his face, it would have made no difference to the four kings and their, army. This was no righteous war. Had it been, Abram would not have come with an army to fight them. He would have presented the case of Lot being a righteous man and pleaded for his release.
But although Lot was an ingrate, Abram was a man with a big heart. He was not vindictive. Well could he have I said, “Let Lot learn a lesson. He treated me shabbily. Now let him know what it means to be numbered with the transgressors. He deserves what he got. He asked for it. I cannot bother myself about the troubles into which he got himself.” This Abram does not do. Such thoughts he never entertained for a moment. When, providentially an escapee brings him word that Lot was taken, he gathers his trained servants at once and goes to rescue Lot.
And behind Abram, of course, was God Who had the tidings brought to Abram. For Lot had not simply sinned against Abram. He sinned against God. And let us remember that when we sin against the neighbor, it always is a sin likewise against God. You can break the first table of the law without breaking the second. But you cannot break the second table without breaking the first at the same time. Hatred towards the neighbor always reveals a hatred towards God Who put that neighbor there.
Similarly, if we love God, we are going to love the neighbor as well. And Abraham loved God and in that love also loved this ungrateful nephew. He is ready to rescue him from the slavery which he deserved because of allying himself with the wicked inhabitants of Sodom.
But, as we began to say, behind, Abram is God, and God loves this weak and faltering child of His covenant. And therein is hope and comfort for you and me. We are not altogether different from Lot. We, too, are ingrates and covetous. Our ties with the world are so often very close. And if salvation depended upon works, we would never enjoy any part of it. But God loves us because He chose us in Christ. And His love is unwavering and unchangeable. He saw to it that Abram heard of Lot’s plight, and He gave Abram the victory when he went with his servants to rescue Lot. While we were yet sinners, also, Christ died for us. How terrible if He had to wait for us to cease being sinners. How hopeless the case would be if that were the condition of our salvation. But even as we see here with Lot who was walking in sin, so it is with us, that God, having chosen us, also loves us and is with us through thick and thin, never forsakes us and rescues us from the awful mess into which we got ourselves. Yes, behind Abram is God, and let us never overlook that fact. There is a God in heaven Who knows all things, and He saw to it that Abram heard of Lot’s plight, because He intended through him to save this deserter of whom Peter can only say that he vexed his righteous soul. He did not do much more than that. But the spark of life God will not allow to go out. And in wonderful mercy He sends Abram to rescue his nephew.
Is that why Abram rescued him? Because there was this blood tie whereby Lot was his nephew? Is that the meaning of the statement in Genesis 14:14 that Abram heard “that his brother was taken captive”? Well, in the literal sense Lot was not his brother but his nephew. That we read in verse 12 when Lot is called Abram’s brother’s son. So we have both statements here. Lot is called Abram’s brother’s son, and he is called Abram’s brother.
The latter undoubtedly refers to a spiritual relationship while the former is the natural physical relationship. Lot was Abram’s spiritual brother. Abram was not looking upon Lot as another man, and as one who was related to him by blood ties. He saw a spiritual connection. He knew Lot as a brother in the Lord. Yes, it grieved Abram that Lot had defected and was living in Sodom, and that he showed so little interest in the things of God’s covenant. But he believed that Lot was a child of God. In fact, it is not at all impossible that Abram still looked to Lot when he thought of the covenant promise of seed like the sand of the seashore. He had no son. They could have no son. And he believed that promise of God. But, as we also do, he looked around to see how God would fulfill that promise and wanted something on which he could fix his natural eye.
This is plain from the next chapter, when Abram somewhat later tells God that his servant Eliezer was his steward, and a little later that one born in his house—and not born of him—was his heir. It is not at all impossible that Abram for a time looked to Lot as the one in whom God would fulfill that promise of children to inherit the land. At any rate, Abram does consider Lot a child of God, and he goes to rescue him for that reason. He feels attracted and attached to Lot because of spiritual and not because of mere material, physical ties.
We do well to remember this lest we go astray in the “social gospel”—which is no gospel—that appeals to this incident as an example of what the church must do for the “brother” in the ghetto and in poverty and suffering from social and economic troubles. There is nothing in the whole incident that allows us so to interpret this event.
Everything in the whole account indicates that Abram had one thing in mind, and that was his brother Lot. Had not Lot lived in Sodom, Abram would not have bothered himself to go and fight the four kings. And do not forget that this was a risky matter for him to do. Here he was living in the land of the Canaanites. They tolerated him because God watched over Abram and would not allow them to touch him. He provided so that Abram could feed his cattle on other men’s land and not be driven off or be killed. But he would cast himself in an entirely different light from the peace-loving shepherd and cattle raiser that they knew him to be, were he to take up sword and attack those who had attacked his spiritual brother. They might take quite a different attitude towards Abram and not tolerate him in their land and see him as a very real threat to their own existence. God would not have this; and having given Abram the victory, He also filled the Canaanites with a certain fear of Abram. But the point is that Abram did what he did only for Lot’s sake.
Abram is not then going into the inner city and the ghetto to do some social improving. He is not moved by a social gospel that declares the calling of the church to be seeking such improvement in man’s material; earthly lot here below.
There is no brotherhood of man that includes all the human race and makes it the church’s calling to improve man’s social standing and earthly standard of living. Physically the whole human race is one brotherhood coming out of the loins of Adam and of Noah. But there is also a spiritual side to consider; and the human race is not one spiritually. As God predicted and promised in Genesis 3:15 there is a sharp two-fold division of the human race into the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. And in that spiritual enmity between these two seeds, of which God there speaks, Abram has no use for the five kings any more than he has for the four which he attacked with his sword.
It is the member of the church of God that interests Abram, and it is for his sake that God uses Abram to rescue him and restore him and his goods back into the land of Canaan.
Do not misunderstand. As individuals we surely have a calling to help the neighbor in his distress. The law requires that of us. We are to do unto others what we would like to have them do unto us. But the gospel of the kingdom is not that the church has such a calling to strive for social improvements and security. The church’s calling is to preach the gospel of salvation from our sins. We hear far too little about sin; and the cross of Christ as the atonement of our sins does not come to its own today. And those who appeal to this incident in the life of Abram and Lot for support of their social gospel reveal how desperate they are for some purported proof of their contention. It is a spiritual brother that Abram rescues, and it is his spiritual wellbeing that is behind this bold piece of violence performed by Abram to rescue him. A social gospel that appeals to this event must take the consequences of teaching that the church—or the individual member of the church—may take the sword in order to realize his social improvements.