Genesis 19:16

Sermon preached on July 20, 2014 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

When I was growing up, especially during the years I played Little League Baseball—one of my favorite things to do was to play catch with my friends. All you needed was two guys to throw the ball back to each other. We would sometimes throw the ball back and forth in the normal way. Sometime we would throw grounders to each other. We would intersperse that with throwing it high in the air to each other. It was a lot of fun. One day I went down to one of my friends house to do that with him. It was either in the spring or the fall. I remember that because my friend's father was either putting up or taking down storm windows. When I arrived he had the storm windows leaning up against a saw horse or something like that. I never even noticed them. It wasn't until a little bit later that I became aware of their presence. Mr. J. wasn't around, he must have been in the basement getting tools or putting them away. So my friend come out and we started playing catch. It didn't take long before one of us missed the ball and it went hurtling toward one of the storm windows. It was at that moment that I first became aware of the storm windows. The ball went crashing through one of the windows. I think my first reaction was to run away because I was expecting to get yelled at. That was sort of the default thing to do in a situation like that. But I didn't. It was my friends house and I knew I would be caught out. It was just a few seconds before Mr. J. came out of the house and looked at the broken window. I was expecting to get yelled at. That was the standard thing back then for a situation like that. A few years earlier, when I was really small, we had one neighbor that we used to call, "Cranky the Mankie". He was building his house himself and we kids always used to play around the dug out foundation. It was a great playground. Whenever he came and found us there he would yell at us and chase us away. I think he was concerned about our safety but at the time we thought he was just cranky. So when we broke that window I expected to get yelled at, not only by my friend's father, but by my dad when Mr. J. phoned and told him what I had done.

But the thing that surprised me was that Mr. J. didn't yell at us. He was very kind and gentle. He called us over and sat us down and I still remember the quiet tone of his voice as he spoke to us. He asked us why we would play catch right in front of the storm windows. He didn't understand that because we had the whole yard to play in and they had a really big yard. When we told him that we hadn't even noticed the windows he told us to be more considerate in the future. That was it. No scolding. No shouting at us. He didn't even call my dad and tell him. He didn't make me pay for the window. He showed mercy to me. I still remember that.

An old Highland shepherd commented on the words from Psalm 23, 'surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life', with these words,

"What do I think of when I think of goodness and mercy? I think of the fellows taking their sheep home, walking down the road there with their sticks. The sheep are coming behind them, and behind the sheep are the two dogs, and one is called Goodness and the other is called Mercy. You watch them; sheep being what they are, when the shepherd's back is turned, they'll try and sneak off the road. You see a sheep on one side, and off it goes trying to get back to the pasture and the mountains. Without even the shepherd whistling, what happens? Goodness runs out and circles the sheep and turns it back into the flock and into the path of God. Then, a little further along the road, another one will do the same, or two or three will do it, and there you will see Mercy running out and turning the sheep back too. Ah! They are two lovely dogs, Goodness and Mercy."

That shepherd had a good understanding of goodness and mercy. Yet one of the sad facts about human beings today is that we underappreciate the mercy of God. We underappreciate it in so many ways. On the one hand we don't think about it and praise God for it like we should. We take God's mercy for granted. Very few Christians get up in the morning and bring to mind the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22–23,

"Because of the LORD'S great love
we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

We usually don't think in those terms. In his great book, Knowing God, J. I. Packer wrote, (p. 130)

"For modern men and women are convinced that, despite all their little peccadilloes—drinking, gambling, reckless driving, sexual laxity, black and white lies, sharp practice in trading, dirty reading, and what have you—they are at heart thoroughly good folks."

We think we're good folks so we don't think about God's mercy. We receive it and we're ungrateful for it.

But even worse than not thinking about God's mercy and praising Him for it, we tramp it underfoot and we don't practice mercy ourselves.

The man that Jesus healed in John 5 is perhaps

an example of trampling it underfoot. The man used to sit by the pool near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. An angel would stir the water from time to time and the first person who got in the water after the stirring would be healed. Jesus healed a lame man there. A little later the religious leaders were upset because the man was carrying his mat on the Sabbath. When they asked him why he was carrying his mat on the Sabbath, he told them that the man who healed him told him to pick up his mat and walk. He didn't know it was Jesus who healed him so he couldn't tell them who it was. Later Jesus found him and said to him, (John 5:14–15)

"'See, you are well. Do not sin anymore,
so that something worse doesn't happen to you.'
The man went and reported to the Jews
that it was Jesus who had made him well."

Isn't that incredible? The man who had been healed knew that the religious leaders were opposed to Jesus, and yet he went and gave them more ammunition to use against Him. Jesus healed him. Instead of gratitude toward Jesus (like the blind man who was healed in John 9) this man went and, I believe, betrayed Jesus to the authorities.

We misuse God's mercy in other ways. We don't show mercy to our fellow human beings. We're just like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18. He owed his master 10,000 talents and had no way to pay it back. His master was going to sell him, his wife and children and everything he had to pay the debt. But the man pleaded with his master and his master forgave him the debt. That slave then went out and grabbed him a fellow slave who owed him 100 denarii. A denarii is thought to have been a laborers wages for a days work in those days. So the second debt was not insignificant. He owed him 100 days wages. But compared to the debt he was forgiven—there were 6000 denarii to a talent, so the first guy's debt was, if my math is correct, 600,000 times greater than that of his fellow slave.

But that's what we do. God is so merciful to us—forgiving us such great sins, and yet we are so unmerciful to people who sin against us.

In our text we have an example of God's mercy, his mercy to Lot in Sodom. We read,

"When he hesitated,
the men grasped his hand and the hands
of his wife and of his two daughters
and led them safely out of the city,
for the Lord was merciful to them."

This text has much to teach us about mercy. We need to take it to heart because mercy is unknown to our sinful nature. The concept of mercy has many sides to it. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament there are many different Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as, 'mercy' and together they contribute to our understanding of this concept. The Hebrew word used here that is translated 'merciful', (Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 16–50, WBC 2; p. 57)

"often has the nuance of "sparing from death".

The idea is of sparing someone who deserves to be punished. For example, we see this word used in a negative way in Ezekiel 9:10, when God gave orders for the idolaters in Jerusalem to be put to death. God said,

"So I will not look on them with pity or spare them,
but I will bring down on their own heads
what they have done."

God would not spare them, he would not show mercy to them. They deserved punishment and He was going to punish them. So when this word is used in a positive sense, it often has the meaning of sparing when the person really deserves to be punished, even deserves to die. Herman Bavinck classifies this mercy as an aspect of, (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, p. 213)

"The goodness of God, which spares those who are deserving of punishment…"

Thus we see that the aspect of mercy that we see in our text consists of

showing love and kindness toward those who are worthy of punishment.

God was showing mercy to people who deserved to be punished.

Lot's sons-in-law didn't deserve to be saved from the fire and brimstone—they thought that Lot was joking.

Lot's wife didn't deserve to be rescued from the city. The angels told them to flee for their lives and not look back. She looked back. This was in direct contradiction to the Word of the Lord. She did exactly what the angels told her not to do. Her heart wasn't right before God.

Lot's daughters didn't deserve to be saved. 2 Peter 2:8 tells us that Lot was a righteous man who was,

"tormented in his righteous soul by
the lawless deeds he saw and heard."

His daughters apparently did not have the same character as their father. Their subsequent actions in the mountains toward their father were very despicable and showed that their moral character was very low. They showed that they didn't deserve to be spared when Sodom was destroyed.

Lot didn't deserve to be saved. Lot was a follower of God. He was a righteous man who was grieved by the sins of the people of Sodom. Yet when the angels said to him, (Genesis 19:15)

"Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters
who are here, or you will be swept away
when the city is punished."

Lot didn't hurry. He hesitated. They gave him clear warning and he didn't listen. They had to grab him by the hand and lead them out of the city.

Now someone may say,

"Wait a minute! Hesitating is not that big a sin. You're not going to tell me that Lot's hesitation was so bad that it made it so that he was worthy to die in Sodom?"

Yes, I am.

We may tend to think that Lot's sin was relatively minor. As fallen human beings we tend to minimize sin. But we should not.

Moses' sin

I've sometimes thought that Moses' sin, striking the rock twice to bring water out of it, was a little mistake, a minor sin. God told Moses to speak to the rock to bring water out. Instead Moses struck the rock twice. Because of that sin Moses wasn't allowed to enter the promised land. Because of that sin Moses died in the wilderness.

Was Moses' action a minor mistake? Was it a minor sin? No. God said to Moses and Aaron after it, (Numbers 20:12)

"Because you did not trust in me enough
to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites,
you will not bring this community
into the land I give them."

By His actions Moses didn't honor God. He did that in front of the whole community. His sin was not minor but major.

In the same way, by hesitating Lot was despising not only the Word of the Lord but the mercy of the Lord. This is evident from the verse itself. Our text says that God was merciful to Lot. We've shown that the definition of mercy is showing compassion to someone who doesn't deserve to be spared.

But the bigger picture also shows us the seriousness of Lot's sin. Lot's hesitation was much greater than appears on the surface. This is clear from what the angel said when Lot requested to enter Zoar. The angel replied, (verses 21–22)

"Very well, I will grant this request
too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of.
But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything
until you reach it."

Let that sink in. What this tells us is that

Lot's hesitation was delaying God's righteous wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah.

Earlier in Sodom the angels had told Lot to hurry and get out of the city. God's appointed time for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah had come. God told the angels to destroy the city. He told them the time. He also told them to rescue Lot.

But Lot's hesitation was delaying his departure, which was delaying the destruction of the city. His hesitation was not a little thing. From one perspective one could say it was a wrench in the timing of God's righteous plans. The time had come for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot was still there. Even when he left the city, Lot still being near them was interfering with God's plans. The angel couldn't do anything until Lot reached the city.

God has a timetable for things. Our obedience to God's commands is designed to bring about God's timetable at its proper time. For example, Exodus 12:41 tells us,

"At the end of the 430 years, to the very day,
all the LORD'S divisions left Egypt."

God had a plan for the Israelites to leave Egypt on the exact day they had entered Egypt 430 years earlier. God gave commands to His ancient people so that their obedience would bring the timetable to pass.

2 Peter 3:12 tells us Christians that we Christians are to look forward to the day of God,

"and speed its coming."

By being obedient, by being faithful witnesses, by bringing in the harvest, we speed it coming. But what we must not do is be disobedient and seemingly, delay its coming.

It won't really delay God's plans. God is sovereign and He will bring His plan to pass no matter what. If Queen Esther was too cowardly to go to the King, Mordecai told her that deliverance for the Jews would come from someone else and that she would perish. The point is though, that God wants to use us, our obedience, for the timely fulfillment of His glorious plans.

There are four great lessons for us from this text.

First, how important it is that you obey God promptly.

There is often much more at stake in our obedience or disobedience than what is obvious to us. Lot's hesitation clearly shows us that.

There are other examples in Scripture. In the first chapter of Job we see that Job was involved in a great contest between God and Satan. Angels and demon were watching this contest between Satan and God's grace.

In 1 Corinthians 4:9 the apostle Paul said,

"For it seems to me that God has put us apostles
on display at the end of the procession,
like men condemned to die in the arena.
We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe,
to angels as well as to men."

Your prompt obedience to God is important. God has a timetable. He will use your prompt obedience for the glory of your great Savior Jesus. Always remember the bigger picture. Your little sins are not insignificant.

Secondly, have you taken hold of God's mercy in Jesus?

What about you? Have you gone to Jesus for mercy? You're a sinner. You don't deserve to be spared. Do you recognize that?

You need to. If there is going to be any hope of you escaping the wrath to come to need to realize you don't deserve to be spared. You need Jesus.

Don't minimize your sin. Realize how bad it is. Realize that you need someone to save you.

I think I told you before about Marg's friend who rejected Christianity because he rightly understood that a little old lady who had lived a fairly good life could go to hell and someone like the criminal on the cross could go to heaven. He minimized the sin of the little old lady.

We don't see the bigger picture, we don't see the implications of what we consider 'little sins'.

But there is hope for you if you go to Jesus. There was mercy for Lot and there can be mercy for you. John Calvin says,

"the mercy of God strove with the sluggishness of Lot; for, if left to himself, he would, by lingering, have brought down upon his own head the destruction which was already near. Yet the Lord not only pardons him, but, being resolved to save him, seizes him by the hand, and draws him away, although making resistance."

There's nothing like the mercy of God. Herman Bavinck writes, (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, p. 214)

"God's goodness is much more glorious when it is shown to those who only deserve evil."

Thirdly, I ask you,

are you showing mercy to others?

How are you responding to the mercy of God—with great mercy to others? Or are you like the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18?

Are you willing to accept that God saves people who have committed the worst crimes? Are you willing to be merciful to accept them?

If someone like the criminal on the cross who Jesus forgave came to our church—would you accept them or would you wish, because of their bad background, that they would go somewhere else? For a Christian there's only one answer to that.

Lastly, I ask you,

are you appreciating the mercy that God shows you every day?

Day after day God spares you. Day after day God does not treat you as your sins deserve.

Are you praising God for his continuous mercies to you? Are you telling others about His mercies, proclaiming them to all around you. That's what you should be doing. Isaiah 63:7 says,

"I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD,
the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all the LORD has done for us—yes,
the many good things he has done for the house of Israel,
according to his compassion and many kindnesses."

May God give us grace that we may do that.