A Study of GENESIS 19:12-26

We will all find ourselves trapped in an unhealthy setting at some time or another. While we may have done nothing to contribute to our predicament, we need a recovery plan if we are to avoid catastrophe. Examples of precarious situations for individuals could involve marital problems or difficulties at work. Companies, communities and even nations, meanwhile, could be threatened by a falling economy, or a collapse of peace. As we examine the passage, we see elements of God’s plan for us unfolding. Pastor Paul shows how it includes at least five crucial steps. But remember this: While it is a given God desires that all people be saved, salvation is possible only if we ourselves are open to it. We must be prepared to take the necessary steps to achieve it. There will be obstacles, and overcoming them will not be not easy. But those who are committed to following God’s plan can be saved.

Pastor Paul from the pulpit

John 3:16 &17 says,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whosoever believed in Him might not perish, but have eternal life. God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

From the beginning, God has had a plan for the world’s salvation and deliverance. Throughout Scripture, we see repeatedly God revealing His plan and making it available to all.

Before the famine that devastated Egypt and the surrounding regions, God revealed to Joseph through a dream that there would be seven years of plenty, and seven years of famine. God instructed him to store up grain during the years of plenty so that there might be something to eat during the years of famine. God always has a plan.

God told Moses ahead of the Exodus that Pharaoh’s heart would become hardened before he would let the children of Israel leave Egypt. But He also said the Pharaoh would ultimately let them go following a series of plagues. God always has a plan.

God spoke through the prophets let the people know that the exile would last for a specific period of time, and that there would subsequently be a king who would show them favor, and return them to their homeland. Cyrus the king of Persia gave orders to return the exiles to their homeland. God always has a plan.

These are just a few examples of how God always plans for the salvation, deliverance and recovery of His people. Note also that God’s plan for dealing with the famine changed the course for an entire region. His plan for the exodus affected an entire group of people. His plan for dealing with the exile affected an entire nation.

This thread is consistently woven throughout Scripture, and it emerges in our text. Two men – believed to be God-sent angelic beings – approach Lot and ask him about other family members living in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Here we see God’s concern for an entire family, but He also offers them a plan.

The same plan can be applied to our lives. There will be times when individuals, families, churches, organizations, businesses and other entities will find themselves in an unhealthy environment. We may have done nothing to contribute to the surrounding situational “sickness,” yet it is imperative that we find a plan for recovery – or run the risk of being consumed and destroyed.

There are at least FIVE STEPS for RECOVERY in the passage:

Step one is to undergo a Reality Check – and this needs to take place ahead of the recovery or intervention. In verses 12-14, we read that God sent two men to Lot to inform him he must get out before it is too late. The encounter between Lot and the men of God points to the need for a reality check. We have all heard horror stories from victims of domestic abuse. When you ask them why they did not leave when they had the chance, they say it was not that bad at first; or they believed things would improve; or they were afraid to leave.

Sometimes we can become comfortable in an unhealthy situation, deluding ourselves into believing it is not that bad or, if we stick it out, things will eventually improve.

God’s intervention reveals that, before we can change unhealthy habits or circumstances, God first needs to open our eyes. It is hard to give up something that does not seem to be overtly causing us pain.

It is also noteworthy that, after opening Lot’s eyes to his distressing situation, the men of God made him responsible for telling his family. In verse 14, Lot speaks with his prospective sons-in-law, who flatly reject him.

After our eyes are opened, it is our responsibility to share with others what God has revealed. We are not responsible for the actions of others, but we are responsible for raising their level of awareness.

Our job is not to convince people, but – to borrow a line from Dragnet – provide “just the facts.” We are to give them the facts. God brings us out of the dark so that we can, in turn, provide help that enables others to come into the light.

Step two is to recognize God’s Timetable. In verse 15, the angelic beings urged Lot to take his family and go. Timing is important; it can determine whether you will succeed or not. The question of timing often arises when we are faced with making a major decision. According to the text, the right time is when God says so. But how do we know it is God who is communicating with us?

The Hebrew word for urge is transliterated “uwts” and pronounced uts. It means to press anyone on something. It carries the idea of leaning on someone, dogging them, or putting pressure on them. We know it is God when we feel Him leaning on us, dogging us, or putting pressure on us.

When God wants us to act, God will put pressure on us until we do.

When I have been lackadaisical about actions I needed to take, God caused me to feel very uncomfortable in my own skin. God constantly returned to my memory that thing I needed to do. The interesting thing about doing things on God’s timetable is that they always work out.

Step three is to be prepared to take on a Leadership role. As Lot hesitated, the men of God grasped his hand and the hands of his family and led them to safety. Here we see that leadership is both divine and human. God appoints men and women to lead families, nations, organizations, churches, communities, and other entities.

Leadership is important to God, because He wants everyone to be on the same page.

Breakdowns occur when people within a group start moving in different directions.

– In marriage, we hear of couples who, over the course of their relationship, grew apart because they were moving in different directions.

Businesses fail when management is moving one way, and those under their purview move in another.

Countries fall into civil war when the people decide on one course, and governmental leaders seek another.

To combat these divisions, God raises up godly leaders to reunite people, and to provide direction and correction when necessary.

Step four tells that God includes Prohibitions in his plan. In verse 17, the men of God give Lot and his family two directives: Do not look back, and do not stop.

There is a natural tendency for people or groups in transition to compare. We compare new and former supervisors, and new and former partners. We also compare where we are now to where we were five, 10, or 15 years ago.

Comparisons are not necessarily a bad thing, but they can open the door to a host of unhealthy emotions, memories and feelings.

Once the door has been opened, it is difficult to close it. My grandmother used to say,

– “You know what you have, but you have no idea what you are getting.”

I am sure that part of Lot’s hesitation derived from uncertainty about where he was going, and the speed with which he was being urged to move. Periods of transition bring moments of reflection, which is healthy. It has been said,

– “Those who fail to remember are doomed to repeat.”

The commands to neither stop nor look back were a caution against becoming nostalgic and waxing poetic about the past, because doing so is problematic. The fact is that the past is behind us, and there is nothing we can do about it.

Dwelling on the past will serve only to distract us from focusing on where we are headed.

Remembering the “good old days” leads us to long for those times, and subsequently to become trapped in the past. As long as we are trapped in the past, we cannot live in the present and move toward the future.

The biggest problem with looking back is that it leads us to making excuses to justify the limitations we place on ourselves in the present.

In verses 18-20, God has set one destination for Lot and his family. But Lot comes up with a thousand reasons why they will not reach that destination. The seven final words of a dying entity are,

– “We’ve never done it that way before.”

Step five of God’s plan is Choice. In verses 21 & 22, the men of God grant Lot’s request and add,

– “I cannot do anything until you reach it.”

I have counseled many students who desire to go from freshman to senior in six months. The reality is that moving from one stage to another is a process. Of course, we can hasten the process by doing more, or we can draw the process out by doing less. The choice is ours. One of the blessings of college life is that students have advisors, and it is their duty to help the student develop a plan that will set out their course. The advisor only offers counsel, and lays out the big picture. It is up to the student to find the motivation necessary to complete their coursework in the allotted time. God will allow us to determine how far we go and how long we take to get there. However, we need to understand that nothing will happen until we reach our appointed destination. You cannot graduate until you reach graduation day.

God allows us to make choices, but He also attaches consequences to what we decide.

Poor choices lead to painful consequences. Verse 26 depicts someone who made a poor choice. Lot’s wife violated the prohibitions when she stopped and looked back. It is difficult to overcome a heart and mind that are stuck in the past as you seek to move ahead. Lot’s wife reminds us of how costly it can be to a marriage, a church, a family, or a business when we are not completely onboard or with everyone else. But while those who choose to go their own way may damage the entity, they damage themselves more so because they forfeit potential blessings and character-building experiences.

We are also reminded that not everyone will be on the same page. But those who have a different agenda, which is sometimes hidden, will ultimately find it leads to their undoing.

Still, God has given us the power to determine our destiny, and a plan to show us how to reach it. God has made available both divine and human aid to ensure our success.

Will we accept God’s plan, or reject it?

Sunday 24 May 2009

May God Bless You

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