Peter’s last example of God’s righteous judgment, longsuffering patience, and gracious mercy was the Lord’s rescue of Lot, a “righteous man,” though there is very little in his story that would seem to indicate righteousness.
To his credit, he seemed to immediately recognize the messengers of the Lord as important people he needed to protect. When he realized who (and what) they were, he pleaded with the men of Sodom not to harm them.
But, he offered his own daughters as fodder for their depraved intentions, in a failed attempt to stave them off. The angels instead supernaturally struck the entire writhing mob with blindness. Yet, when the angels urged Lot and his wife to flee, they both wavered and wrung their hands with indecision all night long, until finally the angels
seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city.Genesis 19:16 (NRSV)
Lot and His Daughters
It is the final story concerning Lot that is perhaps the most distressing, and most damning.
Now Lot went up out of Zoar and settled in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar; so he lived in a cave with his two daughters.
And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the world. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.”
So they made their father drink wine that night; and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she rose.
On the next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Look, I lay last night with my father; let us make him drink wine tonight also; then you go in and lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.” So they made their father drink wine that night also; and the younger rose, and lay with him; and he did not know when she lay down or when she rose.
Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.
The firstborn bore a son, and named him Moab; he is the ancestor of the Moabites to this day.
The younger also bore a son and named him Ben-ammi; he is the ancestor of the Ammonites to this day.Genesis 19:30-38 (NRSV)
Think carefully in how to read this story.
Lot may not have known when his daughters came into him, and when they left. But he was not so inebriated that he was unable to function. He knew what he was doing.
One interesting strand that ties Noah and Lot together is drunkenness. I have not made a study of it, but there are a number of passages in the scriptures that warn against being so in one’s cups as to be, basically, plastered. Here are just a few examples from the Hebrew scriptures and Christian testament.
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,Proverbs 20:1 (NRSV)
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
“Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink— you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness!”Habakkuk 2:15 (NRSV)
let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.Apostle Paul, Romans 13:13 (NRSV)
Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit,Apostle Paul, Ephesians 5:17-19 (NRSV)
Drinking wine and strong spirits is not the issue.
In fact, God invited Israel to the Lord’s table to enjoy freely the feast God provided, saying,
With the money secure in hand, go to the place that the Lord your God will choose; spend the money for whatever you wish—oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your household rejoicing together.God, Deuteronomy 14:25-26 (NRSV)
No, the problem is getting wasted.
Dead drunk—at least that is what Noah was, passed out in his tent when “his nakedness was uncovered” by one of his sons. It is unclear what -exactly- was meant by that phrase, but most agree it had a sexual component to it.
Both Noah and Lot lived in cultures so corrupt they and their families alone remained who knew God and put their faith in the Lord. The narrative remembers Noah as a
righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.Genesis 6:9 (NRSV)
Peter described Lot as a
righteous man . . . tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.2 Peter 2:8 (NRSV)
It complicates things, does it not? When scripture specifically describes these two men as righteous, then carefully records their drunkenness and sexual deviance.
What are we to make of that?
Jesus also spoke of Noah and Lot
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them.
Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them—
it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife.
Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.Jesus, Luke 17:26-33 (NRSV)
What was the difference between Noah and everyone else? Only one thing. He got into the ark.
What was the difference between Lot and everyone else? Only one thing. He got out of Sodom.
It is stunning in its simplicity.
But that is the pith of the Gospel.
Was Lot a Righteous Man?
Even though it is certainly difficult to see Lot in that light, we have the words of scripture!
The Apostle Paul’s first letter to the believers in Corinth, however, gives us a way to understand both the gracious mercy of God’s judgment and also what Peter meant by the “righteous.”
No one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done.
If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.
If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NRSV)
Lot was such a man, who willingly (if very reluctantly) reached out to take hold of the rescue God offered. He put his faith in God, and God honored that.
This is a great comfort to you and me today who wonder if we are “good enough,” or if we are “worthy” of God’s love, of redemption through Jesus.
To be righteous in the Lord means to put our faith in God and to take hold of the rescue God holds out to us.
[Lot und seine Töchter | By Guercino – https://skd-online-collection.skd.museum/Details/Index/313073, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83092939%5D