Genesis 19 is one of the most sordid, controversial chapters of the Bible. As such, it’s not often seen as a fount of wisdom.
Yet, a perfectly timely spiritual message is in this narrative.
Before “the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire,” an angel warned Lot to take his family and “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed” (Genesis 19:17)
Was Lot’s response to act like Peter and Andrew, who, upon being called to the ministry, “straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matt. 4:20)? Or like Alma, who was abused and rejected as a minister in one city, but after leaving was instructed by an angel to go back and persist, so “he returned speedily to the land of Ammonihah” (Alma 8:18)?
No. Lot’s immediate instinct wasn’t obedience, but quibbling and negotiation: “And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord…. I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die” (19:21-22).
Not only did he decline to follow the angel’s clear counsel, he proposed following his own inclinations: “Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.” (19:20)
The angel reluctantly allowed Lot to do as he pleased.
One is reminded here of Joseph Smith pestering the Lord in repeated prayer about letting Martin Harris have the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon transcript, despite the Lord’s unambiguous answer in the negative. Eventually, the Lord gave in to the pleading, and we all know how that turned out.
As the promised destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah proceeded, Lot had to more or less do as the angel advised, anyway, just to survive: “And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.” (19:30)
What was the fallout of Lot’s hesitation to immediately obey the angel?
His wife suffered: she “looked back” at Sodom and Gomorrah and “became a pillar of salt.” (19:26)
His daughters suffered: perhaps thinking that humanity was now extinct, they tricked their father into acts of incest. (19:31-38)
His family having completely fallen apart, Lot most certainly suffered.
Why would Lot have favored his own ideas over that of an angel in the first place? Perhaps he wasn’t taking his faith very seriously at that point, as implied in Genesis 19:14: “And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.” (emphasis added)
Lot may have been outwardly faithful, but may it have been a case of going through the motions only? Look what danger lies in that. Insincere service doesn’t work.
Ultimately, the lesson for us is clear:
- When authorized leaders from God tell us to do something,
2. such as flee the world and go to the mountain,
we need to listen and obey.