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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

One Choice, Many Consequences

God gives man the freedom to make choices but the consequences are out of man’s hands.

Had Eve known that eating the piece of fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would cost her the death of one son, the cursing of another, problems in her marriage, eviction from the garden of Eden, and alienation from God, she would not have eaten the fruit. Consequences are always hidden and later. One bite. Endless number of horrific consequences. The deceitfulness of sin always takes you further than you want to go and keeps you longer than you want to stay, and charges you more than you want to pay. 
When Lot chose to pitch his tent toward the verdant plains of Sodom and Gomorrah he had no idea that his decision would cost him everything that he had (Genesis 13:10-11). The writer of Hebrews warns about the deceitfulness of sin. “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13). A step toward Sodom was a step away from God. 
Lot had no righteous impact on the city of Sodom; boy, did Sodom impact Lot and his family! 
The scene begins with Lot sitting in the gateway of the city. Typically the leaders, in ancient history, sat at the gateway to settle disputes and run the affairs of the city. Lot sees the two angels incognito and insists that they spend the night at his house. It isn’t long after darkness settles over the city that men from the city show up and demand to have sex with them. It is at this point that Sodom’s impact on Lot and his family becomes evident:
  • Lot offers his daughters to the sexual deviants. What kind of father would do that? The angels could defend themselves, his daughters could not. 
  • Though a resident and leader Lot was always an outsider. He is mocked by the men of the city, “now he wants to play judge.” Lot's not the leader of the city that he had thought. 
  • His sons-in-law think that he is joking. In fact, this is probably the first time ever that they’ve heard Lot mention “the LORD”.
  • Lot is a compromiser and tries to negotiate terms with the angels. He is a man driven by fear.
  • Lot’s daughters come up with a sick plan to ensure the continuance of Lot’s lineage. Perhaps they had been watching “Glee” or “Jershey Shore” on TV. No, they were living on the set of those shows!
One step in the wrong direction led to the all of this. One choice. Many consequences. All bad.

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Imperfect Man, Prophet of God
"Now return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die." (Genesis 20:7)

Some people appear in the Bible like a blip on the screen and disappear (Enoch), while others have their entire story told—including the unsavory details. Abraham is one of those people. We know little about his first 75 years except that his family worshiped idols (Joshua 24:2-3). Little of the following 100 years, however, is left to the imagination. 

God appears to Abraham and his barren wife and promises them descendants "as innumerable as the stars of the sky and as immeasurable as the sand by the seashore." Then God does nothing to fulfill His promise for 25 years. Nothing. 

Ten years into the waiting period Sarah has a "good idea" which turned out to be not such a good idea after all. God promises Abraham that He will be his shield. So, at the first sign of trouble, Abraham uses Sarah as a shield to protect himself from Pharaoh and Abimelech. A most curious thing occurs with Abimelech. After rebuking Abimelech for taking Sarah into his harem, God sends him to Abraham for prayer and calls Abraham a prophet. It is a good thing that God calls him a prophet because nothing about his behavior indicates that he is God's prophet. But he is. Because God said so. 

God chooses Abraham and places him on the trajectory to becoming a prophet. This story should encourage each of us as we struggle to appropriate the promises of God. Abraham's story grips our hearts by its frankness and encourages perseverance through failure to become the person that God envisions us. Abraham doesn't allow failure to take him out of the process of becoming all that God had promised.  We shouldn't either.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Genesis 19:1-21:34 
  • How had living in Sodom affected Lot's decision making? 
  • What real attitudes do the citizens manifest toward Lot after the angel's appearance? What does this tell you about Lot's real influence in the city of Sodom? 
  • How had being raised in Sodom affected Lot's daughters? 
  • Read Luke 17:28-30. How does Jesus use the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in His teachings? 
  • Read 2 Peter 2:7. How is Lot described? 
  • Read Ezekiel 16:49-50. Describe the sin of Sodom. How would you compare Sodom's sin with that of the United States? 
  • What prevents believers from becoming the salt and light that God has called them to be in a lost and needy world? 
  • What does God do to protect Sarah? What does this tell you about God?  
  • How does the arrival of Isaac affect Abraham's household? 
  • How does Hagar's second flight differ from her first one 13 years earlier? 
  • How does Sarah's experience with God differ from that of Hagar's? 
  • Read Joshua 24:2-3. Why is Abraham's confession in Gen. 21:33 so significant?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank the Lord that He calls and uses flawed people. Ask Him to help you to have the influence of Abraham, instead of Lot, with those around you.