Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lot's Door - Open and Closed

Today is the second day of the second week of our "Read the Bible Through in a Year" adventure.  I hope that you're staying on track.  I've been impressed with how many people have told me that they're along for the ride, and I pray that the Lord will bless it.

Today's scriptures are Genesis 19-20, Mark 7, and Psalm 1.  There is a lot here that I could talk about, and I don't have time to go into all of it.

Today I'd like to talk about the theme of opening and closing in the Genesis passage.

In the story of Lot, our antihero discovers two travelers in the town square of Sodom.  He knows how dangerous the city is, so he opens his home to the visitors and gives them shelter.  It's not clear whether either Lot or the residents of Sodom recognize the strangers as angels at this point, but there must have been something remarkable about them to elicit a response like the one garnered by the citizens.  They gather at the Lot's house, and demand to have sex with the travelers.

Here, the doorway to Lot's house becomes a symbol of the doorway to our hearts--at one time open to receiving divine messengers and messages, and at the next moment a place of danger.  Just as Lot welcomed the angels, so we can open our hearts to God's truth.  But then the enemy comes, demanding entrance as well.  Lot makes the mistake that many of us make--he goes to his door, opens it, and bargains with evil.  This doesn't make any sense.  Once you've got angels in your house, why would you bargain with evil?  But we do it all the time.  Believers who have received Jesus into their hearts flirt with temptation and the devil on a daily basis.

Finally, the angels reach through the door, pull him back inside, and close the door.  We must realize that in our own foolishness and weakness, we are incapable of saying no to the tempter.  Human nature makes us want to go to the door and open it to the Evil One.  Only God can pull us back to a place of safety.  We can't do it ourselves.  The citizens tried to break down Lot's door when the angels closed it against them.  So the Tempter would like to break down your defenses.  He wants nothing more than to get you to open your heart to him.  Like the Big Bad Wolf, Satan would love to huff and puff and blow down our house of faith.  But thank God that "he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4 ESV)."  Just as the angels closed the eyes of the attackers, so God in you has the power to render Satan's assaults useless...if you will trust Him.

In this story, Lot's door opens one more time--to permit his family to escape from the land of temptation altogether.  Sometimes God provides defenses against temptation.  James 4:7 (ESV) says, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."  But at other times, evil is so great and so threatening that you must "flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV)."  2 Timothy 2:22 (ESV) says, "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart."  If you're struggling with temptation today, click here to find a great list of Bible verses that can get you out of hot water right now.  You've got to know when to barricade yourself against the attacks of Satan, and when it's best to just get out of there!  Whatever you do, don't open the door to him and bargain with the Tempter.  His bargaining skills are always better than yours.  Only God can get you out of the kind of trouble that bargaining with the devil causes.

It's too bad that Psalm 1 hadn't been written yet, for Lot to have learned from it.  Perhaps the author of this psalm was thinking about Lot's predicament when he wrote:

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

When Lot parted company from Abraham, he decided to pitch his tent near Sodom.  He didn't make his home in the city--because at the time Abraham's righteous influence had been enough to give him the wisdom he needed.  He knew to keep his distance from such wickedness.  Yet, he was so enticed by their behavior, or by their economy, or whatever it was that drew him, that eventually we see Lot sitting in the gate (a place of influence where the town council would meet with the city elders).  He started out walking in the counsel of the wicked.  Then he must have paused to consider whether their counsel was true, and stood in their path.  Finally, he took his seat among them and would have fully become one of them, but for the mercy of God.

What will it take to keep you from a downward spiral into the world's system of rebellion and sin?  Psalm 1 says you need to plant yourself like a tree by the nourishing water of God's Word, and meditate on it day and night.  I pray that as you read the Bible through this year, that you will be...

like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that [you do, you will] prosper.

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