Jerk or Just?

Gobstopped by Grace

There once was a man who lived in a fairly nasty place surrounded by pretty horrible people. To keep some special guests from harm, he once offered his daughters to the neighbors as sex toys for the night.

Later those daughters got him drunk so they could have his babies.

And God called him righteous.

Okay, there are some things in the Bible that I just don’t get.

To me, Lot sounds like a major jerk.

I think Hollywood did all of those old movies about David and Bathsheba and Samson 1951_DavidAndBathshebaand Delilah in order to push a few boundaries in the guise of a (highly embellished) Bible story.

Mr. DeMille wouldn’t have touched Lot with a 10-foot pole. Homosexual group orgies, rape and incest wouldn’t have gone over well in the fifties. That would be a hard sell even now.

There is a whole lot of good meaty material in Genesis 13, 14, 18 and 19 that I would love to cover but you would run out of coffee long before I ran out of words. So we’ll save the cool comparisons of Noah and Lot, the study of Lot’s wife, the results of the sins of his daughters and the righteousness of Abraham for another time.

As it is, you may want to heat up your cup or pop some popcorn because we have some good stuff coming up.

As I have studied this, I have come across commentators who try to point out some of Lot’s better attributes. Frankly, I think they’re stretching it. The Bible doesn’t editorialize on his actions. It just states them.

  • He was offered his choice of land in Genesis 13 and took it. Selfish or forward-thinking? Doesn’t say.
  • He lived in a sin-filled, utterly depraved city and sat in its gates, indicating a position of leadership. (Genesis 19:1) Light-bearer or compromiser? Doesn’t say.
  • He protected his guests at risk to himself. (Gen. 19:6, 9-10)
  • He offered his virgin daughters to a crowd of perverted men. (Gen. 19:8)
    Now this is a huge example of the grace of God because, had it been up to me, ol’ Lot never would have gotten back in that door.

Lest you think God was okay with that unconscionable suggestion, read Judges 19-20. More than 65,000 men were killed because of the death of one young woman placed in a similar situation. God is not okay with the abuse of women. He does not condone it and He never has.

  • He begged to stay in a city rather than go to the mountains as he was told. (Gen. 19:17-23)
    Um, seriously? Ignore advice from angels?
  • He got so drunk two nights in a row that both of his daughters had sex with him in order to get pregnant. The Bible also clearly states he was unaware of their actions. (Gen. 19:30-36)
    Only the Bible can convince me of protestations to that effect.
  • He trusted that two men he had never met were messengers of God, gathered his family, urged his daughters’ fiances to come along and left everything he had to go with them. (Gen. 19:14)
    He has me beat on this one. He welcomed those guys into his home from the start. I’m much more cynical than he was.

Plenty of facts with little commentary. But here is one little phrase, a gem almost hidden in the middle of verse 16:

“And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”

Merciful.

And that leads us into the really interesting part about Lot.

You see, the Bible is full of really creepy weird people who were far too barbaric to make it into a Cecil B. DeMille epic. (Like the guys in Judges.) But  2 Peter 2:5-8 places unlikely Lot in a list of distinction with a favored few.

“For if God…did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8(for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—9then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.”

What??

There are precious few people in the Bible other than Jesus that God calls righteous.

  • Noah (Gen. 6:9, 7:1)
  • Joseph (Matt. 1:19)
  • Abel (Matt. 23:35, Heb. 11:4)
  • John the Baptist (Mark 6:20)
  • Elizabeth & Zacharias (Luke 1:6)
  • Simeon – who blessed Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:25)
  • Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:50)
  • Cornelius the centurion (Acts 10:22)

And Lot.

To me, saying Lot is a big, fat jerk is putting it nicely. If you told me your husband offered your daughters up like that, I’d be on my way over with the firing squad.

And God called him righteous.

I’ve really wrestled with this one. Nothing is in the Bible by accident and I am certain that God didn’t give us this sordid little story of a sorry little man just to gross us out. Or even for the sole purpose of warning us of the dire consequences of unrepentant debauchery. Otherwise, why include Lot in the tale?

Do you know the meaning of Lot’s name in Hebrew?

Covering. Veil.

And here is where I quit getting upset about Lot and start getting excited about God.

Lot is the perfect Old Testament representation of New Testament grace.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

You see, there is someone else in the New Testament called righteous.

Me.

I’ve often thought about my own years spent in places I shouldn’t be, living a life a child of God had no business living. And I read that then and now, as His forgiven child, I am covered in His righteousness.

Me.

“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed…through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” (Romans 5:21-28)

Justified. It means “declared righteous.”

Lot isn’t listed in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. The Bible doesn’t tell us anywhere that he did great things or that he had wonderful faith.

It tells us he was “oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked” and that his “righteous soul” was “tormented.”

Oppressed is also translated as distressed (HCSB), tormented (NIV, NLT), driven nearly out of his mind (MSG).

The Greek word means to wear down (Strong’s); to tire down with toil, exhaust with labor;  to afflict or oppress with evils; to make trouble for; to treat roughly.

It is only used in one other passage in Scripture and deals with slavery.

“Now when he [Moses] was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian.” (Acts 7:24)

Turns out ol’ Lot the jerk and I have a good bit in common. Oppressed, worn down, afflicted and pulled out by a merciful God.

Are you living in a place of oppression, in a life of slavery?

My friend, you have been set free, redeemed, declared righteous! A merciful God is tugging at your hand!

Just as God declared Lot righteous and saved him from the fire reigned down on Sodom and Gomorrah…

“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Romans 3:9)

Justified. Declared righteous!

Lot was afflicted, oppressed, worn out and worn down by what the Bible calls the outrageous conduct and lewdness of those who break through the restraints of law and gratify his lusts.

He was tormented, tortured, buffeted about as by waves.

He couldn’t even run on his own.

God had mercy on him and “while he lingered,” pulled him out.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. It doesn’t matter where you are.

The almighty God of the universe holds out His hand, ready to pull you out of whatever holds you down. He offers forgiveness.

He declares you righteous.

“Cornerstone”

by Hillsong

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

When Darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless stand before the throne.
Verses by Edward Mote
Words and Music by Jonas Myrin, Reuben Morgan & Eric Liljero

 

 

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No excuse…

He is called the Boston Marathon Bomber.

BomberNo one, including his defense attorney Judy Clarke, is bothering with the word “allegedly.”

In her opening statement, Clarke told the jury her client did it.

“It was him.”

There is no doubt as to his involvement in the 2013 bombing that killed three people and injured 264 others.

Clarke’s argument is that his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev influenced the then 19-year-old to commit this act of terror that literally ripped limbs from its victims.

This is known in court as mitigating circumstances. Seventeen of the 30 criminal charges faced by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev carry the death penalty. The mitigating circumstances are not presented to prove the defendant’s innocence but to, in this case, prevent him from receiving the death penalty.

We have a bad habit of mistaking God for a judge with whom we can present mitigating circumstances.

God’s mercy is not dependent on mitigating circumstances.

God offers us mercy because of His great love. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

And yet we trudge along, willfully doing our own thing, making excuses and then telling God we’re sorry but…

“It’s just the way I am.”

“I couldn’t help it.”

“It wasn’t all my fault.”

“I didn’t know any better.”

  • The fact that your husband is a jerk does not make the thing with guy at the office okay.
  • The fact that your wife left you and you are lonely does not make the whole computer thing okay.
  • The fact that you overpaid last year, that they will never know or it all comes out in the end does not make fudging the income taxes okay.

You know better.

I think God must get really sick of us not just coming to Him and saying, “Lord, I really messed up. I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”

The thing is that we know when we willfully disobey but we don’t want to admit it’s willful.

We want to pretend we couldn’t help it.

So we present God with mitigating circumstanceNot_Guiltys hoping to receive His mercy.

Mercy He has already extended.

What an insult.

This week we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. He left the magnitude of heaven to spend time on this harsh soil because He loves us. The beloved Son of God, crucified because the Father has mercy on us.No_Greater_Love

And we, disciples of Jesus, have the nerve to willfully choose to do our own thing and then give Him some paltry excuse in hopes that He will forgive us.

Once we have accepted His redemption, all is forgiven.

What’s with the excuses?

Yes, as fallen man, we will mess up. We are redeemed creatures living in an unredeemed world. But the excuse

“That’s just the way I am”

no longer flies.

Guess what? It isn’t true.

Paul spent the first half of his letter to the church of Ephesus emphasizing their/our beautiful identity in Christ. Chosen, adopted, forgiven, blessed…

He tells us we have been made new.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, [Did you catch that?] even when we were Ephesians_RegimensWithGracedead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved.) Ephesians 2:4-5

Then in chapter four he reminds us to “walk worthy of the calling” and in verses 24-31 lists behavior that has no place in our lives.

This is not “oops!” behavior.

  • Lying (vs 25) is not accidental.
  • The type of anger he mentions in verse 26 is what comes when you allow something from the day to simmer until it turns into more. (See Psalm 4:4)
  • Stealing (vs. 28) is a choice.
  • Bitterness and rage are things we choose to harbor.
  • Read through the first five verses of chapter five as well. You will see that all of these behaviors involve choosing to thumb one’s nose at God.

Apparently the Ephesians were like us – prone to excuses – because Paul wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.(Ephesians 5:8)

In other words, that is not just the way you are. He is telling us that we have been made new. We need to act like it. In fact, (and this may be a radical thought) all of that behavior is not normal for a child of God.

I’m going to write that again.

Ongoing willful rebellion is not normal behavior for a child of God.

It is all tied in to Ephesians 4:22-24. “That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

And that’s where he begins to tell us the old behavior to get rid of. That old man died. Some of us walk around like zombie Christians, insistent on keeping the old man walking , allowing for mitigating circumstances.

And God says

Just. Stop.

He knows. He knows we aren’t perfect. He knows it’s hard. He certainly does not want His beloved children to walk in shame for sin that has already been forgiven. But with a God that loving, why do we snub our noses at His mercy by making excuses that there were mitigating circumstances?

There’s more.

The sad thing is that we project this attitude on to the rest of the world. We are forgiven yet we continually offer paltry excuses for our willful rebellion, acting like we don’t know any better, ashamed to come before the throne of grace and lay it all out before Him.

And we offer excuses for every one else who hasn’t yet come to know His mercy.

“Well, I believe people are all basically good.”

“They can’t help it. They just don’t know any better.”

As Paul would say:

“Baloney!”

Actually, what he did say was:

The only way the world will know their need for Jesus is when they see us relying on our need for His mercy. If man is basically good, there is no need for God.

I really, really want to think that some people just don’t know better – that people don’t understand that there is a need for God. But Jesus spoke hard truth:

“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”

(And it is the Spirit of truth He talks of in verse 26, who takes away the Believer’s excuses.)

David tells us in Psalm 19:1-6 (AMP) that “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows and proclaims His handiwork….There is no speech nor spoken word [from the stars]; their voice is not heard. Yet their voice [in evidence] goes through all the earth, their sayings to the end of the world…”

God’s very creation testifies His nature and yet man turns a blind eye to it, bastardizing the message He offers. God put every star in place, choreographing the universe into an intricate dance of solar systems, constellations and galaxies. Yet man declares it all started with an accident, turns God’s marvelous dance into a method of fortune telling and insists on worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.

So as followers of Christ, our responsibility is two-fold.

  • All is forgiven. We are free! We have to accept responsibility for our own behavior and live that way.

“Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, HCSB)

In this, in our wrongdoing, we set aside our pride and stop making excuses.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

No excuses. The devil didn’t make me do it. It was no one’s fault but my own.

Mercy, not mitigating circumstances.

  • Our second responsibility is to show God’s love and mercy to the world.

Not excuses. Mercy.

Not judgment. Mercy.

“For God so loved the world that He gave…”

That’s all that’s needed. No excuse necessary.

 

For more study on this part of Ephesians, click here to download notes: Ephesians Study; ch.4/5

 

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Nothing too small…

MercyI sat with my husband through two major open heart surgeries, two pacemaker replacements, two hernia repairs and two dental surgeries. I can’t count the hospital stays and procedures involving veins, arteries and cameras.

I have a toothache and a broken toe.

Wah, wah, wah.

Bless his heart. To his eternal credit, while I’ve limped around holding my jaw and moaning, he hasn’t once said, “Well, that’s nothing.”

It is something. I need a root canal and my toe hurts. My husband’s heart transplant doesn’t make either feel any better.

Four years ago, during the first open heart surgery I for which I was present, people would apologize to us for complaining that they had some ache or pain. “I know it’s nothing compared to what you’re going through.”

In the middle of it all, a tsunami hit Japan and the following came to me:

The fact that a tsunami washed someone’s house away on the other side of the world doesn’t make it any easier to clean up the mess when my washer overflows.

While someone else’s trauma may put yours in perspective, it doesn’t lessen it.

And you know what? It doesn’t lessen it in God’s eyes either.

When you hurt, God never thinks, “Would you get over it? Do you know how many people in the world have bigger problems than you?!”

David cried out: “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God. (Psalm 69:1-3)

While David offers up repentance in this chapter, he does not apologize for the way he feels. He just begs for help, knowing it will come:

“But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord, in the acceptable time; O God, in the multitude of Your mercy, hear me in the truth of Your salvation.” (vs. 13)

He relied on God’s mercies.prayer-on-my-knees42

“Hear me, O Lord, for Your lovingkindness is good; turn to me according to the multitude of Your tender mercies” (vs. 16)

In Psalm 70:5 David says, “But I am poor and needy; make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.”

Umm, wait a sec. David was the rich, well-loved, good-looking king of Israel.

If I was married to him, I would be tempted to say, “Would you get a grip?!”

Fortunately, I’m not God.

You see, that word “mercies”actually reads, “Your covenant loyalty.”  David knew that God always keeps His covenant.

Remember Your covenant, O God!

I feel like I’m going to die but You made Your people a promise:

“Therefore know that the Lord your God,

He is God

the faithful God

who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”

(Deuteronomy 7:9)

David had a firm grip of the principle that would be taught by the writer of Hebrews about 1000 years later.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Boldly: “with freedom of speech.”

Grace: “Kindness by which God bestows favors even upon the ill-deserving, and grants to sinners the pardon of their offenses, and bids them accept of eternal salvation through Christ”

Mercy:as it is defined by loyalty to God’s covenant;” “that of God toward sinners”

David, in his prophetic prayers 1000 years before Christ, felt freedom in coming before the throne of God with his hurts. He reminded God of His covenant with His people. Then he always remembered to praise Him for His goodness, even before his prayers were answered.

“I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” (Ps. 69:30)

Go back to Hebrews and read the verse that tells us why we can be bold.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15)

Today, we too can take our troubles before the throne of grace, knowing that nothing is too small for God.

Jesus did not die on the cross so that He could say, “My suffering was so much worse than your piddling little troubles.”

He sympathizes.

He offers mercy.

God remembers His covenant.

Now and forever

“For God will save Zion and build the cities of Judah, that they may dwell there and possess it. Also, the descendants of His servants shall inherit it, and those who love His name shall dwell in it.” (Ps. 69:36)

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away….Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself with be with them and be their God.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.'” (Revelation 21:1-4)

 

 

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