The story of Lot is a story of personal tragedy. Peter makes clear that Lot was a pious man (2 Peter 2:7-8). And we have to keep that fact in mind as we read Genesis 19.
Lot had become a prominent citizen in Sodom. We are not told in what way he attained this position. No doubt his wealth marked him out as an important man, suitable for such a role. Perhaps he took the position in order to try and change the awful behaviour of the citizens.
The angels inform Lot of their mission and urge him to bring his relatives out of the town. Lot realises that things are serious and does so, but his words fall on deaf ears. While we cannot say if Lot had failed to warn them previously, we can say that if he had not done so regularly, he could not expect to be taken seriously when he began suddenly to do so. People have to see how the knowledge affects us before they will take our words seriously. It is hard to tell people about the destruction of a place if all they can see normally is how eager we are to live in it with them.
The angels instruct Lot to go as far away as possible from the place of judgement (v. 17). Lot did not think he could reach the hills without being affected by it, so he asked if they could go to another city instead, which was granted to him.
The moment that Lot reached Zoar the judgement fell. What were the men of Sodom doing at that moment? Jesus says that they were engaged in ordinary activities: ‘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 when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulphur rained from heaven and destroyed them all – so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed’ (Luke 17:28-30).
Moses gives further details about what happened to Lot. Tricked by his daughters, he becomes the ancestors of two tribes – Moab and Ammon – that were to be hostile enemies of Israel for centuries. What a legacy for a believer to leave! And it had all began when he looked covetously on the plain of Sodom and decided to go and live there.
I suppose the question should be asked, ‘Why did he not go and live with Abraham’ If he had done so, this terrible pair of incidents and their consequences would not have occurred. Perhaps it was embarrassment that he had made mistakes. Or maybe he found it hard to look in the face a relative who had put God first.
Fortunately, Lot is in heaven and if we go there at the end of our days we will see him made perfect in holiness, enjoying the glory of God, and sharing the resurrection victory of Christ. He is an example of the wonder of the mercy of God. It is not for us to throw stones at Lot; instead we should ask God to keep us from making similar spiritual mistakes and making a mess of our lives.