17 So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”
18 Then Lot said to them, “Please, no, my lords!
19 “Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die.
20 “See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”
21 And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken.
22 “Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.
How far are you willing to go for your salvation? Does Jesus ask very much of us? If you read the Gospels, you’ll find that Jesus does ask an awful lot.
Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
Jesus is asking a lot from us, not the least of which is that simple statement “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15b) All that Christ asks of us is to give up all we have known, all that has made us comfortable (and complacent!) and follow Him. We hear so many people SAY they love the Lord. Yet how many of those who claim to “submit” to Him are actually willing to drop everything they have known and follow Him? How many would truly “drop their nets” to become fishers of men? How many are ready to be persecuted for His name’s sake?
I think most of us are just like Lot. When offered the great gift of God’s mercy, the amazing grace of salvation and eternal life, we still want to stay close to home – i.e. close to Sodom. After all, we don’t know what is beyond the well-watered plain of Jordan, what is up in those mountains. Here we have the very Son of God telling us we WILL die if we don’t repent and have faith in Him, and yet we are afraid of a little of the unknown in our lives. Sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it?
But worse than our fear of the unknown is our desire to stay close to sin, to keep just a little of it in our lives. Lot says to the angels sent to save him: “See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.” (v.20) Look at that! The angels have told him where he needs to go to be saved, and Lot turns around and tells THEM where he needs to go. Lot puts conditions upon God! Lot is essentially saying, “God, if you really want to save me, you’ll let me go wherever I want to go, not where YOU want me to go.”
How arrogant that is to place conditions upon salvation! And yet that is EXACTLY what we do every day as we hold on to the little things – the “little” SINS – that we think God won’t mind. When we repent and believe on Christ, it should change our hearts so we WANT to be holy like God, we WANT to travel to the far mountains for His salvation. But so long as we have the least bit of doubt about His sovereignty in our lives, so long as we hesitate to give Him all of our love, then we will want to stay in Zoar, that little place that is our very own baby Sodom.
When Jesus tells us to “Repent,” He doesn’t say, “Repent your big sins and we’ll worry about the little ones later.” He doesn’t say “Repent, but stay close to those things that tempt you to sin.” He knows what we are like, and He knows the lives we’ve led up to now, and the “good news” (gospel) is that God loves us despite all of that. The good news we are called to believe is exactly what the angel tells Lot: God IS willing to let us go to Zoar and He WILL meet us halfway and save us from the destruction of Sodom.
“Flee!” we are told by God. “Stay,” says our heart that still clings to Sodom as much as to Christ. “Then I will save you wherever you go, but you cannot stay where you are,” replies God.
The call from God is to be moved from our lives of sin, to set our hearts upon Christ, and to get as far away from Sodom as we are able. And yet even when our flesh can’t seem to let go of Sodom completely, God favors us.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God shows His love for us even when all we want to do is stay in Zoar, that little Sodom not so far from where we started. God wants us to realize that Sodom is far more dangerous than the “unknown” life that awaits us when we have found Christ. Yes, we will face a very different life when we embrace God’s love in Christ, and we can fully expect to be accused of wrong and persecuted in His name. But Jesus has dragged us out of Sodom and set our feet upon the road toward God. Now that we’ve been saved, are we willing to go BEYOND Zoar to live as Christ asks us to live?
Gracious Heavenly Father, hallowed be Your name. Thank You for dragging me out of the pit of my own Sodom. Now that You have saved me, all I pray is that You continue with me on the road past Zoar. Guide me to Your holy mountain, however difficult the road. Teach me to give up my life in Your service, so that I may have my life renewed in You. Amen.