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And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords.19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!”21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken.22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. – Genesis 19:17-22 [ESV]
The money was in the purse conveniently left on the end table in a spare bedroom. I was in junior high. The temptation was too great. I took the money. It was a trap. My parents were concerned about my integrity in this area. My failure led me to a grounding that really managed to make an impression. And set me on a path of financial integrity. I won’t even handle the offerings at church by myself. Ugh.
Sometimes it just so simple: Do the right thing. Too often, however, we fail to do the right thing (really, it takes only one time to be too often). The expense account gets estimated to our decided favor. The juicy bit of gossip just manages to slip from our lips. The dress (or computer, or camera, or jewelry, or ???) sale manages to tug our credit card from our wallet.
Not so with God. Lot knows this. He appeals to God’s righteousness, his true trajectory of decision-making, and his sense of mercy. Lot will take refuge in the little city of Zoar. Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed. And while such drastic action seems gravely stern and overly precipitous, it is not. The whole city apart from Lot and his family was corrupt. We’ve already mentioned that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah were more fundamental than their abandonment of sexual purity. They were noted for dishonesty, abuse of the weak, and injustice toward the poor. We know them for their abandonment of sexual purity.
I would certainly wish that it was not necessary that God destroy the city because of their sin and his righteousness. Part of that has to do with my fear of coming under the same judgment. Jesus’ words are instructive here. Speaking of his care and concern for his disciples, he says, “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day (Matthew 10:14-15).
Jesus is the Word made flesh, “full of grace and truth.” Truth is, we’ve all “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Grace is, we’re “saved by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). All this is reconciled in Jesus’ incarnation, life, suffering, death, and resurrection. It will be fully culminated in Jesus’ return. All who take refuge in him will be saved.
Perhaps Zoar is a symbol for Jesus: a little town, a man of little human consequence (cf. Isaiah 53). But his commitment to doing the right thing never wavered. He never flenched from loving God. He never failed in his pure and perfect love for sinners. He is our refuge from the coming destruction of every evil power, plan, pretension, or place known to man and the powers of this world. But step through the door of this city and discover just how large is God’s heart and love, his grace and kindness. The joy of his salvation knows no bounds. It rings through eternity. To the praise of his glorious grace!