Genesis 19:16 “When Lot hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.”
In his mercy the Lord sent angels to lead Lot and his family out of the doomed city of Sodom. Lot himself was in no hurry to go. What did this city have to offer once it had been reduced to a giant ash tray? Lot’s hesitation reveals the spell our worldly comforts cast over our hearts. Even when we know that holding on to them will be fatal, whether physically or spiritually, we can hardly let them go.
I have heard people speak critically of smokers who can’t give up their cigarettes even when emphysema or lung cancer is robbing them of life. But do we realize how we have become addicted to our homes, or careers, or hobbies, or vices in a similar way? Like people who rush back into burning homes to rescue heirlooms they can’t bear to lose, we turn our priorities so upside down that we cling to our worldly obsessions while hell’s flames are licking at our souls. We are less different than Lot than we might like to think.
In spite of our hesitation to let go and flee, God is serious about his mercy. He does not wait for us to respond to him before he goes to work on our behalf. Instead of waiting for Lot to figure things out on his own and start making better decisions, the angels simply took him and his family members by the hand and led them to safety outside the city. When they finally had their attention they sent them on their way, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
The proactive mercy of God is not unique to God’s mercy on Lot. Long ago Paul promised, “At just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Our Lord did not wait for us to come to him for a solution to the sins that were destroying us. Before we even existed mercy led him to send his Son to pay for our sins and set us free.
That same urgent mercy of our God continues in our lives today. I wasn’t looking for him when my parents brought me to baptism in February of 1965. But the pastor’s hands brought me mercy in my grandmother’s living room anyway, in waters that washed away my sins, brought me the gift of the Spirit, and made me God’s child by faith. Maybe you have similar stories to tell. One evening an evangelist showed up at your home uninvited. Before the night was over you knew Jesus as your Savior from sin. You came to church just to hear a friend sing or play. You intended nothing more than showing them this courtesy. But before you went home that day God’s mercy had taken you, not by the hand but by the heart. It led you to safety in Jesus’ waiting arms.
God’s mercy is still waiting to take us by the heart and lead us to safety every time the church doors are open. Just because we have become believers does not mean the danger has disappeared. Lot was a believer, too, surrounded by the wickedness of Sodom. Our situation is no less perilous. We can easily become so comfortable with our sinful surroundings that we forget what’s so wrong about sin and why God’s mercy is such an urgent need. But God is serious about his mercy, and his message of sin and grace still provides our way of escape. As people who have come to know that mercy personally, don’t hesitate to flee to safety.