Meditations in the life of Abraham : 21. With whom do you mix?
Gen 13:12,13 “Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.
We concluded the previous meditation with the verses above. They do not bode well for Lot. But we need to think a little more about this. Abram and Lot had travelled the length of the land and should have found out the nature of the people there. They may not have gone over to Sodom but while communicating with people they came across in the land, they surely must have heard of the reputation of the people of Sodom. Yet Lot ignored that because the land looked good to him. The fact that there were cities there, one of which was Sodom raises the question, did Lot only feel secure in places where men gathered, while Abram was completely at peace living in the countryside?
Cities are a sign of the endeavours of man. There are those who suggest that when people form cities they also produce an environment for the sophistication of mankind where art and architecture flourish. Others point out that cities also bring out the worst of pride in mankind and a tendency towards godlessness. Whatever the truth, Lot moves towards cities, towards Sodom which has a bad reputation and he isn’t bothered by it.
Now we have a saying don’t we that ‘you know a man by the company he keeps’, but we have to think about that to bring a proper understanding of it. Psalm 1 starts with this understanding: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” (Psa 1:1) Three different groups of people are mentioned there or possibly three different expressions of the same people: wicked, sinners and scoffers. Each activity indicates a level of interaction with such people. Walking implies keeping temporary company, standing suggests a more definite remaining with such people, while sitting suggests a permanent situation. The implication is that you are better not to keep the company of such people.
The apostle Paul warned about linking up with such people: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Cor 6:14) and so cited Isa 52:11, “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.” (2 Cor 6:17) Elsewhere he taught, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor15:33)
Similarly Solomon taught the same thing, for example, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.” (Prov 22:24,25) At the beginning of Proverbs he spends some time warning his son not to be enticed away by bad company that would lead him into evil: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for someone’s blood, let’s waylay some harmless soul…… my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths.” (Prov 1:12,15) He goes on to say that seeking out wisdom will keep you from such company: “Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse.” (Prov 2:12) He reiterates this later on: “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.” (Prov 4:14,15) It is a call first of all to be discerning, to recognise what is good and what is not. Second it is a call to stay away from what is evil.
But just a minutes, a Bible student might ask, didn’t Jesus mix with the tax collectors and sinners? Exactly! That’s why I said earlier on we need to understand these things. There is a great deal of difference between loving and accepting such people in order to share God’s love with them, and taking on their lifestyles. In no way did Jesus take on the attitudes or the behaviour of those people, but he remained pure and holy while he shared God’s love with them.
Lot was being casual and careless when he ignored the reputation of Sodom and went and settled near it. By chapter 19 we find that Lot has moved into Sodom and has a house in it and even more, is sitting in the gateway of Sodom, which is where the city elders sat. He has been assimilated into that wicked city and it was only by God’s grace and mercy that he would escape its destruction. Don’t settle near sin thinking you can stay away from it. Its closeness will act as a continual temptation that will eventually pull you down. Stay well clear; go and live in a ‘different part of the country’ even! You have been warned. Never say you didn’t know.