The following is a Gospel Doctrine lesson plan for Lesson 8 of the Old Testament, Living Righteously in a Wicked World, the Sodom and Gomorrah Lot and Abraham story.
OK last week, we were introduced to Abram and Sarai, the story in Genesis 12 of how they went to Egypt due to the famine, Chapter 15 and 16 Abram being promised a child and the story of Hagar and Sarah and Ishmael and Isaac and Chapter 17 where Abram and Sarai’s names were changed to Abraham, meaning father of multitudes and Sarah, meaning mother of nations. And we covered the covenant God made with Abraham and the promises with that covenant.
This week we cover the same story of Abraham and Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 and 19 but start out with Genesis 13,14.
In Genesis 13, Abraham and Lot are leaving Egypt together. Lot is Abraham’s nephew. They are both wealthy, and they have a large contingency of workers, and they have strife.
8 And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.
9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.
Lessons from Abraham.
Separate when things get heated.
Also he lets Lot choose first the better land. Do we feel like we have to win every battle we’re in? My marriage counselor called this losing an argument on purpose. If you lose every argument you ever have, you might think you’ll have a terrible life and get run over constantly. But you find it works out better than you think. In a relationship, if two people can approach it this way, it can become a magical thing.
Matthew 20:16 “So the last shall be first, and the first last”
Matthew 16:25 “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
These are tough concepts to grasp, but I think Abraham got it. And he obviously came out better in the end.
12 Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.
13 But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.
Lot makes his choice based on land value and he pitches his tent towards Sodom, which is symbolic that he maybe didn’t have spiritual things as his top priority. We see the differences in Lot and Abraham all through this. And we don’t see Lot as a bad guy, but we see that Abraham was making better choices and doing things with a more dedicated heart to God.
Chapter 14 we’ll skip over. It’s most known for v 18-20 where Abraham pays tithes to Melchizedek.
Chapters 15-17 was covered in lesson last week, so we skip to Chapter 18. Abraham and Sarah are visited by three holy messengers.
2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
OK, so what we understand here is that a major theme of this little story is the idea of hospitality of strangers, especially comparing Abraham’s approach vs Lot’s approach vs the people of Sodom. Lot received them and bowed, but Abraham ran and fell to the ground. Abraham washed their feet. Lot showed them where they could wash their feet. Abraham offered calf and butter and milk. Lot offered unleavened bread.
Ancient Israelites took very seriously the charge to be hospitable to strangers. This carried through to the New Testament. Jesus says:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in;
And Hebrews is referencing this Abraham account:
2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Are we entertaining angels unaware? Are angels around us? Are angels taking a long time checking us out at Walmart? Are angels cutting us off in traffic?
In v 9, the visitor yet unidentified asks “Where is Sarah thy wife?” Abraham answers “Behold, in the tent.” The visitor in v 10 tells Abraham Sarah will have a child. And Sarah laughs. Up to this point, Abraham views his child Ishmael from the handmaiden Hagar as fulfilling the promise he would have a child and posterity.
Genesis 18 13,14
13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
You see the LORD in all caps in verse 13. Can anyone tell us the Hebrew for that? Whenever we see LORD in all caps, that is what they call the Hebrew Tetragrammaton. Four letters. YHWH. They didn’t speak the word, and they didn’t use vowels, so we don’t even know how they pronounced it. Yahweh or Jehovah. We know this is Jehovah or Jesus Christ the God of the Old Testament.
Another point from that verse. Even though Sarah laughed (and denied it, but then got called on it, by the LORD, uh yah you did too) Abraham apparently had faith. I read this commentary on this I liked.
This story is trying to make a point. Don’t be so sure that it’s impossible. Or don’t let the assumption that it’s impossible stop you from going out into the world. That’s an inoculation against Nihilism.
Nihilism is a philosophy or perspective usually associated with atheism that there is no point or meaning to anything. It’s a dark, depressing worldview. The faith mindset is completely different. You may be facing an impossible task. But live with hope. Live with faith. Because you might just win. But what’s maybe more common is that you don’t win, but something happens through your effort that enables an alternate path to open up. But not even trying and giving up before you start, that’s a hopeless perspective that can’t go anywhere.
Two of the visitors leave for Sodom and the LORD Jehovah and Abraham have a very interesting conversation. The Lord tells Abraham about the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah and his plan to destroy the cities.
You see Abraham’s good heart. He wants to save the people. He asks the Lord if he would save it if there 50 righteous people. The Lord says yes. And then we have this negotiation process
27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:
28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
And then he says what about 40? Yes. “Ok, Lord don’t be angry with me, how about 30?” Yes. OK, I know I’m pushing my luck, what about 20? Yes. 10? Yes.
Can 10 people redeem a city? What if we took Brother Smith and Sister Jones and … and … and your spouses and put you in a city like Sodom. Could you redeem that city? Could you through your good example, and sharing your light and love, and Christlike example, and teach your kids to do the same. And you start to get your neighbors on board. Could you create a Zion? Could you turn that place that’s a Hell on Earth into a Heaven on Earth. Just those 10 people?
Elder Russel M Ballard said the following:
“In the Church, we often state the couplet, ‘Be in the world but not of the world.’ …
“Perhaps we should state the couplet previously mentioned as two separate admonitions. First, ‘Be in the world.’ Be involved; be informed. Try to be understanding and tolerant and to appreciate diversity. Make meaningful contributions to society through service and involvement. Second, ‘Be not of the world.’ Do not follow wrong paths or bend to accommodate or accept what is not right. …
“Members of the Church need to influence more than we are influenced.”
Now turn to Genesis 19. And here is where we have one of those Old Testament Rated R stories. So, since we have no one under 17 here, we’ll plow forward.
Lot welcomes the two visitors. And then in v. 4 and 5, a mob forms and comes outside his house and demands Lot to send out the two visitors so they can all rape them. I didn’t make it up. Don’t blame me.
And from this verse, we have had a lot of conjecture about homosexuality as the sin of Sodom.
The lesson manual says:
people of Sodom and Gomorrah engaged in grievous sexual sins. But these sins, while severe, were not the only sins for which the cities were destroyed.
49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
I want to make a short detour here and say that we are in a time when our understanding and perspective towards homosexuality is kind of changing. Up until recently, as a church we viewed it as a choice, and something that should be overcome. Now if you go to the mormonandgay website at lds.org, the church says that we acknowledge homosexuality as an identity not just an attraction. Gay people are not discouraged from “coming out” and family and leaders are encouraged to love and accept and respect them. And that it should not be expected that they can change or overcome being gay.
Elder Holland gave the talk about a mother whose son struggled with same sex orientation and ended the story with both the mother and the son participating in the atonement and feeling loved and sustained. At the end of the story he said:
“I must say, this son’s sexual orientation did not somehow miraculously change–no one assumed it would.” (Holland, Oct 2015 Gen Conf)
It used to be that gay youth were advised to overcome their sexual orientation and marry someone of opposite gender. But Pres. Hinckley said:
‘Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.’”
I believe we as a Church have a lot of room for improvement in how loving and accepting we are of our gay brothers and sisters. They have a difficult path in this life. And we can be more empathetic.
Ok, back to the story, but it keeps getting worse for Lot. In v. 8 Lot offers his daughters up to the rapists to appease them. Yikes. Not good.
Joseph Smith had a better take on this in his Bible translation project, and gave us a different view when we read the Joseph Smith Translation for this.
In it, Lot comes out much better. The mob is demanding them to toss out the two visitors and Lot’s daughters. And Lot defends all of them.
I love that Joseph Smith wasn’t satisfied with some of these stories and went to God to seek revelation on them.
On the Joseph Smith Translation, LDS scholars are now showing that Joseph was not necessarily restoring ancient text. We have this idea that the Bible was perfect and then people got hold of it and messed it up, and so the JST is restoring how it was originally. That’s not really the case as we look at it closer. A better view of it scholars are saying is that Joseph is going straight to God and rewriting it in a way that is more doctrinally accurate. It’s a midrashic kind of thing. He’s telling us what the story could be or should be, or he’s expanding text or creating new text, he’s opening a world up to us, but not necessarily restoring an ancient text.
See the talks here for interesting evaluation on this. https://www.faithmatters.org/blog/2017/4/27/new-perspectives-on-joseph-smith-and-translation
LDS Scholar Grant Hardy gives us another way to look at it. He says it’s OK that there’s weird stuff and there’s stuff that’s doctrinally off, or that makes God seem different, or the prophets seem a little crazy. He says we should view this not so much as an instruction manual from God on how to be but more of a saga, a story of real people that didn’t always act right, but it’s a story of how they interacted with God and how they saw God. He quoted Pete Enns a Christian scholar who says “the Bible is what it looks like when God lets his children tell the story.”
OK now back to the story, in the final scene we have the messengers telling Lot in verse 12,13 to take his family and get out because the Lord is going to destroy this place.
They leave and are commanded not to look back. And what happens? Lot’s wife looks back. Of course it’s a woman. A man wrote this, right? Is it OK to say that?
But it’s a powerful lesson. How important is it not to turn back to bad habits. When we make hard decisions and do hard things to follow Jesus Christ and be more like him. Let’s not turn back and wallow in our past.
Lessons like this tend to make us dwell on the evil in the world. It’s true we have a lot of evil in the world. But we also have a lot to be thankful for and hopeful about:
Pres. Uchtdorf said:
One of the ways Satan wants us to manipulate others is by dwelling upon and even exaggerating the evil in the world.
Certainly our world has always been, and will continue to be, imperfect. Far too many innocent people suffer because of circumstances of nature as well as from man’s inhumanity. The corruption and wickedness in our day are unique and alarming.
But in spite of all this, I wouldn’t trade living in this time with any other time in the history of the world. We are blessed beyond measure to live in a day of unparalleled prosperity, enlightenment, and advantage. Most of all, we are blessed to have the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which gives us a unique perspective on the world’s dangers and shows us how to either avoid these dangers or deal with them.
And we’re going to pretend verses 30-38 don’t even exist because Sister XYZ can’t handle this. My husband went to the Las Vegas Bowl to watch BYU football and he took the oldest two, and they stayed in a casino on the strip, and it was a little bit of an eye opening experience for those kids. My 11 yo boy came back and said MOM YOU CAN’T GO TO LAS VEGAS. YOU CAN’T HANDLE IT. Genesis is worse than Vegas.
OK we’ll end with the last verse Genesis 19:39 does anyone have it? OK I’ll read it.
39 And Lot sat down to dine with his daughters and behold Lot said, this meat has no flavor, pass me your mother.
Just kidding. No we shouldn’t tell any Lot’s wife jokes. She was a pillar of the community.
OK, let’s end with this idea from a verse from Chapter 17
1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
I like this idea of Abraham walking before God. I picture God walking behind Abraham. And I have a couple feelings imagining myself walking with God behind me. 1) I think God’s watching me, I better do this right. I’m a little scared. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. I’m watching how I act a little closer. 2) I also feel a confidence, as I take on difficult tasks, knowing he is behind me, supporting me.
But then I also contrast this with Jesus. Jesus walked with his disciples, he walked with the sinners. I picture Jesus as walking with me side by side not behind me. It’s a different feeling than he’s walking behind me. It’s more intimate. It’s more of a “we’ll do this together” thing. I think that’s a short summary of the difference between Old Testament and New Testament for me. But I also think maybe some of this might be the human perspective. In the Old Testament scriptures, it seems sometimes the prophets and the writers didn’t understand God perfectly. And that’s why Jesus came.
“He sent his Son to walk with men on earth, that we may know.”
He had to come because without knowing him first hand, we just didn’t quite get it. I love these stories from the Old Testament so far. We can learn so much from it. But I view it as a description of God when he lets his children tell the story. The New Testament is the description of God when he tells his own story.
1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.