The land of Canaan was situated between two ancient empires: Egypt and Mesopotamia. Whoever controlled Canaan would maintain a monopoly on international trade or at least control how much of it went on. I find it interesting that the Middle East still maintains that position. Its oil reserves fuel the world’s commerce, and the price placed upon a barrel of oil could have great consequences, not only in international trade, but also how much commerce is conducted in any one nation! Something similar to this went on in Abram’s day and after him. The trade routes between Egypt and Mesopotamia ran through Canaan. Therefore, whoever controlled this land bridge between the two great continents grew rich by levying taxes or fees for the good going through the land.
In Abram’s day Canaan was controlled by the Mesopotamian kings. The kings who actually ruled in Canaan were vassal monarchs, ultimately subject to Mesopotamia. After twelve years as vassals, the five cities of the plain that controlled the King’s Highway running east to west, attempted to throw off the shackles of the four eastern kings (Genesis 14:4) led by Chedorlaomer, king of Elam (modern Iran). Ultimately Chedorlaomer defeated Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities of the plane, carrying off their wealth and supplies, including many people for slaves, and that included Lot, Abram’s nephew, and all he possessed (Genesis 14:11-12).
What does all this mean, and why should what occurred at that time be recorded in God’s word? I think we are shown that God is in ultimate control of worldly events. Men and empires may act according to their own wills, but God controls the outcome and, in so doing, judges men and nations as seems necessary to him. The incident in Genesis 14 also shows how believers react to world events. It seems Lot thought he could make a difference in the world by interacting in world events according to the world’s rules, but in the end he lost all. In the end, the leftovers given Abram in Genesis 13 put him in a better position than Lot.
The text doesn’t say that Lot participated in the rebellion, but it does imply that there was no apparent difference between him and the citizens of Sodom that the conquering kings could readily discover. In effect, Lot who participated in the culture of Sodom, also participated in its judgment by God. In fact, Lot may have wondered where the God of Abram was in all this; he may have even blamed God for his troubles as many of us often do when uncontrolled events take or dissipate all of what we possess.
The problem, as I see it, is that Lot had not been practicing the presence of God through proper worship and therefore didn’t recognize how far into the world’s culture he had been assimilated. No one recognized him as a pilgrim. He had become in nearly every respect identified with the world. He may have confessed allegiance to God but the text doesn’t even imply that he had raised a single altar to God that would express his growth in his walk with the Lord.
Nevertheless, Peter says Lot was ‘righteous’ (2Peter 2:7-9), concluding with the fact that the Lord knows how to deliver the righteous out of their evil predicament. Lot got himself into trouble, but the Lord was able and did deliver him out of those troublesome things that came his way as a result of the decisions he made. He will do likewise with us, but who will really take heed of the Lord’s discipline? Lot doesn’t seem to recognize the part his own decisions played in his trouble. The pull of the world is great and clever. It sometimes seems like we can make a difference for the Lord in the world by playing by the world’s rules, but the end is never justified by the means that would take us to that end.