It sounds like a planet from a science fiction book, doesn’t it? But it was a little village in ancient Canaan located down on the plains of Sodom. It was so small that it would have passed into history and never have been remembered. But Lot and his family put it on the map of scripture for all time. Let’s see what we can learn from little Zoar from Genesis 19.

The angels of the Lord have condemned Sodom due to their sin, and are telling Lot to take his family and flee.

When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the LORD was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, one said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.” (Genesis 19:15-17 NASB)

Notice that the angles tell Lot to get completely away from the Valley and to flee to the protection provided by the mountains so that they will not see what is about to happen. Here is where Lot makes a critical mistake. He is willing to leave the city, but he doesn’t want to go too far away. He is leaving, but his heart is still back with what they have just left. So Lot asks for permission to exercise partial obedience and just go to Zoar. The name Zoar means “smallness”.

But Lot said to them, “Oh no, my lords! Now behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have magnified your lovingkindness, which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, for the disaster will overtake me and I will die; now behold, this town is near enough to flee to, and it is small. Please, let me escape there (is it not small?) that my life may be saved.” He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this request also, not to overthrow the town of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the town was called Zoar. (Genesis 19:18-22 NASB)

This was another in a long line of foolish decisions for Lot. They began in Genesis 13:10-13 when he saw what looked like an easy life down in the Jordan Valley near to Sodom. A few years later in chapter 19, Lot has moved into town and has let the culture corrupt his thinking. This is evidenced by his offer of giving his two virgin daughters to a crowd to be sexually assaulted like it was normal practice.
And now, he takes the easy road again, and it will cost him dearly again. Rather than make the trek to get completely away, he begs to make the shorter journey and stop at Zoar. The problem with Zoar was that he would be able to look back and long for what they had just left.

The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:23-26 NASB)

So what lessons are there for us in this story?
First of all, the will of God is rarely, if ever, the easy way. In Genesis 13 Lot had chosen to live by Sodom without ever praying and asking God what he should do. How often do we make decisions we have not prayed about just based on how wise it looks in our own eyes.

This is also a story with application to repentance. Lot started by getting close to sin. Finally, he was comfortable moving in with it. He became so used to it that when he left, he wanted to keep it close by, just in case. So often our repentance can be the same if we are not intentional about it. We decide to leave a sin, but give it our forwarding address, too.

Christ has called us to be holy. That simply means to be set apart for Him. We cannot do that if we insist and keeping our favorite sins close by. Lot had been told to completely leave and forsake Sodom. Instead he settled for smallness in Zoar. So instead of dwelling in the place of protection, he tried to see how close he could stay without actually being inside the city. And yet Christians have a bad habit of seeing how close we can get to sin without crossing over the line. When instead we should be getting as far away from it as we can. And we are not the only ones who suffer the consequences of our decisions. In Lot’s case, it cost the life of his wife. There are no victimless sins. Someone is going to be hurt. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) so why are we hanging out with it? Satan is a serial killer and there will always be a price to pay for compromising with sin.

Christians, let’s go all the way with God and forsake out sin completely. Let’s go to the protection of the mountain of the Lord. God has wonderful good works prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). There is no need (indeed there is real danger) to settle for a Christian life of smallness in Zoar.

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; (Acts 3:19 NASB)

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