Prepare Your Heart!
Prepare Your Heart!Text: Genesis 19:15-17, 23-29
Did you get everything prepared this weekend? For many, as soon as they awake from their turkey coma and the last bit of stuffing is stuffed into tupperware, the mad dash is on. Black Friday shopping for Christmas. Hang the Christmas lights. Get the tree out. Take down one season’s decorations and put up the Christmasy things. Suddenly homes are transformed with lights, decorations, and smelly fufu from a rustic harvest festival to a pine-smelling winter wonderland.
Part of this is holiday cheer. The other part is practical. We all know the next 25 days are going to be crazy. No matter who you are or what you do, this time of year is always busy. It’s better to take your free time now to prepare for Christmas or else you’re going to have problems. If you don’t prepare diligently with focus on the day that’s coming, Christmas will sneak up on you and you’ll be running around like a gingerbread man with his head cut off because you were caught unprepared.
The same could be more true spiritually. It’s very easy to become so wrapped up in our Christmas celebrations and Christmas cheer that we forget to prepare our hearts for the real meaning of Christmas—preparing our hearts to celebrate our Savior’s coming.
That’s what Advent is for. This is the season of diligent, careful, and patient preparation. But we aren’t only preparing to celebrate our Savior’s birth. During Advent we are remind that Jesus comes to us now. Jesus comes to us through his Word and Sacraments now, as we saw in the baptism earlier this morning. Jesus promises that where two or three are gathered in his name, there he is with them. During Advent we prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus now while living in the midst of a crazy, mixed up and sinful world.
But that still isn’t the end of our preparation. During Advent we are also reminded to prepare diligently for Christ’s great and final coming. Jesus is coming back unexpectedly like a thief in the night. With such sin and such stressful busy lives, it could be easy to be caught unprepared. And being unprepared for Jesus’ final coming will be much worse than forgetting to buy someone a Christmas present or missing the company Christmas party. Not being ready for Jesus’ final return is the difference between eternal life and death.
If any story illustrates that for us, certainly the story of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah does as well as any. As we look at the story today we will certainly be reminded that God wants you to Prepare Your Heart.
It’s hard to know what to make of Lot. We know that Lot was the nephew of Abraham. We know that the Bible calls Lot a righteous man. But there are more than a few times as we read Genesis 19 that we scratch our heads and say, “Really, Lot? Why would you do that?” Sometimes we even say, “Lot, how could you do that?”
The story really begins in the previous chapter when the Lord and two angels appeared in human form to Abraham. The Lord revealed that Sodom and Gomorrah were about to be destroyed because of the grievous sin in those cities. That was followed by Abraham’s persistent prayer for his family and the city. The Lord agreed that if there even 10 believers in the city that he would spare it. There weren’t. Not even 10 believers in both cities combined!
The two angels went like two men into the city. Lot urged them to stay at his home rather than in the town square (because the nighttime festivities in the city square weren’t exactly healthy or wholesome).
Then we begin to find out just how sinful the city of Sodom was. We’re told that all the men of the city—all of them, young and old alike—they all went to Lot’s house and demanded that the two visiting men (whom they didn’t know were angels) be handed over so they could have their way with them. There’s a reason why it’s called sodomy still today.
That’s when Lot showed his righteous faith. He demanded and pleaded that the men not do such a wicked thing. But then he did the unthinkable, he actually offered them instead his own two virgin daughters to do whatever they want with.
The two angels stepped in and struck the men of the city with blindness. Then they urged Lot to leave immediately with his family because they were about to destroy the city. Righteous Lot showed his faith again. He spoke to his daughters’ fiancés, but they thought he was joking and refused to leave. We wonder what kind of men Lot was allowing to marry his daughters.
That’s where we pick up this morning. “With the coming of dawn, the angels urged lot, saying, ‘Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.’” But the next verse is very telling. It says, “He hesitated.” Lot! Why would you hesitate? The city was about to be destroyed! What were you so attached to? What was even worth being attached to in that place?
But the Lord is merciful. The verse says, “When he hesitated, the men (the angels) grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.” As they exited the city one of the angels told them, “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!” Simple orders. Run, don’t stop, and don’t look back.
As they fleeing and reached the small little city of Zoar the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah and destroyed everything. But Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. Lot! Why was your wife so attached to the city? Why wasn’t your family so unprepared for God’s judgment? How could you let that happen as spiritual leader of the family?
The next verses tell us that Abraham got up the next day and so the destruction. But God had mercifully listened to his prayers and remembered his people in Lot’s family. Verse 29: “So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.”
At this point, you would think that Lot had really learned some lessons the hard way. He hesitated. He sinned. But God had mercifully spared him and his two daughters from catastrophic judgment. Surely his life would be dedicated to living in humble obedience. Nope. What’s the terrible conclusion to the story? Lot’s daughters realized they were husband and childless. So they conspired and on consecutive nights they got their father sloppy drunk and they each got pregnant by him. That’s where the nations of Moab and Ammon to the east of Israel came from. So awful you don’t even know what to say about Lot and his family.
So in review, here we have a man in Lot who was a believer, someone whom the New Testament even calls a righteous man. But here was a man that was clearly attached to the ways of the world, so much so that he probably didn’t even realize how bad it was. He started to act like the people living around him. His family was a spiritual mess. Even knowing that the Lord’s judgment was coming, he hesitated to leave behind the sinful the place he knew and loved. And yet despite his somewhat ridiculous and certainly reprehensible actions, the Lord was gracious and mercifully spared him.
Now there’s a story that sounds just like mine. I know God’s judgment is coming. I’ve been told by Jesus himself in Scriptures, as clear as day and as clear as the words of those angels that he is coming soon. That was even the Verse of the Day today—“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’” And I surely know from Jesus’ words what will happen on that Last Day. Destruction of the heavens and the earth. Separation of the sheep and the goats. Eternal life or eternal death.
I know these things. Yet I hesitate too. My preparations for Jesus’ finally coming and advent are perhaps as poor as Lot’s. Little by little my conscience is worn down by the sinful ways of the world around me. Things once considered awful years ago aren’t necessarily so anymore. My eyes and ears get used to seeing or hearing all kinds of things that I don’t even think twice about them anymore. Soon my living morphs into something similar to those around me.
I certainly could prepare myself and my family more too. But I get so wrapped up in every day life. Not even sinful things always either. Good things. Family things. Work things. Home things. Entertainment things. They aren’t bad per se. But I begin to love all these things so much, suddenly I find that I’m thinking more about them than I’m thinking about that momentous moment of Jesus’ return. And if I’m doing that to myself, what am I doing to my family?
Loving worldly life. Attached to worldly life. Being affected by the ways of the world. Falling into the sins of this world. Failing to be ready, watchful, and prepared. Sounds like my life is a lot like Lot’s. Sometimes I even wonder, would I have even struggled to make it out like Lot or am I so attached to this life that I would have ended up next to his wife as another pillar of salt?
But for as much as I have in common with Lot and his love of this life and failure to be ready, this I have in common too—the Lord has been merciful to me. For as much as I have done and as much as I have blended into sinful, worldly living, I surely do not deserve to be spared from the Lord’s coming judgment. But I have been spared, and so have you.
For every time that we have blended into the darkness of this world, Jesus came to be the Light of the world. For every sin we carry that deserves a fiery blast of God’s judgment, Jesus suffered the reality of hell on the cross for us. The curse of death that should be ours was the death Jesus suffered in our place. In much the same way that the angels had to physically drag Lot and his family out of Sodom and the impending judgment, so has Jesus redeemed us and dragged us from the devil’s doom into the safety of his Father’s forgiveness and love.
That happened at Christ’s first coming. That we soon shall celebrate at Christmas. But Christ comes to us still now today. He comes to you in his Word, as you heard him today, and he mercifully warns us like the angels did for Lot to be prepared. This is why church is so important. This is why receiving the Sacraments is so important. This is why personal and group Bible study is so important. This is why we do Wednesday evening services during Advent. If we do none of those things, how will Jesus come to us? He doesn’t whisper in our ears. He doesn’t come to us through dreams. Jesus speaks and comes to us through his Word. Take time out of this crazy life to be around him and his Word as he comes to you even now today.
That is so important because every day we wait and we watch. Every day we patiently prepare. Every day we eagerly expect his third and final advent. By his mercy and grace that is a day of judgment that we will escape, like Lot and the catastrophe of Sodom and Gomorrah. Rather, because of his mercy that is a day of joy when we will see our Savior face to face and taste and see his glory in person.
Learn from Lot. Every day, with patience, persistence, and prayer, Prepare Your Heart for that great day as we pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”