Godly Living And Witness In An Ungodly Age
Our Lord Jesus Christ selected from ancient history the two parallel cases of Noah and Lot, as written for our admonition and learning upon whom the ends of this age are come. Our Lord declared that when He returns, world conditions will resemble those of the "days of Noah" and also those of the "days of Lot":
"As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed" (Luke 17:26-30).
The striking contrast in the attitude of God’s children toward world conditions at the coming of the Son of Man is revealed in the lives of Noah and Lot. Should the Lord Jesus Christ return in your day, He will find your life resembling either that of Noah or that of Lot. So study diligently the relationship of these two men to their respective days and generations, and see whether you are a modern Noah, or a modern Lot to your own day and generation.
Both Noah and Lot were righteous in their respective generations. Those generations were both under the judgment of God, and His interest is apparently centered upon the number of the righteous then living. While Noah and Lot were both numbered with the righteous (Gen. 6:9; 2 Pet. 2:7-8), Noah only was numbered with the faithful listed in Hebrews, chapter 11.
Noah chose to company with and walked with God and "did according to all that God commanded him" (Gen. 6:22). Thus he was faithful; not so Lot. Lot walked with Abraham, but he chose material wealth in preference to the companionship of Abraham, "the friend of God" (Jas. 2:23) – separating himself from Abraham with the result that he erred from the faith, and was not numbered among the "blessed with faithful Abraham" (Gal. 3:9; Heb. 11:8-21).
Both Noah and Lot had a vision of world conditions around them, but it was to Noah only – the man who walked with God – that God revealed His viewpoint. God "made His ways known unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel" (Psa. 103:7). Noah knew God’s ways one hundred and twenty years before His acts were seen in the judgment of the flood. The telescope of faith brought future events so near to Noah that they were as real to him as though they had already taken place. Thus enlightened as to God’s ways in His dealings with men, Noah suspended all his other enterprises and prepared for the day when God would act in judgment. With Lot it was otherwise. He had not God’s viewpoint of Sodom, because he was ignorant of God’s way, and was only enlightened when, by God’s act, he was finally dragged out of Sodom.
Those living before the flood had righteous Noah who preached the message of righteousness to them. The Sodomites had righteous Lot who loved to possess the mammon of unrighteousness – worldly riches. Thus Sodom’s sad history became associated with a number of "ifs." "Peradventure [if] there be fifty righteous within the city…peradventure forty…peradventure thirty…peradventure twenty…peradventure ten" (Gen. 18:20-32).
Nineteen hundred years pass by and our Lord Jesus again associates Sodom with an "if." "If the mighty works, which have been done in thee [Capernaum] had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day" (Matt. 11:23-24). Sodom lacked "the mighty works" which would have produced ten or more righteous persons, and would have saved the city from destruction.
What caused the absence of "the mighty works" which brought Sodom to her fate? Sodom and Nineveh were both wicked cities, their sins being known to God; but Sodom was destroyed because no mighty works had been done in it, while Nineveh was spared because "God saw their works, that they turned from their evil" (Jon. 3:10).
How were these saving works brought about in Nineveh? God said to Jonah, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee…And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God…and God saw their works that they turned from their evil way" (Jon. 3:2-10). "They repented at the preaching of Jonah" (Matt. 12:41), and the city was spared when God saw the works of repentance. But there were no mighty works of repentance in Sodom.
Noah’s witness condemned the world because of his faithful preaching and mighty works of faith – the building of the ark. Sodom’s fate condemns Lot’s witness because he was not faithful in preaching, and consequently no mighty works of repentance resulted. Sodom is twice mentioned by our Lord as having an inadequate witness. In Matthew 10:7-15, He associates Sodom with "preaching" and in Matthew 11:23-24 with "mighty works." It was Jonah’s ministry of preaching which produced the mighty saving works in the wicked city of Nineveh, but Sodom was not favored with the ministry of preaching, so it had no mighty works of faith.
On the other hand in Noah’s day the people were favored for a long period of time with a preacher of righteousness, and for a similar period they also saw mighty works of faith (1 Pet. 3:18-20; Heb. 11:7). Hence it is that our Lord makes no reference to special tolerance being granted to them in the day of judgment. But to the Sodomites He states definitely twice, "It shall be more tolerable" in that day because they were not – like the people before the flood – favored with the preaching of righteousness or the mighty works of faith.
Sodom had one righteous man, but it lacked a preacher of righteousness. Then as now, God is pleased "through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Cor. 1:21), but "How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14).
Would Sodom’s history have been different if Lot, like Noah, had "walked with God," having God’s viewpoint, and like Jonah, had preached daily in its streets proclaiming its destruction? That wicked city was destroyed because there was no preacher in its streets to warn them of their impending destruction. There was only Lot’s ineffectual appeal for one evening to members of his own household: "Up, get you out of this place for the Lord will destroy this city" (Gen. 19:14).
Those people living before the flood were warned for 120 years of the coming judgment. In the great day of judgment Noah’s household can testify to having heard the warning day by day from their father, and they were saved. But the Sodomites were not warned for 120 minutes, and in the great day of judgment, Lot’s household can testify to not having heard the warning for even one whole day – only a portion of one night – the last night.
In Lot’s household there were at least ten persons: two single daughters – at least two sons – at least two married daughters and sons-in-law – and Lot and his wife (Gen. 19:8,12,14,16). Thus if Lot’s household had kept the way of the Lord like Abraham’s household, and had been saved like Noah’s household, Sodom would have been saved (Gen. 18:19; 7:1; 18:32).
Noah did not heed the vocal expressions of the evil thoughts and imaginations of the people of his day and generation. He was constrained to do the speaking, preaching to warn them of the coming judgment, the Holy Spirit accompanying the word and striving in their hearts (Gen. 6:3). With Lot it was otherwise. He gave no warning day by day of coming judgment upon Sodom, but listened to their filthy conversation, and vexed his own soul, instead of delivering it. Do you listen to the filthy conversation of this age and not warn them of their sin, and by failing to testify of Christ with your own tongue, you daily vex your soul instead of delivering it (Ezek. 3:17,18)? Or does the world listen to your testimony for righteousness, and are you, like Paul, "pure from the blood of all men – and ceasing not to warn every one night and day" (Acts 20:26,31)?
"How shall they hear without a preacher?" Before the flood Noah was the man and he was faithful. In Sodom, Lot was the man and he was a failure. In your town, village, business, office, workshop and home – you are the man! Are you faithful or a failure? Are you a Noah or a Lot? Does your witness lead some to be saved, thereby condemning the unbelief of rejecters of the righteousness which is by faith? Or will the world condemn your witness because you failed to warn it (Ezek. 3:17-19)?
Divorced from worldliness, Noah, in the days of grace and the longsuffering of God, spent his fortune on a work of faith to the salvation of others. Lot was married to the merchandise of Sodom, and his love of filthy lucre was stronger than his hate of "filthy conversation," and so he became a slave of the mammon of unrighteousness, seeking his own profit and not that of others that they might be saved (1 Cor. 10:33).
As the years went by, Noah’s fortune gradually diminished as he, like Paul, did "gladly spend and be spent for" the souls of others, counting those things which formerly had been gain to him as loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of "the righteousness which is by faith" (Phil. 3:4-9; Heb. 11:7). As the years went by, Lot "heaped treasure together for the last days" (Jas. 5:3). When judgment fell upon Sodom, all was consumed in an hour.
As it was in Noah’s day, some children of God will be absorbed in the extraordinary occupation of the works of faith when Christ comes. As it was in Lot’s day, some Christians like that righteous man will be absorbed in the ordinary occupation of worldly living, buying and selling in the world’s markets, heaping treasure until Christ comes, lingering like Lot among the very things that are destined to the flames of judgment. Are your treasures in the extraordinary realm of faith or in the ordinary realm of worldliness?
Tested by Public Opinion
In Noah’s day and in Lot’s day public opinion was a test as to where their respective riches were treasured, long before the judgment scenes took place. And today public opinion will be a good test as to whether your treasures are in heaven, and whether your affections are set on things above, or on things on the earth (Luke 12:21,33-34; Col. 3:1-2).
Was public opinion with or against Noah and his work of faith? Let us suppose Noah’s ark to be put up to auction the day before the flood waters came. What value do you think those disobedient and faithless souls would place upon it? The few who put any value at all upon it were all of one household (1 Pet. 3:20; Heb. 11:7).
To the perishing ones then as well as now, a work of faith is foolishness, and of no value to those who live only for eating and drinking and marrying. But let the same ark be put up to auction on the day that God shut up Noah and his household in it and the judgment waters began to prevail, and it becomes then the most coveted object on earth. Then it is understood that God in His power and wisdom had chosen this foolish thing, this despised thing as His instrument of salvation (1 Cor. 1:27-28).
In this respect public opinion in Sodom in no wise differed. What does public opinion think of Lot’s possessions the day before the fires of judgment from heaven were rained upon Sodom? The keenest business men would be bidding against one another for them, for until the judgment came, they bought and sold with no thought of the future. But let Lot’s property be put up to auction as the judgment fires are falling, and we shall then see what value they place upon it. When God revealed the value He set upon Lot’s possessions, there were no bidders in Sodom for them.
Look then at Noah’s possessions and at Lot’s possessions at the time of these judgment scenes and remember that these things were written for our admonition and learning upon whom the ends of this age are come. Look at your own possessions in the light of such passages of the Holy Scriptures as Luke 12:15-34; 16:10-14; Colossians 3:1-2, with 1 Timothy 6:5-12 and Revelation 18:4-19. In that day when "Every man’s work shall be made manifest…" and "revealed…of what sort it is" (1 Cor. 3:13-15), see whether you will be a Noah or a Lot at the coming of the Son of Man.
From the day that Noah was warned of God, everything that he labored for and spent his wealth upon was carried beyond the judgment scenes into a new world. Everything that Lot built and had accumulated in Sodom perished in the judgment upon it. So God warns His people in this materialistic age of the coming judgment hour which is fast approaching: "Come out of her My people."
In the early days of Israel’s history every business transaction was related to the year of Jubilee, and buying and selling values were regulated according to the nearness or remoteness of the Jubilee next following (Lev. 25:14-16). Is the glorious Jubilee of our Lord’s coming near, or is it afar off, according to your estimate of the things which are seen which are temporal? What would be the testimony of public opinion concerning you? Would it testify that you have Noah’s or Lot’s outlook in this respect? Does your district have a witness? "Ye are our epistle known and read of all men" (2 Cor. 3:2). "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). "We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph. 2:10).
Our attitude toward things temporal and things eternal also determines our position as fathers of households, whether we are modern Noahs or Lots with a corresponding effect upon our children. Noah walked with God and preached to men, leaving to those who came after him those beautiful footprints referred to in Romans 10:15. Noah built the ark, a work of faith, fashioning it according to God’s blueprint (Gen. 6:15-22). Noah’s life and work condemned the world but left upon his own household a saving imprint (Heb. 11:7). The Sodomites saw no beautiful footprints of men who preached "the gospel of peace and brought glad tidings of good things." Sodom saw no mighty works after the pattern of God’s blueprint. Upon Lot’s household there was left no saving imprint.
Both Noah’s house and Lot’s house had righteous heads, but only Noah followed after righteousness, godliness, and faith. Lot followed after covetousness and love of money, and erred from the faith, piercing himself through with many sorrows. Noah’s family knew what their father’s business was. They shared his faith and his salvation and became joint heirs with him of "the righteousness which is by faith."
Lot’s family also knew what their father’s business was in Sodom, and jesting at his eleventh hour warning, they shared in the destruction of the possessions which their father had accumulated, and so were lost.
Not only were the fathers of Noah’s and Lot’s household different; the mothers also were different. "Remember Lot’s wife," said Jesus (Luke 17:32). Noah also had a wife and she, like Lot’s wife, was the mother of a family in a very wicked age. In that age she was the mother of saved children – the only saved boys in the world – and she saw those saved boys married to the only saved women on earth (1 Pet. 3:20; Gen. 7:13). She was a keeper of a home, coveting her children for God and saw that they were "not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." Lot’s wife also was the mother of a family in a wicked environment. She coveted temporal things and saw her daughters married to the sinful men of Sodom and perish with them.
Fathers and mothers, what about your households in this wicked age? Father, will you be a Joshua, and by the grace of God say, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15)? Mother, will you be a Eunice, and teach your children "the Holy Scriptures which are able to make [them] wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15)?
Think of your witness in the light of Jesus’ word: "As it was in the
days of Noah…thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed"
(Luke 17:26-30). See whether you resemble Mr. and Mrs. Noah and family, or
Mr. and Mrs. Lot and family.
Adapted from a tract by L.F.