Be Careful Where You Pitch Your Tent
Be careful where you pitch your tent. If you are careless when deciding where you will pitch your tent, lots of bad things can happen. Rain can cause a flash flood which can wash you and your tent away. You could pitch it on top of an anthill and spend the night battling tiny critters. You could pitch it in bear country, and a bear might smell your camp food and pay you a most unwelcome visit. While camping in winter, you could happen to choose an avalanche route with disastrous results. You must choose carefully where you are going to pitch your tent to stay as safe and comfortable as possible.
Of course, if you are a pessimist, you might think like Dave Barry, who had the following opinion: “It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.”
There are other dangers that can affect us if we choose wrongly where to pitch our tents. I would like to explore one such story as we consider the life of Abraham’s nephew, Lot. Before we read the account, let’s review a couple of scriptures that will help us to focus on Lot’s story:
1 Cor. 10:11: The Holy Bible is inspired of God, and when we study it we should always be alert for the lessons and/or warnings it contains for us. 1 Cor. 15:33: Bad company corrupts good character.
So let’s see what the story of Lot has to teach us. In Genesis chapter 13: 1-13, we read:
So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.
Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.
Note that even though Abram was older and wealthier than Lot, he was most gracious. Basically, Lot had his choice of where to settle, no questions asked. What did he decide? Lot chose this huge vast fertile plain of Jordan, with wonderful grazing for his animals, fertile for crops. When it became time to pitch his tents, Lot decided to camp among the cities on the plain and, in fact, he pitched them near Sodom. The phrasing used here indicates that the tent openings actually faced the city. Every time Lot and his family members left their tent, they were treated to a view of the city, a daily assault of their senses. And what kind of city was Sodom? You know the answer to that.
Lot’s mistake number one: He chose to live within sight of the evil in the world around him and to expose his family to it daily.
Lesson number one for us: We daily make decisions about where to pitch our tent. We decide daily what kind of people we are going to surround ourselves with, what kind of entertainment we will expose ourselves and our families to, and what will enter our minds in our choice of reading material. There is a great fertile plain of safe and wholesome choices, or there are the places of sin and evil. How close we decide to pitch our tents to the evil places can affect us and our families. Remember, if we pitched our tents too near the Sodom’s in our world, we are faced with seeing them every day, even if it’s at some distance. It is difficult not to be affected.
Let’s go back to Lot’s story. Fast forward ahead a few chapters to God’s decision to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Turn to chapter 19: 1-3:
The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.” But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.
Lot was sitting where? In the city gateway. And he took the strangers where? To his house. In the city of Sodom.
Lot’s mistake number two: He moved to the city. He and his family viewed Sodom on a daily basis from their tent opening. And every day the view became more and more enticing, and it drew them in, until finally he moved his family right into the evil city.
Lesson number two for us: If we decide to pitch our tent within sight of modern day Sodom, and we view it every day, and then we can expect that over time the enticement to experience it will increase and very likely cause us to move into the city. Living in the city can warp our thinking and decision-making. Let’s go back to Lot’s story, in Genesis 19:4-8:
Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.” Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
Lot’s mistake number three: He became so influenced by Sodom’s culture that his judgment was impaired. What kind of father would offer his own young daughters to a mob of men to assault and rape?? Remember, we have no indication at this time that Lot knew the two men were angels; in fact, he has prepared a meal for them.
Lesson number three for us: We can get so immersed in the culture around us that our judgment can be affected. Movies with extreme violence, cursing, and sexual scenes can become okay to watch. We can end up in bad places on the internet and not hate that evil as God does. We can flirt with that co-worker and end up doing something that ruins our marriage. We can find ourselves laughing at the dirty joke told by one of our co-workers.
What happens next? We pick up the account in Genesis 19: 12-16:
The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”
So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
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.” When he hesitated, the men 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.
Lot’s mistakes four and five: He made poor choices for future husbands of his daughters. They had no relationship with God and no respect for Lot. They were immersed in the culture and so did not take his warning seriously. And Lot himself, after being warned directly by the angels to take his family and flee, hesitated. The angels had to forcibly lead them out of the city.
Lessons four and five for us: As Godly parents we must do our very best to see that our sons and daughters, when they choose to marry, select Godly mates. And let us examine our ties to the culture around us. Let’s make sure that when a time comes when God clearly wants us to flee from a part of that culture, we do not hesitate but have the faith and the courage to flee.
We can complete the story by reading Gen. 19:23-26:
By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
Mistake six belonged to Lot’s wife. Though told to flee and not look back, she just couldn’t help herself. She really hated to go, and it cost her her life.
Lesson six for us: When God clearly shows us something in our lives that we must quit or stop, we must take action, flee from that sin, and not look back. The scriptures promise that The Holy Spirit is ready, willing, and able to give us the power to make a clean break.
The reason we are talking so much about culture now is the fact of how insidious its effects are and that it keeps moving further and further away from Christian principles. Here is what Ravi Zacharias had to say:
“These days it’s not just that the line between right and wrong has been made unclear, today Christians are being asked by our culture today to erase the lines and move the fences, and if that were not bad enough, we are being asked to join in the celebration cry by those who have thrown off the restraints religion had imposed upon them. It is not just that they ask we accept, but they now demand of us to celebrate it too.”
At the end of the day, Lot was called a righteous man in 2 Peter 2:7-8. However, he might have saved himself and his family a lot of grief if he had made a more thoughtful decision about where he pitched his tent and the consequences that flowed from that decision. In the same way, we are covered by the shed blood of Jesus Christ even when we make some poor decisions and exercise poor judgment. “Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.” Keri Russell
So please, make it easier on yourself, and be careful where you pitch your tent!