Prepare for Deliverance Into a New World
“Remember the wife of Lot.”—LUKE 17:32.
1. What historic example of divine deliverance does our lesson today highlight, and how can it benefit us?
AFTER telling about the marvelous deliverance that Jehovah performed in behalf of Noah and his family, the apostle Peter cited another historic example. He drew attention to the preservation of righteous Lot when Sodom and Gomorrah were reduced to ashes, as we read at 2 Peter 2:6-8. The details were preserved for our benefit. (Romans 15:4) Our taking to heart what occurred in connection with that deliverance can help to put us in line for preservation into God’s new world.
How We React to the World’s Way of Life
2. What conduct in Sodom and Gomorrah led to their destruction by God?
2 Why were those cities and their inhabitants destroyed? The apostle Peter mentions indulgence in “loose conduct.” (2 Peter 2:7) As indicated by the use of the Greek term from which that expression is translated, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah indulged in wrongdoing in a manner that displayed brazen disrespect, even contempt, for law and authority. Jude 7 says that they ‘committed fornication excessively and went out after flesh for unnatural use.’ The grossness of their conduct was manifest when the men of Sodom, “from boy to old man, all the people in one mob,” surrounded the house of Lot and demanded that he turn over his guests for the men of Sodom to gratify their perverted appetites. And they shouted denunciations at Lot because he resisted their depraved demands.—Genesis 13:13; 19:4, 5, 9.
3. (a) How did Lot and his family come to be living in such a corrupt environment as Sodom? (b) What was Lot’s reaction to the loose conduct of people in Sodom?
3 Lot had originally moved into the area near Sodom because of its potential for material prosperity. In time, he took up dwelling in the city itself. (Genesis 13:8-12; 14:12; 19:1) But he did not agree with the lewd practices of the men of the city, and those men did not view him as one of them, evidently because Lot and his family did not share in their social life. As 2 Peter 2:7, 8 says: “Lot . . . was greatly distressed by the indulgence of the law-defying people in loose conduct—for that righteous man by what he saw and heard while dwelling among them from day to day was tormenting his righteous soul by reason of their lawless deeds.” Those conditions constituted a severe trial for Lot because, as a righteous man, he abhorred such conduct.
4. (a) In what ways are conditions today like those in ancient Sodom? (b) If we are like righteous Lot, how do we react to present corrupt conditions?
4 In our day too, the moral level of human society has become degraded. In many lands, more and more engage in premarital or extramarital sex. Even many young people in school are deeply involved in this way of life, and they ridicule those who do not join them. Homosexuals outspokenly identify themselves and parade through the streets of large cities to demand recognition. The clergy have joined in the reveling. Officially, not many churches ordain known homosexuals and fornicators. Yet, in actuality, as news reports have repeatedly shown, it is not at all difficult to find homosexuals, fornicators, and adulterers in the ranks of the clergy. In fact, some religious leaders have been moved to other cities or have even been forced to resign over sex scandals. Lovers of righteousness are not in sympathy with such wickedness; they “abhor what is wicked.” (Romans 12:9) Especially are they grieved when the conduct of people who claim to serve God brings reproach on his name and causes uninformed people to turn away from all religion in disgust.—Romans 2:24.
5. What question does Jehovah’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah answer for us?
5 Year after year the situation grows worse. Will there be an end to it? Yes, there will! What Jehovah did to ancient Sodom and Gomorrah shows clearly that, at his appointed time, he will execute judgment. He will utterly destroy the wicked, but he will deliver his loyal servants.
Who or What Comes First in Life?
6. (a) What timely lesson is there in the account about the young men who were about to marry Lot’s daughters? (b) How did the attitude of their prospective mates test Lot’s daughters?
6 Only those who manifest true godly devotion will be spared. In this regard, consider what Jehovah’s angels said to Lot before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. “Do you have anyone else here? Son-in-law and your sons and your daughters and all who are yours in the city, bring out of the place! For we are bringing this place to ruin.” So Lot spoke to the young men who were to marry his daughters. He urged them repeatedly: “Get up! Get out of this place, because Jehovah is bringing the city to ruin!” Their relationship to the household of Lot afforded them a special opportunity for deliverance, but they personally had to take action. They had to give tangible evidence of obedience to Jehovah. Instead, in their eyes Lot “seemed like a man who was joking.” (Genesis 19:12-14) You can imagine how Lot’s daughters felt when they learned what had happened. It put their loyalty to God to the test.
7, 8. (a) When the angels urged Lot to take his family and flee, how did he react, and why was this unwise? (b) To be delivered, what was vital for Lot and his family?
7 The next morning at dawn, the angels became urgent with Lot. They said: “Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are found here, for fear you may be swept away in the error of the city!” But “he kept lingering.” (Genesis 19:15, 16) Why? What detained him? Was it material interests that he had there in Sodom—the very thing that had lured him into the area in the first place? If he clung to these, he would be destroyed with Sodom.
8 Out of compassion, the angels seized those in his family by the hand and hurried them out of the city. On the outskirts, Jehovah’s angel commanded: “Escape for your soul! Do not look behind you and do not stand still in all the District! Escape to the mountainous region for fear you may be swept away!” Lot still hesitated. Finally, after it was agreed that he could go to a location that was not so far, he and his family fled. (Genesis 19:17-22) There could be no further delay; obedience was vital.
9, 10. (a) Why was being with her husband not sufficient to ensure preservation for Lot’s wife? (b) When Lot’s wife was killed, what further test was brought upon Lot and his daughters?
9 However, the deliverance was not yet complete when they got away from Sodom. Genesis 19:23-25 tells us: “The sun had gone forth over the land when Lot arrived at Zoar. Then Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens, upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah. So he went ahead overthrowing these cities, even the entire District and all the inhabitants of the cities and the plants of the ground.” But where was Lot’s wife?
10 She had fled with her husband. However, was she in full agreement with what he was doing? There is nothing to indicate that she in any way approved of the immorality of Sodom. But was her love for God stronger than her attachment to her home and the material things she had there? (Compare Luke 17:31, 32.) Under pressure, what was in her heart became manifest. Evidently they were already near Zoar, perhaps at the point of entering the city, when she disobediently turned and looked back. And as the Bible record says, “she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26) Now a further test of loyalty faced Lot and his daughters. Was Lot’s attachment to his deceased wife or the girls’ feelings for their dead mother stronger than their love for Jehovah, who had brought about this calamity? Would they continue to obey God even though someone very close to them proved disloyal to him? With full trust in Jehovah, they did not look back.
11. What have we learned here about the deliverance that Jehovah provides?
11 Yes, Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial. He knows how to deliver entire families that are united in pure worship; he also knows how to deliver individuals. When they truly love him, he shows great consideration in dealing with them. “He himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13, 14) But his deliverance is only for those who are people of godly devotion, those whose devotion is genuine, those whose obedience is an expression of loyalty.
Loving Preparations for a Greater Deliverance
12. What loving preparations was Jehovah going to make before bringing the deliverance that we so eagerly anticipate?
12 By what he caused in the days of Noah and of Lot, Jehovah did not remove all the wicked forever. As the scripture says, it simply set a pattern of things to come. Before those things were to arrive, Jehovah had in mind much more that he purposed to do to benefit people who love him. He was going to send his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to earth. Here, Jesus would clear God’s name of reproach by demonstrating the kind of devotion that Adam as a perfect human should and could have rendered to God; but Jesus would do it under far more difficult circumstances. Jesus would lay down his perfect human life as a sacrifice so that offspring of Adam who exercised faith could have what Adam lost. Then, a “little flock” of loyal humans would be chosen by God to share with Christ in his heavenly Kingdom, and “a great crowd” would be gathered out of all nations to make up the foundation for a new human society. (Luke 12:32; Revelation 7:9) With that accomplished, God would perform the grand deliverance foreshadowed by events associated with the Deluge and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Why Decisive Action Is Urgent Now
13, 14. What can we learn from the fact that Peter used the destruction of ungodly people in the days of Lot and of Noah as examples?
13 Students of God’s Word know that Jehovah has on many occasions performed acts of deliverance for his servants. However, in most cases the Bible does not say, ‘As it was at that time, so the presence of the Son of man will be.’ Why did the apostle Peter, inspired by holy spirit, isolate just two examples? What was different about what occurred in the days of Lot and of Noah?
14 A definite indication is found at Jude 7, where we read that “Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them . . . are placed before us as a warning example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire.” Yes, the destruction of the gross sinners in those cities was eternal, as will be the destruction of the wicked at the end of the present system of things. (Matthew 25:46) The Flood of Noah’s day is likewise referred to in contexts that discuss eternal judgments. (2 Peter 2:4, 5, 9-12; 3:5-7) So by the destruction of ungodly people in the days of Lot and of Noah, Jehovah demonstrated that he will deliver his servants by destroying forever those who practice unrighteousness.—2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.
15. (a) What urgent warning is given to those who engage in wicked practices? (b) Why will justice be executed on all who persist in unrighteousness?
15 The destruction of the wicked brings no pleasure to Jehovah, nor does it bring pleasure to his servants. By means of his Witnesses, Jehovah urges people: “Turn back, turn back from your bad ways, for why is it that you should die?” (Ezekiel 33:11) Nevertheless, when people show no desire to heed this loving appeal but persist in their own selfish way of life, Jehovah’s respect for his own holy name and his love for his loyal servants who suffer abuse at the hands of ungodly men require that he execute justice.
16. (a) Why can we be confident that the foretold deliverance is very near? (b) From what and into what will deliverance be?
16 God’s time to bring deliverance is very near! The attitudes and events that Jesus foretold as the sign of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things are clearly in evidence. The features of that sign first began to appear over 75 years ago, and Jesus said that “this generation” would by no means pass away before God’s execution of judgment on this ungodly world occurred. When Jehovah determines that the Kingdom message has been proclaimed to a sufficient extent in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, then the end of this wicked world will come, and with that will come deliverance for people of godly devotion. (Matthew 24:3-34; Luke 21:28-33) Deliverance from what? From the trials that they have had to undergo at the hands of the wicked, and from circumstances that have daily been a source of distress to them as lovers of righteousness. It will also be deliverance into a new world where sickness and death will be things of the past.
Divine Help With Deliverance in View
17. (a) What sobering question should we ask ourselves? (b) How can we give evidence that, like Noah, we are moved by “godly fear”?
17 The question that we individually need to consider is, ‘Am I ready for that act of God?’ If we are trusting in ourselves or our own concept of righteousness, we are not ready. But if, like Noah, we are moved by “godly fear,” then we are responding in faith to the direction that Jehovah gives us, and this will lead to our deliverance.—Hebrews 11:7.
18. Why is learning genuine respect for theocratic authority an important part of our preparation for deliverance into the new world?
18 Beautifully describing those who enjoy the protection that Jehovah gives even now, Psalm 91:1, 2 says: “Anyone dwelling in the secret place of the Most High will procure himself lodging under the very shadow of the Almighty One. I will say to Jehovah: ‘You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God, in whom I will trust.’” Here is a group of people who are safeguarded by God like young ones under the powerful wings of a parent bird. Their full trust is in Jehovah. They acknowledge that he is the Most High, the Almighty One. As a result, they respect theocratic authority and submit themselves to it, whether it is exercised by parents or by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Is that true of us individually? Like Noah, are we learning to do ‘all that Jehovah commands’ us and to do things his way? (Genesis 6:22) If so, we are responding to the preparation that Jehovah is giving us for deliverance into his righteous new world.
19. (a) What is our figurative heart, and why is it vital that we give it attention? (Proverbs 4:23) (b) How can we benefit from Lot’s example regarding our reaction to worldly enticements?
19 That preparation also involves giving attention to our figurative heart. “Jehovah is the examiner of hearts.” (Proverbs 17:3) He helps us to realize that it is not what we appear to be on the outside that counts but, rather, the inner person, the heart. While we do not indulge in violence or immorality like the world around us, we need to be on guard against being enticed or entertained by these things. Like Lot, we should feel distressed by the very existence of such lawless deeds. Those who hate what is bad will not be seeking ways to indulge in it; yet, people who do not hate it may physically refrain from it while mentally wishing that they could share. “O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.”—Psalm 97:10.
20. (a) In what ways does the Bible warn us against a materialistic way of life? (b) How can we tell whether the Bible’s vital lessons on materialism have taken hold in our heart?
20 Jehovah is lovingly educating us to shun not only immoral conduct but also a materialistic way of life. ‘Be content with sustenance and covering,’ his Word counsels. (1 Timothy 6:8) Noah and his sons had to leave their homes behind when they went into the ark. Lot and his family, too, had to abandon home and possessions in order to save their lives. Where have we fixed our affections? “Remember the wife of Lot.” (Luke 17:32) Jesus urged: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) Are we doing that? If Jehovah’s righteous standards guide us and if the proclaiming of the good news of his Kingdom is the first concern in our lives, then we are, indeed, responding to his preparation of a people for deliverance into his new world.
21. Why can we rightly anticipate that Jehovah’s promise of deliverance will soon be fulfilled?
21 To people of godly devotion who would see fulfilled the sign of his presence in Kingdom power, Jesus said: “Raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28) Have you seen that sign as it has developed in every detail? Then have confidence that fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise of deliverance is very near at hand! Be fully convinced that “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.”—2 Peter 2:9.
What Have You Learned?
□ Like Lot, how should we react to the world’s way of life?
□ What tests did Lot and his family face even while fleeing Sodom?
□ How do the examples used by Peter emphasize the urgency of taking a firm stand on Jehovah’s side now?
□ In preparing his people for deliverance, what vital lessons is Jehovah teaching?
[Picture on page 18]
God’s people are safeguarded by him like young birds under their parent’s powerful wings