[Lot said,] "I cannot escape to the hills, lest disaster overtake me and I die. Behold, this city is near enough to flee to. . .. Let me escape there."
A Sincere Prayer
This account serves to rouse and spur us on to prayer in all our dangers, since God wants to do what we want, provided that we humbly prostrate ourselves before Him and pray. In this way the Ninevites, to whom the prophet had announced even the day of their destruction, were saved. And in Scripture there are more evidences of this kind; they prove that God allows Himself to be prevailed upon and subordinates His will to ours. Why, then, are we so remiss in regard to prayer? Why are we without faith to such an extent and so fainthearted, as though our prayer amounted to nothing? Let the monks despair of their praying; they have no knowledge of God and are altogether without faith. Their prayer is not a sincere request; it is arduous toil and actually an empty sound. But as for ourselves, who have the knowledge of the Word, when we come together and bend our knees in true humility, we know—because we have been taught not only by the promises but also by examples—that God wants to disregard His own will and do ours. These facts must be earnestly impressed on the people and on us, lest the disposition to pray flag in us. To be sure, God does everything; but we, too, must do what belongs to our calling.
"Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away."
Do Not Look Back
This, too, serves for our instruction; for whenever you see that some, like the people of Sodom, have the Word and despise both its threats and its promises, then keep in mind that you should save your soul, lest you perish together with such people; for such people are like those whom Solomon describes as saying (Proverbs 23:35): "They struck me, but I was not hurt," and their destruction cannot be too far off. Hardened Pharaoh perishes in the sea, and Samuel sheds tears in vain over King Saul. We must be on our guard against those who are thus given over to a wicked disposition, lest we share in their sin and perish together with them. . .. And Paul (2 Corinthians 6:17) enjoins: "Go out from their midst," keeping in mind the angel's command to save your own soul, as though he were saying: "Give thought to your own salvation, for your anxiety about the salvation of others is in vain." The emphasis lies on the pronoun "you." Thus Paul says (Titus 3:10-11): “As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted.” And in Romans 12:19 Paul says: "Give place to wrath," as though he were saying: "If the unbelievers want to perish, let them perish indeed."
But [Lot] lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.
Lot had God's command to leave the city and abandon it. This command he should have obeyed. For when God speaks, He speaks in earnest and is not jesting or making fun, as we human beings are in the habit of doing. We often say one thing and have something else in mind. But the pious old man is troubled by the trial which plagues all of us too; for just as Satan disturbed Eve in Paradise by injecting the question (Genesis 3:2) why and with what intention God forbade the eating of the fruit, so our reason hampers and deceives us too. Consequently, we are not satisfied with knowing that God has given a command; but in our foolish anxiety we also want to inquire into the reasons for the command. God hates this inquisitiveness and does not want us to make it our business to ask why and wherefore, if I may use this expression; He wants us simply to obey His command and to be satisfied with this one reason, that He Himself has given the command. Hence in this passage Lot suffers from a human failing, inasmuch as he acts slowly and delays too long because of his good intention, as he thought.
As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, "Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city."
The Just Punishment of Sin
God has appointed three social classes to which He has given the command not to let sins go unpunished. The first is that of the parents, who should maintain strict discipline in their house. . .. The second is the government, for the officers of the state bear the sword for the purpose of coercing the obstinate and remiss by means of their power of discipline. The third is that of the Church, which governs by the Word. By this threefold authority God has protected the human race against the devil, the flesh, and the world, to the end that offenses may not increase but may be cut off. Parents are the children's tutors, as it were. Those who are grown up and are remiss the government curbs through the executioner. In the Church those who are obstinate are excommunicated. Thus the divine Majesty, as It makes use of the service of human beings in accordance with Its manifold wisdom and unlimited insight, is everywhere discernible. If some are remiss in their calling and either connive at offenses or do not punish them in earnest, they take the sin of others upon themselves. . .. Therefore whether we are officers of the state or private citizens, we should of one accord oppose sins, lest the wrath of God come upon us and we all be consumed together.