Are We Still Clinging to Our Zoar?

Leaving it all behind

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

 

Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 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 17:28-30, KJ2000)

Many Christians who read the Bible compartmentalize its verses. They either make them apply to people they do not approve of, or apply them to another time (dispensationalism), especially if those verses start to make them feel uncomfortable about themselves. But the Holy Spirit won’t let me get away with that any more. He always reminds me of this verse as I contemplate any passage in the Bible:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2Tim 3:16, ESV2011)

What part of ALL don’t we understand? ALL scripture is breathed out by God not only for teaching, but for reproof and correction as well as training us in HIS righteousness. So, I am used to not only listening to the voice of the Spirit for what He might say to me, but when He gives me a scripture, I have to ask Him, “Where do I fit in what He is saying to me?”

I didn’t start out that way. Like most church folks I knew, I loved to put the warnings of God’s word on everyone else but me. One of the first books that my church going aunt gave to me upon finding out that I was saved was a book on eschatology! I didn’t need to know about Bible prophesy, but rather who is this Jesus that has taken hold of me? So with the latest group of scriptures he had me contemplating, I wondered what His judgment on Sodom in the days of Lot had to do with today and my life in Christ. It is odd in the above text that Jesus did not have one word to say about sodomy or homosexuality, isn’t it? No, they ate, they drank, they bought and sold, they planted and they built. It was business as usual by people who had the focus of their lives on this world until God’s judgment destroyed all their works. Sound familiar?

As I contemplated this and many other passages about Sodom and let Him apply them to my life, a pattern started to form, and not one that I expected. In Genesis we read about how God forewarned Abraham about the judgment coming on Sodom and Gomorrah. The problem was that Abraham knew that Lot, his wife and his two daughters lived in Sodom and so he did all he could to convince God not to do such a thing. Two angels visited Abraham and told him that Sarah would have a son in her old age and he would be the father of a great nation. The angels then headed off to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because the people there were evil in all their ways. God does that–He destroys a people who have become altogether irredeemable and then raises up a people who will walk with Him by faith.

It is here that I want to quote Abraham’s conversation with God.

Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place. (Gen 18:23-33, ESV2011)

As the story goes on, the two angels entered Sodom after leaving Abraham and were invited to stay overnight with Lot and his family. As it got dark, the men of that evil city banged on his door and wanted to seduce his guests. While Lot was arguing with them, begging them not to do such an evil thing to his house guests, the angels grabbed him and drew him inside and blinded those men so that they could not find the door. When morning came, the two angels had to take Lot, his wife and two daughters by the hand and drag them out of the city before God’s judgment fell. The story continues:

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.” But he 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. And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. (Gen 19:15-22, ESV2011)

We don’t know how many years Lot lived there in Sodom. We do know that when Abraham and he parted ways, Lot chose the fertile plain which was much more pleasant for him and his herds, while Abraham chose what was left, the mountains with all their dangers. Abraham walked by faith and Lot walked by sight. Because of Abraham’s faith, God kept him. It was not long until Lot was living in Sodom and nothing more is heard about him being a herdsman. The easy ways of this world are like that. They just keep sucking us into their more comfortable ways that are in league with our flesh. Abraham walked by faith, but Lot lacked such faith that God would keep him and bless him as He had Abraham, and he chose the artificial city life of fallen man.

Now, to get to what the Lord was saying to me out of all this. In the first passage we see Abraham arguing with the Lord about saving those cities for the sake of a few “good people” that might live in them. In the second we see Lot pleading with the angels to let him live in that “little city.” What harm can a little city do, after all? “Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” As we read on we see that what Lot thought would save his life soon became dangerous as well. We do that. We put more trust in something that seems “good” to our natural man that we might save our life, but God knows the hidden dangers to our spiritual walk. Jesus said, “He who finds his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake shall find it.” Our lives in the world and its ways are all too precious to us in the eyes of God.

Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. (Gen 19:22, ESV2011)

Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. (Gen 19:30, ESV2011)

“’I can do nothing until you arrive there.’ Therefore the name of the city is Zoar.” Zoar means “little or to be brought low.” God can do nothing with any of us, no matter how gifted we might be, until He has brought us low, and we admit that we have nothing in us that is good. We must become as a little child if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. As John the Baptist said about Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease.” God can do nothing with what we think we might have to offer Him, but oh, how we plead for Him to save any perceived “goodness” we have in us. “But Lord, if there be just 50, just 45, just 30, just 20… how about only ten good things in me, can I avoid the destruction that the cross demands in my life?” “Lord, let’s be reasonable. Let me have just a little safe haven, something I can cling to in this life. It all can’t be evil, can it?”  The longer we walk after Christ the more we find out just how uncompromising this walk is.  “None are righteous, no not one.” “All our righteousness is as filthy rags.” “The flesh profits nothing.” And finally in our ever growing weakness by the working of the cross we hear Him say, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” and we believe it.

Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Until we become small in our own sight, so small that we no longer look to our Zoar for safety, but see that even the best hopes in and of ourselves are not safe, God cannot manifest the life of His Son in us. He can do nothing with us but set us aside as so many cave dwellers until we, like Elijah, no longer try to hear His voice in the earthquakes, winds and fires of the fleshly ways of men, but rather hear His slightest whisper saying, “This is the way of the Lord, walk you in it.”

Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot… Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” In the economy of the Father it is all about his Son being revealed in us. We as individual believers are in the days of Lot, much deeper than we ever thought. But there is hope…

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1Pet 4:12-13, ESV2011)

18 comments on “Are We Still Clinging to Our Zoar?

  1. We need this instruction in humility, Michael. The prophet Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips dwelling among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts” (Isa. 6: 5). Yet God accepted his willingness to serve, and used him greatly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Thanks, Anna. God did not use Isaiah to speak for Him until he out of despair acknowledged his own inability and need and then God made him ready for His use by putting a hot, purifying coal on his lips from His heavenly altar. All to many of us speak “for God” without these two steps taking place first. The flesh of man profits nothing in the kingdom work of God.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Michael, your post and especially this comment of yours strongly reminded me of yesterday’s TAS devotional where Sparks described how God brought him to an end of himself. We all need this and we need to accept that it is God’s doing alone. Our old nature would never be able to long for simply walking by faith, seeing nothing, doing nothing unless God inside us leads us to do, say or write something by revelation and inspiration. Here is the whole devotional by TAS.
    March 30
    The Son can do nothing by Himself. (John 5:19 NLT)
    That is the principle of the Cross. He accepted that position of being able to do nothing out from Himself. It must all come out from God. There is no way through otherwise…. There was a revolution in my life thirty years ago when that principle of the Cross came flat up against ministry – ministry that for years I had been producing – against all my study, reading and late nights, to get up the stuff for ministry, till the whole thing became an intolerable burden in myself. Others perhaps thought it to be pretty good, but the crisis when – listen to me, men and women who are in ministry, or contemplating it – the whole turn came upon the recognition of this principle, this principle of the Cross when, with the door closed, I said to the Lord ‘I am finished in all ministry, I am never going to preach again unless You do something now. I have been doing it all these years; I have been producing this, now I am finished. You have got to do it.’ But I saw that principle, you see, as the principle of the Cross and I meant it.
    Forgive me speaking of myself, but I must bring this home in some way. The next week would have seen my resignation in with my church officers, and I would have gone out from ministry if the Lord had not done it. But the Lord was true to His own principle. It was an utter end of anything that I could produce for ministry, and I meant it to be like that, because I recognized that God meant that. That was the principle of the Cross – nothing out from ourselves. No fruit that labor and study of the mind and heart could produce has a way through in the work and service of God. God was true to His own principle – He always is. From that day to this, there has been no trouble about ministry. It is easy to let ministry go, and much more easy than to accept it. This clamoring for ministry – it is uncrucified flesh. Well, there has been an open heaven since then. Again I beg your forgiveness for making this personal reference, but this is a true thing. It is a principle which covers all the ground.

    http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/openwindows/003110.html

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Susanne, I am glad you have the spiritual depth you do and understand what I wrote. The closer I get to the truth of the matter of the cross taking out our old Adam and Christ doing the work (if work is to be done), the fewer people understand what He is saying. Like you, I am greatly relieved when He has nothing for me to write or do. What a relief it must have been for Elijah to lay down all “ministry” and hide away by that brook and see God provide for him anyway. What a relief it must have been for him to be put with that Gentile widow and her son far away from any ministering to back-slidden Israel. Yet, all I once could see was how great Elijah was to call fire down from heaven and outrun Ahab and His chariots and challenge that terrible king as he stood alone for God. What a gift it is to see that apart from Christ I am an empty shell and can do nothing. Sparks went on to be used greatly in a public way as a preacher and teacher after surrendering to this truth. For me and you it does not seem to be His will. Like Paul said,

      “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:12-13, ESV2011)

      And without His strength in me I can do nothing. It is good to finally be content to be nothing instead of working myself into a frenzy to be “His somebody.” My sister, I enjoy being emptied out with you. Where two or three of us are gathered together IN His name, He is there with us and IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT. Oh, the sweet simplicity of abiding In Christ as our sufficiency.

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  3. Fred says:

    Ok, now I finished the rest of it. I think it goes along nicely with my own latest blog post. I think anyway. I have been feeling helpless lately and even very stressed out. I have discovered through a dream that I was trying to deal with things and others on my own. I was not going to GOD as I should. Instead, I turned to other things which didn’t actually help even though I wanted them to. They only made things worse in fact. They made me more stressed out and hate my self more. But if I am reading what you are saying correctly there is hope even for me. Seeing how bad of a person I am is normal and more and more of how bad I keep coming up. I know that some say I am hard on my self but I just know how bad I can be. Even when I see others being talked about in a bad way I at times will think how am I better than those people. Or even from the bible itself how am I any better than the Israelites that constantly upset and made GOD angry. I am like how am I better than these people. However, even know I know all of this I some times or a lot of the times forget to go to Jesus. I think that is what my dream and your post have tried to tell me. Now if that is what came out from my own blog post I am unsure. I am still in a very massive battle over some temptations but the last verse you have posted gives me hope in that.

    Ok, I am rambling and so I will stop here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Fred, I read your two dreams and they do speak of your life so far. You love to run around and get input from just about anywhere. Your only true friend that is closer than a brother is Jesus. You need to seek Him out for ALL your needs and not men. In the second dream you slid down the mountain you had been climbing. God will make sure that you do. Any progress that we make without Christ will eventually be lost, but if we climb with His strength and guidance in us we will reach the goal that our Father sets before us. As David put it,

      “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Ps 23:5-6, ESV2011)

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  4. alan haungs says:

    I suspect my niceness/kindness is sometimes my Zoar.

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  5. Cuán necesario es ser abatidos por Dios, cuán necesario es que el Señor nos saque de nuestra comodidad para que entendamos que lo único que necesitamos es a Cristo, nada fuera de Él tiene sentido.

    Esta era la lucha de Pablo con los Gálatas “…hasta que Cristo sea formado en vosotros”. Esta es la meta de Dios Padre y hará lo que tenga que hacer para que esto sea así en nosotros, no importa cuánto tenga que calentar el horno.

    Preciosa enseñanza Michael.

    Un abrazo.
    ——
    Patricia wrote:

    How necessary it is to be struck down by God, how necessary it is for the Lord to take us out of our comfort so that we understand that the only thing we need is Christ, nothing outside of Him makes sense.

    This was Paul’s fight with the Galatians “… until Christ is formed in you.” This is the goal of God the Father and he will do what he has to do to make it so in us, no matter how much he has to heat the furnace.

    Precious teaching Michael.

    A hug.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Patricia, you are so correct. He is our Refiner who keeps us in His purifying fires, consuming all our dross until Christ be formed in us.

      “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” (Gal 4:26-27, ESV2011)

      Your brother together IN Him,
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It is absolutely an inward working out of Hebrews 4:12: “For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the [g]breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.”

    As well as Jeremiah 17:9-10: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it [perceive, understand, be acquainted with his own heart and mind]? I the Lord search the mind, I try the heart, even to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”

    “Exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.” This is shocking to us since the heart is deceitful above all things! We do not see ourselves as God sees us. This is NOT unto condemnation or death to self alone! This is unto Life…all of the Lord’s work with us is unto Life – resurrection life in union with Him. And these trials, our sufferings, no matter how minuscule they are when compared to another, they are used in Love to reveal to us these deeper and stronger attachments our flesh has. Oh that we would cooperate with His loving Hand!

    Sparks put it wonderfully in today’s (April 2nd) reading:

    Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. (Hebrews 12:2)

    “The passion of the Cross is the way of our release, and if you consider your own spiritual experience, those of you who have any experience of a walk with God, you know quite well that it has been through times of deep and acute suffering that you have found fresh releases; fresh releases in your spiritual life. Is it not true? Yes, we pass into a time of excruciating spiritual and soul suffering. We do not know what the Lord is doing, what He means by this, what He is after, but we know the features of our experience and know what it is that we are suffering, and it goes on. We, of course, ask the Lord to stop it, to bring it to a quick end, to deliver us from it. He takes no notice of us, and it is only those people who get out the other end who say, ‘Thank God, He did not take any notice.’ In the meantime, we think He is anything but kind and good and doing the right thing, but as we get on under His hand, we begin to see and to sense that He is dealing with something. Maybe He is dealing with our pride, our independence, or our irresponsibility, for example. That is the issue that comes up, and we are faced all the time with something about ourselves that is almost devastating. We would not have believed that that was so strong in us.

    Oh, of course we were always ready to believe that that is in mankind and in us as a part of mankind in a general way. Yes, we would never have resented being told that there was pride or something like that about us, but we would never have believed how deeply rooted and terribly strong that thing is until it was put to a fiery test and everything was held up, and we saw that everything in our life and work for God was held up on that point…. And we know quite well that what the Lord was after was not the pulverising of us, as we thought, the winding up of us, but to bring about enlargement, to bring about release, and release always lies along the line of the Cross, the passion. Enlargement always lies in that direction.”

    By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Cross and the Way of Life – Chapter 1

    “Maybe He is dealing with our pride, our independence, or our irresponsibility, for example. That is the issue that comes up, and we are faced all the time with something about ourselves that is almost devastating. We would not have believed that that was so strong in us.”

    Michael, I am here. Again. If anyone reading is there, praise the Lord! May we find through these workings of His Hand a deeper freedom in our life with Christ! Amen!

    I am your sister,
    Becky

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    • Michael says:

      Thanks Becky. That last paragraph by TAS you quoted sums up what I have been going through lately. How our flesh takes on many ways of hiding itself and deceiving us! Thank God for His Word, Jesus Christ, who by His Spirit is constantly separating soul from spirit within us so that His Spirit has the upper hand in our lives. “If we walk in the light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship…” Oh, the darkness in us that would keep that from happening! The closer we are drawn to His Light, the more darkness in us that is exposed. It is easy to focus on that and forget that we are closer to Him than ever before because of His love for us. The whole thing is a very humbling experience.

      “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon you, and his glory shall be seen upon you.” (Isa 60:1-2, KJ2000)

      Sometimes we think we are walking in the light because of all the darkness that surrounds us, but God only has One Standard by which He measures us and that is His Son and those who compare themselves among themselves are not wise. “Looking unto Jesus who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith.”

      Your brother,
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Un amén gigante a esa palabra. Hasta que Cristo sea formado. Jesús lo vale todo, Él es más que mil hijos para mí. Jesús es mi Todo.

    Abrazos. Tu hermana en Cristo.
    ———-
    Patricia wrote:

    A giant amen to that word. Until Christ is formed. Jesus is worth everything, He is more than a thousand children to me. Jesus is my every thing.

    Hugs. Your sister in Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kenneth E Dawson says:

    The written code will kill you but the being of God in you will give you His life

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Well said, Kenneth (2 Corinthians 3:6), and that includes when men make the words of the New Testament into a book of laws as well. All things are made NEW IN Christ. It is a NEW Covenant He has given us…

      “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. ​For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Heb 8:6-12, ESV2011)

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wishing you and yours a blessed Easter, Michael! ❤

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