Isn’t it nice to have something that fits just like a glove? I mean that perfect fit that’s like, wow, this was made just for me! On the other hand, how much does it suck when something that used to fit us perfectly starts to feel a bit tight and constricted (R.I.P. to my favorite jacket). It’s frustrating and uncomfortable, isn’t it? This is what I thought of when I recently read about Lot and Abraham, both of whom had experience with outgrowing their spaces.
Genesis 19 tells the story of Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his family. He was one of the family members that Abraham took with him when he was called by God to leave his home to go to the land that God had promised him. He lived with Abraham until their possessions and families grew too big to live in one area together. Abraham suggested they split and allowed Lot to have first pick of land to settle in. Lot chose to live in the land of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Sodom and Gomorrah was a historical city notorious for being a place of uninhibited wickedness. To this day its used a metaphor to describe places of moral corruption.
At one point, Lot is visited by two angels who come to “scope out” the land, assessing the level of depravity. Once it was decided that destruction was the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, the angels told Lot to get his family and head for the mountains far outside the city in order to spare them from the destruction. Lot complained about the difficulty of getting to the mountains and his fear of being swept away. He begged to be allowed to go to a tiny town nearby called Zoar. The angels allowed him to head there with his family in the meantime.
There’s so much to this story and there’s a ton of different angles that we can look at this, but as we focus this month on “intentionality,” I want to zero in on the three places mentioned in this story and how they can relate to our lives.
Sodom & Gomorrah / Zoar / The Mountains
Sodom and Gomorrah represents a lot of different things to each of us. Historically, it was a place of complete moral corruption. It was overrun with sin; a place of separation from God. As Christians, it represents the life that God called us out of and saved us from. I believe we all have a Sodom and Gomorrah that we’ve been saved from, but where we go next is what’s really important.
The second place mentioned was Zoar–the place that Lot begged to go to in verse 20 saying:
“See, there is a small village nearby. Please let me go there instead; don’t you see how small it is? Then my life will be saved.” Genesis 19:20
Zoar was a small city outside of Sodom and Gomorrah just far enough that it wasn’t involved in the destruction. It wasn’t the place God told Lot to go to, but it ended up being a refuge for Lot and his family along the way. The name Zoar means “small”. Lot mentioned this a couple of times in the verse above. This description is very important when we look at what Zoar represents to us in this context.
Firstly, in order to fully understand how we can apply this to our lives, we have to look at Zoar in comparison to someplace else. As I mentioned before, it wasn’t a part of Sodom and Gomorrah, but it also wasn’t as far as the mountains that God had sent Lot to. It was someplace in between the two, likely closer to Sodom and Gomorrah.
So what does this all mean to us? Zoar is a place that isn’t where God is taking us, but its a spot along the way. Its that small victory in our lives, its that first step out of where we used to be. God told Lot to go to the mountains, but Lot, like a lot of us, asked for someplace closer/easier, in the meantime.
Zoar, or small, in itself is not a bad place; it serves its purpose as a stepping stone. The danger in Zoar is when we get complacent and start to settle there. We’ve been called to great things. YOU were MADE for great things, but if you’re anything like me, sometimes those big things seem so far off…so difficult to get to, a lot like the mountains that God was telling Lot to go to.
We have these God-dreams in our hearts, put there by our Father who made us for it, equipped us for it and calls us to it, but sometimes it seems so far, so costly–so dangerous even, that we run to Zoar instead. We take steps out of that old place, that dead place and we run to a place, which might be ok for now, but its too small to stay there. We forget or ignore that it was only meant to be temporary; that it isn’t the wide-open space that God has for us–its only a small city along the way.
In other words, don’t stay in Zoar–its small and small doesn’t fit!
God’s purpose for you isn’t small. It can’t be contained by Zoar. The Bible says that Lot began to feel uncomfortable/afraid to stay in Zoar (19:30) so he gathered his things and left to settle in the mountains. Many of us are experiencing that discomfort. Its a tugging at our hearts and a stirring in our spirit. God is calling us to pack up and keep moving forward–forward into the things he’s called us to, forward into those big God-dreams in our hearts. Zoar is NOT our home. Small is NOT our home. God wants to take us higher, he wants to take us to another level and we’re going to have to be intentional in our pursuit of it by leaving behind the old, ill-fitting spaces we’re in.
This brings us to the third place in this story: the mountains.
Historically and Biblically the mountains have been a place where men go to be near God. Moses went up to the mountain to speak with God. Jesus went to the mountain to pray. The mountain represents closeness, it represents intimacy, it represents victory and the fullness of God’s promise. God called Lot to the mountain and today I believe he is calling us to it as well.
Friend, is there something in your heart that you’ve maybe set aside as “too far off” or “too difficult to achieve”? Have you taken steps in the direction that God has set before you, but have found yourself, like Lot and like many of us, settled in a small place along the way? I can think of a few areas in my life where I’m feeling the strain of small, the constriction of the small place that is Zoar.
Maybe you’ve been finding yourself with a Zoar-mentality–thinking small, limiting your dreams, drive or creativity because you’re afraid to dream too big or do what hasn’t been done before. Small doesn’t fit–move out! Don’t rein in your dreams, make room for them! I believe this is the time to, like Isaiah 54:2-3 says, enlarge the place of our tent or dwelling; to stretch out and make room–not holding back!
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.”
Isaiah 54: 2-3
The growth that God is bringing about in our lives cannot be contained by Zoar any longer–small doesn’t fit! Toss that small mentality. Leave behind that temporary fix. There’s a whole generation that you’re making a way for. Whatever your God-dream looks like, whatever passion burns your heart–let’s be intentional about moving forward into the wide open spaces that God has set for us up ahead. This year as we focus and commit to growing healthily and steadily, let’s be sure that we aren’t settling into small, but in the mountains ahead that God is leading us to.