The cave seemed like the perfect hiding place, but soon it became the setting for one of the most heinous scenes in all of the Bible. But even here amid the darkness of depravity God was laying the tracks for an especially shocking revelation on Christmas morning.
Having fled from the wrath levied against Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his daughters retreated to Zoar, a little village on the outskirts of town. Still feeling vulnerable they sought shelter in a cave. Lot’s contingency had been drastically reduced by this point. Formerly teeming with workers and family members (Gen. 13) his tribe was reduced to three: his two daughters and himself.
Once in the cave we read the shocking and unsettling details. The Bible does not flinch in the face of human depravity; rather, it unveils it and shows its remedy. We read in Genesis 19:30-38 that his daughters feared that they would not soon be married and that their prospects for having children were little to none. Between the two of them they hatched a plan to get their father drunk with wine and then take advantage of him in order to get pregnant. In short order they carried out their sinful plan and in fact became pregnant. They each had a son and named them Moab and Ben-ammi.
On the face of it there is not much here to rejoice about. But, even amid the dark corners of depravity, God’s flickering flame of grace may be seen. Thankfully, this is not the last chapter in the Bible.
These two sons would become the two nations represented by the Moabites and the Ammonites. Those familiar with the Old Testament know that they are not the “good guys.” With their persistent opposition to Israel and rank idolatry, God makes a shocking declaration that opposes their inclusion in Israel’s worship (Deut. 23:3-6). Later the Moabites and Ammonites were responsible for two of the most shocking monuments of rebellion in the Bible: the sin of Baal-Peor (Num. 25) and the worship of Molech (2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chron. 28:3). In fact, in consecutive chapters the prophet Jeremiah spells certain doom upon these nations (Moabites in 48, and Ammonites in 49).
At this point there is not much to be hopeful for. But the tide is turning
In both chapters there is a hint of God’s gracious work toward these nations. In Jeremiah 48:47 we are teased with an anticipation of restoration of Moab. And in Jeremiah 49:6 we read of a similar promise for the Ammonites. In fact, this language of restoring their fortunes sounds a lot like the promise made to Judah back in Jeremiah 29:14. How and why does all of this happen?
Go ahead and read through the genealogy of Jesus again in Matthew 1. I bet you will trip on one of the names. We read in Matthew 1:5-6 that Jesus was the descendant of “Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.”
Did you catch that?
Ruth is David’s grandmother. What is Ruth’s heritage? She is a Moabite (cf. Ruth 1). You and I may have some serious skeletons in our family closets, however, we would be hard-pressed to rival the lineage of Jesus.
Why is this significant? It means that Jesus came to identify with and rescue those who are far from God. Who would be more far than a Moabite?
Furthermore, the promised restoration of the nations—including those from Moab or Ammon—would come through this glorious child. The King of the nations was born. He is in fact the promised Savior.
When you trace back the lineage of Jesus you come through Lot’s cave. And the stench of sin in that cave is overwhelming; just as the stench of sin throughout the Old Testament is nauseating. However, the long-awaited Son of David was born to bring salvation to the nations. Here is the bouquet of grace! The sweet scent of the gospel that lifts our spirit!
Remember that Genesis 19 is not the last chapter in the Bible. And likewise for you, whatever sin or disaster you have encountered, it need not be the end. The Savior with the checkered lineage and dysfunctional family story has come to remake and renew us by his power. Sin does not have to have the last word.
Rejoice! Amid the darkness there is a Christmas present in Lot’s cave.
Erik Raymond blogs at THE GOSPEL COALITION.